Chives: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Preparations, And More…

Chives Health Benefits and Side Effects

What Are Chives?

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is a species of flowering plants that produced edible flowers, stems, and leaves. Chives are part of the onion family (Amaryllidaceae) and are closely related to red and white onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, and Chinese onions.

Chives are the stems of the chive flower, the entire plant is edible including the roots, stems, leaves, and the flower.

Chives are full of health benefits and few side effects, as it’s a low-calorie cooking herb that’s often used to flavor dishes with its mildly spicy and refreshing taste while also adding a bright green color to the dish.

The leaves and flowers of the chives plant complement other spices well, without overwhelming the dish. Chive seeds have very little flavor and use, which is why they’re primarily used for planting.

Hundreds of scientific research and studies have been done on allium vegetables such as onions, leeks, and garlic. Proving that these cooking vegetables, including chives, have extensive healing, immune-boosting, and anticancer properties.

Chives are rich in flavonols, organosulfur compounds, as well as essential oils such as dipropyl disulfide and eugenol.

Most of the health benefits of chives come from its organic plant-based based compounds, which are mostly healthy and what makes it a natural diuretic. To experience its full flavor profile, chives are best eaten fresh.

Other herbs and spices that have similar nutritional profiles and healthy plant-based compounds include: nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, basil, and bay leaves.

The differences between chives and green onions (scallions) are that green onions have a white section at the bottom of the stem heading into the roots and tubular green sections that spread along the top of the plant.

Since chives are a flowering plant and the only herb in the onion family, it’s prone to triggering mild to severe allergic reactions.

The Origin of Chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have been used for aesthetic and culinary purposes for thousands of years. Used for beautifying gardens all over Europe, during the middle ages up until now, for over 5,000 years.

During the start of the Middle Ages, Europeans began cultivating chive herbs, to be used as a different food source. Farmers back then also primarily fed their cattle chives, to give their milk a different taste.

It was also used back then to treat intestinal parasites, enhance the immune system function, stimulate digestion, and treat anemia.

While in China, chives were used to treat fatigue, control excessive bleeding, and as an antidote for ingested poisons. 

Romans used to hang chive flowers around their homes to ward off diseases, physically apply chive stems to relieve sunburns, and eating them to increase blood pressure.

Chives and other plants in the onion family got the Latin name Allium Schoenoprasum from its Greek origin, which means “reed-like leek”.

The name “chives“ is of French and Latin origins. A combination of the Latin word ‘cepa’ and Old French word ‘cive’, both of which translates to onions and spring onions, respectively.

Throughout history, gardeners, farmers, and cultivators benefited from using flowering chive plants as borders for their crops, vegetables, and fruits.

As chive herbs and plants develop a highly toxic and natural insecticide, repelling damaging insects such as Japanese beetles, aphids, whiteflies, and other insects.

The juice and essential oils found in the leaves are also antifungal. They have been used to ward off fungal infections and mildew when physically applied to garden plants and fertile soil.

Cultivating and Planting Chives

Chive plants naturally spread very rapidly, as when they fully blossom they drop many new seeds. They propagate the soil in as little as 4 to 6 weeks, rarely needing to replant any more.

To grow a healthy chive plant, it requires full exposure to sunlight. Planting chives around the border of your garden works best to prevent any insects, bugs, or fungus that would spread across your fruit, vegetable, or flower gardens.

While chives may have wild and harmful plants from the same species, it’s the safest herb to grow within the onion family without invading other herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits, or flowers. Both onions and garlic chives are beloved by honey bees and other desirable insects.

Herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables that grow and pair well with chives include:

chive flowers close up
  • Broccoli

  • Carrot

  • Peas

  • Cauliflower

  • Lettuce

  • Celery
  • Tomatoes

  • Parsley

  • Cilantro and coriander

  • Tarragon
  • Mint
  • Basil

Herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables that don’t grow or pair well when around chives include:

Chives and most herbs that need a lot of water to grow, pair well when planted together. It doesn’t grow well with herbs like sage and bay leaves which require sandy and much drier climates to grow properly.

