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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Cnidoscolus aconitifolius
Alternative Names: Mayan spinach

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Cnidoscolus aconitifolius


  • Perennial
  • Tree Spinach (Chaya) is a large, fast-growing perennial shrub with edible leaf -popular in Mexico and Central America because of its high nutritional value.
  • It can grow up to 6m tall and pruned to approximately 2 m for easier leaf harvest.
  • The small white flowers can be either male or female and the succulent stems exude a milky sap when cut.
  • It needs a sunny position or partial shade and prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 4.5 - 7.5.
  • During winter Chaya needs to be protected against frost.

Culinary Uses

  • The Tree Spinach (Chaya) is a green leafy vegetable that is a spinach substitute.
  • It is extremely nutritious, to the point where some call it a superfood.
  • Like cassava, raw chaya leaves contain a high content of toxic hydrocyanic acid and raw, uncooked leaves cannot be eaten.
  • To destroy the toxic substance, the leaves can be cooked like normal spinach for 20 minutes, strained and served with melted butter or oil.
  • Chaya is also traditionally prepared with eggs, rice, soup, stir-fries, and other traditional Mayan dishes.
  • Chaya is rich in protein and often serves as a meat substitute.

Parts Used

  • The leaves.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Tree Spinach leaves contain the most essential amino acids and is one of the richest sources of nutrients among all the leafy greens with high levels of vitamins and minerals.
  • 100g of Chaya contains:
  • Protein 12-15% of daily value
  • Calcium 20-33% of daily value
  • Iron 42-52% of daily value
  • Vitamin A 27% of daily value
  • Vitamin C 275-342% of daily value
  • Chaya is widely used as a traditional diuretic for the treatment of obesity, diabetes (lower blood sugar), gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatism, inflammation-related diseases, and kidney stones.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff

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