The Benefits of Sacha Inchi

Can this omega-3-rich seed help you fight fat and improve your health?

sacha inchi
Sacha inchi in a Peruvian market. Axel Fassio/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis) is a plant native to Peru. The term "sacha inchi" typically refers to the edible seeds of the plant, which are rich in essential fatty acids and have a nut-like flavor when roasted. Also known as sacha peanut, mountain peanut, or Inca peanut, the seeds are often consumed whole and roasted, or the oil extracted from the seeds is taken as a dietary supplement.

Sacha inchi oil is often touted as a rich source of vitamin E and alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plant oils, such as walnut, perilla, and flaxseed oil.

Why Do People Use Sacha Inchi?

Often marketed as a "superfood", sacha inchi is said to offer a variety of health benefits. Some proponents suggest that consuming sacha inchi can help reduce excess abdominal fat and promote weight loss. In addition, sacha inchi is purported to fight depression, reduce cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease, and aid in diabetes management.

Applied topically, the oil is used as a face oil and for hair.

The Research on Sacha Inchi

Despite its long history of use in South American herbal medicine, sacha inchi has been the focus of very few scientific studies. Here's a look at the available research on the potential health benefits:

1)  High Cholesterol

Preliminary research indicates that sacha inchi may be of some benefit to people with elevated cholesterol levels. For a pilot study published in the Peruvian journal Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Pública in 2011, researchers assigned 24 people with high cholesterol to four months of treatment with varying doses of sacha inchi oil.

Although results revealed that sacha inchi oil appeared to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, the study's authors noted that more research needs to be conducted in order to evaluate the efficacy and safety of sacha inchi.

2)  Weight Loss

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 found that sacha inchi is unusually high in tryptophan, an amino acid essential to the production of serotonin (a nervous system chemical involved in regulating appetite).

In theory, sacha inchi may help promote weight loss by increasing serotonin production and, as a result, keep appetite in check and reduce food intake. However, there is currently a lack of clinical trials on the use of sacha inchi and its effectiveness as a weight loss aid.

What to Know Before Trying It

Widely available for purchase online, sacha inchi can be found in many natural-foods stores.

While sacha inchi is generally considered safe when consumed in small amounts as a food, little is known about the effects of regular or long-term consumption of sacha inchi in supplement form.

If sacha inchi does raise the body's serotonin levels, it may interact with supplements or medications, such as antidepressants, that also increase serotonin and raise the risk of serotonin syndrome (a rare but serious condition). 

The Takeaway

Although it's too soon to recommend sacha inchi as the treatment of any health condition, it's possible that eating sacha inchi seeds or oil as part of a balanced diet may help enhance overall health.

While sacha inchi may help increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, other foods (such as flaxseed and oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring) can also help you get your fill of omega-3s and preserve your health.


Fanali C, Dugo L, Cacciola F, et al. Chemical characterization of Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L.) oil. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Dec 28;59(24):13043-9.

Garmendia F, Pando R, Ronceros G. Effect of sacha inchi oil (plukenetia volúbilis l) on the lipid profile of patients with hyperlipoproteinemia. Rev Peru Med Exp Salud Publica. 2011 Dec;28(4):628-32.

Gorriti A, Arroyo J, Quispe F, et al. Oral toxicity at 60-days of sacha inchi oil (Plukenetia volubilis L.) and linseed (Linum usitatissimum L.), and determination of lethal dose 50 in rodents. Rev Peru Med Exp Salud Publica. 2010 Sep;27(3):352-60.

Sathe SK, Hamaker BR, Sze-Tao KW, Venkatachalam M. Isolation, purification, and biochemical characterization of a novel water soluble protein from Inca peanut (Plukenetia volubilis L.). J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Aug 14;50(17):4906-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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