The chive plant grows well in almost any soil and grows in almost every climate because of its ability to survive through cold winter seasons.

Since chives plants can fully grow all year round, it’s quite resistant to weather changes. Although it’s sensitive to colder weather, which makes it necessary to plant it indoors for the majority of the year.

After planting the seedlings usually appear in 14 to 28 days, they must be kept warm and moist. When transplanting the plants from indoors to outdoors, place them 20cm (8 inches) apart. Here’s how to plant and harvest chives:

  • Plant family: Amaryllidaceae

  • Sowing time (a planting time): You must sow chives indoors all year round. You can sow the seeds outdoors during March, April, and May. You’re able to transplant your chives out in June.

  • Flowering period: Summer (June to August)

  • Harvest time: June to September, 30 days after transplanting or 60 days after seeding. Cutting the whole stem and leaves down to the base of the plant (1 to 2 inches from the soil). Harvesting 3 to 5 times during the first year, while in subsequent years you’re able to cut and harvest the plants monthly.

  • Location and sun exposure: Full exposure to the sun, or any sunny location with good water drainage.
  • Soil quality: Chalky, clay-like, sandy, loamy, and nutrient-rich soil work best
  • Soil pH: 6.5 to 7 (slightly acidic to neutral)
  • Soil temperature: Anything above 10°C (50°F)

Characteristics of The Plant

Chives are plants that grow in warm areas with a lot of sun, that are by-nature very tolerant to changing weather conditions, bugs and insects, fungal infections, and droughts.

They grow from bulbs that remain underground, which grow in large clumps as they start spreading seeds as soon as their flowers bloom.

Each flower has a singular stem that’s hollow inside, that are much thinner and finer than green onions and regular white onions.

A chive is a single green stem the whole way through and has flat shaped flowers at the top. As compared to green onion flowers which are circular in shape.

The chive plant is one of the smallest members of the onion family, with a maximum height of 25 to 31 cm (10 to 12 inches). Chives also don’t form large white bulbs beneath the soil.

Instead, they grow in grass-like clumps with thin, tender leaves and have tough flower heads. The green leaves, stems, and stalks can become bitter once the herb fully blooms.

Chives can be harvested 3 to 5 times during the first year, while in subsequent years you’re able to cut and harvest the plants monthly. The leaves and stems can be easily preserved for later use, lasting up to 10 to 14 days.

This option is better for cooking, which delays flowering, but isn’t beneficial if you’re looking to have the plant naturally spread across your garden.

Nutrition Facts of Chives

Like other vegetables in the onion family, the chive plant is a natural powerhouse of nutrition which includes antioxidants, healthy plant-based compounds, vitamins and minerals. The nutrition facts for 6 tablespoons or 100 grams of chives contain:

bunch of chives
  • Calories: 30 kcal

  • Carbohydrates 4.4 g (1% of your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA))

  • Protein 3.3g (6%)
  • Fiber 2.5g (10%)

  • Vitamin K: 6.4 mg (177%)
  • Vitamin C: 1.7 mg (96%)
  • Vitamin A: 131 IU (145%)
  • Folate: 3.2 mcg (26%)
  • Manganese: 0.1 mg (16%)
  • Calcium (9%)
  • Phosphorus (0.24%)
  • Potassium (8%)
  • Iron (8%)

Avoid consuming a quantity of chives that would surpass 100% of your micronutrient RDA. The healthy amount of chives you should have a day should be around 1 to 2 tablespoons, 1 being more realistic for most people.

Recipes and Cooking With Chives

Black pepper and starchy carbohydrates work best when combined with chives, adding a light oniony flavor to a dish without an intense strength in taste or smell.

