Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis)
Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) is an amazing little fruit native to the (Peruvian) Amazon Rainforest. Also known as Inca Peanut, the oil derived from the seeds offer incredible health benefits. It has the ability to fight heart disease, relieve arthritis pain, stabilize blood glucose levels and improve mood. Enjoyed thousands of years ago by native Peruvians, it continues to be harvested and enjoyed even today. All across the globe, people are discovering sacha inchi and the demand for its magnificent oil is steadily increasing.
The real lure of the Sacha inchi isn’t the fruit or the edible leaves, it’s the seeds. High in protein, fat, and fiber, these seeds are desired as much for their health properties as for their taste. The taste is pleasant with a nutty flavor. Slightly different from peanuts or almonds, they have their own unique flavor. The real lure of the seeds, however, is the oil that they contain.
This perennial plant has heart shaped, serrated leaves with hairy petioles. The leaves are 10 to 12 cm long and are 8 to 10 cm in width. The fruits are green in color and are star-shaped and when they mature, they will turn to darker brown with a distinct shape to the star. Male flowers are clusters of small, white flowers. Couple of female flowers are present at the base of the inflorescence. It is the seeds of the plant that are so beneficial and desirable.
This plant has been grown across the Rainforest for thousands of years. It requires warm climate and can survive in altitudes up to 1700 meters, or 5500 feet. Good drainage is required, as well as water supply. The plant prefers acidic soils and is mostly grown near rivers. It takes five months to mature and begin flowering. Once a mature plant begins to flower, it will continue to produce flowers and fruits regularly with no dormant stage.
Health Benefits of the Seeds
Sacha inchi seeds has several healthy ingredients that help with mood, and overall health.
- Tryptophan – This amino acid is helpful for mood enhancement. People who consume it feel good, sleep better, and have better tolerance level. Sacha inchi is loaded with this amino acid. This is the same amino acid that makes people feel so good after a turkey dinner.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – It is known for increasing the good cholesterol and helpful in lowering triglycerides. It also lowers high blood pressure and prevents blood clots. Sacha inchi delivers a high level of Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Fat, Protein, Fiber – The sacha inchi seeds contain healthy levels of fat, protein, and fiber. This combination will help feed your body’s nutrition requirements, stabilize blood sugar levels, and help you stay feeling full for longer duration.
Health Benefits of the Oil
The oil derived from sacha inchi seeds offers a variety of health benefits, including the ability to fight heart disease, improve depression, and relieve arthritis pain. The benefits of sacha inchi seeds and oil are more or less the same. Here are some of the health benefits of the oil.
- Hypertension risks are lowered along with falling triglyceride levels.
- Diabetics report regulated blood sugars.
- Helps in weight loss.
- Depression is kept at bay, thanks to nerve cell regeneration and improved nerve communication. Cell membranes are also kept healthier with better fluidity and rigidity.
- Arthritis pain relief.
- Helps in proper kidney functioning.
- Helps in preventing and curing Glaucoma. Additionally, this plant is found to help treat ulcers, migraines and asthma.
- The oil derived from sacha inchi seeds helps in treating skin conditions.
Compared to Other Oils
Sacha inchi has been compared to oils derived from olives, soy, corn, peanuts, sun flowers, cotton, palm, flax and fish. It has been found to have the highest levels of protein and total oil. Palmitic saturated, stearic saturated, and oleic mono unsaturated levels are lower then olive, soy, corn, peanut, sunflower, cotton, and palm oils. However, beneficial linolenic omega 3 levels are far higher than other oils, as well as levels of essential fatty acids. The only thing this oil is not recommended for is frying foods. The sacha oil doesn’t have any significant negative side effects.
The sacha inchi also has a longer production cycle with some plants surviving and producing fruits for as long as 75 years. The production levels are also higher with the ability to grow more than 4,000 kilos per hectare. The plants are continual bloomers, making harvesting possible year round. Finally, the crops are actually less expensive to grow than many other oil-producing plants.
Cost, Storage, and How to Use
The seeds do cost a little more than other snacks. However, stored away from sunlight, they will remain good for up to six months. As their popularity grows, the number of people producing them domestically will naturally increase. Over time, the cost will naturally begin to come down. In the meantime, enjoy sacha inchi oil on salads, rice, soups, stews, and pastas. Blend it into smoothies, or eat the seeds just as they are for a delicious and healthy snack.