In the meantime, alfalfa is often used as a food supplement or homeopathic medicine because of its numerous positive effects on health. The plant, which is also known as alfalfa in this country, supports the immune system and digestive organs in particular.
In our large-scale alfalfa test 2022 we examined and compared various products containing alfalfa. We show you in detail which points to consider when buying alfalfa products. In addition, we also tell you about important information as well as effects and consequences in this article.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best Alfalfa in the United Kingdom: Our Choices
- 4 Buying and evaluation criteria for alfalfa products
- 5 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying alfalfa products
- 5.1 What is alfalfa?
- 5.2 What are the effects of alfalfa?
- 5.3 Why is alfalfa so healthy?
- 5.4 What side effects can Alfalfa cause?
- 5.5 What is Alfalfa used for?
- 5.6 What does alfalfa cost?
- 5.7 What types of alfalfa products are there?
- 5.8 What alternatives are there to alfalfa?
- 5.9 How can I grow alfalfa myself?
- 5.10 When can I harvest the alfalfa sprouts?
- 5.11 What is the shelf life of alfalfa?
- 5.12 How can I eat alfalfa?
- 5.13 What dishes is alfalfa suitable for?
- The alfalfa plant has a very high saponin content. Saponin is particularly useful and beneficial for digestive organs, such as the intestines, as it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Alfalfa is considered a true storehouse of vital substances, as the body is supplied with important substances that have a particularly positive effect on health.
- Alfalfa sprouts can easily be grown on your own and can be cultivated within just one week. Alternatively, you can take alfalfa in the form of powder or capsules.
The Best Alfalfa in the United Kingdom: Our Choices
Buying and evaluation criteria for alfalfa products
When buying alfalfa products, there are some aspects you should definitely consider. In the following, we have listed important criteria and features that you can use as a guide.
If you consider and weigh all the points, you can not only save time and money, but also ensure that you supply your body with exactly the substances it really needs.
With all products, it is extremely important that you pay attention to high quality so that you do not consume any harmful substances. Certificates from the manufacturers are a good indication of high quality.
The form of administration tells you how the alfalfa products are administered and is reflected in the price. For example, capsules are significantly more expensive than alfalfa seeds because they are already prefabricated.
On the other hand, capsules last longer and can be consumed without hesitation over a longer period of time, whereas seeds must first germinate for seven days and then be consumed within a week before they spoil.
The form of presentation of the various alfalfa products is reflected on the one hand in their price and on the other hand in their shelf life.
Another option is to buy already germinated alfalfa sprouts. These can be eaten directly and are cheap to buy, but the shelf life of this product is also just seven days. After that, the sprouts have to be bought again.
A good alternative is alfalfa in powder form. The powder has a long shelf life and can be used, for example, as a spice for preparing food. Alternatively, the powder can also be used in drinks, for example by mixing it in water and drinking it.
The origin of the products plays a central role, especially with seeds or sprouts. With alfalfa, you should make sure that the plants have an organic seal and come from organic farming. This ensures that no chemical or harmful fertilisers were used in the production process.
Furthermore, the seeds and sprouts should preferably come directly from within the country, as this guarantees the freshness and the richness in vitamins of the respective products, which cannot be guaranteed with a long transport route. With alfalfa capsules or powders, the origin does not play a major role, but you should make sure that natural and, above all, high-quality ingredients are used.
If you are not familiar with the respective ingredients, you can alternatively make sure that the products are labelled with an organic or ecological seal of quality in order to exclude unnecessary chemical pollutants.
Package size and quantity
The size and quantity of the products are directly related to their use and consumption and must therefore be weighed up according to the situation. For example, if you are trying alfalfa for the first time, it is advisable to buy a small package so that you do not waste too much if you do not like it.
A large pack is advisable if you eat alfalfa regularly. For example, alfalfa capsules or powder can be bought in large stock packs, which is also attractive for your wallet, as you don't have to keep buying new products. Most products are offered in the following sizes and quantities:
- Alfalfa seeds: between 40 to 500 grams per packet.
- Alfalfasprouts: between 60 to 150 grams per packet.
- Alfalfapowder: between 150 to 1000 grams per can.
- Alfalfa capsules: between 200 to 500 grams per pack.
However, the shelf life of the products also plays an important role in terms of pack size and quantity. For example, it is not worth buying large quantities of already sprouted sprouts if you are not going to eat them all within a week.
It is also not worth buying a large quantity of alfalfa seeds if you are only going to eat them infrequently, as these will also spoil after a certain time. Capsules and powder, on the other hand, can be stored and consumed for several months.
