Alfalfa is nutritionally one of the most versatile herbs yet discovered. It is a leguminous herb which grows unto 50 cms in height. It has rich green alternate leaves, purplish flowers and adapts itself to widely varying conditions of soil and climate.
Alfalfa appears to have been discovered by the Arabs who called it the "king of kings" of plants and the "father of all foods". They have used it for centuries to feed thoroughbred horses. The Persians recognized it as a healing grass.
Alfalfa is a native of Europe. It is now widely cultivated in the temperate regions, the subtropics and at higher altitudes in the tropics. It is grown throughout India.
Alfalfa is a valuable source of vitamins A,B,D,E and G. It also has some vitamin C and K. The rich quality, quantity and proper balance of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, chlorine, sodium, potassium and silicon is of special value in alfalfa. All these elements are needed for the proper functioning of the various organs in the body.
Investigations made by the US Department of Agriculture have revealed that alfalfa contains one and a half times more protein than grains like wheat and corn and that its carbohydrate content is only half of that found in grains. The alfalfa proteins contain essential amino acids such as arginine, lysine, theronine and tryptophane. These amino acids supplement any deficiencies due to lack of essential nutrients in the diet.
Alfalfa is one of the richest sources ot dietary fibre and chlorophyl. These nutrients have induced nutritional authorities to experiment with alfalfa as a ready form of easily digestible food and as a protein concentrate for supplementing proteindeficient foods such as vegetables.
The seeds, leaves and stems of the alfalfa plant have important properties-derived from the roots of the plant which reach unto 12 metres into the subsoil and absorb the elusive trace minerals from the depths. The most important of these trace minerals is manganese, which is vital to the human digestive system in its manufacture of insulin.
Alfalfa is an outstanding alkalizing food. It contains 130 to 142 mg of alkali-forming elements in every 100 grams. These make it a valuable remedy for several ailments. It is slightly laxative, digestive, diuretic and serves as an excellent tonic. It augments the peristalsis or movement of the bowels, improves digestion and ensures better assimilation of food. Alfalfa builds up for a healthy and vigorous old age and resistance to infection.
An effective diuretic, alfalfa acts gently upon the kidneys. It can be successfully employed in the treatment of the inflammation of the bladder and dropsy, a disease marked by accumulation of fluid in the body.
Alfalfa, in the form of juice, has been found very effective in most arterial problems and heart diseases. Only fresh leaves of the plant may be used for this purpose. The juice of fresh alfalfa, however, is strong and potent and is best taken with carrot Juice. In this combination, the individual benefits of each juice are intensified.
Alfalfa juice, as a rich source of chlorophyl, is useful in respiratory disorders and discomforts, particularly those relating to the sinuses and the lungs.
The seeds of alfalfa, known as "king of sprouts", are of immense value in the maintenance of health. Their daily use helps build up an immunity to stomach distress. Alfalfa, in the form of tea, provides vital alkalizing benefits for hyperacidity. It tends to control the flow of hydrochloric a6id, aiding the action of the gastric enzyme, pepsin. The addition of mint to alfalfa tea helps settle disturbed stomachs after a rich meal. It also refreshes the palate and makes an excellent morning drink.
Alfalfa tea, especially made from the seeds, is of great value in arthritis, as it helps alkalize the food residues in the body. Six or seven cups of it should be taken daily by arthritics for at least two weeks.
The juice of alfalfa in combination with those of carrot and lettuce, if taken daily, helps the growth of hair to a remarkable extent. Such combination of juices is rich in elements which are beneficial for the roots of the hair.
The herb is an effective remedy for high blood pressure. It contains all the elements necessary for the softening of hardened arteries, which characterise high blood pressure.
Alfalfa is used in many ways or forms. The seeds are useful in the form of sprouts. They are delicious and nourishing in salads and soups as well as in sandwiches. Alfalfa can be used in the form of juice extracted from its leaves. It is also used extensively in the form of tea, which is made from seeds as well as the dried leaves of the plant. The tea is prepared by boiling aIfalfa seeds in an enamel pan with the lid on, for half an hour. It is strained, squeezing or pressing the seeds dry, and allowed to cool. Cold or hot water and honey maybe added to taste before use.