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Alfalfa, scientific name Medicago sativa, is a perennial legume and member of the pea family that finds its roots in Asia and Europe. Records indicate that it was used by the ancient Romans as horse feed as early as 490 B.C. Since then, cultures around the world have found ways to include alfalfa in everyday life, including creating teas to use as herbal medicines and gardening aids.
The nutritional benefits of alfalfa tea are numerous. Alfalfa is a rich source of dietary fiber and chlorophyll and contains a not unsubstantial amount of calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium, silicon and Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and G. Alfalfa herbal medicine has been used as a curative for dropsy, arthritis, lactation problems, hair loss, insect bites, high blood pressure and disorders of the heart, stomach, and respiratory system.
For the average person, teas made out of alfalfa can help alleviate common problems like appetite loss, low weight and the improper absorption of important proteins and nutrients like calcium and iron. A simple tea can be created by boiling one or two alfalfa leaves in 1 quart (950 ml) of water for half an hour. Alfalfa's intense flavor can be modified by adding mint or lemongrass to the tea. Those with severe conditions may drink the tea every day and throughout the day for no more than two weeks until their symptoms subside.
Despite its many benefits, anyone who is interested in ingesting alfalfa tea for medicinal purposes should be warned against using alfalfa powder to create the tea. Taking the powder may produce systemic lupus-like symptoms that can result in joint pain. Unlike alfalfa powder, a few alfalfa leaves don't contain enough amino acids to encourage the symptoms. Eating alfalfa seeds is also discouraged, as it can result in miscarriages, blood disorders and immunity problems.
In addition to being used as an herbal medicine, a type of gardening alfalfa tea can help roses grow. Alfalfa contains plant-friendly nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and Vitamins A, D, B1, B6, E, K and U and releases tricontanol, a fatty acid growth stimulant. Rose gardeners take advantage of these properties by giving their flowers alfalfa to promote their vitality. Alfalfa tea has traditionally been thought to work better than chemical fertilizers, since it can be used during any season without fear of overstimulating the plant's growth.
Gardening alfalfa tea is made by filling a 30 pound (13.60 kg) garbage can with water, placing 3 cups (709.76 ml) to 5 cups (1.18 l) of alfalfa meal into the can, covering the can and leaving it in the sun for three to five days. Daily stirrings take place to help separate the organic material from the water's surface. The process is completed when the liquid turns orange, organic material sinks to the bottom and foam forms at the water's surface. Five gallons (18.92 l) of fresh water is poured into the can to make up for the evaporated liquid, cool down the tea and help ensure that the tea won't damage plant roots. The addition of 1 cup (236.58 ml) of a water-soluble fertilizer, Epsom salt and fish emulsion can fortify the alfalfa tea before gardeners give 1/2 gallon (1.89 l) of alfalfa tea to miniature roses and 1 gallon (3.78 l) to large roses.
Once done, the garbage can containing the remnants of the organic material can be refilled with water and the process started again for another batch of alfalfa tea. However, a third extraction using the same organic material is advised against. After the second extraction of tea has been completed, gardeners can choose to plant the organic material into their roses' soil or simply dispose of it in a waste receptacle.