The herb alfalfa, called lucerne or purple medic, is good for man or beast. Alfalfa is a plant we can use with complete safety. It is non-toxic, non poisonous and non-habit forming. This qualifies it as one of many herbs which are beneficial for mankind. It is "seed bearing" and a green herb, fulfilling the Biblical specifications in Genesis 1:29 and 30.
The Nutrition Almanac by John D. Kirschmann (Nutrition Search, Minn., Minn. 55402) says, "Alfalfa is a leguminous plant which is particularly rich in Vitamin K. The seeds, seed sprouts, and leaves of the plant can be eaten." Here is a statement from Alma R. Hutchens in Indian Herbology of North America (Merco, 620 Wyandotte East Windsor 14, Ontario, Canada) showing many values in this plant: "It is only in recent years that we moderns are rediscovering its valuable nutritive properties, which include organic minerals of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, plus all the known vitamins including Vitamin K and the recently discovered Vitamin B-8 and Vitamin P." She also goes on to inform us that another common name is Buffalo Herb, and, to continue, "It [alfalfa] is native to Asia and did not reach North America until around 1850-1860. This deep growing plant is seen from Maine to Virginia and westward to the Pacific Coast in the United States."
North American Indians adopted alfalfa quickly for human use, as well as for animals. This is a perennial herbaceous plant, with two stems. Leaflets: Three toothed above. Flowers: Violet. Calyx: Five-toothed. Corolla: Papilionaceous, six lines long. Stamens: Nine united and one free. Pod: Spirally coiled and without spines. The small, violet-purple or bluish flowers bloom from June until August. In some regions it is cut every month as cultivated food for both man and animal.
Alfalfa's organic salts are among the richest known, the depth and spread of its roots enabling it to absorb its valuable nutrition as far as 125 feet below the earth's surface.
Medicinal part: The leaves
Bodily influence: Nutrient, tonic
Alfalfa was discovered by the Arabs and is one of the first known herbs. They called it the "father of all foods." This is interesting as they knew only by evidential experience. It is only in recent years that we moderns are rediscovering its valuable nutritive properties.
It is helpful for every condition of the body whether it be maintaining or regaining health as the contents are balanced for complete absorption. It may be used by itself or blended with other herbal teas with or between meals.
Claudia V. James (1963) mentions stock farmers of South Africa improving the beauty of ostrich feathers; and that "cows gave richer milk, chickens laid more often, with the food content of better quality. State-wise a turkey farm in Apple Valley, California, has better stock after including alfalfa as part of the diet."
Juliette de Baracli Levy in her book Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable (Rodale Press, Inc., Emmaus, Pa. 18049) states in part, "...rich in nitrate and vitamins. Is a very tonic food and a kidney cleanser. Excellent for all animals and poultry. Increases speed of horses and greyhounds."
N. W. Walker, D.Sci., is one of our favorite friends. He practices what he preaches in using live foods and juices and is still very active. He is still writing books, even though he is well over one hundred years old. In his book Raw Vegetable Juices (Pyramid Books, N.Y., first printed in 1936), he gives his views on alfalfa and alfalfa juice:
Alfalfa is a particularly valuable leguminous herb, not only rich in the principal mineral and chemical elements in the constitution of the human body, but it also has many of the trace elements obtained from deep in the soil where the roots reach down 30 to 100 feet.
Of specific value I would point out the rich quality, quantity and proper balance of Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Choline, Sodium, Potassium and Silicon in Alfalfa. These elements are all very much needed for the proper function of the various organs in the body.
While Alfalfa is widely used as forage for livestock, it is nevertheless of immense value, in the form of juice, using only the leaves, when it can be obtained fresh. It is also known as Lucerne grass, while in England it is known as Purple Medic.
Because Alfalfa adapts itself to widely varying conditions of soil and climate, even thriving on alkali soil, there is no excuse for not growing it on one's home grounds, as it is usually difficult to obtain when living in the city.
When we are unable to obtain fresh Alfalfa, we sprout Alfalfa seeds and eat the sprouts with our meals. They sprout easily and they are very beneficial.
Vegetation miraculously transforms and vitalizes inanimate substances into living cells and tissues.
