Alfalfa is widely recognized as the most important pasture and hay plant in North America and for good reason. Alfalfa is a perennial, nutrient-rich legume capable of extending its roots more than 50 feet into the soil. This makes the plant very resistant to drought, but most importantly provides it with ready access to the minerals existing deep underground.
Originally from the Middle East, alfalfa was introduced to the United States by Spanish colonists. The plant grows to a height of about three feet above the surface and can live for more than twenty years. Alfalfa is grown extensively around the world, especially in Argentina, Europe, and Asia. In Britain, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and south Asia, it is also known as lucerne.
Alfalfa is widely adapted to temperate and subtropical climates and soils, but is not well adapted to humid conditions. It's not picky about its soil, but alfalfa prefers plenty of sun and water. Alfalfa is primarily reproduced by cross-fertilization effected by bees.
Alfalfa has been used in traditional health practices for more than 1,500 years.
- Alfalfa contains important phytochemicals which may contain antioxidant properties.
- Alfalfa is known as a green food which helps promote nutritional wellness.
- Because of the access to underground minerals provided by its deep root system, alfalfa is a plentiful source of vitamins and minerals. It naturally contains vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E, K, niacin, biotin, and folic acid, and also offers minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, alfalfa is a source of protein, chlorophyll and carotene, and contains dozens of amino acids. (It's easy to understand why the Arabic word for alfalfa is father of all food. )
- Alfalfa, like other legumes, is a known source of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are substances which function in the body like estrogen but are not produced naturally. The only way to get phytoestrogens is by eating phytoestrogonic plants such as alfalfa, nuts, oilseeds, soy cereals and breads, legumes, meat products, and other foods which contain vegetables and fruits.
- Bean sprouts of alfalfa are popular among health-conscious Americans because their main components are fiber and vitamins.
- Carotene and chlorophyll are so prevalent in alfalfa leaves they are extracted for commercial use.
- Alfalfa is widely grown throughout the world and is harvested as hay for cattle. Alfalfa has the highest feeding value of all common hay crops.
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