The herb alfalfa, called lucerne or purple medic, is good for man or beast. Alfalfa is a plant we can use with complete safety. It is non-toxic, non poisonous and non-habit forming. This qualifies it as one of many herbs which are beneficial for mankind. It is “seed bearing” and a green herb, fulfilling the Biblical specifications in Genesis 1:29 and 30.
The Nutrition Almanac by John D. Kirschmann (Nutrition Search, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 55402) says, “Alfalfa is a leguminous plant which is particularly rich in Vitamin K. The seeds, seed sprouts, and leaves of the plant can be eaten.” Here is a statement from Alma R. Hutchens in Indian Herbology of North America (Merco, 620 Wyandotte East, Windsor 14, Ontario, Canada) showing many values in this plant: “It is only in recent years that we moderns are rediscovering its valuable nutritive properties, which include organic minerals of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, plus all the known vitamins, including vitamin K and the recently discovered vitamin B-8 and vitamin P.”
North American Indians adopted alfalfa quickly for human use, as well as for animals. This is a perennial herbaceous plant, with two stems. Leaflets: Three toothed above. Flowers: Violet. Calyx: Five-toothed. Corolla: Papilionaceous, six lines long. Stamens: Nine united and one free. Pod: Spirally coiled and without spines. The small, violet-purple or bluish flowers bloom from June until August. In some regions it is cut every month as cultivated food for both man and animal.
Alfalfa’s organic salts are among the richest known, the depth and spread of its roots enabling it to absorb its valuable nutrition as far as 125 feet below the earth’s surface.
Alfalfa was discovered by the Arabs and is one of the first known herbs. They called it the “father of all foods.” This is interesting, as they knew only by evidential experience. It is only in recent years that we moderns are rediscovering its valuable nutritive properties.
It is helpful for every condition of the body, whether it be maintaining or regaining health, as the contents are balanced for complete absorption. It may be used by itself or blended with other herbal teas.
- W. Walker, D.Sci., in his book, Raw Vegetable Juices, 29, 30 (Pyramid Books, New York, first printed in 1936), gives his views on alfalfa and alfalfa juice:
“Alfalfa is a particularly valuable leguminous herb, not only rich in the principal mineral and chemical elements in the constitution of the human body, but it also has many of the trace elements obtained from deep in the soil where the roots reach down 30 to 100 feet.
“Of specific value I would point out the rich quality, quantity and proper balance of Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Choline, Sodium, Potassium and Silicon in Alfalfa. These elements are all very much needed for the proper function of the various organs in the body.
“While Alfalfa is widely used as forage for livestock, it is nevertheless of immense value, in the form of juice, using only the leaves, when it can be obtained fresh. It is also known as Lucerne grass, while in England it is known as Purple Medic.
“Because Alfalfa adapts itself to widely varying conditions of soil and climate, even thriving on alkali soil, there is no excuse for not growing it on one’s home grounds, as it is usually difficult to obtain when living in the city.
“When we are unable to obtain fresh Alfalfa, we sprout Alfalfa seeds and eat the sprouts with our meals. They sprout easily and they are very beneficial.
“Vegetation miraculously transforms and vitalizes inanimate substances into living cells and tissues.
“Cattle eat vegetation, raw, for nourishment. They take into their system one living organism and convert it into a still more complex live organism.
“Vegetation, on the other hand, whether vegetable, fruit plant, or grass, takes inorganic elements from the air, from the water, and from the earth, converting them into live organic elements. It takes nitrogen and carbon from the air; nitrogen, minerals, and mineral salts from the earth in which it grows; and oxygen and hydrogen from water.
“The most vital and potent factors in this process of conversion are the enzymes and the life-giving influence of the rays of the sun which generate chlorophyll.
“The chlorophyll molecule is made up of a web of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms around one single atom of magnesium. It is interesting to compare this design with that of the hemoglobin of our red blood corpuscles, which has a similar web of elements girdling an atom of iron instead of the atom of magnesium.
