A close relative of the onion, chives are herbs that are commonly used in cooking and can easily be found in groceries and vegetable gardens. Its scapes, or stems, are stiff and tubular with leaves that are long, slender, and light to dark green in color. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America – the only plant species belonging to the Allium family that is native to both the Old and New World.
Although chives are mainly used for cooking sumptuous dishes, it also provides plenty of health benefits and medicinal uses. It has beneficial effects on the digestive and circulatory system, contains antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects, and supplies much-needed vitamins and minerals.
History of Chives
The word ‘chive’ was derived from the Latin word cepa and from the French word cive which means ‘onion’. Although chives have been around for about 5,000 years, they were not widely cultivated for cooking until the Middle Ages. Gardeners planted chives around their vegetable gardens since it serves a dual purpose: as a decoration, and as a natural insecticide.
It was often said that Marco Polo came up with the idea of importing chives from Europe to China, but whether this is historically accurate or not is still under debate. What is true, though, is that it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a very long time to cure high fever and to increase a male’s fertility. It is also the main ingredient in Asian soups, similarly used like leeks, and as a herb in stews.
Today, chives are one of the most popular additions to any dish all around the world. In French cuisine, it is one of the fines herbes, along with parsley, tarragon, and chervil. It gives a light, oniony flavor to any chicken, fish, or egg dish, and can make a tasty omelet when paired with fines herbes, cheese, and asparagus.
Chives Nutrition Facts
For every 28 grams (1 ounce) of freshly chopped chives, you will get the following nutrients:
- 4 Calories (0% Daily Value)
- 4.5 From Carbohydrates
- 1.7 From Fat
- 2.2 From Protein
- 2 grams Total Carbohydrate (0% Daily Value)
- 0.7 grams Dietary Fiber (3% Daily Value)
- 2 grams Total Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 0.0 grams Saturated Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 0.0 grams Monounsaturated Fat
- 0.1 grams Polyunsaturated Fat
- 4.2 milligrams Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 74.6 milligrams Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- 9 grams Protein (0% Daily Value)
- 1219 IU Vitamin A (24% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Vitamin C (27% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Vitamin E – Alpha Tocopherol (0% Daily Value)
- 6 micrograms Vitamin K (72% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Thiamin (1% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Riboflavin (2% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Niacin (1% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Vitamin B6 (2% Daily Value)
- 4 micrograms Folate (7% Daily Value)
- 0 micrograms Vitamin B12 (0% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Pantothenic Acid (1% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Choline
- 8 milligrams Calcium (3% Daily Value)
- 4 milligrams Iron (2% Daily Value)
- 8 milligrams Magnesium (3% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Phosphorous (2% Daily Value)
- 9 milligrams Potassium (2% Daily Value)
- 8 milligrams Sodium (0% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Zinc (1% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Copper (2% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Manganese (5% Daily Value)
- 3 micrograms Selenium (0% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Phytosterols
- 4 grams Water
Top 10 Health Benefits of Chives
Treats digestive problems
Eating chives is beneficial to your digestive tract because of its abundance in dietary fiber, which cleanses the gut and promotes proper waste excretion. This herb also contains allyl sulfides (similarly found in garlic) that treat digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Prevents bone deterioration
Chives are one of the richest sources of vitamin K which plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin K reduces bone loss and decreases the risk of fractures, so eating a good helping of chives will provide you with enough vitamin K to maintain your bone integrity.
Reduces high blood pressure
Studies have shown that chives are effective in maintaining normal blood pressure among hypertensive people. Allicin, an active compound found in chives, helps prevent the obstruction of blood vessels, promotes proper blood circulation and oxygenation of the organs, and decreases the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.
Maintains eye health
This herb is also an excellent source of vitamin A and zeaxanthin, which keep the eyes healthy and prevent degenerative eye diseases and cataracts as you age.
Strengthens the immune system
Chives contain plenty of vitamin C, an excellent immune system booster that improves the body’s disease-fighting abilities. It also detoxifies the body by eliminating harmful free radicals while repairing worn-out cells, tissues, blood vessels, and muscles.
Ensures a healthy baby
Pregnant women should incorporate chives into their daily meals since this herb can prevent birth defects. It contains folate, an essential vitamin for the proper development of the baby’s nervous system. Folate also prevents neural tube defects which happen to babies with folate deficiency.
Cures fungal infections
Chives also possess antifungal properties. When the leaves are made into a poultice and applied topically, it can cure fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, tinea unguium, and ringworm.
Herbs like chives contain flavonoids that have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and anticancer properties. The flavonoid quercetin inhibits the growth of cancer cells in the colon, stomach, pancreas, bladder, and ovaries.
Detoxifies the body
The buildup of toxins in the body can cause and worsen deadly diseases. The antioxidants in chives detoxify the body by getting rid of toxins, fluids, fat, and salts.
Helps the body function properly
Eating chives will provide you with plenty of B-vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid that converts the digested food into readily absorbed nutrients, maintain healthy skin and hair, and keep the body up and running.
Potential Side Effects of Chives
- Chives are safe when consumed in amounts that are normally used in food. It is also safe when taken in larger amounts as a medicine. However, taking too many chives can cause an upset stomach.
- For pregnant and breastfeeding women, consuming chives is safe in amounts that are used in cooking. There is insufficient information regarding its safety when used in medicinal amounts. Consult your physician first before taking large amounts of this herb.
Chives Fun Facts
- Chives were known as the ‘ornamental’ relative of onion.
- The early Romans believed that chives warded off evil by placing bunches of the dried herb around their houses.
- Chives were often referred to as ‘rush leeks’.
- In general, insects are repelled by chives due to the sulfur compounds present in the plant, except for one type of insect: bees. Bees are attracted to its flower and is known to prolong their lifespan.
- Gypsies used chives in fortunetelling, although the exact procedure is unknown.