You should always make sure that alfalfa is fresh and has not dried out, spoiled or expired. Otherwise, the products cannot have the desired effect because the vitamins they contain are lost.
Freshness is particularly important for alfalfa seeds and sprouts. With both products, make sure that they are not dried out when you buy them. It is also advantageous if they are certified organic, as this again ensures that the seeds and sprouts come from natural and organic farming.
If you grow alfalfa yourself, you should always check that no germs form on the plant. Otherwise they can quickly enter the body when eaten.
Alfalfa seeds are constantly supplied with water during germination, which can quickly lead to mould. Mould is particularly noticeable in the smell, so always watch out for unpleasant smells when growing alfalfa. When buying already germinated alfalfa sprouts, it is important that you clean them thoroughly before eating them to remove possible pollutants.
In addition, the sprouts should be stored at a constant temperature between two and seven degrees Celsius. With alfalfa capsules and powders, the freshness factor is somewhat overdue. Since the products can be kept for several months already packaged, they do not lose their effect so quickly.
Nevertheless, make sure that the products have not expired and that the best-before date is adapted to your use.
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying alfalfa products
To inform you about the most important background information and the effectiveness of alfalfa, we have answered frequently asked questions in detail below. We will also go into more detail about the current state of science on alfalfa in the next sections.
What is alfalfa?
Due to its numerous health effects, the plant is often used to provide relief from various ailments. For this very reason, alfalfa products are nowadays increasingly used as dietary supplements or homeopathic medicines. It is not for nothing that alfalfa is called the protein source of choice. In order to show you exactly what it contains, we have listed some important nutrients in the following table:
|Vitamins||vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E and K|
|Minerals||calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and phosphorus|
|Amino acids||tyrosine and tryptophan|
The nutrients just mentioned contribute significantly to our physical health. For example, magnesium calms nerve pathways and provides the body with essential energy, while calcium is the main component of our bones and teeth and at the same time can affect both nerves and blood pressure (1, 2). In addition, alfalfa sprouts also have high levels of phytochemicals, antioxidants and chlorophyll.
What are the effects of alfalfa?
Effect on digestive problems
The high saponin content in alfalfa sprouts can have a particularly positive effect on the intestinal flora. Saponins are surface-active compounds that liquefy mucus and ensure its rapid removal (3). In addition, saponins have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and fungicidal effects and promote blood circulation. In other words, saponins attack bacteria and fungi and remove them quickly.
Gastrointestinal infections are not uncommon, especially since we often ingest bacterial pathogens with our food, but these can be quickly eliminated by saponins (3). Alfalfa also contains a high proportion of chlorophyll, which can have a detoxifying and neutralising effect on our acid-base balance.
Alfalfa is also said to purify the blood and reduce the risk of fungal infections (4).
Effects on autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases are often caused by genetic predispositions, certain environmental factors or changes in the immune system. The immune system is constantly put to the test every day and is normally able to fight off organisms that are harmful to health.
Nevertheless, it can also quickly falter. It is therefore not surprising that many people want to strengthen their immune system to prevent illness. Alfalfa can help with this. The saponins mentioned earlier can play a big part in strengthening the immune system. The immune system is basically found throughout the body and is not bound to a specific place, yet it is largely localised in the intestinal area, as many bacteria often cavort there (5).
The accumulation of bacteria in the intestine always poses a certain challenge to the immune system. However, by taking alfalfa containing saponins, many of these bacteria can be fought and eliminated, which in turn can have a positive effect on the body's defences and immune system (5).
In certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus erythematosus, the immune system mistakenly creates antibodies against its own body and at the same time produces inflammatory defence substances that can eat away at tissue and even cause damage to organs. Plants rich in saponins can allegedly counteract this effect as well (6).
Effect on menopausal symptoms
The menopause brings with it a number of complaints from which many women suffer. Hot flushes and sweating are the most common side effects, affecting over 85 percent of women.
However, the plant-based phytoestrogen hormones in alfalfa leaves can provide relief. The active ingredient coumestrol, for example, can suppress hot flushes. Thus, hot flushes and sweating could be prevented by taking alfalfa (7).
Why is alfalfa so healthy?
The vitamins of the B complex, for example, noticeably improve the nervous system and also stimulate the metabolism (8). Vitamin A, on the other hand, has a positive influence on our eyesight and skin. The immune system is strengthened by taking vitamin C, which is also abundant in alfalfa (8).
A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are required for the plant to develop its full effects.