“We find in this analogy one of the secrets of the value of chlorophyll to the human system. Strict vegetarians—whose diet excludes grains and starches but includes an abundance of fresh juices with a good proportion of the green juices—are healthier, live longer and are more free from degenerative ailments than those who eat mostly cooked foods and little or no raw vegetables and juices. It would seem that we have here fairly conclusive evidence as to which diet regimen is the correct or natural one for healthy human beings.
“One of the richest chlorophyll foods we have is alfalfa. It is a food that builds up both animals and humans, all things considered, into a healthy, vital, and vigorous old age, and builds up a resistance to infection that is almost phenomenal.
“The juice of fresh alfalfa is too strong and potent to be taken by itself. It is best taken with carrot juice, in which combination the individual benefits of each juice are intensified. It has been found very helpful in most troubles with the arteries and dysfunctions connected with the heart.”
In alfalfa we have a plant that even animals such as dogs and cats will go and find when they are sick. They are “led” to this and other herbs by instinct which tells them it will heal them. Perhaps even humans have such an instinct, if they only would “listen.” As a small child, and a very sickly one at that, I used to go out in the springtime and pick young alfalfa leaves and eat them. For this I am grateful, because I feel I was given additional help to fight off some of the sicknesses with which I was born.
I remember reading, years back, the story of a father, mother, and some children who were in a concentration camp where the food and living conditions were far below standard. People were dying from malnutrition, but this family found a small clump of alfalfa growing in the corner of the concentration camp grounds. Each day they would chew thoroughly a sprig or two of the alfalfa and found as a result that the entire family felt strong and healthy. They would beg others there to do the same, but were laughed at and ridiculed. However, they continued eating the alfalfa (new growth coming on continually) as long as they remained imprisoned in that area. When they were released they were in good health, while their friends who had refused to follow their advice had either died or were very sickly and suffering from severe malnutrition.
An alfalfa plant in your flower or vegetable garden would supply fresh salad greens or a healthful “green” drink to add to other vegetable juices most of the year. It is, of course, a perennial, coming up year after year. It would be wise also to have on hand some alfalfa tablets, powdered alfalfa in capsules, dried or bagged alfalfa for teas, and the seeds to sprout. Alfalfa sprouts are delicious alone or in salads and are very nutritious! We have been given, in this herb, the “king of chlorophyll.” If we use alfalfa regularly, with a proper diet also, we should have radiant health!
How many times have we thought that alfalfa was “just fodder for the cattle?” Any of us who have lived on a farm would have no more considered alfalfa as “human food” than a “mess of fried nails” as an iron supplement. It is true, however, that alfalfa IS the “fodder of all foods.” In fact, the very name, “alfalfa” comes from the Arabic and translates into English as “the father of all foods.”
Alfalfa belongs to the family Leguminosae, the family of legumes, beans, or “pulse” as it is known in the Scriptures in the book of Daniel. Other members of this family include lentils, pintos, and kidney beans.
Parts of the Herb Used
We use the whole herb; that is, the leaves and smaller stems. Alfalfa best lends its properties to water. This means that when an infusion or tea is made from alfalfa leaves, we can obtain 90% of the potassium contained in the dried alfalfa plant, 85% of the magnesium, 75% of the phosphorus, 50% of the nitrogen, and 40% of the calcium when we brew and drink that cup of alfalfa tea. Speaking of nitrogen, alfalfa is a splendid plant to grow near other plants that need nitrogen. Alfalfa can be planted and then turned back into the soil to enrich the land for other crops.
Medicinal Properties of Alfalfa
Alfalfa has been reported to be an appetizer, diuretic, tonic, nutritive (especially calcium) antianemic, and antihemorrhagic. Because the taproot of alfalfa penetrates beneath the soil to a depth of 65 feet or more, it is reported to absorb minerals from the subsoil which are inaccessible to plants having more shallow roots. The root of the alfalfa plant grows 10 times as fast as the stem during the first three weeks of its life. The depth of the root is attested to by a former Kansas State Secretary for the Department of Agriculture.
Alfalfa leaves are extremely rich in calcium. This accounts for the claims of herbalists and doctors concerning the benefits of using alfalfa for repairing tooth damage and strengthening the structure of the teeth. Calcium is also necessary for proper muscle function—that includes the heart muscle as well. Calcium regulates the heart rhythm. How much simpler to indulge in alfalfa early in life rather than a pacemaker in later life!
