Alfalfa has an impressive history as a “functional food”. Centuries ago, the Arabs bestowed the name alfalfa, which means “the father of all foods” on this perennial legume because they recognized its superior nutritional qualities. In fact, they fed it to their legendary horses, in addition to using it as a medicinal herb. Alfalfa is commonly used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat digestive disorders or to promote joint health, but in the western world today, alfalfa is mostly used as animal feed.
This is unfortunate for humans because the herb is a robust functional food that, among other benefits, has significant value as a general tonic. Alfalfa provide vitamins A, C, E and K, some B vitamins, and a smattering of minerals such as potassium and zinc. It is also rich in phytonutrients, such as isoflavone flavonoids. Several studies suggest that it helps to keep cholesterol levels low and prevents atherosclerosis, among other cardiovascular benefits.
Herbalists suggest brewing a tea of dried alfalfa leaves. Because it has a very mild flavor, another easy way to add valuable nutrients to your diet is to include a few spoonfuls when making stocks. Dried alfalfa leaves are available at well-stocked natural foods stores or from online vendors. Just check to make sure you are purchasing organically grown alfalfa as a genetically modified version is widely available. And when adding alfalfa to liquid, make sure to use the dried leaves, not alfalfa sprouts, which have an entirely different nutritional profile.