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Nutritional Power of Alfalfa

Alfalfa

DESCRIPTION

Alfalfa resembles a tall clover, with three-part leaves. The plant is a many-stemmed and branched perennial, usually two to three feet tall when mature. The flowers are like typical clovers, with purple, lavender or blue tufts of blossoms interspersed at the ends of the stems. It is difficult to differentiate between Alfalfa and the light clovers until they are in bloom (Moore:20-l).

The yields of Alfalfa can run as high as 11 tons per acre, and the seedings persist as much as a dozen years or more under favorable conditions. Leaf-cutter bees are usually maintained near Alfalfa seed-production fields to assure pollination. Alfalfa pods are tightly coiled upon themselves in maturity.

If Alfalfa is grown near herbs or other crops, its deep-rootedness assures that it has enough moisture during dry times, as the plants pull up moisture from deep in the earth.

Dr. Christopher greatly honored this herb, which in Arabic is called "the father of all foods", one of the most ancient herbs known. He said that it would help in every condition of the body, whether it would be for healing or maintaining health. Dr. Christopher noticed that animals--such as dogs and cats and certainly other farm animals--seek the herb 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 will let it lead them. When Dr. Christopher was a small and sickly child, he used to go out in the springtime to pick Alfalfa leaves to eat. It was as if some force would lead him to the leaves. He felt very grateful because with this guidance, he felt that he was given additional help to fight off some of the sicknesses with which he was born.

The Doctor liked to tell the story of a family who was 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 plant and found that the entire family felt strong and healthy. They would beg others to do the same, but were simply ridiculed. They continued eating the Alfalfa as long as they remained imprisoned. When they were released, they walked out of the camp in good health while their friends who had refused to follow their advice had either died or were very sickly, suffering from malnutrition.

When Dr. Christopher was lecturing in one of the eastern states, a young man approached him to tell of an experience he had had with Alfalfa. He had been trained in the martial arts, including karate, by a black-belt instructor. After a period of time, black and blue welts would rise on his body wherever he had been kicked or hand-struck in his exercises. His instructor gave him a small bottle of capsules and told him to use them several times a day. He did, and was amazed with the results. When he ran out of them, he noticed that the black and blue spots on his body reappeared.

He went to the instructor and wanted to know what was in them, willing to pay any price for such a valuable remedy. He was shocked that the miraculous capsules had one ingredient only--Alfalfa. As long as he continued to take the capsules, he had no more problems. Dr. H. E. Kirschner, relating the research efforts of one of the pioneers of Alfalfa, Frank Bower, retold the story of a man who was very anemic. He was considered a borderline tuberculosis case and had no appetite at all. Bower supplied the landlady of the boarding house where both of them took their meals with a liberal amount of Alfalfa tea, to be taken at meals. All the boarders liked it, and after about two weeks, the sick man began to eat with gusto. They all ate so heartily that larger meals had to be prepared to meet their demands (Kirsch:28).

Mr. Bower, who is regarded as the "Father of Alfalfa", made up a slogan: "What's good for the piggies is good for the kiddies". Among the interesting applications which Bower suggested was as a food supplement for children. In one test, he fed 200 children in two schools a special vitamin-mineral food based on Alfalfa. These children averaged a weight gain of two to six pounds per month and a height gain of from two to four and a half inches. They were extremely resistant to diseases in the area (Ibid:29).

N.W. Walker, the great promoter of raw vegetable juices and the vegetarian diet, highly recommended Alfalfa. He lived to an active age of over a hundred years! Lucas mentioned that the Chinese specifically recommended Alfalfa as an ulcer treatment. One woman had been suffering with ulcer pains, but when she tried the standard ulcer diet of milk foods she suffered from asthma symptoms. She decided to find a Chinese-American herbalist, and after some searching and traveling, she located one. He told her to avoid fried foods and bread, as well as alcohol and tobacco, and to take a tablespoon of Alfalfa powder once a day in water, along with a teaspoonful of olive oil before meals. Her ulcer had completely healed within a few weeks, with the pain disappearing almost immediately. This woman prescribed the same treatment to family and friends with ulcers, with the same miraculous results, everyone feeling most grateful for this simple and effective remedy (Luc: Secrets:38).

