Chives, commonly known as (Allium schoenoprasum) is one of the smallest members of the Allium family comprising of onions, leeks, shallots and garlic (1). This plant is native to Europe, Asia and North America. A typical chive plant is basically a strong smelling perennial (a plant that lives for more than two years), with underground stems and bulbs. The bulbs grow close together in clusters and have an elongated shape, with white firm sheaths which are sometimes grey on the outside. Chives have long, slender, hollow and tapering leaves that appear only in spring.
The flowers are lavender in color and resemble a pom-pom. These flowers are densely packed together on separate, very slender little flower-stalks. These are shorter than the flowers themselves but lengthen slightly as the fruit ripens, making the head of the plant assume a conical shape. The strong smell of chives can be attributed to a number of sulfur compounds such as alkyl sulphoxides and allyl suphides. However, their sulfur content is lower than that of onion and garlic. The stalks have an onion-like taste and are used in cooking. The unopened immature flower buds are diced and used as an ingredient in fish, potatoes and soups. The dull green straw-like leaves are used as a seasoning herb. Due to their mild and less pungent flavor, they are often used to enhance the flavor of soups, sandwiches and fish dishes. However, overcooking should be avoided as the flavonoids present in them get destroyed when exposed to high temperatures. This herb also comprises of insect-repelling properties.
Health Benefits of Chives:
Chives are not only used in cooking but also possess anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. Being rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they offer several health benefits. Here are some of the chive health benefits.
1. Aids in Digestion:
Consumption of plenty of roughage facilitates proper digestion. Chives being an excellent source of dietary fiber add roughage in the intestines and colon, thus preventing constipation, diverticular disorders and hemorrhoids. Chives help get rid of bacteria, yeast and fungi in the intestinal tract, enabling proper functioning of the digestive system. Chives contain high quantity of zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and iron, which help improve digestion. According to research, chives also have antibacterial properties that kill 30 strains of salmonella which can cause intense digestive problems (2).
2. Anti-carcinogenic Properties:
Chives have anti carcinogenic properties (that negate the effects of cancer-causing substance). They contain many antioxidants that can destroy free radicals and stop the growth of cancer cells and tumors. These vegetables help your body produce glutathione, an agent that enables your body to identify toxins and other cancer causing substances and eliminate them. Chives have been found to be beneficial in treating esophageal, stomach, prostate, and gastrointestinal tract cancers. They also contain selenium, which protects cells from the effects of toxins and free radicals (3).
3. Cardiovascular Benefits:
Chives contain allicin, an organosulfur that is known to lower LDL or bad cholesterol and increase HDL or good cholesterol, thus lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. Allicin also releases nitric oxide that reduces stiffness in the blood vessels and decreases blood pressure. This vegetable helps prevent calcification of arteries. The flavonoids such as quercetin also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It reduces the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Vitamin B6 present in chives reduces the levels of homocysteine in the blood (4).
4. Anti-inflammatory Properties:
This plant has a mild anti-inflammatory effect (5) which can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a common medical ailment that often develops with age. The juice of chive can be used as an insect repellant or applied to wounds to treat fungal infections. It is also rich in vitamin C which helps prevent bruises and wounds as well as supports the immune system. Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties that strengthen the immune system. Both these vitamins help in eradicating free radicals that can damage cells.
5. Antibiotic Properties:
Like other plants of this group, chives also possess antibiotic properties (6). The natural antibacterial and antiviral agents present in chives work with vitamin C to destroy harmful microbes. Consumption of this vegetable acts as an excellent defense against common cold, flu and certain yeast infections.
6. Bone Health:
Chives are a rich source of vitamin K (7) which is vital for long term bone health. This vitamin assists the regulation of cells that help in preventing bone dematerialization. It also aids the production of a bone protein called osteocalcin, which helps in maintaining bone mineral density.
7. Beneficial for Circulatory System:
Flavonoids present in this vegetable help stabilize blood pressure and reduce hypertension, while sulphides lower blood lipids and blood pressure. Vitamin C helps improve the elasticity of blood capillaries and facilitates absorption of iron in the body. Folic acid improves blood circulation by preventing constriction of blood vessels. Certain substances in chives also prevent blood clots (8).