Chives are so versatile and have a light flavor that compliments a whole range of foods, recipes, and cooking ingredients. Some popular recipe choices with chives and chive flowers include:

  • Black pepper and chive aioli

  • Buttermilk biscuits topped with chives and black pepper

  • Spaghetti topped with lemon zest and chives

  • Salmon marinade with lemon, olive oil, garlic, and chive sauce
  • Baked potatoes

  • Soups

  • Sauces including lamb sauces, white wine vinegar mint sauce, chimichurri, yogurt sauce, and a lemon-mint sauce

  • Salads such as Mediterranean salads

Chives are also commonly used to season meats and proteins such as:

  • Beef
  • Lamb

  • Poultry
  • Pork

  • Seafood

  • Eggs

Complimentary cooking ingredients, herbs and spices, cooking oils, and vegetables such as:

Pale purple flowers are light and flavorful, making them great for making pickling brines and vinegar. It’s also slightly peppery which makes it a tasty option to use over salads and other cold dishes.

Traditional cooking onions have an overpowering oniony flavor, a good substitute for white and cooking onions is the Asian-native garlic chive (Allium tuberosum) which has a delicate flavor and scent.

Garlic chives are easily distinguishable by their broader, flat leaves and star-shaped white flowers.

The most popular use for chives is that it’s used for seasoning baked potatoes, along with butter and sour cream.

However, if you’re looking to lose weight or -maintain your healthy diet, you should avoid using butter, sour cream, canola oil, and vegetable to prepare your food.

Adding chive leaves or blossoms with a bit of black pepper to your recipe is a great way to add a lot of flavor while being very low in calories.

Chives Health Benefits

There are hundreds of scientific studies, trials, and research papers on the health benefits of chives.

It’s full of healthy plant-based compounds, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to improved bone health, sleep, and the prevention of cancer.

Chives are nutrient-dense and have potent compounds such as:

  • Flavonoids
  • S-allylcysteine (SAC)
  • S‐allyl mercaptocysteine (SAM)

  • Quercetin
  • Ajoene

  • Saponins

  • Allicin
  • Polysulfides
  • Amino-styrene-acrylic acids
  • Organosulfur compounds

These beneficial compounds are by nature anticancer, antifungal, prevent cardiovascular and heart disease, reduce inflammation, burn fat, neuroprotective, and boosts the strength of your immune system.

Chives have also been used to treat parasitic worms, parasitic larvae, and infections. Other herbs and essential oils that kill parasites and infections include oregano oil, cloves, black walnuts, grapefruits, grape seed extract, and wormwood.

1. Chives May Prevent Cancer

Cancer is one of the most prevalent and aggressive disease in the world, affecting millions of people every year and has had more than 10 billion dollars dedicated to research and prevention.

According to the National Institue of Health in the U.S, approximately 30 to 40% of cancers are preventable with a good diet that’s full of nutritious foods, exercise, and a low body fat percentage.

Multiple research studies have linked to chives and other vegetables in the onion family with their ability to prevent and treat several types of cancer.

garlic chive plant bundles

Chives, onions, as well as garlic may prevent and reduce your risk of cancers, including:

  • Breast cancer

  • Prostate cancer

  • Gastric cancer

  • Oral cancer (pharynx and larynx)

  • Renal cell carcinoma

  • Ovary cancer
  • Endometrium Cancer

  • Stomach cancer

A study conducted by the National Institue of Health (NIH) found that people who consumed onions over 7 times per week had a lower risk of these types of cancer by an average of 38%, with the highest being laryngeal, ovarian, renal cell, stomach, and prostate cancer by around 50%.

The list of anticancer compounds found in chives include:

  • Allicin

  • Flavonoids

  • Quercetin

  • S-allyl mercaptocysteine

  • Tuberoside

  • Thiosulfinates

All allium vegetables, including leeks and chives, contain several organosulfur and antimicrobial compounds that reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer.

Additionally, these chemicals also increase the production of white blood cells, strengthening your immune system and prevents cell degradation.

Most studies conducted on allium vegetables have centred on the effectiveness of garlic, leek, and onions, rather than chives.

However, chives have been thoroughly studied and have shown that they have unique compounds that contribute to the large list of health benefits.