FATHER OF ALL FOODS

In an ancient Chinese herbal, Alfalfa is mentioned in the year 2939 B.C. It was anciently known to the Arabs as well, who called it the "father of all foods". Dioscorides employed a variety of the plant for urinary disorders in the fourth century B.C. Legend has it that the herb is of great antiquity, having been imported into Greece from the East after Darius had discovered it in Medes (Gri:502). Roman writers referred to it, and it is cultivated from Persia to Peru. In the warmer climates, it is mowed all year around (Ibid.).

It was adopted in England in the 1700's, and although it is not native to North America, it spread quickly once introduced and the native Americans quickly adopted it for their use and for animals.

Hutchens mentions that stock farmers of South Africa improved the beauty of ostrich feathers with the use of Alfalfa feed, and that cows gave richer milk, chickens laid more often, and turkeys were healthier with the use of Alfalfa (Hut:8). Feeding the herb to our goats, we have noticed a high level of health, even though we are not able to let them run free for optimum health.

HERB OF MANY USES

Although some herbalists consider Alfalfa so mild that it is a food rather than a medicine, the herb has to its credit some wonderful cures. As mentioned above, researcher Frank Bower (who is known as the Father of Alfalfa) discovered that the plant contained important enzymes which assist in good digestion. Tests over a period of years revealed that in addition to enzymes, the plant contains important chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals, all of which stimulate the appetite. The enzymes are sufficiently present to help in the digestion of all four classes of foods--proteins, fats, starches and sugars. One of the important vitamins present in the food is Vitamin U, which is also present in raw cabbage and which has been used to treat peptic ulcers. This discovery of Vitamin U confirms the Chinese herbalists' use of the herb to cure ulcers. In the Soviet Union, after years of testing Vitamin U on laboratory animals, scientists began clinical testing of the substance on human patients with gastric and duodenal ulcers, with an 80% cure rate, the other 20% being noticeably improved.

Frank Bower conducted many interesting experiments with Alfalfa. Three hundred soldiers at Sawtelle, California, used the Alfalfa tea with remarkable improvement in bladder, prostate and other problems. When his friend, Dr. I. D. Bailer, was suffering from lumbago, he gave Alfalfa tea to him and he immediately got better. These results were so impressive that both Bower and Bailer quit their jobs and spent the rest of their lives studying Alfalfa. Their main problem was to produce Alfalfa products that were palatable to most people, as we generally find that the taste of the plant is very strong and green. The two most palatable preparations turned out to be Green Drink, where the green leaves are blended in pineapple juice, often with other herbs and Alfalfa sprouts. In addition to the important constituents mentioned above, the sprouts contain generous quantities of the amino acids; up to 150% more than wheat or corn. They also contain chlorophyll, which many people consider an important healing agent in many ailments, as well as being a vibrant, live, oxygen-rich food.

A doctor at the University of Indiana pointed out that Alfalfa is especially rich in iron, calcium and phosphorus, all necessary for strong, healthy teeth. Some claim that Alfalfa not only retards tooth decay but actually rebuilds the teeth (Kirsch:35). It's no wonder that so many interesting cures are attributed to Alfalfa. It has been acclaimed as a diuretic. In fact, one woman who was suffering extremely from dropsy began to take the tea faithfully, and with no other remedy was relieved of the problem. The high Vitamin K content of the herb helps to clot the blood properly and prevent against hemorrhages. For this reason--among lots of good reasons--it is recommended that pregnant women take the tea daily. In addition to the blood clotting properties of Vitamin K, it has been found effective in preventing and curing high blood pressure in test animals, and may turn out to be important for the same use in humans. It is important that in the plant kingdom, only Alfalfa contains a significant amount of Vitamin K; most plants are quite deficient in the vitamin.

