Economic Botany

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 604–618 | Cite as

Ethnobotany of chia,Salvia hispanica L. (Lamiaceae)

  • Joseph P. Cahill
Article

Abstract

Salvia hispanica L, was an important staple Mesoamerican food and medicinal plant in pre-Columbian times. Unlike other Mesoamerican pseudocereal crops such asAmaranthus andChenopodium, it has received comparatively little research attention. An ethnobotanical review of this Mesoamerican crop plantSalvia hispanica has been undertaken to examine changes in use accompanying Spanish colonization. A comparative analysis of accounts of use from the 16th century codices of Mexico and subsequent publications has revealed subtle changes in medicinal, culinary, artistic, and religious uses. Several hypotheses surrounding changes in use through time and the original use(s) that led to domestication are developed and tested through collection of ethnobotanical data in the highlands of western Mexico and Guatemala. A general decline in ethnobotanical knowledge associated with wild populations coupled with a loss of habitat in some locations has degraded important germplasm and knowledge resources for a species with great economic potential.

Key Words

Chia Salvia hispanica food medicine oil Mexico pre-Hispanic cultures 

Résumé

En contraste con otras cultivos de pseudocereales de Mesoamérica, comoAmaranthus y Chenopodium, pocas investigaciones se han realizado sobre Salvia hispanica L, a pesar de la importancia que tuvo esta especie como una planta comestible y medicinal en el periodo PreColombino. Se realizó una revision etnobotânica de la especie mesoamericanaSalvia hispanica para analizar los cambios en uso que acompañaron a la colonizaciõn española. Se presentan tablas con las descripciones de usos de códices del sigh XVI y publicaciones subsecuentes que muestran cambios sutiles en los usos médicinales, culinarios, artísticos, y religiosos. Se propusieron varias hipótesis relativas a los cambios en su uso a través del tiempo y su uso original; estas hipótesis se probaron con una colecciôn de datos etnobotánicos obtenidos en las montanas del oeste de México y Guatemala. La pérdida progresiva del conocimiento etnobotánico de las poblaciones silvestres, asociada con la pérdida del habitat en algunos sitios, ha provocado una degradación tanto de importantes recursos genéticos como del conocimiento de una especie con un gran potencial económico.

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Copyright information

© by The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 104508-5126 U.S.A 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph P. Cahill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant SciencesUniversity of California, RiversideRiverside

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