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What is Alfalfa?

Learn about alfalfa, a nutrient-rich plant with over 15 health benefits. Discover its uses, potential side effects, and how to use it.

What is Alfalfa? Health Benefits, Side Effects & More
In this article:
In this article:

Alfalfa is a remarkable superfood, rich in multiple minerals, vitamins, and other bioactive compounds. You'll be surprised how many benefits you gain from including small amounts of alfalfa in your diet. 

Various communities use the edible alfalfa to make herbal medicine, a practice that has been around for over 1,500 years. It's superior to most other herbs due to the high content of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. 

So, what makes alfalfa a superfood? Let’s find out as we discuss the various benefits of alfalfa to our bodies.

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What is Alfalfa?

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), also called lucerne, is a popular plant cultivated worldwide. It's the most common cultivated forage legume, with farmers producing tones of alfalfa seed sprouts yearly.

Generally, the purpose of cultivating alfalfa is to feed livestock such as horses and cattle. However, some varieties are suitable for human consumption. 

Some people prefer eating sprouted alfalfa seeds, while others use supplements made from dried leaves or seeds. At Ensō Superfoods, we incorporate this truly unique plant into daily greens supplement.

What is Alfalfa Used For?

Because of its high nutritional content, alfalfa is commonly used as a dietary supplement. The plant is rich in vitamin K, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and other nutrients that promote a variety of health benefits.

Alfalfa has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for a long time as a natural medicine for digestive health, water retention, and loss of appetite. Researchers keep finding new ways to use alfalfa, and many people use it for a wide range of health benefits.

How Nutritious is Alfalfa?

Alfalfa is a rich source of vital minerals and vitamins needed to maintain good health. For instance, 100 grams of alfalfa seed sprouts contain the following nutrients:

  • Fat- 0.69 g (grams)
  • Calories- 23
  • Fiber- 1.9 g
  • Protein- 3.99 g
  • Folate- 36 mcg (micrograms)
  • Copper- 0.2 mg, equivalent to 8% of the DV (daily value)
  • Phosphorus- 70 mg (milligrams), which is 7% DV
  • Riboflavin- 0.1 mg (7% DV)
  • Iron- 1 mg (5% DV)
  • Manganese – 0.2 mg (9% DV)
  • Vitamin K- 30.5 mcg (38% DV)
  • Vitamin A- 155 IU (3% DV)
  • Vitamin C- 8.3 mg (14% DV)
  • Thiamine- 0.1 mg (5% DV)
  • Zinc- 0.9 mg (6% DV)
  • Carbohydrates- 2.1 g

Alfalfa contains various minerals, including:

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Carotene
  • Potassium
  • Calcium

Alfalfa also contains high amounts of bioactive compounds, including:

  • Alkaloids
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Phytosterols
  • Flavonoids
  • Coumarins
  • Saponins

Such high levels of beneficial elements make alfalfa a highly potent herbal medicine that treats severe medical conditions.

What Are the Health Benefits of the Superfood Alfalfa?

What Are the Health Benefits of the Superfood Alfalfa?

Alfalfa contains so many nutrients at high levels; it's no wonder this superfood has various benefits, including:

1. Lowering Cholesterol

Various studies prove that alfalfa can effectively lower cholesterol. This superfood increases HDL, or the good cholesterol while reducing triglyceride levels and LDL, or the bad cholesterol.

Alfalfa has high levels of plant compounds called saponins. They reduce the rate of cholesterol intake in the stomach and increase the removal of compounds that form new cholesterol.

2. Relieving Symptoms of Menstruation and Menopause

Alfalfa is rich in phytoestrogens and vitamin K, which help relieve symptoms of menstruation and menopause. 

Phytoestrogens have a similar chemical composition to the hormone estrogen, so they have the same effects on the body. Since menopause often comes with lower estrogen levels, alfalfa can help ease some menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.

Vitamin K enables blood clotting, which can help reduce excessive cramping and bleeding during menstruation. It also helps with general reproductive health. 

3. Anti-Aging and Antioxidant Effects

Free radicals exist in the environment and in various foods and substances. These radicals harm our bodies because they trigger cell and DNA reactions, leading to mutations. 

Antioxidants make the free radicals less reactive, preventing oxidative stress and cellular damage. 

Alfalfa earns the name superfood, boasting remarkable antioxidant properties. It’s highly effective against inflammation and protects cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.

Alfalfa also contains bioactive compounds that help prevent various illnesses and diseases. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition best puts the positive effects into perspective. 

According to the study, the vitamin K levels in alfalfa can effectively treat vitamin K deficiency and protect our bodies from diseases that come with age, such as bone loss and artery hardening. 

4. Lowering Blood Glucose Levels to Treat Diabetes

Although diabetes has no cure, it's possible to manage it by adopting a diabetic diet. Alfalfa is an effective anti-diabetic, thanks to its ability to reduce and control blood sugar levels.

Adding this superfood to your diet is a great way to reduce insulin dependency.

5. Improving the Heart Health

Heart diseases are a challenge in developed countries, primarily due to our diet and lifestyle. Unhealthy fats accumulate in the arteries and cause health issues such as stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

Studies show that taking alfalfa seeds thrice daily improves general health. Saponins in the alfalfa lower cholesterol levels, enhancing heart health and blood circulation.

Saponins lower the effectiveness of the fats, therefore neutralizing them. The compounds also deactivate particular enzymes that synthesize fats in the body, reducing excessive quantities. 