The high Vitamin A content in the plant is excellent to prevent infection; preparations of the plant are superior to fish-oil preparations for some people as they lack the fishy odor, are of a vegetarian source, and are somewhat more assimilable. This vitamin also helps prevent night blindness. Since many of our foods are degenerated, even if we buy the best we can and prepare them fresh, it is good to know of a consistent source of vitamin A.

The many constituents of the plant make it good for toning the system in high pressure situations; race horses often run faster when taking the herb, and athletes are often encouraged to do the same.

Many people consider Alfalfa an important herb to take throughout pregnancy. If an expectant mother is suffering from morning sickness, she can eat Alfalfa sprouts in her diet and can take from eight to sixteen tablets of Alfalfa until the condition is under control, then she can reduce the dosage (Mal: 252). Many people consider that a daily green drink consisting of Alfalfa and fresh red-raspberry leaves is an excellent pregnancy drink; it is preferred to a tea made of the same substances. Some women have eaten Alfalfa tablets after their births like candy in order to shorten the postpartum bleeding time. Alfalfa is also thought to dramatically help bring the milk in for the nursing mother. It certainly enriches the quality of the milk and is much preferable to other hot beverages, such as regular tea, which can pollute the breast milk. It can be flavored with mint, orange peel, and honey.

Alfalfa is one of the few vegetable sources of Vitamin D. Although the sun is generally regarded as the best source for getting this vitamin (although you shouldn't shower or bathe for about a half-hour after sunning in order to absorb the D that collects in the skin's oils), there are about 4740 International Units of Vitamin D per pound of Alfalfa. This is valuable knowledge if a person is unable to take the sun, such as during the wintertime. Taking Vitamin D in Alfalfa is much healthier than drinking it in pasteurized, homogenized, Vitamin-D enriched milk! Another important element in Alfalfa is vitamin Bl2. Most nutritionists claim that it is only present in animal products, diary products, or sewage. Since the 1940's, however, other research has revealed that Bl2 is indeed in some vegetable sources. Many vegetarian cookbooks go to great lengths to ensure the taking of Bl2 in diet, such as buying tablets and dissolving them in homemade soymilk, or ensuring that the vegetarian take brewer's yeast which is Bl2-fortified. The discussion of Bl2 is complicated by the fact that Bl2 deficiency can occur not only from the lack of the vitamin in the diet--unlikely in most diets, except those of vegans, which excludes milk, meat and eggs entirely--or from malabsorption of the vitamin present in the diet. This occurs later in life and is considered genetic in origin, developing an illness called pernicious anemia, which is treated by injections of B12 which must continue for the duration of a person's life. Interestingly, dietary deficiency of Bl2 may not show up even in people who take little or none of the vitamin for five or ten years. The body conserves Bl2 and can store enough of it to last two or three years, even longer in some cases. When the vitamin passes out of the body in bile salts, it can be reabsorbed in the intestine and recycled; very little actually leaves the body. Taken in conjunction with the knowledge that the RDA charts give a wide margin of safety when recommending amounts of any vitamin to be taken, it is clear that the Bl2 concern is much less an issue than it may seem for vegetarians. However, the body's ability to absorb the vitamin can affect the levels present. Bl2, however, is found in Alfalfa, as well as in other foods, such as lettuce, rice polishings concentrate, mung beans, and peas. Sprouted Alfalfa seed is quite a good source. The germination of the seed increase the Bl2 available, and since they are eaten raw, the seeds retain their vitamin content; it has been found that cooking removes up to 85% of the vitamin under normal conditions.

Alfalfa, along with other foods, is known to help remove cholesterol from the system. Alfalfa has a significant amount of protein--18.9%, as compared with 16.5% in beef, 3.3% in milk and 13.1% in eggs. Eating the sprouts can add a significant amount of important protein in vegans who take no animal proteins at all, and whose diet may include so many grains and beans that concentrated proteins are difficult to obtain. Although we eliminate the mucus-forming proteins in the mucusless diet, this does not mean that the body doesn't need protein. The high-quality proteins in vegetables, especially the sprouted seeds, can supply the important needs. Without proteins, which compose the muscles of the body, the muscles can break down, causing tiredness and weakness. Flabby muscles in the intestines and stomach can result in constipation when there is not enough strength to move the food along. Poor posture often results from lack of adequate protein. The hair, skin and nails may become weak if protein is inadequate, as they are composed of protein, too.

