Last Updated December 20th, 2021
What is Alfalfa?
Alfalfa is also known as lucerne or Medicago sativa. It is a non-woody plant that lives about 4 – 8 years and is commonly called Lusan ghas in Hindi and ashvabala in Sanskrit. It is edible and is also used as green manure (fertilizer) or as an animal feed (hay) or for grazing animals.
|Some of the nutrients in alfalfa*||Quantity of the nutrient|
|Dietary fiber||1.9 g|
|Vitamin C||8.1 mg|
|Vitamin K||30.5 µg|
|Vitamin B6||0.034 mg|
* Data from the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service database
Alfalfa also contains other phytochemicals like flavonoids, coumarins, saponins, phytoestrogens, alkaloids, and phytosterols. It originated from Central and South Asia. It is grown worldwide. In 2009, about 74,000,000 acres of land globally, is used up for production of this herb. You can use the seeds or dried leaves as a supplement, or even consume it as sprouts.
What are the benefits you can draw from consuming alfalfa?
Alfalfa reduces cholesterol
- Cholesterol tends to stick to your blood capillaries (tube-like structures that transport blood). This leads to more accumulation and can even block the blood flow in arteries (blood capillaries that transport oxygenated blood to the rest of the body) of your heart.
- A study was done on 15 patients with hyperlipoproteinemia (a condition where there is excessive lipid + protein substances in the blood). These patients were given a diet that included 40 g of alfalfa for 8 weeks. The results showed that the total cholesterol levels reduced by 17%.
- Alfalfa contains a healthy amount of saponins and this is responsible for the cholesterol-lowering ability of alfalfa.
It helps in reducing your blood sugar level
- Alfalfa is rich in phytoestrogens (plant-based compounds that function similar to the estrogen hormone). These phytoestrogens help in stimulating insulin production and also improves the functioning of insulin in the blood. They promote lipid biosynthesis in the liver from glucose in the blood. Thus, they aid in reducing the glucose levels in the blood. This is great news for diabetic patients as alfalfa is an effective home remedy in bringing down blood sugar levels naturally.
- The liver gets affected in cases of diabetes. The alfalfa extracts showed to prevent lipid peroxidation (a damaging effect caused by unstable lipid compounds called reactive oxygen species. This damages the liver cells and releases the liver enzymes into the bloodstream. This will result in high liver enzyme activity which will eventually lead to cholesterol increase. The contents of alfalfa help in minimizing the activity of the liver enzymes and controlling the cholesterol level.
Alfalfa helps in alleviating menopausal symptoms
- Menopause is a condition in women post 40 years of age where there is a reduction in reproductive hormone production. The symptoms include hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain, depression, headaches, etc. Decreased levels of estrogens cause these menopausal symptoms.
- Alfalfa, which is a rich source of phytoestrogens, can help alleviate these symptoms. Phytoestrogen hormones are similar to estrogen and thus alfalfa consumption can help restore a natural balance in the hormonal levels of menopausal women.
Alfalfa is rich in antioxidants
Alfalfa is a rich source of antioxidants. Several key research indicates that the consumption of alfalfa sprouts can help lower the levels of oxidative stress. This oxidative stress is responsible for the degeneration of body cells and accelerates aging. Pollution, stress, and unhealthy diet are the major causes of oxidative stress. Alfalfa can be a boon for people who tend to have unhealthy lifestyles as it can easily reverse the damaging effects of free radical damage.
Alfalfa promotes bone health
- If you observe the nutrient chart mentioned earlier, you will notice that alfalfa contains vitamin K.Vitamin K helps the blood to clot. This is a critical nutrient that helps in blood clotting. This means that every time you get injured or start bleeding, you don’t bleed out to death. Vitamin K helps in clotting of blood that prevents your body from losing extra blood.
- Vitamin K is also vital for bone metabolism and helps in maintaining bone density and strength. The human body requires vitamin K in order to make use of the calcium. Alfalfa being rich in this nutrient can help you maintain healthy bones and prevent diseases such as osteoporosis in the longer run.
A great source of vitamin C
- Alfalfa contains a good amount of vitamin C. This vitamin is important for cellular growth and development. Vitamin C also enhances the immune system function, promotes absorption of iron, aids in wound healing, etc.
- A study showed that a 100 mg intake of vitamin C helps in a 67% increase in iron absorption. This promotes better blood cell functioning in terms of delivering oxygen to your body.
- The role of vitamin C in immunity is that it stimulates more production of white blood cells. These cells are solely involved in fighting infections. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. Along with this vitamin, the other components like phenols, flavonoids, etc., together in alfalfa provide anti-aging benefits. Thus, with alfalfa you get the nutrient-goodness of vitamin C and iron, all packed together in one hearty green meal.
Source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium
- Calcium is vital for bone health, muscle contraction and recovery.
- Magnesium helps in calcium absorption. So indirectly it is involved in maintaining good bone health. It also is an anxiety reliever. Potassium is known for its blood pressure lowering properties. You can avail all these 3 amazing minerals from alfalfa sprouts and supplements.
You can consume alfalfa supplements in powder or tablet form. You can also consume alfalfa in the form of tea. There is no ruled safe dosage of these supplements as listed by the FDA. You should be careful with consuming herbal supplements and always refer to a doctor/nutritionist before doing so.
You can also consume alfalfa in the form of sprouts. You can add these sprouts in sandwiches or salads.
You can sprout alfalfa at home by following the steps below:
- Take a bowl or a jar or a sprouter and add 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seeds.
- Add water to the sprouts equal to twice or thrice the quantity of alfalfa taken.
- Soak the seeds overnight.
- Drain the water out and rinse the sprouts well.
- Make sure that the sprouts are stored away from direct sunlight. Store the sprouts at room temperature for 3 days.
- Rinse the sprouts and drain the water at ever 8 to 12-hour duration.
- On the fourth day, place the sprouts under direct sunlight. Continue the process of rinsing and draining after ever 8 – 12 hours.
- You can eat the sprouts on day 5 or 6.
Note: Because of the onset of bacterial contamination, make sure that the sprouts are stored or grown in a safe environment.
Is alfalfa safe for all?
The following enlists those who are not supposed to consume alfalfa.
- Pregnant women must avoid consuming it. This is because it contains phytoestrogen which functions similar to estrogen. This can induce contractions in the uterus.
- Those who are under blood thinning medications must avoid consuming alfalfa. Because alfalfa is abundant in vitamin K (responsible for blood clotting), it can interfere with the blood thinning medications. That is why, in general, if you are about to take some blood thinning medications, monitor your vitamin K intake.
- Those who have an autoimmune disorder must not consume this herb. An autoimmune disorder is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. So consuming this herb will aggravate the immune system to destroy more cells of your body. There are studies showing the recurrence of lupus in some people.
- If you have a weak immune system then it is better to avoid eating alfalfa. Alfalfa sprouts are a hub for bacterial growth. In fact, there are reports suggesting that there was bacterial contamination in the alfalfa sprouts that were sold in the market. The FDA prohibits the consumption of alfalfa sprouts for pregnant women, children, the elderly, or anyone with a weakened immune system.
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