chia thistle

Thistle sage /Thistle chia / Salvia carduacea in flower in May

On Saturday, November 22, I went to the exhibition at the Oceanside Library of Rose Ramirez (Chumash/Yaqui) and Joe Moreno’s (Luiseño) basketry collection. They also featured some of my photographs. Mel Vernon, the new Chair of the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Indians, and I spent some time talking about thistle chia, aka thistle sage, or Salvia carduacea, with its unworldly flowers. The photograph is from one of the spectacles of the phenomenal 2008 wildflower season in southern California—the extensive stands of thistle sage on the Cahuilla Reservation, fields of take-your-breath-away beauty as far as the eye could see.

The highly nutritious seeds have been eaten by indigenous people in the region for hundreds of years. According to Cahuilla elder Katherine Siva Saubell in Temalpakh, the high protein thistle sage seeds were gathered “in great quantities, parched, ground into flour, and mixed with other plant seeds for mush.”

In terms of chia, the health food industry recently discovered what indigenous people of California and Mexico have known for centuries. The Nutritional Science Research Institute has determined that chia is a superfood, an “exceptional and unique low-calorie source of Omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, complete protein, iron, calcium and magnesium.” In fact, according to Dr. Wayne Coates, co-author of Chia (2005), chia seeds are the highest plant source of the all important Omega-3’s. Eat your chia!!

In September 2008, my friend and chia fanatic Abe Sanchez sent a pound of thistle sage (Salvia carduacea) and a pound of chia (Salvia columbariae) to Wayne Coates for him to analyze the nutritional content of the two seeds. Thistle sage seeds are a better source of protein, according to Coates’ analysis, and chia a much better source of essential fatty acids.

Eat your chia!

Posted by deborah small


  1. Chia is unfortunately a general term for many types of sage: Salvia Columbare, Salvia hispanicum and Salvia Carducea. Where can one get viable seeds for the Carducea? I have tried and none of my seeds have germinated. Help appreciated



  2. I’ve never had my own chia pet or chia head or whatnot, but they look cool on TV. I just eat the seeds and I swear, they help sooo much as far as energy and feeling good throughout the day goes. I honestly started feeling so much better on a day-to-day basis after I started putting them in my smoothies about a year ago. The one’s I get are Chia Pure. Chia Seeds Right Now they are even buy 1
    get 1 free!



  3. Deborah, I’d like to post your photo and a quotation and link on my website.

    Could you email me your permission? Thanks.



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