Cattle eat vegetation, raw, for nourishment. They take into their system one living organism and convert it into a still more complex live organism.
Vegetation, on the other hand, whether vegetable, fruit plant, or grass, takes inorganic elements from the air, from the water, and from the earth, converting them into live organic elements. It takes nitrogen and carbon from the air; nitrogen, minerals, and mineral salts from the earth in which it grows; and oxygen and hydrogen from water.
The most vital and potent factors in this process of conversion are the enzymes and the life-giving influence of the rays of the sun which generate chlorophyll.
The chlorophyll molecule is made up of a web of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms around one single atom of magnesium. It is interesting to compare this design with that of the hemoglobin of our red blood corpuscles, which has a similar web of elements girdling an atom of iron instead of the atom of magnesium.
We find in this analogy one of the secrets of the value of chlorophyll to the human system. Strict vegetarians--whose diet excludes grains and starches but includes an abundance of fresh juices with a good proportion of the green juices are healthier, live longer and are more free from degenerative ailments than those who eat mostly cooked foods and little or no raw vegetables and juices. It would seem that we have here fairly conclusive evidence as to which diet regimen is the correct or natural one for healthy human beings.
One of the richest chlorophyll foods we have is alfalfa. It is a food that builds up both animals and humans, all things considered, into a healthy, vital, and vigorous old age, and builds up a resistance to infection that is almost phenomenal.
The juice of fresh alfalfa is too strong and potent to be taken by itself. It is best taken with carrot juice, in which combination the individual benefits of each juice are intensified. It has been found very helpful in most troubles with the arteries and dysfunctions connected with the heart. (pp. 29-30)
In alfalfa we have a plant that even animals such as dogs and cats will go and find 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 only would "listen." As a small child, and a very sickly one at that, I used to go out in the springtime and pick young alfalfa leaves and eat them. It seemed as though some "force" would lead me to them. For this I am grateful, because with this guidance I feel I was given additional help to fight off some of the sicknesses with which I was born.
I remember reading, years back, the story of a father, mother and some children who were 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 alfalfa and found as a result that the entire family felt strong and healthy. They would beg others there to do the same, but were laughed at and ridiculed. However, they continued eating the alfalfa (new growth coming on continually) as long as they remained imprisoned in that area. When they were released they were in good health, while their friends who had refused to - follow their advice had either died or were very sickly and suffering from severe malnutrition.
An alfalfa plant in your flower or vegetable garden would supply fresh salad greens or a healthful "green" drink to add to other vegetable juices most of the year. It is, of course, a perennial, coming up year after year. It would be wise also to have on hand some alfalfa tablets, powdered alfalfa in capsules, dried or bagged alfalfa for teas, and the seeds to sprout. Alfalfa sprouts are delicious alone or in salads and are very nutritious! We have been given, in this herb, the "king of chlorophyll." If we use alfalfa regularly, with a proper diet also, we should have radiant health!
While lecturing in one of the eastern states a young man approached me and told me of an experience he had recently. This fellow had been trained in the martial arts including karate and etc. 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 these exercises.
His instructor gave him a small bottle of capsules and told him to use these several times a day, which he did, ad was thrilled and amazed at the results. When he ran out of them, he noticed that the black and blue spots, which had left while using the capsules had started to appear again.
He went to the instructor and wanted to know what the wonderful formula was in those capsules, and could he obtain some more of them, regardless of price, because of their great value to him. He was informed that the miraculous capsules contained only one ingredient--"alfalfa."
It was quite a shocker to the student, but he has never had those problems again as long as he takes this "wonder-herb" - alfalfa.
How many times have we thought that alfalfa was 'just fodder for the cattle?' Any of us who have lived on a farm would have no more considered alfalfa as 'human food' than a 'mess of fried nails' as an iron supplement. It is true, however, that alfalfa IS the 'father of all foods.' In fact, the very name 'alfalfa', comes from the Arabic and translates into English as "the father of all foods."
Alfalfa belongs to the family Leguminosae, the family of legumes, beans, or 'pulse' as it is known in the Scriptures in the book of Daniel. Other members of this family include lentils, pinto, and kidney beans.
