Botanical Name : Medicago sativa
Synonyms: Purple Medicle. Cultivated Lucern.
Common Names :Alfalfa, Medicago sativa, Lucerne
Habitat :Alfalfa is native to western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean region
Alfalfa is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. The Spanish-Arabic (according to wiktionary and the DRAE) name alfalfa is widely used, particularly in North America and Australia. But in the UK, South Africa and New Zealand, the more commonly used name is lucerne. It superficially resembles clover, with clusters of small purple flowers followed by fruits spiralled in 2 to 3 turns containing 10-20 seeds. Alfalfa is native to a warmer temperate climate such as that of Iran (where it is thought to have originated). It has been cultivated as livestock fodder since at least the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
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Alfalfa sprouts have become a popular food. Alfalfa herbal supplements primarily use the dried leaves of the plant. The heat-treated seeds of the plant have also been used.Alfalfa has been used in connection with the high cholesterol, menopause and poor appetite.
Sunshine, regular watering are the necessary conditions for the growth of this 1 to 3 feet tall herb which is not picky about the soil and is cultivated in many parts of the world..
First discovered by the Arabs, who dubbed this valuable plant the “father of all foods”, the leaves of the alfalfa plant are rich in minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and carotene to support the heart and normal cellular division. English herbalist John Gerard recommended alfalfa for upset stomachs. Noted biologist and author Frank Bouer discovered that the leaves of this remarkable legume contain eight essential amino acids. Alfalfa is suggested to be a good cleanser and a natural diuretic. This versatile herb is also a folk remedy for joint stress, and is reputed to be an excellent appetite stimulant and overall tonic. Unfortunately, most westerners regard alfalfa as cattle fodder and therefore rarely take advantage of the beneficial properties of this common plant.
Many years ago, traditional Chinese physicians used young alfalfa leaves to treat disorders of the digestive tract. Similarly, the Ayurvedic physicians of India prescribed the leaves and flowering tops for poor digestion. Alfalfa was also considered therapeutic for water retention and arthritis. North American Indians recommended alfalfa to treat jaundice and to encourage blood clotting.
Although conspicuously absent from many classic textbooks on herbal medicine, alfalfa did find a home in the texts of the Eclectic physicians (19th-century physicians in the United States who used herbal therapies) as a tonic for indigestion, dyspepsia, anemia, loss of appetite, and poor assimilation of nutrients. These physicians also recommended the alfalfa plant to stimulate lactation in nursing mothers, and the seeds were made into a poultice for the treatment of boils and insect bites.
It is believed that if this herb is kept in a container and placed outside home it prevents the house from poverty and hunger. Scattering the ashes of burned alfalfa protects property.
While the medicinal benefits of alfalfa are poorly understood, the constituents in alfalfa have been extensively studied. The leaves contain approximately 2â€“3% saponins. Animal studies suggest that these constituents block absorption of cholesterol and prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. One small human trial found that 120 grams per day of heat-treated alfalfa seeds for eight weeks led to a modest reduction in cholesterol. However, consuming the large amounts of alfalfa seeds (80â€“120 grams per day) needed to supply high amounts of these saponins may potentially cause damage to red blood cells in the body. Herbalists also claim that alfalfa may be helpful for people with diabetes. But while high amounts of a water extract of the leaves led to increased insulin release in animal studies, there is no evidence that alfalfa would be useful for the treatment of diabetes in humans.
Alfalfa leaves also contain flavones, isoflavones, sterols, and coumarin derivatives. The isoflavones are thought to be responsible for the estrogen-like effects seen in animal studies. Although this has not been confirmed with human trials, alfalfa is sometimes used to treat menopause symptoms.
Alfalfa is a very versatile plant that can adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions from cold temperate to warm sub-tropical. It succeeds on a wide variety of soils, but thrives best on a rich, friable, well-drained loamy soil with loose topsoil supplied with lime. It does not tolerate waterlogging and fails to grow on acid soils. Grows well on light soils. The plant has a deep taproot and, once establishd, tolerates drought and extremely dry conditions. Prefers a neutral fertile soil but succeeds in relatively poor soils so long as the appropriate Rhizobium bacteria is present. A good bee plant and a food plant for many caterpillars. Alfalfa is a very deep rooting plant, bringing up nutrients from deep in the soil and making them available for other plants with shallower root systems. It is a good companion plant for growing near fruit trees and grape vines so long as it is in a reasonably sunny position, but it does not grow well with onions or other members of the Allium genus. Growing alfalfa encourages the growth of dandelions. Alfalfa has long been cultivated for its edible seed, which can be sprouted and eaten in salads. It is also grown as a green manure and soil restorer. There are many named varieties. Botanists divide the species into a number of sub-species – these are briefly described below:- M. sativa caerulea (Less. ex Ledeb.)Schmalh. This sub-species is likely to be of value in breeding programmes for giving cold tolerance, drought resistance and salt tolerance to alfalfa. M. sativa falcata (L.)Arcang. This sub-species is likely to be of value in breeding programmes for giving cold tolerance, drought and disease resistance plus salt and water-logging tolerance to alfalfa. M. sativa sativa. The commonly cultivated form of alfalfa. M. sativa varia (Martyn.)Arcang. This sub-species is likely to be of value in breeding programmes for giving cold tolerance, drought resistance and high yields to alfalfa. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in situ in autumn. Seed can be obtained that has been inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria, enabling the plant to succeed in soils where the bacteria is not already present.