It is a good supplement when antibiotics or sulfa drugs are taken, and is also recommended for alcoholics and drug addicts who are trying to kick the habit. It is excellent for children who do not seem to be growing well enough, providing an abundance of vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes which might not be assimilated otherwise. The chlorophyll abundant in the leaves has been found to assist in granulation of tissue after it has been damaged. The substance also helps in the strengthening of the connective tissue in the body.

Although the herb has attributed to body-building characteristics, excessive use of Alfalfa is said by the Chinese to cause one to lose weight and become thin. It might therefore be good for use in weight loss programs.

There are saponins, soap-like substances, in the herb, which have been recently investigated for their suitability as cortisone and hormone precursors. However, overeating the Alfalfa sprouts could possibly damage red blood cells. It is suggested that moderation in eating the sprouts can avoid this problem as the saponins greatly increase during the sprouting process.

In China, this is one of the plants said to have been brought to the country by General Chang Chien of the Han dynasty. It is called Mu-su, and is included among the vegetables. It was formerly much more cultivated than it is today, although in some parts of China it is still grown; it has been naturalized almost everywhere, however. It is considered too cooling to be eaten very frequently and is thought to make one thin, which is always carefully avoided by the Chinese. If eaten with honey, it is said to cause dysentery. It is thought to benefit the intestines and to help in fevers. The juice is said to be emetic and is given in cases of gravel to relieve pain (Shi:260-261). In India, the plant is an important fodder; however, the young plant is liable to case bloating in cattle or sheep and the plant is not used much in medicine (IMM:774).
In any conditions which require cleansing and building of the body - and that includes most ailments! - Alfalfa is recommended as a basic, and mild, herbal food.

HAY

Of course, the widest application of Alfalfa in the world is as a feed crop for livestock. In almost every state of the Union, in almost every province of Canada, and throughout Central and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, Alfalfa is featured as animal feed. In most parts of the English speaking world, it is known as lucerne. About 27 million acres of ground are used to grow Alfalfa in the United States. Thousands of acres more are used to plant the herb for its seed, which must be grown under controlled conditions. The Alfalfa is used in various ways. Most common is the preparation of hay, where the Alfalfa is cut, allowed to sun-cure, and rolled or baled for winter storage. Sometimes farmers make Alfalfa meal by cutting and chopping the green crop in the fields, hauling the chopped herb to a dehydrator, and quick-drying the leaves and stems. These are ground and put into sacks, preventing leaf loss and ensuring a high food value. This meal is sometimes combined with grains or soybeans for a concentrated feed. Farmers sometimes let their animals graze in the Alfalfa fields, and sometimes ferment the green Alfalfa to make silage. Alfalfa is much more deep-rooted than any of the other plants. Its roots commonly go down twelve feet, as compared to very short-rooted pasture grasses which barely penetrate a few inches, or even clover, which only goes down about five or six feet. This deep-rooting allows the plant to bring up important trace minerals which are only present deep in the ground. In addition, the Alfalfa, being a legume, has the capacity, with the cooperation of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, of bringing fertility to the soil. The bacteria takes nitrogen from the air and changes it into a form that can be used by the roots. Alfalfa is therefore an excellent green manure, often planted to plow under to fertilize the soil.

HISTORICAL USES

CULTIVATION, COLLECTION, PREPARATION

Alfalfa is very easy to cultivate on your home ground. Just get some seed and sow it in average garden soil. Keep it moist and weed if necessary; the plant will do the rest. It is a perennial and will provide you with abundant greens for years.