The Botany of Alfalfa
In a short botanical description of alfalfa, we can say that it is a perennial herb which is global in distribution. It is found on the borders of fields, in low valleys, city waste lots, in fact, almost everywhere. It grows in the mountains between altitudes of 300 to 900 feet. (The mountain alfalfa is much more potent than cultivated varieties.) If an area is extremely wet, alfalfa prefers a dry locality and if the area is dry, the alfalfa plant seeks a wet place.
Alfalfa often reaches a height of from 1 to 3 feet. The part of the stem which is underground is sometimes lignified. Alfalfa has small, pinnately trifoliate leaves with oblong-obovate or linear oblong leaflets. The flowers, or inflorescence are purplish-blue. There are many varieties of alfalfa cultivated in the world today. Often the flowers are yellow in color. The sizes and colors of the flowers vary over the great range of environments available to the plant. The flowers grow in racemes usually from June to August, depending on the climate of an area. The seeds are small and kidney-shaped (recall the Doctrine of Signatures and remember that alfalfa is a diuretic) and are contained in a spirally coiled seed pod.
The Latin or botanical name for alfalfa is Medicago Sativa Linnaeus. Another common name for the herb is buffalo herb. There exists a dairy company in the West that puts out products under the label of "Lucerne" which is a common name for alfalfa. Surely this name was derived from the fact that all of their dairy cows are fed alfalfa to increase milk production.
Parts of the Herb Used
We use the whole herb: that is, the leaves and smaller stems. Alfalfa best lends its properties to water. This means that when an infusion or tea is made from alfalfa leaves, we can obtain 90% of the potassium contained in the dried alfalfa plant, 85% of the magnesium, 75% of the phosphorus, 50% of the nitrogen, and 40% of the calcium when we brew and drink that cup of alfalfa tea. Speaking of nitrogen, alfalfa is a splendid plant to grow near other plants that need nitrogen. Alfalfa can be planted and then turned back into the soil to enrich the land for other crops.
Medicinal Properties of Alfalfa
Alfalfa has been reported to be an appetizer, diuretic, tonic, nutritive (especially calcium) antianemic, and antihemorrhagic. Because the taproot of alfalfa penetrates beneath the soil to a depth of 65 feet or more, it is reported to absorb minerals from the subsoil which are inaccessible to plants having more shallow roots. The root of the alfalfa plant grows 10 times as fast as the stem during the first three weeks of its life. The depth of the root is attested to by a former Kansas State Secretary for the Department of Agriculture.
Alfalfa leaves are extremely rich in calcium...this accounts for the claims of herbalists and doctors concerning the benefits of using alfalfa for repairing tooth damage and strengthening the structure of the teeth. Calcium is also necessary for proper muscle function--That includes the heart muscle as well. Calcium regulates the heart rhythm. How much simpler to indulge in alfalfa early in life rather than a pacemaker in later life.
The protein content in alfalfa is quite high; in fact, pound for pound it outranks beef, milk, and eggs. It not only does that but it is free of non-toxic, mucus-forming elements which promote healing of the body rather than the abject degeneration of the human system.
We have often heard that there is no vegetable source of Vitamin D. The sun, of course, is our favorite source. But did you know that alfalfa contains 4740 International Units of Vitamin D per pound? We'll talk more about this later.
In addition to the aforementioned nutrients alfalfa also contains Vitamins K, A, E, B, and U. Vitamin K is essential in the clotting of blood and is a preventative measure against hemorrhages. Many historical hemophiliacs would have benefited themselves had they considered the lowly alfalfa plant as something more than 'munchies' for their herds. We know of several cases where women who have just delivered babies have eaten alfalfa tablets like candy directly after the birth in order to shorten the postpartum bleeding time. Alfalfa is also a remarkable herb to bring in milk in a nursing mother. It has also been observed that Vitamin K is instrumental in lowering high blood pressure.
