The alfalfa plant, called ‘lucerne’ in many countries, has been known to have various health benefits since ancient Greek and Roman times, and is also used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Its roots go far deeper into the earth than most other plants, meaning that its rich in vitamins and nutrients in ways that most other cultivated crops are not. The leaves of the plant can be consumed, and also the sprouts. The sprouts can be prepared in ways not dissimilar to those used with beansprouts – try them in a salad or stir fry. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea.
Alfalfa’s most established use is in the treatment of disorders of the urinary system. It acts as a diuretic, flushing the body – and particularly the liver, kidney, bladder and urinary tract – of fluid and toxants. In Chinese medicine, it is used to treat some kidney disorders, including kidney stones. Generally, the detoxifying and flushing effect of alfalfa can be used to guard against bladder problems, and is sometimes thought to prevent problems with the prostate too. The diuretic property of alfalfa mean that it can be used by those who suffer from fluid retention.
Alfalfa and Constipation
The vitamins and minerals found in alfalfa, of which there are many, have a role in boosting the body’s nutrients and reducing harmful cholesterol. These factors are linked to the maintenance of a healthy heart and the avoidance of many forms of cancer.
Phosphorus and calcium are found in alfalfa. They help to maintain healthy teeth and bones. Consuming phosphorus and calcium can reduce your risk of oesteoporosis, which means that alfalfa is of particular interest to women.
Alfalfa and Arthritis
Alfalfa is one of many herbal products which is believed to have a role in preventing and treating arthritis. Alfalfa is said to be of particular interest to arthritis patients when taken daily as a tea. Although scientific evidence for any reduction in pain is unproven, you can try this remedy by steeping a couple of tablespoons of seeds in boiling water, straining it and then sipping it.
Some herbal practitioners believe that alfalfa is particularly adept at combating respiratory illnesses, and that it can cure whooping cough. However, if you have whooping cough, then remember its highly contagious and that you should also seek conventional medical assistance and advice before proceeding to treat it with alfalfa.
Pills and capsules containing alfalfa can be found in all health food shops. Health food stores and supermarkets both occasionally sell alfalfa leaves and seeds – try to buy sprouts that look dry and fresh, and that are not discolored. However, raw alfalfa should be avoided if have a weakened immune system, because of a risk of contracting salmonella. Pregnant women should avoid alfalfa generally, not only because of the risk of food poisoning from fresh alfalfa, but because some of the nutrients found in the plant affect hormone development.