You can gather Alfalfa which has escaped from farmer's fields if you are absolutely sure that the leaves have not been poison-treated. Most farmers do not spray their Alfalfa crops, but many are spray happy and will spray most anything they grow. Furthermore, Alfalfa growing wild in orchards is most likely contaminated, and road-side Alfalfa may have been sprayed with poison to kill weeds. You do not want to blend these deadly poisons into your green drink--it is better to start a few plants of your own. If you live in the country, you may be surprised to find plants already growing near you.

To make Alfalfa green drink, the simplest method is to place pineapple juice in a blender container in the quantity desired. Add green leaves to taste, less at first, and building up to more as you become accustomed to the flavor. Alfalfa is quite strong tasting; you might wish to begin with additional herbs such as parsley, chard, dark lettuce, lamb's quarters, comfrey, and other mild-tasting greens. Two sprigs of Alfalfa has been a good starting point for the green drink which we feed our young children. Blend the greens into the drink until they are thoroughly pulverized. You can add a little water or a couple of ice cubes to thin the drink a bit if you like. Some people like to add an almond-date-sunflower seed emulsion, made by blending the soaked seeds and dates with pineapple juice, for a delicious and protein-filled green drink; however, we have found the pineapple juice and green combination delicious and satisfying. For a tiny infant, you can strain the fibers out of the drink, but most people can benefit from the fibers of the greens. Do not make the drink too thick at first, however, as some people might find it unpalatable. Alfalfa sprouts can also be utilized in the green drink. Sprouting Alfalfa seeds is extremely easy. When you try it, you will regret any money you spent at the store on less than-crisp Alfalfa sprouts. Homemade sprouts taste much sweeter and fresher than purchased ones. Be sure when you sprout them that you use only seeds sold for sprouting; those sold in agricultural establishments are treated with poisons for in field planting. Buy them at the health food store to be sure.

The easiest method by far is to soak a couple of tablespoons of the seeds in a wide mouth quart jar overnight. Drain the water off--some recommend drinking it but it seems rather rank for that. You can use it to water favorite plants, as it is loaded with nutrition. Cover the top of the jar with perforated lids which are sold for the purpose, or with plastic window screen held in place with the jar ring, or with cheesecloth similarly anchored. With the jar tipped at an angle to be sure that the seeds are not standing in water--they rot that way--let the seeds germinate, filling the jar with water and draining it off two or three times a day. If you are not sprouting the seeds in the light, be sure to expose the jar to sunlight when the seed sprouts have grown to a length of about two inches; they will turn a delightful, appetizing green, developing the important chlorophyll. Before you use any sprouts, be sure to rinse the batch each time. Sprouts will keep in the refrigerator, but it is better to have small batches going constantly to ensure a fresh, sweet supply. Use them with virtually any food. They are especially good in sandwiches, to mix with salads, or to eat out of hand as a low-calorie snack.

A favorite sandwich is made by spreading healthy mayonnaise - homemade if possible - on whole grain bread. Cover one slice with mashed avocado and add a nice, thick layer of sprouts. Chopped garlic or onion make this sandwich delicious and healthy.

Some people like to mix the sprouts with mayonnaise or butter and seasonings to use over salads or in sandwiches. Some blend them with tomato juice or tomato soup in the blender and serve the nutrition of sprouts to people who might not appreciate the good nutrition if they were told. Sprouts are a nice garnish for cream soups.

They also go with almost any vegetable salad. Sometimes when they are used in the ubiquitous salads made with iceberg lettuce and hothouse tomatoes, they are the only ingredient in the salad with any nourishment at all! They are excellent to add texture and crunch to a coleslaw. Many people find that if they enjoy Alfalfa sprouts in salad, they still need to mix a little dressing or mayonnaise with the sprouts to make them palatable taken alone.

The classic health restaurant dish made with sprouts is Bible bread sandwiches. You can make them yourself, inexpensively. You begin with Bible bread or pita bread, which can be made at home by mixing up a simple yeast whole wheat bread dough. Don't let it rise first, but after it is kneaded, take golf ball size lumps, make them smooth, and roll them out about 1/4 inch thick into tortilla shapes. Put them to rise on a cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet for about a half hour. When risen soft, place in a 450 degree F. oven in the top third of the oven until the breads puff up like balloons and their surfaces harden. Remove and cool on racks. Not all the pita breads may rise uniformly, but you should get enough to make a good batch of Bible bread sandwiches. When they are cool, they may be stored in plastic bags, but do not put into plastic while they are still hot, or they will go moist.