The whole herb is used medicinally to help stop bleeding to benefit the kidneys and as a general tonic. It is a good laxative and a natural diuretic. It is a folk remedy for arthritis and is reputed to be an excellent appetite stimulant. Alfalfa possesses extremely high nutritional value. An excellent source of vitamins A and D, alfalfa leaf is used in the infants’ cereal pablum. Also rich in vitamin K, alfalfa leaf has been used in medicine to encourage blood clotting. Alfalfa also lowers blood cholesterol. Other recommended uses for alfalfa are for asthma and hayfever. It has also been found to retard the development of streptozotocin diabetes in mice. It is a traditional European and Russian tea for wasting diseases and is used in some German clinics as a dietary aid in Celiac Disease, together with traditional treatment and diet. A safe and appropriate tea for pregnancy, along with raspberry leaves; also good to drink when sulfa or antibiotic drugs are taken.
Benefits of alfalfa include:
Excellent source of nutritive properties
A host of phytonutrients
Alfalfa is useful in the support of urinary tract health including kidney, bladder and prostate and detoxifies the body, especially the liver. Alfalfa has estrogenic properties and therefore helps support the female cycle.
It is used for treating anemia, fatigue, kidneys, peptic ulcers, pituitary problems, and for building general health, retaining water in the body, relieving urinary and bowel problems. This herb is effective for the treatment of narcotic and alcohol addiction.
Alfalfa acts as a blood purifier and has helped many arthritis sufferers. The action as a detoxifier and blood purifier has been found to be beneficial for a variety of illnesses, including liver disorders, breath odor, infections, disorders of the bones and joints and skin ailments.
Alfalfa is a good laxative and natural diuretic that promotes urine flow and is often used to treat urinary tract infections and eliminate excess retained water.
Alfalfa has an alkalizing effect on the body. It is a great source of mineral supplements that are all alkaline, which has a neutralizing effect on the intestinal tract, thereby easing digestive problems, such as upset stomach, gastritis and indigestion.
Alfalfa contains a high calcium and magnesium content, and studies have shown that migraines may be prevented and/or reduced when these two minerals are combined. All the minerals are in a balanced form, which also promotes absorption.
Herbalists have long used Alfalfa Leaf to treat ulcers, as the bioflavonoids found in Alfalfa reduce inflammation of the stomach lining and build capillary strength, while Alfalfa’s vitamin A helps to maintain the stomach’s overall health. The herb’s enzymes aid in food assimulation. During the Han Dynasty (200 A.D.), Alfalfa was used to treat ulcers and continues in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to strengthen the digestive tract and stimulate the appetite.
Alfalfa is said to lower cholesterol and prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques (by blocking cholesterol’s absorption into the body from the intestines), balance blood sugar (especially when taken with manganese) and promote pituitary gland function.
Alfalfa is an immune-system stimulant that promotes normal blood clotting; and the vitamin K content helps treat bleeding gums and nosebleed, but does not interfere with normal circulation. The bioflavonoids found in Alfalfa are believed to build capillary strength.
Alfalfa contains phytoestrogens, and the herb has had some estrogenic activity in women whose own sex hormone production has declined; thus Alfalfa has helped many women with the discomforts of menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes. The phytoestrogens appear to reduce the risk of estrogen-linked disease, including serious breast problems). The Vitamin K2 found in Alfalfa may also partially prevent bone loss caused by estrogen deficiency.
Dried alfalfa leaf is available as a bulk herb, and in tablets or capsules. It is also available in liquid extracts. No therapeutic amount of alfalfa has been established for humans. Some herbalists recommend 500â€“1,000 mg of the dried leaf per day or 1â€“2 ml of tincture three times per day.
Use of the dried leaves of alfalfa in the amounts listed above is usually safe. There have been isolated reports of people who are allergic to alfalfa.
Alfalfa should not be taken by those who have autoimmune problems (lupus, etc.), nor should it be taken by pregnant women. Ingestion of very large amounts (the equivalent of several servings)
of the seed and/or sprouts or supplements has been linked to the onset of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the autoimmune illness characterized by inflamed joints and a risk of damage to kidneys and other organs. The chemical responsible for this effect is believed to be canavanine. Those taking prescription anticoagulants such as Coumadin, etc., should avoid this herb.
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The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.