Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)

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Medicinal Herbs & Therapeutic Botanicals


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Botanical: Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)

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Introduction

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is a perennial herb found on the edges of fields and is widely cultivated by farmers for livestock feed. It grows to a height of about 30cm or more. The erect, smooth stem of Alfalfa grows from an elongated taproot and produces blue to purple flowers during the summer months. It produces a characteristic spirally coiled seed pods.

Alfalfa is a legume with a long history of dietary and medicinal use. A small number of animal and preliminary human studies report that alfalfa supplements may lower blood levels of cholesterol and glucose. However, most research has not been well designed. Therefore, there is not enough reliable evidence available to form clear conclusions in these areas (MedlinePlus).

Alfalfa supplements taken by mouth appear to be generally well tolerated. However, ingestion of alfalfa tablets has been associated with reports of a lupus-like syndrome or lupus flares. These reactions may be due to the amino acid L-canavanine which appears to be present in alfalfa seeds and sprouts, but not in the leaves. There are also rare cases of pancytopenia (low blood counts), dermatitis (skin inflammation), and gastrointestinal upset (MedlinePlus).

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)

 


Alfalfa

Biological Name: (Medicago sativa L.)

Family: Leguminosae; (beans and peas)

Other Names:

Alfalfa, Chilean Clover, Buffalo Grass, Father of All Foods (Al-fal-fa), Buffalo herb, lucerne, purple medic.

 

Active Compounds:

    • Up to 50% protein,
    • Beta carotene, chlorophyll and octacosanol.
    • Saponins, sterols, flavonoids, coumarins, alkaloids, acids,
    • Vitamins (A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid,
    • Amino acids, sugars,
    • Minerals (Ca, K, P, Mg, Fe, Zn, Cu),
    • Trace elements and other nutrients

Uses based on scientific evidence:

High cholesterol
Reductions in blood levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein ("bad cholesterol") have been reported in animal studies and in a small number of human cases. High-density lipoprotein ("good cholesterol") has not been altered in these cases. Although this evidence is promising, better research is needed before a firm conclusion can be reached (MedlinePlus).

Atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaques in heart arteries)
Several studies in animals report reductions in cholesterol plaques of the arteries after use of alfalfa. Well-designed research in humans is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn (MedlinePlus).

Diabetes
A small number of rat studies report reductions in blood sugar levels following ingestion of alfalfa. Human data are limited, and it remains unclear if alfalfa can aid in the control of sugars in patients with diabetes or hyperglycemia (MedlinePlus).

 

Traditional Uses in Herbal Medicine (some of these uses have not yet been scientifically tested and verified):

    • Immune disorders:
      Allergies, Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Hay fever, Rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Digestive disorders:
      Appetite stimulant, Gastrointestinal tract disorders, Indigestion, Stomach ulcers.
    • Lung disorders:
      Asthma, Cough.
    • Skin disorders:
      Boils, Insect bites, Skin damage from radiation, Wound healing.
    • Uro-genital disorders:
      Bladder disorders, Diuresis (increasing urination), Kidney disorders, Prostate disorders.
    • Nutritional uses:
      Antioxidant, Convalescence, Nutritional support, Scurvy, Vitamin supplementation (vitamins A,C,E,K).
    • Gynaecological / Mestrual / Pregnancy:
      Increasing breast milk, Estrogen replacement, Menopausal symptoms, Uterine stimulant.
    • Cardio-vascular disorders:
      Blood clotting disorders.
    • Hepatic / Liver problems:
      Jaundice.
    • Other:
      Convalescence, gum healing after dental procedures. (MedlinePlus)

 

 

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