Alfalfa is Arabic for “father of all foods,” and it was used by Arabs as food for themselves and their horses for many centuries. They believed that eating alfalfa or drinking its extract as a tonic made people and animals stronger and healthier. Alfalfa sprouts and tonic are also used in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat kidney stones, arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders. Alfalfa tonic is a more concentrated form of nutrients compared to raw alfalfa sprouts and leaves and is often better digested and absorbed by people because it is a liquid. Consult with a doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
Alfalfa as a Superfood
The entire alfalfa plant contains various nutrients, making it one of the most nutritious food sources known. It contains about 25 percent protein by weight and includes lysine, an amino acid that plays an important role in calcium absorption, building muscle fiber, producing hormones, enzymes and antibodies, and repairing damaged tissue, as cited in “Biochemistry of Human Nutrition.” Alfalfa leaves are rich in minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. Further, the alfalfa plant is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamins D, E, K and B complex, as well as chlorophyll. A benefit of consuming alfalfa tonic is that it typically contains extracts from all parts of the alfalfa plant.
Alfalfa for Energy
Alfalfa tonic contains a variety of nutrients required for energy production and prolonged physical activity, such as the B vitamin group, eight essential amino acids and the highest chlorophyll content of any plant, according to “Advanced Nutrition: Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and Metabolism.” The B vitamin group, especially B6 and B12, are required for cellular metabolism and energy production. Amino acids are needed to build protein and can be metabolized to produce energy. Chlorophyll stimulates the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to tissues. Further, alfalfa enhances assimilation of plant-based vitamins, so combining alfalfa tonic with fruits and vegetables can have a synergistic or boosting affect, as cited in “Contemporary Nutrition.” Alfalfa’s energy promoting properties often stimulate appetite.
Alfalfa for Blood Building
In addition to being a rich source of chlorophyll which promotes red blood cell production, alfalfa tonic is a good source of iron. Iron is required to produce hemoglobin, the specific protein that carries oxygen within red blood cells and gives blood its color. A lack of hemoglobin or red blood cells is called anemia, which leads to fatigue, dizziness, pale skin and reduced surface body temperature, as cited in “Human Biochemistry and Disease.” The vitamin K in alfalfa tonic promotes healthy blood clotting, which is essential for wound healing. Alfalfa is also considered a strongly alkalizing food, which is of further benefit to blood as it must be kept at an alkaline pH level of around 7.35.
Alfalfa for Gout and Heartburn
According to “The New Healing Herbs,” alfalfa’s powerful alkalizing affect within the body can dissolve uric acid crystals, which reduces serum uric acid levels and greatly decreases the risk of developing gout, a painful inflammatory condition that affects joints of the feet and hands. Increased alkalinity also mitigates heartburn, indigestion, some forms of stomach upset and generally promotes digestion.
Alfalfa for High Cholesterol
Alfalfa tonic may have cholesterol-lowering properties due to the presence of isoflavones, sterols and saponin glycosides, although evidence is either anecdotal or based on animal studies, as cited in “Medical Herbalism.” More research is needed on alfalfa’s affect on people before medicinal claims can be made. Alfalfa tonic is considered nontoxic, even in high dosages, but you should consult with a health professional before embarking on a supplement regimen.
- “Biochemistry of Human Nutrition”; George Gropper; 2000
- “Advanced Nutrition: Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and Metabolism”; Carolyn D. Berdanier; 2009
- “Contemporary Nutrition”; Gordon M. Wardlaw; 2010
- “Human Biochemistry and Disease”; Gerald Litwack; 2008
- “The New Healing Herbs”; Michael Castleman; 2010
- “Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices of Herbal Medicine”; David Hoffmann; 2003