Chia (Salvia hispanica)

March 22, 2017


Chia (Salvia hispanica)

Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Chia, chia fresca, cryptotanshinone, dan shen (Chinese), danshen (Chinese), golden chia, ilepesh (Chumas), Lamiaceae (family), Mexican chia, miltionone, pashi (Native American), running food, Salba®, SalbaMune™, Salvia columbariae, Salvia columbariae Benth., Salvia hispanica L., Salvia miltiorrhiza, tanshinone, white Salba®.


  • Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) is a plant that belongs to the Lamiaceae (mint) family. Chia is believed to have come from Central America where the chia seed was considered a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. Native Americans in the southwestern United States used the seeds of a related plant, "golden chia" or Salva columbariae. People in China and other countries use the roots of another relative, "dan shen" or Salvia miltiorrhiza, for medicinal purposes.

  • Chia is promoted for its high omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 content. Animal studies suggest that chia may lower blood cholesterol, LDL (low density lipoproteins or "bad" cholesterol), and triglycerides while increasing HDL (high density lipoproteins or "good" cholesterol). Chia may also have anti-cancer activity. Studies in humans are limited.

  • Salba® is a registered variety of chia that is marketed by Core Naturals, LLC. Light in color, Salba® reportedly contains more omega-3 fatty acids than typical dark-colored chia seeds. Recent human studies suggest that Salba® may decrease the risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

Scientific Evidence


These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.


Cardiovascular disease prevention / atherosclerosis

Early studies in animals and humans suggest that diets containing chia seed may decrease risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Evidence suggests that the benefits of Salba® in humans are similar to those of other whole grains. Further study is needed.


*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).


The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Alcoholism, allergies, angina, anticoagulant (blood thinner), antioxidant, antiviral, athletic performance enhancement, cancer, celiac disease, constipation, coronary heart disease (CHD), death and dying, depression, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hormonal/endocrine disorders, hunger, inflammation, ischemic injury (damage from lack of oxygen to heart), joint pain, kidney disorders, liver disease, metabolic disorders (electrolyte imbalances), nerve disorders, obesity, pancreatitis, skin conditions, stroke, tumors, vasodilatation (dilating veins/lowering blood pressure).


The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Chia seeds have been studied for up to four weeks at a maximum dose of 10 grams. The recommended serving by the manufacturer of Salba® is 2 tablespoons (15 grams), which reportedly contains more than 3,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, 5 grams of fiber, and various minerals.

  • For the prevention of cardiovascular disease, 33-41 grams per day of Salba® has been provided for 12 weeks, in ground form or incorporated into bread.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • For children ages 4.5-19 years, the average chia consumption may be 1.4 grams daily with a maximum daily dose of 4.3 grams. The manufacturer of Salba® has recommended up to 1 tablespoon of chia per day for children.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to chia, its constituents, or members of the genus Salvia. Allergic reactions to chia protein are possible, as are cross-reactivity reactions in people allergic to sesame and mustard seed.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Although chia seeds and golden chia have been consumed as food for centuries, there is currently limited safety data available on chia or Salba®. Gastrointestinal side effects have been reported.

  • Chia should be used cautiously in people with low blood pressure or in people taking heart medications, due to the risk for additive effects.

  • Chia should be avoided in people taking anticoagulants (blood-thinners) such as warfarin, due to an increased risk for bleeding.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Chia cannot be recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to a lack of scientific safety data.


Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • In theory, chia may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulants (blood- thinners) such as warfarin. Salba® may lower blood pressure and should be used with caution in those taking heart medications due to the risk for additive effects. Chia may have anti-cancer activity and may add to the effects of anti-cancer drugs. Chia may affect the way in which the liver breaks down some drugs.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • In theory, chia may interact with herbs and supplements that have anti-clotting activity, such as ginkgo, garlic, and Dong quai. Salba® may lower blood pressure and should be used with caution in those taking herbs and supplements that also lower blood pressure or have other effects on the heart. Chia may have anti-cancer activity and may add to the effects of herbs and supplements with anti-cancer effects. Chia may affect the way in which the liver breaks down some herbs or supplements.

  • Chia contains antioxidants and may therefore add to the activity of other antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E. Chia contains omega-3 fatty acids and may add to the effect of other herbs and supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Adams JD, Wall M, Garcia C. Salvia columbariae contains tanshinones. Evid Based Complement Alternat.Med 2005;2(1):107-110. View Abstract

  2. Adams JD, Wang R, Yang J, et al. Preclinical and clinical examinations of Salvia miltiorrhiza and its tanshinones in ischemic conditions. Chin Med 2006;1:3. View Abstract

  3. Ayerza R, Coates W, Lauria M. Chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as an omega-3 fatty acid source for broilers: influence on fatty acid composition, cholesterol and fat content of white and dark meats, growth performance, and sensory characteristics. Poult Sci 2002;81(6):826-837. View Abstract

  4. Ayerza R Jr, Coates W. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic fatty acid derived from chia when fed as ground seed, whole seed and oil on lipid content and fatty acid composition of rat plasma. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51(1):27-34. View Abstract

  5. Espada CE, Berra MA, Martinez MJ, et al. Effect of Chia oil (Salvia Hispanica) rich in omega-3 fatty acids on the eicosanoid release, apoptosis and T-lymphocyte tumor infiltration in a murine mammary gland adenocarcinoma. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2007;77(1):21-28. View Abstract

  6. Fan TP, Yeh JC, Leung KW, et al. Angiogenesis: from plants to blood vessels. Trends Pharmacol Sci 2006;27(6):297-309. View Abstract

  7. Hu Z, Yang X, Ho PC, et al. Herb-drug interactions: a literature review. Drugs 2005;65(9):1239-1282. View Abstract

  8. Jiang RW, Lau KM, Hon PM, et al. Chemistry and biological activities of caffeic acid derivatives from Salvia miltiorrhiza. Curr Med Chem 2005;12(2):237-246. View Abstract

  9. Reyes-Caudillo E, Tecante A, Valdivia-López MA. Dietary fibre content and antioxidant activity of phenolic compounds present in Mexican chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds. Food Chemistry 2008;107(2):656-663.

  10. Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, et al. Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care 2007;30(11):2804-2810. View Abstract

  11. Wang X, Morris-Natschke SL, Lee KH. New developments in the chemistry and biology of the bioactive constituents of Tanshen. Med Res Rev 2007;27(1):133-148. View Abstract

  12. Wojcikowski K, Johnson DW, Gobe G. Herbs or natural substances as complementary therapies for chronic kidney disease: ideas for future studies. J Lab Clin Med 2006;147(4):160-166. View Abstract

  13. Xu BJ, Zheng YN, Sung CK. Natural medicines for alcoholism treatment: a review. Drug Alcohol Rev 2005;24(6):525-536. View Abstract

  14. Zhang XP, Li ZJ, Liu DR. Progress in research into the mechanism of Radix salviae miltiorrhizae in treatment of acute pancreatitis. Hepatobiliary Pancreat Dis Int 2006;5(4):501-504. View Abstract

  15. Zhou L, Zuo Z, Chow MS. Danshen: an overview of its chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and clinical use. J Clin Pharmacol 2005;45(12):1345-1359. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017