[Read:Benefits Of Prune Juice]
Skin Benefits of Chives:
Just like other members of the allium family, chives are known for their healing qualities which are beneficial for your skin as well. These vegetables also have a natural antibiotic (cleansing power), thus offering the following benefits for your skin:
8. Radiant Skin:
Being a good source of beta-carotene (9), chives are effective in clearing acne and hence are great for radiant skin.
9. Anti- ageing Benefits:
Vitamin C and E in chives have antioxidant properties which can combat free radicals that cause damage to the cells and are responsible for skin ageing. Ancient Romans often used this vegetable to treat sunburns. Consuming it can prevent damage by free radicals, thereby preventing signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles.
10. Heals Wounds:
Chives are rich in vitamin C which is a water soluble antioxidant. This vitamin improves the elasticity of blood vessels and skin, prevents bruising and facilitates quick wound healing (10).
11. Facial Mask for Dry Skin:
Chives can be used as a facial mask to combat dry skin. Apply chive puree on your face and leave it for 30 minutes. Cleanse and dab your face dry, and apply a moisturizer of your choice.
[Read:Benefits Of Apricots]
Hair Benefits of Chives:
Like onion and garlic, chives are also beneficial for your scalp and hair. Being rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, germanium, potassium and magnesium, chives offer many benefits for your hair.
12. Strengthens Hair Follicles:
Chives stimulate hair growth by increasing the flow of blood to the scalp and hair roots. They stop hair breakage, giving you a fuller and shinier head of hair. They are also effective in reducing or eliminating any itchiness in the scalp.
13. Treatment of Dull Hair:
If you have dull hair, you can try this chive oil hair mask.
- Boil water with a handful of chives for about 30 seconds.
- Remove the chives from the boiling water and cool in a bowl of icy water for 1-2 minutes.
- Squeeze out the water and place the chives along with ½ cup of extra virgin olive or canola oil in a blender.
- Puree for about 2 minutes and strain the mixture to separate the oil from the chive meat.
- This oil or puree can be applied to your scalp and hair from root to tip.
- Let it sit for 30-60 minutes.
- Shampoo and condition as usual.
14. Treatment of Hair Loss:
Chive hair masks have been found to be effective in slowing hair loss as well as improving hair growth and thickness. Chive juice can prevent hair loss by improving blood circulation in the scalp. If you are suffering from hair loss, you can try applying freshly squeezed chive juice directly onto your scalp. Massage your scalp and hair roots with your fingers and avoid scratching your scalp. Wear a shower cap and leave for 30-60 minutes before shampooing. This treatment should be done for up to 2 weeks to determine its effectiveness.
[Read:Benefits Of Ginger Juice]
Nutritional Value of Chives:
Chives contain a host of nutrients including potassium, iron and calcium, vitamins A and C, folate, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin. Being highly nutritious, it can form part of a healthy diet. Its nutritional value is explained below:
|Chives ( Allium schoenoprasum L.), Nutrient value per 100g.|
|(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.73 g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.5 g||7%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.324 mg||6.5%|
|Vitamin A||4353 IU||145%|
|Vitamin C||58.1 mg||98%|
|Vitamin E||0.21 mg||1.5%|
|Vitamin K||212.7 µg||177%|
Calories and Fat: Chives can be a healthy alternative to other flavorings as they are relatively low in calories and saturated fat. A quarter cup of chives offers just 4 calories. It does not contain sodium and each serving of chives provides only one tenth of a gram of fat.
Vitamin A: Chives contain abundant amount of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. During digestion, this beta-carotene is split into two vitamin A molecules by the enzymes. A quarter cup serving of chives provides 522 International Units or IUs of vitamin A. This is about 17% of the recommended intake of 3000 IUs for men and 22% of the recommended intake of 2333 IUs for women.
Vitamin K: A quarter cup serving of chives provides 26 micrograms of vitamin K which is approximately one-fifth of the daily recommended intake for men and 29% for women. This vitamin activates a number of enzymes in your body, including those required for bone mineralization and cell growth.
Antioxidants: Quercetin and vitamin K are the two primary antioxidants found in chives. Quercetin and other flavonoids prevent cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, endometrium and lungs. In addition to these, chives also contain carotenes, zeaxanthin and lutein which protect against lung and oral cancers. So now that you know what all it does, start finding ways to get chives onto your plate, and avail of its nutritional benefits. Stay healthy, stay happy!!