Alfalfa is a plant that contains many essential nutrients. The roots of the plant can burrow up to the depth of almost twelve metres into the soil, and bring up trace minerals, which are of great importance to health. The alfalfa plant supplies almost all the vitamins, namely, vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamins C, E, and K. It is high in protein and calcium. The sun-dried hay of alfalfa is said to be a good source of vitamin D, vitamin D2, and vitamin D3. These nutrients make alfalfa have enormous health benefits.
The best way to have alfalfa is in the form of sprouts, that have been rinsed thoroughly to remove mould. Alfalfa seeds should not be eaten unless sprouted because they contain high levels of the toxic amino acid, canavanine. You can also take it in the form of a tablet.
Botanical name – Medicago sativa
Hindi Name- Lusan gaas
Sanskrit Name – Ashvabala
Common Name – alfalfa
Tamil Name- Kudirai masal
Health Benefits of Alfalfa
Alfalfa has been used both, in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. The Chinese used alfalfa leaf to stimulate the appetite and relieve ulcers. In Ayurveda, alfalfa leaves have been used to relieve water retention, arthritis, and ulcers. Colonial Americans have known to have used the plant to fight scurvy, menstrual difficulties, arthritis, and urinary problems. Alfalfa has many health benefits – it detoxes the urinary tract, purifies the blood and liver, and has a strong alkaline effect on the body. It also lowers bad cholesterol, reduces the incidence of atherosclerotic plaque, maintains healthy blood sugar levels, and supports the pituitary gland
Alfalfa Health Benefits for Digestion
Alfalfa promotes bowel movement regularity. It contains essential enzymes that help food digestion and assimilation. It helps prevent general digestive problems. The seeds contain betaine, an enzyme that helps to break down proteins and fats. Alfalfa has a high beta-carotene content, which helps to strengthen epithelial cells within mucous membranes, hence its positive effect on ulcers in the stomach. Herbalists have long used alfalfa to treat ulcers with good results. The bioflavonoids found in alfalfa build capillary strength and reduce inflammation of the stomach lining, while alfalfa’s vitamin A helps to maintain the stomach’s health.
Alfalfa Health Benefits for Cholesterol
Alfalfa plays a critical part in the control of cholesterol. The leaves contain saponins and animal studies suggest that this blocks absorption of cholesterol and prevents the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, thus helping in preventing strokes and heart disease. It is said to reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) while not affecting the good cholesterol (HDL). The chemicals and fibres in the alfalfa, binds to the cholesterol, preventing it from sticking to the arterial walls and blood. Alfalfa contains coumarin derivatives, which are the cause of its anti-thrombotic effect. It also supplies the body with flavonoids that help to relax the muscles of the cardiovascular system.
Alfalfa Health Benefits for Inflammation
Alfalfa is a herb rich in chlorophyll, which helps to purify the blood and eliminate uric acid. This can help relieve joint pain. Folk medicine gives high regard to this herb in cases of arthritis, rheumatism, and other inflammation. It is believed that alfalfa contains amino acids that reduce inflammation. In a study investigating the anti-inflammatory potential of alfalfa and the mechanisms involved, it was found that alfalfa aerial parts, exert anti-inflammatory activity, and may be useful as a functional food for the prevention of inflammatory disorders.
Alfalfa Health Benefits for Menopause
Alfalfa acts as a natural source of progesterone and phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). These estrogens are very much like natural estrogen in the body. Hence the herb is often used to promote better hormonal balance during menopause. Alfalfa may be superior to soy for hormone balance, as it does not inhibit iron and calcium absorption. In a preliminary study, it was found that supplementing with sage leaves and alfalfa extract completely eliminated hot flushes and night sweats in 20 of 30 women. Benefits of alfalfa
Alfalfa Health Benefits for Cancer
In the book, ‘Prescription for Herbal Healing,’ Phyllis A Balch writes that “alfalfa has important uses in counteracting the effects of cancer chemotherapy. White blood cells, including granulocytes, leukocytes, and T cells, are the body’s first line of defense against infection. Alfalfa may increase the production of these white cells by as much as 60%. Studies in animals have found that alfalfa completely reverses immune depression caused by treatment with cancer chemotherapy drugs. ……it does not inhibit the activity of any of the immune cells the body needs during the first stages of infection.”
Alfalfa health benefits for the skin
Alfalfa is a powerful antioxidant, which can soothe the skin and make dull skin look brighter. It is filled with beneficial nutrients including proteins and minerals, and vitamins A, B complex, C, D, and E, which have antiageing benefits. Vitamin A helps treat dry skin and can improve complexion and skin texture. Alfalfa also helps cleanse the skin.
Alfalfa health benefits for the hair
The B1, B6, and proteins in alfalfa may help hair growth and make your hair healthy. Vitamin C in alfalfa fights free radical damage and helps to improve blood circulation to the scalp and hair follicles. Lack of iron and zinc can also lead to hair loss. The silica in alfalfa may also help prevent baldness. Alfalfa contains both these minerals. To get maximum benefits from alfalfa for hair and skin, you can take it in the form of juice, tea, or as sprouts.
Other Health Benefits of Alfalfa
Alfalfa is a diuretic and helps with kidney problems. The condition of people with diabetes, who fail to respond to insulin, greatly improves when they take alfalfa with manganese. It helps reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers like breast cancer.
The tea is typically made with seeds or dried leaves, but we can use dried or fresh alfalfa leaves as tea. To make the tea, soak dried alfalfa in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, and add a little honey before drinking. This is said to stimulate the appetite. To make tea from the seeds, place 1 teaspoon of unsprouted seeds in 2 cups of boiling water and steep for several minutes.
Benefits of Alfalfa Tea
The health benefits of drinking this tea are many. Traditional Chinese medicine uses this tea to stimulate the appetite and relieve ulcers, as well as treat other digestive disorders and kidney problems. Ayurveda, the traditional medicine in India, uses alfalfa tea to relieve water retention and treat arthritis and ulcers.
Making Alfalfa Sprouts
o get the health benefits from alfalfa, use sprouted alfalfa seeds. This can be added to salads, sandwiches, soups, upma, rolls, and many other ways.
Soak a tablespoon of alfalfa seeds in water for over six hours. Wash and drain the water. Put it in a jar and tie a cheesecloth around the mouth of the jar. Keep the seeds moist but well-drained. Keep rinsing the seeds every 6-7 hours. You will see little white shoots appear on the second or third day. Continue the process, and by the fourth or fifth day, you will have green leaves sprouting. Remove and refrigerate at once.
Side Effects of Alfalfa
Alfalfa should be avoided by pregnant and lactating women.
Alfalfa should not be taken by patients with hormone-sensitive cancer
Alfalfa should be avoided in patients with gout due to the high content of purines.
Canavanine, a constituent in alfalfa, may aggravate the disease lupus.