Alfalfa is a type of bright green grass common in desert regions, and has been employed by numerous civilizations as both a food, medicine and a source of hay.
The name alfalfa is Arabic in origin and literally means, “father of foods” and is an excellent source of several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K, as well as beta carotene.
Alfalfa grass grows sprouts that are a popular accompaniment in salads, while the leaves and seeds are often made up as health supplement preparations, either in pill or powder form, or as a refreshing tea.
Why Alfalfa is helpful for human body?
Alfalfa is one of nature´s most bountiful supplies of vitamin K, particularly in the desert regions in which it tends to grow, where nutrients can be hard to come by.
Vitamin K is essential for the proper clotting of blood in human beings, being employed as it is in the synthesis of several key proteins, and it also works in synergy with glutamic acid and vitamin D to help promote and support the growth of strong, healthy bones.
The human body cannot make use of calcium from dietary sources without vitamin K to help process it.
Additionally, the vitamins in alfalfa can help to prevent hardening of the arteries by preventing calcium residue from building up inside them.
This build-up occurs when white blood cells become trapped in the lining of the arteries, and more white blood cells are sent to deal with the obstruction, which makes it progressively worse.
These white blood cells can then perish and leave calcium residue, which causes the arteries to narrow and become hard.
The vitamin K in alfalfa effects calcium in the bloodstream in a manner which prevents this from happening, reducing the risk of a person suffering cardiovascular problems, including potential heart attacks and strokes.
Uses and Benefits
Additionally and separately, there is evidence to suggest that the seeds, or rather the nutrients within alfalfa seeds, can play a role in actively helping to reduce levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol in the blood.
Effective for high-cholestrol
Studies showed that patients with a form of high cholesterol known as hypercholesterolemia, who took alfalfa supplements regularly for two months showed up to 20% greater reduction in their levels of bad cholesterol than those who were given standard blood pressure medication.
Effective for lactating mothers
Other traditional uses for alfalfa include its role as a supplement for breast-feeding mothers, for whom it is believed to help promote milk production.
The Chinese also used alfalfa as an appetite stimulant and treatment for various gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers.
In Indian medical history, medicine was used variously to treat arthritis and ulcers, and native American Indians used the desert grass to remedy boils and scurvy, as well as a number of gastrointestinal and urinary tract problems.
Some doctors recommend the leaves as a topical treatment for wounds and to help prevent infections following surgery, which makes sense given the plant´s high concentrations of vitamin K, which plays an essential role in helping blood to clot.
Rich minerals we get from Alfalfa
Additionally, this plant is an excellent source of several key minerals, including magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and calcium.
The levels of calcium in alfalfa are in fact so concentrated that when the leaves are burned, calcium is pretty much all that is left.
The high levels of many of the vitamins and minerals present may be down to a large extent to the nutrient rich soil in which it grows, largely without competition for them.
This plant has deep roots that maximize that absorption of nutrients from the harsh desert soil.
Indeed, alfalfa is almost a multivitamin and mineral supplement all by itself, containing in addition to some of the elements already mentioned, choline, silicon, zinc, and a wide range of B vitamins.
The plant´s leaves contain no fewer than eight essential amino acids (amino acids which do not occur naturally in the body and therefore have to be gotten through the diet), as well as chlorophyll which can help to maintain healthy skin, flavones and isoflavones which have an effect on the body similar to estrogen, and have been shown to be effective in treating a number of conditions relating to menopause, such as hot flashes, as well as helping to prevent the reduction in bone density associated with post-menopausal women.
Isoflavones may also have antioxidant and possibly anti-cancer properties.
Studies are ongoing into this plant´s potential use as a preventative measure against cancer, but at the present time no firm conclusions can be drawn on the issue.
Alfalfa is completely safe for the majority of people. though there are a few who may suffer ill-effects as a result of contact with the plant.
Words of caution
There is also a risk of alfalfa sprouts being contaminated by the water with which they are grown, but it is easy to tell when the sprouts are bad and should not be eaten.
Alfalfa can interfere with the action of some medications, including drugs that are used to prevent the rejection of organs following a transplant.
Transplant patients should not take alfalfa supplements under any circumstances, although the risk factor is low, the consequences can be serious.
As with any leafy green plant, alfalfa may interfere with the action of anticoagulent drugs used to thin the blood. You should consult your doctor if you experience any side-effects as a result of taking alfalfa-based supplements.