Vitamin E is contained in alfalfa to the tune of 173.8 mg. per pound. Vitamin E is essential for the proper functioning of the reproductive system, and the Vitamin E found in alfalfa is so much more valuable than the synthetic variety which is not readily assimilated by the body. According to my personally supervised laboratory analysis of field dried alfalfa the following results were obtained:
The following results have been reported in milligrams per pound:
Carotene: 123 mg/lb
Vitamin A: 104,833 mg/lb - This is extremely high for a food
Thiamin: 2.5 mg/lb
Niacin: 18.0 mg/lb
Pantothenic acid: 9.0 mg/lb
Biotin: 0.15 mg/lb
Chlorine, Folic acid, Pyridoxine: found in very small amounts. Also Bentaine.
As mentioned earlier, Vitamin D is found as 4740 International Units per pound of dried alfalfa. There is 173.8 IU's of Vitamin E in the specimen we gave for analysis. All these figures will, of course vary with the time and season of the harvest. Our sample had 9.4 mg. per pound of Vitamin K, the clotting factor.
Now for the percentages of the essential amino acids found in alfalfa:
Vitamin U, generally found in cabbage juice, acts as a healing agent in ulcers both in humans and laboratory animals according to many researchers.
Alfalfa also contains a saponin which is a substance that forms colloidal dispersion (a soap suds-like reaction) when shaken with water. The steroid saponins have been recently successfully investigated for their suitability as cortisone and hormone precursors.
Alfalfa can be used as a beverage as well as medicinally. When taken daily it can improve the appetite, alleviate urinary tract disorders such as the retention of water, and give relief for digestive and bowel problems such as peptic ulcer. A combination of alfalfa and peppermint makes a very pleasant tea for the refreshment of mind and body.
According to May Bethel, author of The Healing Power of Herbs, 1968, alfalfa contains 8 known enzymes which are instrumental in food assimilation. Bethel also quotes Dr. W. H. Graves, D.C., who has successfully used alfalfa in cases of diabetes, rheumatism, bright's disease, toxemia, jaundice, neuralgia, insomnia, nervousness, syphilis, constipation, lumbago, hardening of the arteries, dropsy, prostatitis, anemia, skin eruptions, poor complexion, and inflamed bladder. Graves also mentions alfalfa as a blood builder and beneficial for building teeth and bones.
Alfalfa sprouts have experienced a resurgence in popularity... once they were the 'in thing' among health fanatics...now they rival iceberg lettuce in the supermarkets across the nation. Alfalfa sprouts can be enjoyed alone, as greenery on sandwiches, in soups, salads and other vegetarian delights.
How To Grow Alfalfa Sprouts
Select a good variety of alfalfa seed. Usually natural food stores have them in stock, purchased explicitly for sprouting. Put about 1-2 tablespoons of dried seed into a clean glass quart jar. Instead of the original jar lid, use a flexible piece of screen and a rubber band to top the jar, preventing seeds from falling out while rinsing.
Step 1: Cover the seeds with water and allow them to stand overnight.
Step 2: Pour out water, drink it, or use it to water your plants... it's full of minerals.
Step 3: Rinse alfalfa seeds about 2 times a day...make sure sprouts are thoroughly drained. That is, rinse the sprouts but do not let them stand in water.
Step 4: After about 3 days, the sprouts are ready to eat. If, at any point, the sprouts are rather anaemic-looking, place the jar in a sunny location so they may be able to produce chlorophyll and appear green.
Alfalfa sprouts are inexpensive to manufacture at home and rank among the world's most nutritive substances.
Many restaurants now feature alfalfa sprouts in lieu of something less savory (wilted iceberg lettuce, for example.).
Alfalfa may be sprouted at home in approximately three to four days. According to research reports, the sprouts contain the highest amount of Vitamin B-12 on the fourth day of germination.
In harvesting alfalfa for drying, it is best to collect it before the flowering of the plant, for at this time, the greatest potency is within the leaves. Alfalfa should be dried in the shade and stored in jars of containers with tight-fitting lids to preserve the nutritional value. When reconstituting dried alfalfa as a tea, it is best to use steam distilled water.
A form of alfalfa was known as early as the fourth century BC when Dioscordes, a physician who traveled with Alexander the Great employed the wild plant for the difficulties with the urinary tract. In the Soviet Union and in Europe, alfalfa tea is considered a traditional beverage.
A great source of Alfalfa is our Jurassic Green which contains Alfalfa, Kamut and Barley grass juice.
