Chaya or tree spinach is scientifically known as Cnidoscolus aconitifolius. It is a large, fast-growing shrub. It has succulent stems which secrete a milky sap when cut and grows up to 6 meters tall. The leaves contain a high content of toxic hydrocyanic acid, a form of hydrogen cyanide, and hence it must be cooked before eating. Chaya should not be cooked in an aluminium pot as the toxic reaction can result in diarrhoea.
Chaya is a perennial shrub, meaning, it doesn’t need repeated planting. The seeds are produced very rarely and the process of germination is very slow. Only the leaves are harvested for consumption and only up to 50% of the leaves are harvested so that the plant yields a much larger crop.
Chaya is packed with nutrition. The nutrition content in is two to three times that of Chinese cabbage and spinach. Chaya is full of protein, calcium, iron, carotene, potassium and vitamin C. The amino acid in Chaya is vital for those who have a diet low in protein.
Chaya leaves have been used in treatment of obesity, Kidney stones, haemorrhoids, acne and eye problems. It acts as a laxative and improves digestion. It also strengthens the fingernails. These are traditional treatments and have not been studied scientifically.