Alfalfa has been used as animal feed for hundreds of years, but it also has a long history of use as a medicinal herb for humans. And that is due to its superior content of vitamins, minerals and other active substances. Not surprising that alfalfa also has many health benefits.
We know alfalfa in the west mainly as healthy and tasty sprouts in a salad, on a sandwich or in a juice. But the leaves of the plant are also edible and just as healthy as the germinated seeds. The seeds or dried leaves can be used as a supplement.
Origin of alfalfa
Alfalfa or alfalfa belongs to the leguminous family, but it is also considered an herb. Alfalfa was originally from South and Central Asia, but can be found all over the world. Alfalfa is etymologically seen the corruption of the Arabic word “al-fac-facah” and that means “Father of All Food”. This refers to the many phytonutrients (plant substances with medicinal properties) that occur in this vegetable sprout.
Nutritional value alfalfa
According to nutrition experts, alfalfa is one of the most nutrient-rich foods in the world. The germinated sprouts contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B17, C, D, E, K and U. It contains the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, zinc, boron, silicon, chromium , cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, sodium and aluminum. Alfalfa is rich in proteins and there are 14 different amino acids in this vegetable, including eight essential ones: leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, methionine, threonine and lysine. It also contains saponins, amines, oleanolic acids, L-canavanine, enzymes, chlorophyll, xanthophyllyl, octacosanol, rutin, phytosterols, phytoestrogens, coumarins, tricine and to a small extent carbohydrates, fibers and fats.
Alfalfa can help lower cholesterol
The cholesterol-lowering capacity of alfalfa is the best studied health benefit so far. Numerous studies have shown that alfalfa can lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood. This effect is attributed to the high content of saponins – a special group of secondary plant substances – that are known to lower cholesterol levels. Alfalfa would support the treatment of diabetes and improve metabolic health.
Other potential health benefits
In China, in the 6th century BC. alfalfa used as a medicine against digestive diseases and kidney stones. In Ayurveda, Indian medicine, alfalfa has been prescribed for centuries against fluid accumulations and arthritis. Alfalfa has many potential health benefits, but only a few have been scientifically evaluated, more (human) studies are needed. The following health benefits have been studied to a certain extent on the basis of animal studies.
Alfalfa can relieve menopause symptoms.
Alfalfa is high in phytoestrogens, which chemically resemble the hormone estrogen, which can alleviate menopause symptoms caused by reduced estrogen levels.
Antioxidant effects of alfalfa.
Alfalfa prevents cell death and DNA damage caused by free radicals by both reducing the production of free radicals and improving the body’s ability to combat them.
Alfalfa can strengthen the immune system.
Alfalfa stimulates the immune system and optimizes the response to viruses and bacteria. Alfalfa helps detoxify the body. Alfalfa works as a moisture repellent and it purifies the blood. Chlorophyll in particular is the active ingredient. It ensures that heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium and toxic hydrocarbons are discharged faster from the body.
Alfalfa can prevent anemia.
Vitamin K, C and calcium ensure an astringent effect. In addition, vitamin K, iron and chlorophyll provide extra blood production; it increases hemoglobin levels.
Alfalfa can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Atherosclerosis is the start of almost every cardiovascular disease. Chlorophyll helps prevent calcium from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. In addition, alfalfa is a natural blood thinner, it strengthens the vascular walls and for a combination of these reasons it is a strengthening agent for the heart.
Alfalfa is good for digestion.
Alfalfa is a digestive aid because it contains enzymes. In addition, it stimulates appetite and strengthens the stomach. Methyl methinine protects and repairs damaged liver, intestinal and gastric mucous membranes. Chlorophyll is laxative and also deodorizing. Alfalfa also works against cramps.
When should you not eat alfalfa?
There are cases where it is better not to consume alfalfa, for example during pregnancy or when using blood-thinning medicines. It is also not recommended for people with an autoimmune disease.