The protein content in alfalfa is quite high; in fact, pound for pound it outranks beef, milk, and eggs. Also, alfalfa is full of non-toxic, non-mucus forming elements which promote healing of the body.
We have often heard that there is no vegetable source of vitamin D. The sun, of course, is our favorite source. But did you know that alfalfa contains 4740 International Units of vitamin D per pound? We’ll talk more about this later.
In addition to the aforementioned nutrients, alfalfa also contains vitamins K, A, E, B, and U. Vitamin K is essential in the clotting of blood and is a preventative measure against hemorrhages. Many historical hemophiliacs would have benefited themselves had they considered the lowly alfalfa plant as something more than “munchies” for their herds. We know of several cases where women who have just delivered babies have eaten alfalfa tablets like candy directly after the birth in order to shorten the postpartum bleeding time. Alfalfa is also a remarkable herb to bring in milk in a nursing mother. It has also been observed that vitamin K is instrumental in lowering high blood pressure.
Vitamin E is contained in alfalfa to the tune of 173.8 mg per pound. Vitamin E is essential for the proper functioning of the reproductive system, and the vitamin E found in alfalfa is so much more valuable than the synthetic variety which is not readily assimilated by the body.
As mentioned earlier, vitamin D is found as 4740 International Units per pound of dried alfalfa. There is 173.8 IUs of vitamin E in the specimen we gave for analysis. All of these figures will, of course, vary with the time and season of the harvest. Our sample had 9.4 mg per pound of vitamin K, the clotting factor.
Alfalfa also contains a saponin, which is a substance that forms colloidal dispersion (a soap suds-like reaction) when shaken with water. The steroid saponins have been recently successfully investigated for their suitability as cortisone and hormone precursors.
Alfalfa can be used as a beverage, as well as medicinally. When taken daily it can improve the appetite, alleviate urinary tract disorders such as the retention of water, and give relief for digestive and bowel problems such as peptic ulcer. A combination of alfalfa and peppermint makes a very pleasant tea for the refreshment of mind and body.
According to May Bethel, author of The Healing Power of Herbs, 1968, alfalfa contains 8 known enzymes which are instrumental in food assimilation. Bethel also quotes Dr. W. H. Graves, D.C., who has successfully used alfalfa in cases of diabetes, rheumatism, bright’s disease, toxemia, jaundice, neuralgia, insomnia, nervousness, syphilis, constipation, lumbago, hardening of the arteries, dropsy, prostatitis, anemia, skin eruptions, poor complexion, and inflamed bladder. Graves also mentions alfalfa as a blood builder and is beneficial for building teeth and bones.
Alfalfa sprouts have experienced a resurgence in popularity. Once they were the “in thing” among health fanatics; now they rival iceberg lettuce in the supermarkets across the nation. Alfalfa sprouts can be enjoyed alone, as greenery on sandwiches, in soups, salads, and other vegetarian delights.
Growing Alfalfa Sprouts
Select a good variety of alfalfa seed. Usually natural food stores have them in stock, purchased explicitly for sprouting. Put about 1-2 tablespoons of dried seed into a clean glass quart jar. Instead of the original jar lid, use a flexible piece of screen and a rubber band to top the jar, preventing seeds from falling out while rinsing.
Alfalfa sprouts are inexpensive to grow at home, and rank among the world’s most nutritive substances.
Alfalfa may be sprouted at home in approximately three to four days. According to research reports, the sprouts contain the highest amount of vitamin B-12 on the fourth day of germination.
In harvesting alfalfa for drying, it is best to collect it before the flowering of the plant, for at this time the greatest potency is within the leaves. Alfalfa should be dried in the shade and stored in jars or containers with tight-fitting lids to preserve the nutritional value. When reconstituting dried alfalfa as a tea, it is best to use steam distilled water.
A form of alfalfa was known as early as the fourth century B.C., when Dioscordes, a physician who traveled with Alexander the Great, employed the wild plant for the difficulties with the urinary tract. In the Soviet Union and in Europe, alfalfa tea is considered a traditional beverage.
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