What Are The Health Benefits of Alfalfa Extract?
Alfalfa extract has been used as a food and a medicine for thousands of years. The plant was mentioned in writings from ancient Rome and Greece. Throughout Europe, it became known as the best fodder for horses.
It was among the first European plants brought to and planted in California. It quickly spread throughout the western US and is still grown widely in that area, both for use as fodder and for use as a health food or dietary supplement.
As health foods, the sprouts or shoots of alfalfa are typically sold. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements. It is one of the few plant sources of vitamin D2.
The seeds, stems, flowers and other above-ground parts are used as herbal extracts for a variety of conditions. It is one of the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. There are benefits to the kidneys, the digestive system and the joints. Over the years, it has been used to treat arthritis and as a diuretic. Modern research suggests that some of the plant’s components may have anti-microbial activity.
Plant Compounds in Alfalfa
Alfalfa extract is also a source of phytoestrogens; plant compounds that act like the hormone estrogen. The effect is not great enough to cause problems for men, but it may be beneficial for women during and after menopause.
Some of the plant compounds are saponins. Saponins act to bind with cholesterol, reducing its absorption and reabsorption in the digestive system. So, it is one of the natural remedies for high cholesterol.
There are no known negative side effects or toxicities, but it is wise not to take excessive amounts of the concentrated extracts. Excessive intake could cause constipation or dehydration due to the diuretic effect.
10 milligrams of concentrated alfalfa extract is equivalent to 110 milligrams of fresh alfalfa sprouts. Single ingredient supplements may contain as much as 1000 milligrams of the concentrate, which would be equivalent to 11000 milligrams of fresh sprouts. That is more than the average person could (or would) consume at any one meal.
It is always best to think about how much of a food you would eat. Otherwise you can get more vitamins than you actually need. Because the plant is so rich in nutrients, there are risks associated with excessive intake of certain ones, such as vitamin E.
How to Take Alfalfa
The best way to get alfalfa extract is to take a multi-nutritional supplement that contains it. While it is a healthy and beneficial herb, it is only one of many. The claims made by companies that sell the single ingredient extract might make you think of it as some sort of magic herb for anything that ails you. It’s not. It’s just an herb.
Some supplement manufacturers combining the herb with other herbs, as well as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and cofactors to create a totally balanced supplement. From an economic standpoint, you will get more for your money with a multi-nutritional supplement than with a single ingredient supplement.
From a health standpoint, you will do more for your health by taking a multi-nutritional supplement than by taking alfalfa extract, alone.
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