Sachi Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) is a climbing shrub, growing mostly in the Amazon, most notably in Peru, where it has been eaten for thousands of years. Depictions of the plant, found on ceramics dating back to over 3000 years ago, memorialize its importance in the lives of the people throughout the region.
In 1609, Gacilaso de la Vega, a chronicler of Peruvian culture, published “Royal Commentaries of the Incas”. In his writings he gives some details about Sacha Inchi, describing it as being similar to almonds. However, he does go on to say “if eaten raw, it hurts the head, and if toasted, it is tasty and wholesome; with honey a good turron (nougat type candy) is made from it; also, a very nice oil is taken out of the Sacha Inchi to cure many illnesses.”
Swedish scientist Carl von Linne was the first to give Sacha Inchi its official classification name, when in 1753 he referred to it as Plukenetia Volobilis in his treatise “Species Plantarum”. But it wasn’t until 200 years later, in 1976, that Sacha Inchi moved beyond the indigenous tribes in Peru. At that time, the Peruvian Minister for Agriculture ordered an investigation and study of the potential of the Amazonian region for ‘new types’ of food crops.
The plant was rediscovered and the seeds were analyzed. When the results were published in 1978 by Dr. Antunez de Mayolo, he stated that the fat content in Sacha Inchi seeds were comparable to flax seed and soy beans. Later, in 1980, Dr. Mayolo presented a talk at the XII Peruvian Congress of Chemistry on “Sacha Inchi’s excellent chemical and nutritional attributes”. The Institute of Food Science at Cornell University then conducted their own study and confirmed the high level of protein and oil in Sacha Inchi. Although this study wasn’t published, it did spur further analysis. There have since been numerous studies which all confirmed Sacha Inchi’s suitability for use in the food industry.
So what are the properties that won the hearts of researchers? First of all, it’s said to be helpful in controlling cholesterol, by lowering LDL levels, the bad cholesterol, and raising levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. Being high in tryptophan, it supports the immune system and helps combat the effects of stress. It has high Omega-3 levels, which may help reduce brain inflammation. This high concentration of Omega-3 is also helpful in controlling glucose levels and lowering triglycerides (which tend to be high in those with diabetes). Omega-3 helps increase calcium absorption, thus contributing toward improvement in bone density and strength. Additionally, since Omega-3 is important for hair and skin health, benefits are seen there as well. Sacha Inchi is rich in vitamins E and A, supporting vision. And because it’s been shown to be anti-inflammatory, Sacha Inchi can be useful in dealing with joint pain.
Sacha Inchi is easily incorporated into a healthy diet, by way of its oils, powders and roasted seeds.
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