A Discussion of Vitamin B-12 in The Vegetarian Diet
At one of our recent Herbalist Seminars, the students were asked to compose a one day diet of menus using the principles of Dr. Christopher's Mucusless Diet. The foods used for the day were required to meet or exceed, if possible, the Recommended Daily Allowance in vitamins and minerals. Some of the students expressed a difficulty in finding foods which would measure up to the daily suggested requirement or Vitamin D, and Vitamin B-12, relying on the sun for Vitamin D, and the nutritional yeast for their B-12. But suppose a person lived in a foggy or rainy atmosphere, and did not get out into the sun? Well, here we can use alfalfa as a very good source of Vitamin D. According to Dr. Christopher's recent laboratory tests, we see that alfalfa contains 4740 IU of Vitamin D per pound. Alfalfa is an excellent source of Vitamin D. Viktoras Kulvinskas also documents this fact in many of his writings.
Vitamin B-12 and Mucusless, Vegetarian Diet
It is superficially assumed by the general populace that those individuals on a vegetarian diet are deficient in Vitamin B-12 account for the fact that B-12 deficiencies are relatively uncommon among Oriental vegans." (The only problem with using miso is the high salt content in the food.) (Gheil, 1979 p. 14)
According to personally requested laboratory research by Dr. John R. Christopher on 100 herb specimens, B-12 was found to be present in trace amounts in apple juice (pyrus malus), buckwheat (fagopyrum esculentum), and black cohosh (Cimicifuga cobalamin or cyanocobalamin). This is a water-soluble vitamin first reported by the Bureau of Dairy Industry in 1932, and is necessary for growth, protein utilization, and the formation and regeneration of red blood cells. A severe B-12 deficiency may result in pernicious anemia. B-12 is produced in the intestine by friendly bacteria. The recommended daily adult dose is 3.5 micrograms. These requirements are usually determined for the average toxic person on the average toxic diet. The RDA also allows for a wide margin of safety. (The committee that decides the RDA meets once a year and decides the current RDA for the year. This standard fluctuates considerably with the type of people present and is based largely on monitory research grants which can be made available to the various standard "setters.")
B-12 is allegedly found (according to many popular writers on nutrition) only in animal products, dairy products, or sewage. This concept is unfounded, for there has been available, since the 1940's, information on the vegetable sources of Vitamin B-12. We shall review some of these sources below.
One only has to look into the literature on animal husbandry to find that B-12 is present in alfalfa (a higher concentration in fresh alfalfa than in dried) and other "pasture." These pasture herbs include non-jointed grasses such as Timothy hay and Kentucky Blue grass. B-12 activity is also found in lettuce and rice polishings concentrate.
A study done in 1955 by three researchers from the Department of Physiology at Presidency College in Calcutta, India, viz., Krishnasudha Rohatgi, Maya Banerjee, and Sachchidananda Banerjee, was one of the first studies of sprouted legumes, a good very much in vogue with present-day vegetarians in North America, the leading legume being the alfalfa sprout. The sprouts are prepared by germinating the seed in water (rinsing several times daily) until the sprout with its first leaves are obtained. These sprouts are then used in salads, or added to other foods in the same manner as one would use lettuce, that is, as a garnish. Let us quote from the "Effect of Germination of Vitamin B-12 Values of Pulses (Leguminous Seeds)," appearing in the Journal of Nutrition in 1955:
The results [of their assays] show that pulses contain Vitamin B-12 was highest in Phaceolus radiatus [mung beans] and lowest in Cicer arietinum [garbanzo beans]. Lens esculenta [lentils]...showed intermediate values. During the process of germination Vitamin B-12 values increased in all pulses [they tested 7 legumes] and the increase was maximum in most of the pulses on the 4th day of germination. Pisum sativa [peas], Lens esculenta, and Phaceolus radiatus were found to be good sources of Vitamin B-12 when they were germinated. Consumption of germinated pulses should therefore be advocated from the nutritional point of view. Cases of pernicious anemia are not very common in India although Indians are mostly vegetarian in their food habits. Pulses form an important constituent of the daily dietary of Indians and it is no wonder that they receive sufficient Vitamins B-12 from the pulses they consume.
