Before delving into the many medicinal and health benefits of alfalfa sprouts, let’s learn a little more about this fantastic food. In 1939, the antihemorrhagic substance in alfalfa was isolated and identified. It was named phylloquinone, phytonadione, or vitamin K. This is a vegetable substance abundant in alfalfa and other leafy green vegetables. But because it is fat soluble, it is poorly absorbed when fat is lacking in the diet. In an experiment carried out by Dam, a Danish scientist, the substantial amount of vitamin K in alfalfa compensated for the low absorption occasioned by the nonfat diet and remedied the deficiency disease.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts, and to a lesser degree, the leaves contain a wide range of minerals and vitamins, especially rich in proteins, calcium, iron, vitamins C and E, and folic acid. Alfalfa’s nutritional value is more significant than most other vegetables, so it should not seem strange that horses fed on it do well in races. This humble plant offers many dietary therapeutic properties to humans:
Antihemorrhagic – Alfalfa contains from 300 to 400 ug (micrograms) of vitamin K per 100 grams, an amount far more significant than that of meat (7 ug) or milk (3.5 ug). Vitamin K is essential to the liver’s production of prothrombin and other factors involved in blood clotting. In the case of certain digestive disorders or when taking oral antibiotics, the intestinal flora is altered, reducing the bacteria that also produce vitamin K. In these situations, the body can only rely on dietary sources of this vitamin, and increased consumption of vegetables such as alfalfa is suggested.
Anti-anemic – Alfalfa sprouts contain close to 1 mg of iron per 100 grams, less than 2.71 mg of spinach, but sufficient to encourage red blood cell production. The alfalfa vitamin C enhances iron absorption from vegetable sources (non-heme iron). In addition to iron, alfalfa contains many other minerals, some in small quantities such as copper and boron (trace element), and vitamins that have an anti-anemic and stimulating effect. Because of this, alfalfa is indicated for iron deficiency, anemia, undernourishment, and physical exhaustion.
Remineralization – Alfalfa sprouts contain calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Recent investigation reveals that VITAMIN K, abundant in alfalfa, improves bone calcium utilization. In this manner, vitamin K potentiates the anti-rickets action of vitamin D. Alfalfa is recommended in rickets, osteoporosis, and arthrosis because of its beneficial effect on bone metabolism. Arthritics and rheumatics improve with the regular consumption of this vegetable, particularly when taken as an infusion of alfalfa seeds.
Digestive – Alfalfa sprouts contain many enzymes, such as amylase and protease, which contribute to proper gas-free digestion free from abdominal heaviness.
Cholesterol reduction – Studies with laboratory animals show that alfalfa sprouts reduce cholesterol levels in the liver (where it is produced and stored) and, as a result, in the blood. This effect is due primarily to the alfalfa’s saponins.
General tonic for the body – Good results have been obtained in nervous depression and exhaustion cases through regular alfalfa consumption.
Alfalfa Scientific Facts
- Scientific name: Medicago sativa L.
- Other names: Lucerne, Sativa.
- French: Luzerne.
- Spanish: Alfalfa.
- German: Luzerne.
- Description: Sprouts, leaves, and seeds of the alfalfa plant, a herbaceous plant of the botanical family Leguminosae.
- Environment: Alfalfa comes from the land of the Medes (related to ancient Assyria), hence the Latin name ‘Medicago.’ Its cultivation has spread from the Middle East throughout all the world’s temperate regions.
People suffering from lupus erythematosus or other autoimmune diseases should not consume alfalfa. Recent studies show that the amino acid I-canavanine, which is present in alfalfa, can trigger autoimmune responses in the body.
How to Prepare and use Alfalfa
- Alfalfa sprouts – These recently germinated sprouts are eaten raw in salads and sandwiches.
- Leaves – Tender alfalfa leaves can be eaten raw in salads. They are usually cooked, much as chard or spinach, in soups, omelets, and croquettes.
- Seeds – These are used to make an infusion, prepared by adding a soupspoon of sources to a liter of water, later drinking 2-3 glasses a day.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 130, 131. Print.