Health Benefits Of Chives

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What is chives

Chives are a member of the Allium family and are closely related to onions and garlic. Known for the delicious taste they provide, chives also offer numerous health benefits. They belong to the Liliaceae family and are considered the smallest species in the Alliaceae family. Native to both the new world and old world, chives have been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages.1 Chives are a highly adaptable plant that is tolerant to cold and hot temperatures, and grow rapidly throughout the year. Due to this they are  cultivated and harvested worldwide.2 Chives, with their pleasant fragrance and mild onion taste, are commonly used in Thai cooking and medicine.3

Like other allium vegetables, chives are rich in flavonols and natural organosulfur compounds.4 They are also a crucial source of nutraceuticals, containing minerals, vitamins, flavonoid compounds, and antioxidants necessary for a healthy body.2 Among all the Allium species, chives have the highest content of vitamin C and beta-carotene.2 The genus Allium, which includes nearly 900 different species such as onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions, and chives, belongs to the monocot flowering plants.4 These green herbs not only add a delightful touch to various dishes but also contribute to overall well-being. 

In this article, we will delve into the range of health benefits offered by chives, including their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, digestive, cardiovascular, cancer prevention, and anti-aging properties. We will also provide nutritional facts, explore culinary uses, and touch upon potential side effects and other concerns of chive consumption.

Health benefits of chives

Incorporating chives and other vegetables into one's daily diet has been shown to improve overall health, gastrointestinal health, and vision, while reducing the risk of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, anemia, gastric ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic diseases. These health benefits can be attributed to the presence of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants in vegetables. Allium vegetables, rich in thiosulfides, have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.8 Garlic (Allium sativum) and onion (A.cepa) are the two most extensively researched members of the Allium family.1 Garlic has been found to have a lipid-lowering effect, antiplatelet activity, and antiatherosclerotic activity.8 Allium vegetables, including chives, garlic, onion, and leek, are rich in thiosulfates, which are associated with reducing the risk of various chronic diseases.7 Thiosulfates are considered important phytonutrients, while flavonoids are another significant phytonutrient found in alliums.7

Chronic illness and the resulting deaths are often associated with low nutrient intake and unhealthy diets. Chives offer several health effects attributed to their polyphenols, particularly flavonols, which have antimicrobial activity. These compounds provide anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiglycemic, and anticancer effects. The major polyphenolic compounds present in Allium plants include phenolic acids, flavonoids, and lignans.3 Chives, in particular, contain kaempferol glycosides as their main flavonols.3

Allium flavonols offer a range of health benefits, including anticancer, antiobesity, and hypolipidemic effects. Allium plants have been widley used  in traditional medicine across the world. These plants contain various bioactive compounds such as organosulfur compounds, polyphenols, dietary fiber, and saponins. Flavonoids, specifically flavanols, can be derived from Allium plants and possess antioxidant, anticancer, hypolipidemic, antidiabetic, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, and antimicrobial activities.3

Anti inflammatory properties

Chives are rich in organosulfur compounds, including allicin, which exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds can be beneficial in reducing inflammation associated with conditions like arthritis and asthma and providing relief from related symptoms. Furthermore, consuming antioxidant-rich food has been found to enhance T-cell subsets, interleukin production, and natural killer cells, thereby improving immunity.3 These effects contribute to a stronger immune system, which plays a vital role in defending the body against infections and diseases.

Antimicrobial properties

Chives contain sulfur compounds that exhibit antimicrobial effects, making them valuable in combating harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Regular consumption of chives can potentially provide protection against various infections, including those affecting the respiratory and digestive systems. 

Chinese chive oil, known for its content of diallyl sulfide, has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against Flavobacterium columnare in fish.6 Chive acid, which contains diallyl sulfides responsible for the antimicrobial activity, consists of diallyl monosulfide, diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and diallyl tetrasulfide.3 Chives, scientifically known as Allium schoenoprasum, have been found to inhibit the growth of E. coli, S. aureus, and S. dysenteriae.9 These antimicrobial properties contribute to their potential role in preventing bacterial growth and associated infections. Although chive oil exhibits microbial activity against foodborne pathogenic bacteria and inhibits E. coli, its effectiveness is lower compared to garlic oil.3

Digestive Health benefits

Chives are a great source of dietary fiber, which aids digestion and promotes a healthy gut. Additionally, the natural enzymes present in chives can enhance nutrient absorption and reduce the occurrence of digestive issues, such as bloating and constipation.

