ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE HEALTH TYPE 2 DIABETES WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

CHAYA: AN HERBAL MEDICINE AND A MAYAN SPINACH

chaya alternative medicine diabetes

Herbology or herbalism refers to the study of plants for medicinal purposes. Their roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds have been utilized for centuries as natural therapies particularly in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Homeopathic medicine. Throughout history, native from different part of America and even our grandmothers have used herbal products to treat many illnesses. Nowadays, non-traditional medicine is again in vogue and many allopathic doctors include herbs in their prescriptions.

Today’s article will deal with a very popular plant for its medicinal properties named “chaya” (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius).  It is a perennial shrubwhose 5-peak leaves can be used to prepare tea infusions and supplement pills. As tea, the recommended doses is 2-6 leaves / day but they can also be consumed as soups, salads, or smoothies.  

Chaya has great benefits for our body. Apparently, it helps regulate blood pressure, improves blood circulation, reduces weight, and increases calcium depots. No negatives side effects have been associated with chaya tea intake. Chaya is easy to grow and can be employed as an ornamental plant in home gardens. It is tolerant to high temperature and needs to be watered 2-3 times / week.

There are a wide variety of plants derived from chaya such as the chaya (Jatropha urens, Lin) known in mayan tongue as “chay”. It was introduced to Cuba from Mexico and later from here to Florida (USA). Their leaves are long and pecioladas; their flowers are white in color. This variety of chaya was for centuries a staple food for the Maya culture where it was used to prepare “tamales” in combination with corn and pumpkin seeds.

Other medicinal properties of chaya include its beneficial effects on digestion, improve visual system, relieve hemorrhoids, reduce blood cholesterol and uric acid, and stimulate milk production in lactating women. Due to its high content of iron, it contributes to ameliorate anemia and this is why is referred to as Mexican spinach. It has been used an anti-inflammatory agent to treat lung diseases, allergies, asthma, and throat inflammations.

Chaya also appears to have anti diabetic properties. Its hypoglycemic effects were assessed at the Instituto Nacional de Nutrición in Mexico and they found that 6-h after administering chaya tea to hyperglycemic rabbits, their levels of blood glucose dropped to 87-118 mg / dL, which were very similar to those levels of control rabbits.

The only precaution to be taken before consuming chaya is that it contains a glycoside that can release a lethal toxic called cyanide. For this reason, chaya leaves must be cooked before being eaten. Cooking for at least 10 min will volatilize the cyanide and the leaves can be consumed safely.  Another precaution is not to cook the leaves in aluminum pans because a toxic reaction can takes places and causes diarrhea.  Besides these few precautions, there is no other restriction to consume chaya and take advantages of its numerous beneficial effects for your health.

Note: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice for any questions regarding a medical condition or changes in your treatment.

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Dr. Montserrat Rodríguez

Dr. Montserrat Rodríguez

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