Did you know that those little sprouts in plastic boxes in the grocery store are a wonder food? Alfalfa sprouts are the form of this plant with which most of use are familiar, but the full-grown plant is also suitable for human consumption.
Typically, livestock eat dried alfalfa hay, but people can get in on the nutritional and medicinal benefits as well. Here are some of the healthful benefits of this plant.
Vitamins and Minerals
Alfalfa is just plain good for you. It is relatively high in protein, and has trace minerals, Vitamins A (beta carotene), C and K, as well as various B vitamins. It also has magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, and potassium. Alfalfa contains protein and fiber as well.
Alfalfa contains estrogenic compounds called phytoestrogens that are chemically similar to the hormone estrogen. Eating a few handfuls of alfalfa sprouts a day could help improve milk production for nursing mothers.
Alfalfa’s phytoestrogens can help relieve endometriosis symptoms. Eat them freely and liberally on salads and sandwiches if you are fighting this problem.
Once again, alfalfa’s estrogenic activity comes into play to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Eating the sprouts is a good idea, but a tea made from the leaves of the mature plant is probably more effective. Steep about two teaspoons of the fresh leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried) in 1 cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes.
Blood clotting can be reduced by the ingestion of the antiplatelet substance known as coumarin. Alfalfa contains this substance, making it a reasonable choice for promoting circulatory health and preventing those diseases associated with blood clots, such as stroke.
It has also been suggested that constituents in alfalfa reduce the build-up of plaque in arterial walls, thus lowering the risk of a heart attack.
It has been suggested in various studies that alfalfa binds to cancer cells in the intestine, thus eliminating them from the body. Alfalfa can also help offset the side effects of immune-suppressing, anti-cancer drugs.
In traditional Chinese medicine, alfalfa is given to relieve kidney problems. Some compounds of alfalfa do have diuretic effects, which would explain this use. Because of this, it is also a treatment for water retention.
Note that lupus can be worsened or even brought on by ingestion of alfalfa in certain individuals. In fact, if you have any auto-immune disorder, you should steer clear of alfalfa. It can worsen PMS, which, ironically, is evidence of its powerful influence on female hormone levels. If you are taking any blood-thinning medication, you should also avoid alfalfa.