Alfalfa is a common perennial forage plant, fed to animals.
In Russia and China, the leaves are served as a vegetable, and the seeds are often used for home-growing the highly nutritious sprouts for consumption in salads etc.
Alfalfa normally lives four to eight years, but can live more than 20 years, depending on variety and climate and the plant grows to a height of up to 1m (3.3 ft), and has a deep root system, sometimes stretching more than 15m (49 ft) which makes it very resilient, especially to droughts.
Research has suggested that substances within Alfalfa – called Saponins – may lower cholesterol (by preventing its absorption), and improve the symptoms of mild cases of diabetes.
Alfalfa also contains plant oestrogens called ‘Phytoestrogens’ that are thought to have a balancing effect on female hormones, and are beneficial in treating menopausal symptoms in general. This is due to the fact they reduce an excess of oestrogen by competing for absorption sites in the body, and making up for a deficiency by providing a substitute with a similar effect.
Also known as Medicago Sativa and Lucerne.