Chia Seeds: History And Legends

by | May 27, 2015 | Food

Today, people are beginning to discover the health benefits of Chia seeds. They are placing them on salads and mixing them into the batter of cakes and muffins. We drink smoothies made from Chia seeds and even use them in energy bars and in pasta. Yet, Chia seeds are not a new food. The plant and its seeds have a noted and very ancient past.

Chia Seeds: Beginnings

Chia plants have been in existence for thousands of years. Some agriculture historians believe it was eaten as early as 3500 BC. In Mesoamerica, the Chia plant was an important part of the food chain. It was a major commodity with trade extending from central Mexico down through to northern Costa Rica. Chia seeds were a staple for many cultures within the parameters of this region.

Of all the nations that prized it, the Aztecs are the best known. The Spanish conquistadores and the priests have left behind records on its various uses. They mentioned it in the Mendoza Codex, and the Florentine Codex created between 1540 and 1585. According to such accounts, Chia was perceived by the Aztecs to have more than nutritional value. They believed it too, if not be supernatural, to have some very powerful effects on their physical health. Overall, the Aztecs felt Chia seeds were:

1. Energy Source: Warriors carried it in small pouches as a flour – part of their survival rations and as a source for quick energy
2. Internal Medicine: they treated a variety of problems with the seeds including gastrointestinal and respiratory health issues
3. External Medicine: As a salve to help with sore skin and inflammation
4. Food: It was eaten as part of the daily food of the various classes of Aztec society appearing as a flour as well as part of a drink or in seed form
5. Tribute: The Aztecs received Chia seeds as part of the tribute from their subjected states. It may have been as widely available and employed in this purpose as was maize.
6. Religious Purposes: As is common with many powerful plants, Chia was employed in various religious rites by the Aztecs and other natives

The Spanish Conquest put an end to the Aztecs. They also banned the cultivation and use of Chia. The Spaniards and other groups of invaders introduced their own foods and changed the diets of the native peoples. Yet Chia seeds remained part of the diets of several native peoples.

Chia Seeds Revival

Chia remained a crop in Mexico for the next 500 years. It was localized and regional, eaten by few. In the 1990s, Chia came out from under the radar when South American and Americans got together to talk about the potential of Chia as a commercial crop in Argentina. They wanted to rediscover what the Aztecs found and, in doing so; they opened the world up to the wonders of Chia seeds and its powers of health.

If you are considering trying Chia Seeds, make sure they are natural, non-GMO and organic.

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