Latin name: Medicago sativa
What is Alfalfa?
A member of the legume family with bright purple, blue, yellow, or white flowers, alfalfa has been cultivated for centuries. Native to Iran, alfalfa has long been used around the world to feed horses. Alfalfa is believed to be a sign of prosperity. It was thought that keeping dried alfalfa in a small jar in the pantry would protect the home and all who dwelled within from hunger, poverty, and unhappiness. Colonists brought alfalfa to North America in the 1700s, where it continues to be prized for its high content of nutrients, protein, and trace minerals. It is especially rich in vitamins A, D, and K.
What are the health benefits of Alfalfa?
Alfalfa promotes urination, relieves urinary and bowel problems, and helps treat those recovering from narcotic and alcohol addiction. Alfalfa is also used to help rebuild the body after serious or prolonged illness, stimulate milk production, cleanse the blood, lower cholesterol levels, and ease morning sickness by helping balance hormones. It aids in removing toxins from the body, as well as neutralizing acids, which makes it an aid to digestion. Alfalfa is used in the treatment of anemia, gout, arthritis, fatigue, insomnia, kidneys, peptic ulcers, and pituitary problems; additionally, it is also useful in stimulating the appetite, regulating diabetes, and building general overall health. The Chinese have used alfalfa to treat kidney stones for centuries.
How do I take Alfalfa to get the health benefits?
The seed is commonly used as a sprouted seed, which is added to salads, sandwiches, or soups. The seeds are also sometimes ground into a powder and made into a mush, or mixed with cereal flours to make nutritious bread.
Dried alfalfa can also be taken as capsules, tablets, or as a tea. To make the tea, soak dried alfalfa in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain before drinking. An appetite-stimulating tea is made from the leaves, though some report it has a flavor reminding them of boiled socks! Try it for yourself; a little honey can sweeten the taste.
Are there any precautions for taking Alfalfa?
Alfalfa can trigger lupus or rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups in those who are susceptible. The cause is apparently one of the active constituents, an alkaloid known as conavanine, in conjunction with the amino acid L-canavanine. Also, there are four isoflavones in alfalfa that produce an estrogen response in animals and humans, which can disrupt reproductive cycles when ingested in high amounts, especially when the whole fresh plant is consumed, as with livestock feeding.
Where can I find Alfalfa?
Alfalfa sprouts can be found in many grocery stores and dried alfalfa for tea or in capsules and tablets can be found in health food stores, vitamin stores, some herbs shops, and online.
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