Alfalfa is a herbaceous perennial, also known as Medicago sativa. The plant belongs to the forage crops and can produce the large amount of nutritious forage material. Depending on variety and climate, the life span of alfalfa varies from three to twelve years. The plant resembles clover with small purple flower clusters. Its root system sometimes stretches up to 4.5 meters. The blue and violet flowers bloom from July to September.
Alfalfa is the plant native for Asia where it originated before 700 BC. It has gone a long way traveling around the world until it finally became universal. First cultivated in Iran, alfalfa was later brought to South America and then to California during the gold rush.
Seeding is usually done in late summer or fall, with approximately 8 to 12 lbs of seed per acre requirement. Alfalfa’s productivity is the best on deep, fertile, well-drained loamy or sandy loam soils.
Alfalfa sprouts are used as leaf vegetable. Due to the high fiber content shoots are limited in human consumption. Leaves of the plant are favored for their amino acids content – eight essential amino acids were found in this part of the plant. Since seeds contain a slightly toxic amino acid L-canavanine, they are not commonly used in herbal preparations.
Food makers use alfalfa extract as a source of chlorophyll and carotene. Various preparations are available in forms of leaf tablets (rich in protein, vitamins E and K), extracts and other supplements. Dehydrated alfalfa leaf is a common dietary supplement available in tablets, powders and tea.
For centuries alfalfa has been used as a folk remedy for arthritis, diabetes, asthma and hay fever. The plant is an excellent source of vitamins - A, D, E, K, U, C, B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, panthothanic acid, inocitole, biotin, and folic acid. Minerals which are useful against heart disease and cancer are presented by phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, chlorine, sulfur, magnesium, copper, manganese and iron.
Chinese medicine used alfalfa since the sixth century to treat kidney stones and to relieve fluid retention and swelling. The plant extracts are also known to handle urinary tract infections, kidney, and bladder and prostrate disorders. Its constituents alkalize and detoxify the body, especially the liver, promote pituitary gland function and contain an anti-fungus agent.
Moreover, alfalfa is known to be an excellent appetite stimulant and overall tonic which strengthens the immune system. As for today, side effects of the plant haven’t been officially reported.
Alfalfa has been used for different purposes for centuries. Good feed for animals (Alfalfa hay for cows, horses, beef cattle, sheep, chickens, ...
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