2. Helps Treat Parasites and Infections

Traditionally, the most common benefit of chives has been in its treatment for intestinal parasites. This included disease-carrying worms that thrive in the human intestinal microbiome.

For centuries, chives have been embraced by herbalists as a preferred natural remedy against these dangerous, destructive invaders that can cause a variety of harmful side effects when left untreated.

However, this does not replace medical practices and treatments. Seek medical help from a healthcare professional.

Chives can be a great boost to prevent and help minimize the damages caused by parasites, as its natural compounds are potent for killing bacteria, fungus, and small insects as well as parasites.

3. Improves Bone Mineral Density

Chives by the gram, are a rich source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a complex of vitamins which has many health benefits, as it’s a very powerful antioxidant.

Vitamin K also maintains healthy bone mineral density levels as well as blood pressure levels (through blood clotting).

Multiple research papers and scientific studies have shown that people with higher levels of vitamin K have higher and healthier bone density levels than people who have a deficiency. Lower levels tend to cause osteoporosis.

It promotes multiple proteins that stimulate calcium metabolism, efficiently transporting other essential vitamins and minerals throughout the entire body. With a primary focus on sending and preserving calcium in the bones.

Vitamin K binds calcium to osteocalcin proteins, which are essential chemical compounds in bone building and bone health.

Even with coronary artery calcification (CAC), vitamin Ks primary role is to remove calcium in the bloodstream and directly transmits it to our bones.

This has numerous additional health benefits, which helps improve heart health and blood circulation in addition to preserving bone mass.

Additionally, these also contribute to a reduced risk of bone fractures, as an increased bone mineral density level and keeps bones dense, firm, and strong while keeping blood vessels soft and flexible. Other foods that contain a lot of vitamin K include:

  • Spinach
  • Collard

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Swiss chard
  • Parsley
  • Cauliflower
  • Romaine lettuce and other leafy green vegetables
  • Fish, red meat, poultry, and eggs

4. Benefits Brain Function and Health

Chives contain choline, an essential nutrient that’s primarily used for improving brain signalling, cellular division and growth, as well as metabolism.

Multiple studies have shown that choline promotes the release of acetylcholine (ACh) in the brain, a neurotransmitter, used to send signals to other brain cells such as neurons (brain cells), muscle cells, and gland cells.

Reducing inflammation also further improves brain health. Vitamin K along with the B-complex vitamins found in chives makes it a powerful anti-inflammatory superfood.

B-complex vitamins also contribute to healthy brain and neuron function, which helps in preventing early signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Benefiting short and long-term memory, muscle control, and the prevention of depression.

5. Reduces Inflammation

Thousands of research papers and studies have proven that long-term and acute inflammation are major contributors to many diseases including cancer, autoimmune diseases, asthma, and hepatitis.

People with poor diets are highly inflamed especially since most bad foods contain mostly omega-6 fatty acids, which in excess, can cause inflammation. This also accelerates the development of conditions such as:

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Neurodegenerative disorders

  • Crohn’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease

Chives are a great way to reduce inflammation, chives are rich in antioxidants and plant-based anti-inflammation compounds. Some of these compounds include:

chives flowers and crops
  • Bioflavonoid

  • Isoflavonoids

  • Flavonoids

  • Polyphenols: gallic acid, catechin, and caffeic acid
  • Flavones: luteolin

  • Flavonols: isorhamnetin, kaempferol, and quercetin
  • Vitamin E and K

Along with the antibacterial, anticancer, and antifungal effects of chives, it helps protect you from many diseases by strengthening your immune system.

One of the major benefits of reducing inflammation is that it takes effect almost immediately, relieving pain from arthritis, joint pain, tension headaches, muscle stiffness, and gastric as well as abdominal pain.

Quercetin is the most effective compound for improving the immune system. A strong immune system is vital for overall health, reducing inflammation, and preventing most heart-related diseases.

