Alfalfa: History and Health BenefitsFitness Equipment
In the UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and south Asia, alfalfa is known as lucerne, and because it visually resembles clover (with clusters of small purple flowers), in many part of the Western Hemisphere it carries the common folk name, bum clover.
Similarly, Ayurvedic herbals advocate its leaves for treating poor digestion, and a poultice from the seeds for boils. In Eastern cultures, it has long been proported to be helpful to people suffering from arthritis and water retention.
Alfalfa is a cool season perennial legume which can live more than twenty years, with exceptionally long roots, (some reports of over 120 ft depending on variety and climate), making it very resilient and efficient in collecting trace elements from the soil.
Alfalfa is high in protein, calcium and other minerals, as well as B vitamins, vitamins C, E, and vitamin K, and a very concentrated source of vitamin A, which is not lost when the plant is dried and prepared in tablet or capsule form. As vitamins A, C, E and Zinc are proven to help dissolve kidney stones, both alfalfa powder and alfalfa sprouts are used by a great many people. Easy to grow, the sprouts are also especially high in a wide spectrum of trace minerals.
Of particualr interest to modern science, the high vitamin K content in alfalfa is potentially important as a blood clotting factor, and in animal studies has been found to control high blood-pressure, although the importance of this to humans has yet to be established. Alfalfa is known to reduce blood sugar levels, and is therefore considered a natural treatment for diabetes.
Alfalfa juice is normally combined with carrot juice because it is very potent alone, the two complemening each other quite well; combined with both carrot and lettuce, alfalfa juice is reputed to aid in hair growth and prevention of hair loss.
Alfalfa is commonly available in capsules, bulk (leaves or seeds), pre-made tea bags, and bottled juice (usually with carrot, apple, or lettuce), and can be acquired either in local health food stores or by mailorder distributors.
Alfalfa tea has been gaining popularity since the 1970s, prepared from the seeds as well as the dried leaves. Alfalfa tea is typically prepared by simmering the seeds in a covered glass pan for about half an hour, or by pouring hot water over the leaves. (It is not recommended that boiling water actually touch the leaves as this may draw out toxins.)
Alfalfa should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place, since the nutrients are quite volatile and sensitive to air and light. When possible, refrigerate or freeze unused portions to maintain full potency, though it can be stored normally as well. Properly stored, alfalfa is said to have a shelf-life of a few years (though herbalists do not recommend using it after more than a year if it hasn‘t been refrigerated.)
Precautions: Reported Side Effects
As with some herbal products, moderation is the key to avoiding adverse reactions regarding alfalfa. According to some findings, excessive consumption of alfalfa may cause the breakdown of red blood cells, while other research has found that diets too high in canavanine, an amino acid found in alfalfa, can aggravate the disease lupus. Canavanine, however, is usually only found in the seeds and sprouts of certain varieties of alfalfa, and not in mature leaves. Thus, alfalfa tea and capsules made from mature leaves do not commonly contain canavanine. Nevertheless, it is recommended that alfalfa and alfalfa supplements be avoided during pregnancy.
Images via wikipedia.org except sprouts via blogcdn.com
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