After the breads have cooled, cut them in half crosswise and open up. Butter the inside with homemade mayonnaise, and fill with salad vegetables: tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, chopped lettuce, cole slaw, chopped onion, minced garlic, etc. Add grated cheese, sesame butter, and top with a generous portion of Alfalfa sprouts. Some people like to put a bit of mayonnaise on top of this and garnish with vegetarian bacon bits. These make a marvelous summertime guest meal, preceded by gaspacho soup, cold, then with each guest making up his own sandwiches. As a full sized Bible bread sandwich costs around $2.00 in a restaurant (often more in fancier places), it seems a great luxury to serve a whole meal of them, and yet they are quite an inexpensive and very healthy meal.

You can add sprouted Alfalfa seeds to tacos, use them on top of spaghetti, munch them alongside pizza--they work with almost any meal. A very good salad is made by combining the sprouts with grated carrots and mashed avocado. Dressed with an oil and vinegar or mayonnaise based dressing, it is a delicious mixture.

If you plan to use the dried Alfalfa greens, you should gather them fresh just before the plant is in flower. Dry them in a dehydrator or a warm, airy place. Being sure not to lose any of the leaves, pulverize them in a mortar and pestle or in a blender, and store in a cool, dry place. You can make tea out of the leaves or, some suggest, sprinkle them on any cold or cooked cereal. They have a definite green, grassy taste and so take a little getting used to. The commercial infant Pablum has dried Alfalfa in it, and there are a number of commercial preparations which include Alfalfa, including Alfalfa fudge, and a concentrated Alfalfa juice!

If you wish to juice Alfalfa in your juicer, be aware that it is extremely potent. The best way to take it is to make a batch of carrot juice and introduce a small amount of Alfalfa into the juicer as you do the carrots. As you become accustomed to the taste, more Alfalfa can be added, but it is never taken straight.

Some people wishing to treat arthritis or rheumatism take a tea made of the Alfalfa seeds, but we consider this a waste of the germinating power of the seeds. It is better to sprout them and eat the sprouts. Alfalfa tea made from leaves purchased in the health food stores may have an insipid taste or even taste like nothing at all. If you wish to obtain the best results from Alfalfa leaf tea, you should go and gather your own from the very common plants all around.

RELATED PLANTS

M. falcata, Siberian Alfalfa, is similar to M. sativa, but has yellow flowers. M. media, sand lucerne, has been considered a natural hybrid between the two species.

Because of their similar functions, the clovers, Melilotus spp. are related to the Alfalfas. M. alba and M. officinalis are important as forage plants and soil builders. They are also used for hay.

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION

We have mentioned above some of the vitamins and minerals contained in Alfalfa. The essential amino acids in the plant are especially noteworthy, as well as the extremely high content of Vitamin A. You will notice that it is a good source of potassium as well.

The enzymes contained in Alfalfa are some of the most important elements, although they are not included below in the analysis chart. Among these are lipase, a fat-splitting enzyme; amylase, which acts upon starches; coagulase, to coagulate milk or clot blood; emulsin, which acts upon sugars; invertase, which converts cane sugar into dextrose; peroxidase, which has an oxidizing effect on the blood; pectinase, an enzyme that forms a vegetable jelly from a pectin substance, and protease, that digests proteins (Kirsch:27-8). These enzymes indicate that Alfalfa could be profitably taken with almost any food!

[Alfalfa is an ingredient highly featured in the product Vital Nutrition Plus. Also found in the formula is spirulina, Blue Green Algae, Chlorella Broken-cell Algae, Barley grass, Wheet grass, Purple Dulse seeweed, Beet root, Spinach leaf, Rose hips, Orange peel, Lemon peel, all in a base of non-fermentable Saccharomyces Cervisiae Yeast.]

 


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