Alfalfa has been used for centuries for hay as well as for a human food. Its name comes from the Arabic, al-fac-facah, "father of all foods."
Alfalfa is the dried leaf of a well-known pea family, with purple flowers and clover-like leaves. It is native to western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean region and is widely grown as fodder for farm animals.
Using Alfalfa as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The Arabs fed this nutritious herb to their horses, believing that it strengthened the animals. Today, herbalists say alfalfa may help prevent coronary artery disease. It also has been used for peptic ulcers and bowel problems. Other uses include stimulating the appetite.
Alfalfa has not been studied as an herbal medicine for humans but is often used in detox products. Animal studies suggest it can prevent high cholesterol in animals on high-fat diets. Compounds in the plant may decrease intestinal absorption of cholesterol and reduce atherosclerotic plaque.
Using alfalfa for loss of energy began in the early 1900s with American physicians who specialized in herbal medicine. Dr. Ben A. Bradley of Hamlet, Ohio, wrote in 1915: I find in Alfalfa, after about seven years' clinical tests in my practice and on myself, a superlative restorative tonic... It rejuvenates the whole system by increasing the strength, vim, vigor, and vitality of the patient."
Alfalfa leaf has been used in tea and dietary supplements to help increase appetite and vitality, reduce water retention, and to stimulate digestion and bowel action. It is a folk treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and preventing absorption of cholesterol from the diet.
Culinary Uses of Alfalfa
Alfalfa is one of the best natural sources of vitamin K. Both alfalfa and bean sprouts are healthy forms of vegetable fiber that can be used for culinary purposes.
You can use alfalfa seeds in salads, sandwiches, chop suey and cooked dishes.
The alfalfa sprouts are often a main ingredient in many vegetable dishes.
Grow Your Own
You can easily grow your own afalfa. Start with a healthful seed, such as Chemical Free Alfalfa Sprout Seeds. These are a popular form of sprouting seed plus they are chemical free. They have a mild flavor, mild crunch and big time nutrition. Best of all, they are very easy to grow.
To sprout, put 2 spoons of seeds into a jar. Soak them and then rinse and drain twice a day. After 3 to 4 days you should have a jar full of sprouts.
Alfalfa for Tea
The usual dose of alfalfa for tea is 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup, steeped in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. You can also purchase Alvita Organic Alfalfa Herbal Tea Bags.
Moderate use of alfalfa products is not associated with any known side effects. The biggest risk in using alfalfa is eating sprouts grown in contaminated water. This is also the simplest risk to avoid. Avoid limp or smelly sprouts, and rinse sprouts before use.
Treat alfalfa the same way you treat any other green, leafy vegetable if you take Coumadin.
A case of allergic reaction (from contamination with grass pollen) in alfalfa tablets has been reported. Eating alfalfa seeds or sprouts has been linked to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a condition characterized by inflammation of connective tissue. Those diagnosed with SLE should avoid alfalfa. Consuming large quantities of the seeds has also produced reversible blood abnormalities.
Avoid alfalfa if you have immune system problems.
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