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Alfalfa's high saponin content can help prevent cardiovascular problems

Saturday, October 19, 2013 by: P. Simard
Tags: alfalfa, saponin content, cardiovascular problems

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(NaturalNews) Apparently, evidence has been found in Iran that proves alfalfa has been cultivated for well over three thousand years. Its given name, which originates from the Arabic language, basically means "Father of all foods." The alfalfa plant has very deep roots that have been found up to sixty feet well into the ground. It is extremely rich in nutrients, filled with various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, protein, calcium, potassium, carotene, iron, folic acid and zinc.

Its valuable phytonutrients, including carotene, chlorophyll, coumarins, isoflavones, alkaloids and saponins, all play a very important role, but the effectiveness of saponins is the main reason why alfalfa is considered to have amazing healing properties. This herb definitely has many health benefits, and it is now believed that it can help neutralize or prevent health conditions such as heart disease and possibly even cancer.

History shows that traditional Chinese medicine would use it as a tonic agent in order to cleanse the digestive system. In the Ayurveda school of thought, alfalfa was utilized to diminish the effects of arthritis and ulcers, while the Native Americans would use it to heal individuals from scurvy and menstrual or urinary problems.

Alfalfa may help reduce the development of atherosclerosis

The Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences reported an interesting study in 2008 regarding alfalfa's potential to limit the development and progression of atherosclerosis. The study involved 20 male rabbits separated into four distinctive groups, two of which were supplemented with alfalfa in addition to their regular diets similar to the other two groups. This process lasted for 12 full weeks, after which blood samples were collected in order to evaluate the results. The alfalfa groups ended up with slightly diminished total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels but most importantly with significantly higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It was also clearly apparent that the formation of fatty streaks within the arteries was heavily reduced under the influence of alfalfa.

Researchers from the University of Toronto have studied and discovered a few ways how alfalfa's saponins can help inhibit cancer cells. The saponins seemed to bind to cancer cells and therefore limit their movement. Intestinal bacteria can convert bile into a carcinogenic substance which can eventually lead to colon cancer, but by binding with the bile, the saponins also prevented such conversion to occur. Last but not least, saponins were also capable of getting rid of intestinal pathogens which would generally cause inflammation if otherwise left alone.

On another note, knowing canavanine is an amino acid found in alfalfa, please be aware that certain studies have found that diets high in canavanine may be harmful to people suffering from lupus. Fortunately, canavanine is normally not found in the leaves of the plant but rather in its sprouts and seeds; therefore, any alfalfa capsules or tea produced from its leaves will not likely contain canavanine.

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About the author:
After spending several years working in property management, P. Simard is now focusing on being a naturopath in Quebec.

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