Alfalfa (Medicago satina) is nutritionally
one of the most versatile herbs yet discovered. It is a leguminous herb
which grows up to 50 cms in height. It has rich green alternate leaves,
purplish flowers and adapts itself to widely varying conditions of soil
Alfalfa appears to have been discovered by
the Arabs who called it the "king of kings" of plants and the "father of
all foods". They have used it for centuries to feed thoroughbred horses.
The Persians recognized it as a healing grass.
Alfalfa is a native of Europe. It is now
widely cultivated in the temperate regions, the subtropics and at higher
altitudes in the tropics. It is grown throughout India. Alfalfa is a
valuable source of vitamins A,B,D,E and G. It also has some vitamin C
and K. The rich quality, quantity and proper balance of calcium,
magnesium, phosphorus, chlorine, sodium, potassium and silicon is of
special value in alfalfa. All these elements are needed for the proper
functioning of the various organs in the body.
Investigations made by the US Department of
Agriculture have revealed that alfalfa contains one and a half times
more protein than grains like wheat and corn and that its carbohydrate
content is only half of that found in grains. The alfalfa proteins
contain essential amino acids such as arginine, lysine, theronine and
tryptophane. These amino acids supplement any deficiencies due to lack
of essential nutrients in the diet.
Alfalfa is one of the richest sources of
dietary fiber and chlorophyll. These nutrients have induced nutritional
authorities to experiment with alfalfa as a ready form of easily
digestible food and as a protein concentrate for supplementing protein
deficient foods such as vegetables.