Cardiovascular Health benefits

Chives are rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants, which contribute to improved cardiovascular health. These compounds play a role in reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, and preventing the formation of blood clots, ultimately decreasing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, a high vegetable diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. By incorporating chives and other vegetables into one's diet, individuals can benefit from the cardiovascular protective effects provided by these nutritious foods.8

Cancer prevention properties

The consumption of Allium vegetables has also been linked with a decreased risk of gastrointestinal cancers.8 tudies suggest that chives have notable cancer fighting properties attributed to their significant concentration of organosulfur compounds and flavonoids. These bioactive compounds have demonstrated the ability to reduce the growth of cancer cells and lower the risk of specific types of cancers, such as colon, prostate, and stomach cancers. In particular, dietary flavonoids have been associated with a reduction in cancer-related mortality by exerting various effects, including antiproliferation, induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, modulation of immunity, and reduction of oxidative stress.5 By incorporating chives into one's diet, individuals can potentially harness the protective benefits against cancer provided by these compounds.

Anti aging properties

Chives are rich in antioxidants that play a crucial role in combating free radicals and safeguarding cells from damage. Regular consumption of chives can lead to healthier skin, a deceleration in the aging process, and a reduction in the visibility of wrinkles. Additionally, studies have shown that extracts rich in flavonols derived from Allium plants have the potential to inhibit adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells) and the accumulation of lipids in both cultured adipocytes and animal models of diet-induced obesity.5

Autophagy, a cellular process involved in adipogenesis and lipid metabolism, is positively regulated by Allium-derived flavonols through the modulation of AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) in experimental models.5 These findings suggest that chives, with their flavonol content, may have a beneficial impact on autophagy and lipid metabolism, potentially contributing to improved health outcomes.

Nutritional facts

Chives are low in calories and fat, making them an excellent addition to a balanced diet. They are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron. These nutrients support overall health, boost the immune system, and contribute to the maintenance of healthy bones and blood.

Culinary uses of chives

Chives are versatile in the kitchen and can be used to enhance the flavor and appearance of various dishes. They are often used as a garnish in salads, soups, and omelets, adding a fresh and mild onion-like taste. They are used as dish flavouring due to their fragrant smell. Chopped chives can also be incorporated into dips, sauces, and spreads, providing a subtle flavor and vibrant green color.

Side effects and other concerns

While chives are generally safe to consume, some individuals may experience mild allergic reactions. It is advisable to use caution if you have a known allergy to onions, garlic, or other Allium vegetables. Additionally, excessive consumption of chives may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people.

Summary

Chives not only enhance the taste and visual appeal of meals but also offer a range of health benefits. From their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties to their positive effects on digestive and cardiovascular health, chives have earned their place as a valuable addition to a nutritious diet. With their potential cancer prevention and anti-aging properties, these herbs provide even more reasons to enjoy them. So, next time you're in the kitchen, consider adding a sprinkle of chives.

References

  1. Keusgen M. Health and alliums. Allium crop science: recent advances. 2002 Jan;357–78.
  2. Chen H. 19 - Chives [Internet]. Peter KV, editor. ScienceDirect. Woodhead Publishing; 2006 [cited 2023 Jun 25]. p. 337–46. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9781845690175500191
  3. Rattanachaikunsopon P, Phumkhachorn P. Diallyl Sulfide Content and Antimicrobial Activity against Food-Borne Pathogenic Bacteria of Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2008 Nov 23;72(11):2987–91.
  4. Miękus N, Marszałek K, Podlacha M, Iqbal A, Puchalski C, Świergiel AH. Health Benefits of Plant-Derived Sulfur Compounds, Glucosinolates, and Organosulfur Compounds. Molecules. 2020 Aug 21;25(17):3804.
  5. Kothari D, Lee WD, Kim SK. Allium Flavonols: Health Benefits, Molecular Targets, and Bioavailability. Antioxidants. 2020 Sep 19;9(9):888.
  6. Rattanachaikunsopon P, Phumkhachorn P. Potential of Chinese chive oil as a natural antimicrobial for controlling Flavobacterium columnare infection in Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus. Fisheries Science. 2009 Oct 10;75(6):1431–7.
  7. Dias JS. Major Classes of Phytonutriceuticals in Vegetables and Health Benefits: A Review. Journal of Nutritional Therapeutics. 2012 Oct 5
  8. Ramya V, Patel P. Health benefits of vegetables. International Journal of Chemical Studies. 2019;7(2):82–7.
  9. Dewi Restuana S, Herla R, Dwi S, Sanggam Dera RT, Sisilia FY. Antimicrobial effects of chive extracts against bacteria pathogen and Lactobacillus acidophilus. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science. 2018 Dec 7;205:012049.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Christina Weir

Master of Science - MS, Biotechnology, Bioprocessing & Business Management, University of Warwick

Hey there, I'm Christina (Krysia), and I'm thrilled to be an article writer for Klarity! I recently completed my master's degree in Biotechnology from the University of Warwick, and currently, I work at The Francis Crick Institute in Science Operations. I love being involved with the institute's exciting biomedical research and have a passion for Science Communications. My goal is to simplify science so everyone can join in and learn something new!

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