If your symptoms do not improve after taking alfalfa, you should always consult a doctor. Alfalfa can help, but it is better to consult a specialist doctor or alternative practitioner first if you have persistent medical complaints.
What side effects can Alfalfa cause?
If you regularly take medication, you should definitely check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking alfalfa.
In combination with special medicines, such as the contraceptive pill or immunosuppressants, the intake of alfalfa can sometimes cause reactions.
What is Alfalfa used for?
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive problems
- Breastfeeding problems
- Menstrual problems
- Urinary problems
- High blood pressure
- Menopausal problems
These are just a few of the ailments that can be helped by taking alfalfa. Of course, there are other areas of application where alfalfa can provide relief.
Alfalfa is the most important raw material in the production of cattle feed, for this reason it can also be used without any problems in the nutrition of animals. Alfalfa is also used in cosmetics. It can be well incorporated into hair care products or skin creams.
What does alfalfa cost?
|Alfalfa seeds||approx. 10 - 30 euros / kilogramme|
|Alfalfa sprouts||approx. 40 - 50 euros / kilogramme|
|Alfalfa powder||approx. 20 - 60 Euro / kilogramme|
|Alfalfa capsules||approx. 70 - 140 euros / kilogram|
A packet of alfalfa seeds can of course vary in weight and can be had for just a few euros. Already germinated, bottled alfalfa sprouts can often be found in supermarkets and cost about five euros per 100 grams.
Capsules and powder are often offered in online shops.
Capsules usually range in weight from 50 to 100 grams and cost around 10 to 15 euros. Powders are usually offered in sizes of 125, 250 and 500 grams and range in price from 10 to 20 euros.
What types of alfalfa products are there?
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Alfalfa Seeds
- Alfalfa Powder
- Alfalfa Capsules
All variants have their own advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss in more detail in the next sections.
Nowadays, many supermarkets offer pre-packaged alfalfa sprouts. You can use the germinated sprouts to refine your food directly after you have washed them thoroughly.
When buying sprouts, make sure that they are as fresh as possible and that you eat them within the first two days, otherwise they lose many vitamins. Compared to the other three types of products, alfalfa sprouts are much harder to find and only available seasonally.
Alfalfa seeds can easily supply you with fresh sprouts for several months and are cheap. If the sprouts are grown at intervals of two to three days, this has the great advantage that the sprouts hardly release any vitamins due to the short storage period. Therefore, make sure that you do not grow too many seeds at once, but only as many as you really need.
When growing alfalfa sprouts yourself, however, you need additional accessories, such as a sprouting device or a sprouting tray. Although the seeds are easy to care for, they require a certain amount of time, as the seeds need to be watered two to three times a day and may only be eaten after seven days.
Numerous online shops, such as Amazon, have long offered alfalfa powder in their assortment. The powder is made from ground alfalfa sprouts and is rich in proteins and vitamins.
Since the finished alfalfa powder has already undergone several processing steps, time-consuming cultivation and care can be saved and avoided.
The powder has a long shelf life, unlike fresh alfalfa sprouts. It can be mixed directly into smoothies or protein shakes and thus fed to the body. It can also be used as a spice, but larger residual pieces remain.
It is better to use the powder as a spread, for example. Also pay attention to the additional ingredients used in the powder. There are also pure natural organic alfalfa powders, which are more expensive but healthier.
Similar to alfalfa powders, capsules also have a long shelf life and provide you with important vitamins and nutrients for several months. Capsules have the great advantage that they can concentrate the active ingredients of alfalfa in high doses and do not give off any flavour of their own due to their encapsulation.
So if you don't like the taste of alfalfa but would like to take the ingredients, capsules would be a good alternative.
Additional ingredients can also be found in alfalfa capsules. Sometimes other herbal remedies are added, which provide the body with further nutrients.
Nevertheless, always pay attention to what is contained in the capsules. Organic alfalfa capsules are not uncommon, but are usually more expensive.
What alternatives are there to alfalfa?
Sesame seeds also contain many vital substances that provide the body with important amino acids for bones, skin and hair. In addition, sesame seeds also give the body strength and energy and can have a blood pressure-lowering effect. Buckwheat sprouts are not only extremely tasty, but can also help with diabetes or high blood pressure. They can easily be grown at home and provide the body with numerous vitamins.
How can I grow alfalfa myself?
- Soak the seeds: Before you start the actual cultivation, the alfalfa seeds must first be soaked in cold water for four to six hours. Always make sure that you only soak as many seeds as you really need.