If you struggle with high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia, you can use alfalfa to control the condition and prevent severe heart issues. 

6. Improving Liver Health

Alfalfa extracts can potentially assist with repairing damaged liver tissue. The compounds in this superfood enhance detoxification and repair the liver’s delicate structures.

Alfalfa can also eliminate excess fat deposits that accumulate around the liver while reducing inflammation. The overall result is a healthy and functioning liver. 

7. Boosting Gut Health

Alfalfa sprouts have proteinaceous enzymes that are vital to our bodies, such as:

  • Invertase
  • Amylases
  • Lipases

These enzymes promote various biochemical processes and fortify the digestive system. For instance, amylase helps the body digest carbohydrates and sugar, while lipase boosts fat digestion. 

Alfalfa is rich in dietary fibers that help with nutrient digestion. Eating alfalfa seeds can enhance bowel movement, preventing issues such as constipation. They also manage gut disorders, including flatulence, bloating, and gas.

Alfalfa sprouts prevent acid reflux by neutralizing stomach acidity.

8. Boosting Immunity

Alfalfa has fantastic antiviral and antibacterial properties due to saponins. Taking alfalfa can potentially reduce the harmful viruses and bacteria in the body. This lowers the risk of severe illnesses and infections.

Alfalfa also has high levels of vitamin C, which boosts immunity. Vitamin C also enhances the production of immune molecules such as white blood cells. 

9. Anticancer Properties

Alfalfa has various phytochemicals and antioxidants, such as flavonoids, beta-carotene, terpenes, lutein, and phytoestrogens. These compounds have cytotoxic effects that affect cancer cells and kill them over time. 

Terpenes, particularly chrysoeriol, tricin, millepurpan, melilotocarpan, and medicarpin, activate apoptosis. This process attacks harmful cells and stops tumors from growing. 

Alfalfa also contains L-canavanine, which boosts the anticancer effects. L-canavanine prevents cancer cells from growing and multiplying by disrupting the cell cycle. 

10. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Alfalfa’s anti-inflammatory properties mainly come from the saponins present. It also contains different bioactive molecules like antioxidants and phytoestrogens that minimize inflammation.

Bioactive molecules limit inflammatory substances such as prostaglandin in the body. This can relieve the symptoms of various diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

11. Preventing Osteoporosis

Vitamin K in alfalfa is essential in treating and preventing osteoporosis because it helps to build bones. Vitamin K allows the body to utilize calcium, fortifying the bones and mitigating fractures.

Alfalfa also has the nutrient manganese that helps prevent inflammation and osteoporosis. 

How to Include Alfalfa in Your Diet

Alfalfa supplements and extracts are available in various forms and preparations, including:

  • Tablets
  • Powder
  • Herbal tea
  • Dried herbs
  • Tincture

Another great way to include alfalfa in your diet is by eating sprouted seeds. 

You can add sprouts to your salads and sandwiches for a delicious and nutritious meal, any time of day or night. 

You can also opt for alfalfa tea, where dry seeds are already inside a tea bag. Tea is particularly beneficial because it releases more minerals and vitamins.

You may eat Alfalfa sprouts any time of the day. If you consume them at night or early morning.

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Alfalfa?

Raw alfalfa sprouts contain high amounts of canavanine and saponins. While these compounds are beneficial to some people, they may harm people with certain conditions, such as:

1. Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

Supplement products made from alfalfa seeds and raw alfalfa sprouts have possible food safety risks. When mishandled, they can harbor foodborne pathogens such as listeria, salmonella, and E. coli.

2. People with Autoimmune Diseases

Alfalfa contains L-canavanine, an amino acid that has immune-stimulating effects. It can cause the immune system to overreact, worsening autoimmune disorders such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

3. Anyone Using Anticoagulants or Blood Thinners

Alfalfa is a rich source of vitamin K. High vitamin K levels can affect the effectiveness of blood-thinning medications.

4. People with Compromised Immune Systems

Sprouting alfalfa seeds requires warm, moist conditions, which can also encourage bacterial growth. You may buy contaminated sprouts loaded with bacteria if you're not careful.

Most healthy people can recover from such infections, but they can be severe for someone with a weak immune system. It’s best to avoid consuming raw alfalfa if you underwent an organ transplant or chemotherapy or you have HIV. 

How Ensō Superfoods Can Help

Alfalfa is highly nutritious, with a unique blend of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and various immune-boosting properties. Alfalfa sprouts have high fiber content, which is an additional benefit to the digestive system.

Ensō Supergreens

However, raw alfalfa sprouts have a high risk of bacterial contamination due to the environment they need to grow. Luckily, Ensō Superfoods eliminates the challenges most people experience when adding new foods to their diet. 

With our Superfood powders, you get all the vital nutrients and benefits of alfalfa without worrying about storage, preservatives, sugars, and foodborne illnesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Alfalfa Help with Acid Reflux?

Yes, alfalfa has vital proteinaceous enzymes that enhance digestion. Alfalfa also neutralizes stomach acidity, which effectively prevents acid reflux. 

Is It Healthy to Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts?

Yes, you can eat raw alfalfa sprouts, but it's essential to ensure proper cleaning before you eat them. The sprouts should also grow in a clean environment, free of any bacteria.

Does Alfalfa Help with Urinary Tract Infections?

Alfalfa is a natural diuretic and therefore encourages healthy urine flow. It can help eliminate harmful bacteria from the body to treat UTIs and prevent them from recurring.

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