6. Relieves Allergy Symptoms

Allium vegetables are rich in quercetin and vitamin C, which are both powerful antihistamines that are used to block histamines produced by allergic reactions.

Foods high in antihistamines are also anti-inflammatory, which reduces some of the symptoms caused by allergies such as:

  • Indoor (mold and dust)

  • Food allergies

  • Seasonal allergies (pollen) such as hay fever

These also help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions in mild to extreme cases and slightly shorten symptom duration for:

  • Nasal congestion

  • Sneezing
  • Hives

  • Rashes
  • Watery eyes
  • Fatigue

Especially during allergy season, adding more vegetables and herbs from the onion family to your diet may subside your symptoms naturally, along with the use of allergy medications such as:

  • Benadryl

  • Asprin

  • Claritin

Vitamin C is also an essential nutrient used to boost the immune system, increasing your resistance to bacteria and infections.

Antihistamine-rich foods are not a substitute for medical attention. If you suffer from an allergic reaction contact your emergency lines ASAP.

7. Improves Heart Health

A poor diet is the primary contributor to cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.

These chronic diseases account for around 73% of all deaths around the world, while cardiovascular diseases are the primary cause of deaths worldwide.

The combination of bioflavonoids, vitamins, and minerals found in chives are excellent dietary contributors to healthy cardiovascular health, function, and endurance.

Although healthy cooking oils have the largest effect on cardiovascular health, garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and chives have many studies proving their beneficial effects on heart health.

Cruciferous vegetables are also full of healthy plant-based compounds which support heart health, including:

  • Purple and green cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

  • Kale

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Bok choy

  • Watercress

These vegetables are rich in organosulfur compounds which are highly anti-inflammatory, helping prevent:

  • Cardiovascular and heart disease
  • Strokes

  • Heart palpitations

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis

  • Improve blood vessel health

8. Improves Eye Health

Poor eyesight and macular degeneration are very common disorders, affecting over 12 million people in the U.S and 196 million people worldwide.

Chives are rich in both carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which are essential for maintaining eyesight.

These compounds help filter out blue light wavelengths emitted by our phones, computers, and the sun. Which may be harmful used late at night, deregulating our circadian rhythm.

A lesser-known health benefit of the chives is that it’s rich in every type of carotenoids, such as:

  • Beta-carotene

  • Lutein

  • Zeaxanthin

  • Lycopene

Carotenoids are essential for eye health, maintaining good vision, and reducing your risk of macular degeneration, most of which are caused by aging.

Multiple studies from the National Institue of Health (NIH) found that these plant-based compounds are stored in the eyes, absorbing up to 91.4% of blue lights, preventing oxidative stress and damage.

Oxidative damage is the primary factor in accelerating age-related macular degeneration.

Adding foods rich in carotenoids to your diet can drastically help improve vision and maintain your eye health. Foods rich in carotenoids include:

  • Apricots

  • Carrots

  • Pink grapefruit
  • Squash

  • Pumpkin

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Asparagus

  • Beets

  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • guava
  • Tomatoes

9. Enhances Sleep Quality and Restfulness

Chives are rich in choline, an essential nutrient for stimulating proper cognitive function and metabolism processes.

One of choline’s health benefits is its ability to improve the brain’s stimulus barrier in the thalamus, which filters out noises, distractions, and other external stimuli.

Multiple studies have shown that the thalamus enhances energy production and usage in the brain, muscle control, memory, and nervous system function. The thalamus also relays sensory signals and including motor signals to the cerebral cortex.

During sleep, the thalamus is responsible for blocking these internal and external stimuli from reaching and being processed in the brain, allowing people to sleep without disturbances. Also beneficially affecting the depth and quality of sleep during the REM sleep cycle.

Additionally, a study found that the amount of choline found in chives (250 mg) was able to help control mood swings, treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and healthy liver function.

Chives Side Effects and Detriments

Chives are generally safe for both culinary and decorative purposes, but when misused can cause quite a few side effects.