- Place the seeds in the germinator: Soaking the seeds again removes any bacteria and dirt, so it is especially important that you let the soaked water drain off completely. The alfalfa seeds can then be placed in germinators, germination trays, germination jars or cotton trays.
- Water the seeds: The seeds must now be watered two to three times a day so that they can develop successfully. It is important that there is a hole in the unit where the water can slowly drain away. Also make sure that your seeds can absorb enough light to form chlorophyll (9).
- Allow seeds to germinate: After the first day, the seeds usually start the germination process. Gradually the volume of the seedling increases and the sprouts appear. The germination process takes a total of seven to eight days.
- Harvesting sprouts: The sprouts are already clearly visible after five to six days and are basically fully grown, but they must not be eaten then. Alfalfa has a toxin called canavanine, which is a natural protection against animals eating it. This toxin only decomposes after seven days, after which the sprouts can be eaten without hesitation (10).
Growing alfalfa sprouts is not witchcraft and can easily be done at home.
When can I harvest the alfalfa sprouts?
Insects that nevertheless eat plants with the toxin canavanine die after eating them. Canavanine is also harmful to humans. Canavanine has the same structure as the amino acid arginine and cannot be distinguished by the body. It could therefore happen that canavanine is mistakenly incorporated as an amino acid into a developing amino acid chain and thus cause the protein function to fail (11).
What is the shelf life of alfalfa?
The packaging of the seeds often indicates how long the seeds can be kept. Often the seeds can be stored and used for two to three years. The situation is different with alfalfa sprouts. Sprouts are perishable foodstuffs, which is why they only have a short shelf life. As a rule, home-grown sprouts can be kept for up to seven days if stored correctly. At best, the sprouts should be stored in the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator.
However, there is a risk that dust and other contamination can quickly get into the sprouts. It is therefore advisable to consume the sprouts after only two to three days. If you buy sprouts, you should always check the expiry date, which can vary from one to seven days.
How can I eat alfalfa?
What dishes is alfalfa suitable for?
However, home-grown sprouts are most often used as a topping for sandwiches, salads or soups. But they are also popular in fresh and healthy smoothies. But sprouts are also ideal as an accompaniment to eggs.
The alfalfa powder can be used as a spice to refine and spice up various dishes. However, it is often used in shakes, smoothies or other drinks to supply the body with important nutrients.
Image source: 123rf / 121315116
Mohammed S. Razzaque (2018). Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?
Kelvin Li, Xia-Fang Wang, Ding-You Li, Yuan-Cheng Chen, Lan-Juan Zhao, Xiao-Gang Liu, Yan-Fang Guo, Jie Shen, Xu Lin, Jeffrey Deng, Rou Zhou and Hong-Wen Deng (2018). The good, the bad, and the ugly of calcium supplementation: a review of calcium intake on human health
Tessa Moses, Kalliope K. Papadopoulou and Anne Osbourn (2014). Metabolic and functional diversity of saponins, biosynthetic intermediates and semi-synthetic derivatives
Peter H. F. Hobbelen, Neil D. Paveley and Frank van den Bosch (2014). The Emergence of Resistance to Fungicides
Lindsay B. Nicholson (2016). The immune system
Md Asiful Islam, Shahad Saif Khandker, Przemysław J. Kotyla and Rosline Hassan (2020). Immunomodulatory Effects of Diet and Nutrients in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): A Systematic Review
Ivonne M. C. M. Rietjens, Jochem Louisse and Karsten Beekmann (2017). The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens
Anne WS Rutjes, David A Denton, Marcello Di Nisio, Lee‐Yee Chong, Rajesh P Abraham, Aalya S Al‐Assaf, John L Anderson, Muzaffar A Malik, Robin WM Vernooij, Gabriel Martínez, Naji Tabet and Jenny McCleery (2018). Vitamin and mineral supplementation for maintaining cognitive function in cognitively healthy people in mid and late life
Isabel Viera, Antonio Pérez-Gálvez and María Roca (2019). Green Natural Colorants
Mubasher Hussain, Biswojit Debnath, Muhammad Qasim, Bamisope Steve Bamisile, Waqar Islam, Muhammad Salman Hameed, Liande Wang and Dongliang Qiu (2019). Role of Saponins in Plant Defense Against Specialist Herbivores
Yojiro Ishida, Jung-Ho Park, Lili Mao, Yoshihiro Yamaguchi and Masayori Inouye (2013). Replacement of All Arginine Residues with Canavanine in MazF-bs mRNA Interferase Changes Its Specificity