Sprout for the Love of Every Body: Nutritional Evaluation of Sprouts and Grasses by Viktoras Kulvinskas, M.S., is an excellent handbook on the food values of sprouts. His work contains an interesting and priceless discussion on sources of Vitamin B-12:
Many nutritionists base their criticism of vegetarianism on the dietary absence of the anti-pernicious Vitamin B-12. They overlook the fact that this vitamin is heat sensitive and over 85% of its effectiveness can be lost under normal cooking conditions.* Since no one eats raw meat, the nutritionist cannot make claim to animal protein as being a source of this vitamin. Then, question has to be raised why are we not having a widespread planetary epidemic of pernicious anemia?
*B-12 is also destroyed in processing of some dairy products.
At a conference on Vitamin B-12, it was revealed that the ultimate source of all Vitamin B-12 is certain bacteria. It seems that Vitamin B-12 needs of human and animal is adequately supplied by the intestinal tract bacteria.
The main courses of development of Vitamin B-12 deficiency are as following:
(1) a thick coating of mucus and slime along the intestinal tract, which reduces permeability to all vitamins.
(2) Putrefactive bacteria predominate due to such factors as overeating, bad mixtures of food, high protein diet, excess sugar, smog, enzyme deficiency, insecticides.
Kulvinskas also cites several sources who have had success in reversing pernicious anemia through the use of juices high in chlorophyll. He suggests that vegetarians can more than meet their requirement of B-12 by ingesting several cups of sprouts a day.
Dudley Gheil, in his book, Vegetarianism A Way of Life, states that "the actual requirement for this vitamin is often overstated. Figures on recommended daily allowances are particularly misleading in view of the fact that the body stores considerable amounts of this Vitamin [B-12]. Most people storage levels sufficient to maintain adequate serum B-12 levels for up to five years." (Gheil. 1979., p. 14). Some test subjects have gone for up to thirteen years on plant foods without taking supplements of Vitamin B-12.
Earl Mindell (Vitamin Bible 1979) suggests that a properly functioning thyroid gland helps B-12 absorption.
The possibility of utilizing algae (This includes the now popular spirulina.) as a source of B-12 has been observed by several researchers. According to Gheil, U.D. Register, a nutritionist, "theorizes that the widespread use of soy sauce and other such fermented foods [soy bean tempeh and miso] in the Orient may account for the fact that B-12 deficiencies are relatively uncommon among Oriental vegans." (The only problem with using miso is the high salt content in the food.) (Gheil, 1979 p. 14)
According to personally requested laboratory research by Dr. John R. Christopher on 100 herb specimens, B-12 was found to be present in trace amounts in apple juice (pyrus malus), buckwheat (fagopyrum esculentum), and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemose.)
We have now reviewed some of the plant sources of the Vitamin B-12. There undoubtedly remains many undiscovered sources of B-12 in the plant kingdom, including the "pasture," the sea flowers, and the algae. We welcome additional contributions by the readers to the above list.
Giehl, Dudley. Vegetarianism, A Way of Life. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.
Hartman, A.M., and L.P. Dryden, and C.A. Cary. "The Role and Sources of B-12. "J. A m. Diet A. 25: 929-933, Nov. 1949.
Kulvinskas, Viktoras., M.S. Sprout for the Love of Every Body. Whetersfield, Conn.: Omango D' Press, 1978.
Mindell, Earl. Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible, New York, Rawson, Wade Publishers, Inc. 1979.
Rohatgi, Krishnasudha, et. al., "Effect of Germination on Vitamin B-12 Values of Pulses (Leguminous Seeds)." J. Nutr. Philadelphia: Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, May-Aug., 1955.
Here are some additional vegetable sources of the Vitamin B-12 according to F. Joseph Montagna, author of The People's Desk Reference (PDR):
Montagna also notes that "A deficiency of Vitamin B-12 is usually due to a problem in absorption caused by a lack of "intrinsic factor," a substance secreted by the stomach, rather than a dietary deficiency. Intrinsic factor, along with calcium, normally combines with the Vitamin B-12 in food to facilitate its absorption. When this fails to occur, pernicious anaemia results."
(Montagna, 1979, p. 961, 963 Lake Oswego: Quest for Truth Publications)