Although the side effects of chives are minimal, there is always some possibility of an allergic reaction, especially for anyone who has an adverse reaction to onions and eats a large amount of chives.

As chives have very healthy organic compounds, they do however contain quite a few harmful ones including toxic amounts of selenium and heavy metals like cadmium.

1. Contains Harmful Heavy Metals

Chives are herbs that easily absorb vitamins and minerals, some of which are harmful heavy metals like nickel and cadmium.

A study conducted on the growth of chive plants for 16 days. After 16 days the chives absorbed between 50 to 250 micrograms (0.2 to 0.52%) of their weight in cadmium. After 64 days the amount grew to 1.2 to 2.4 grams (1.5 to 3.85%).

A diet rich in chives can lead to an accumulated amount of cadmium, which can lead to toxicity. The side effects of cadmium include:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lung problems including lung hemorrhage and dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Bronchitis
  • Chest pains
  • Conjunctivitis (eye infection)
  • Headaches and fevers

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are one of the healthiest herbs you can eat daily. Chives are full of healthy plant-based compounds that beneficially impact most areas of the human body.

With almost no side effects beyond possible allergic reactions and high levels of heavy metals, chive’s long list of benefits makes it a good addition to any diet (regular healthy eating, keto, vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, etc.).

chive leaves and stems

Here’s the list of health benefits of chives:

  1. Chives May Prevent Cancer
  2. Helps Treat Parasites and Infections

  3. Improves Bone Mineral Density
  4. Benefits of Brain Function and Health
  5. Reduces Inflammation
  6. Relieves Allergy Symptoms
  7. Improves Heart Health
  8. Improves Eye Health
  9. Enhances Sleep Quality and Restfulness

Here’s the list of side effects of chives:

  1. Contains Harmful Heavy Metals

Planting chives is a great and low-cost way to include it into your diet, keeping most of its flavor and nutrition intact.

Another option would be to buy fresh chives in almost every grocery store as well as whole-foods and farmers’ markets. Fresh chives can also be preserved by freezing, dehydrating, or used in creating a pickling brine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Chives?

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) is a species of flowering plants that produced edible flowers, stems, and leaves.

Chives are part of the onion family (Amaryllidaceae) and are closely related to red and white onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, and Chinese onions.

The leaves and flowers of the chives plant complement other spices well, without overwhelming the dish. Chive seeds have very little flavor and use, which is why they’re primarily used for planting.

Chives are full of health benefits and few side effects, as it’s a low-calorie cooking herb that’s often used to flavor dishes with its mildly spicy and refreshing taste while also adding a bright green color to the dish.

How to grow Chives?

Since chives plants can fully grow all year round, it’s quite resistant to weather changes. Although it is sensitive to colder weather, which makes it necessary to plant it indoors for the majority of the year.

After planting the seedlings usually appear in 14 to 28 days, they must be kept warm and moist. When transplanting the plants from indoors to outdoors, place them 20cm (8 inches) apart. Here’s how to plant and harvest chives:

Plant family: Amaryllidaceae

Sowing time (planting time): All year round you must sow chives indoors. You can sow the seeds outdoors during March, April, and May. You’re able to transplant your chives out in June.

Flowering period: Summer (June to August)

Harvest time: June to September, 30 days after transplanting or 60 days after seeding. Cutting the whole stem and leaves down to the base of the plant (1 to 2 inches from the soil). Harvesting 3 to 5 times during the first year, while in subsequent years you’re able to cut and harvest the plants monthly.

Location and sun exposure: Full exposure to the sun, or any sunny location with good water drainage.

Soil quality: Chalky, clay-like, sandy, loamy, and nutrient-rich soil work best

Soil pH: 6.5 to 7 (slightly acidic to neutral)

Soil temperature: Anything above 10°C (50°F)

What’s The Difference Between Chives and Green Onions?

The differences between chives and green onions (scallions) are that green onions have a white section at the bottom of the stem heading into the roots and tubular green sections that spread along the top of the plant.



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