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Alfalfa - It Isn't Just For Horses Any More!

That lovely green plant that smells so very good when freshly cut is good for most
people, too
Alfalfa has been a cultivated plant for centuries. Originating somewhere in the
Persian (Iran-Iraq-Saudi) region, its reputation as a nutritious animal fodder
spread far and wide. There are wild relatives that are found around the world, such
as Medicago polymorpha and others, but it is M. sativa that is most well-known,
especially for medicinal use, so we will focus on that particular plant in this article.
Other names for this plant and its close relatives are Spanish Clover, California
Clover, and Lucerne.
Romans wrote of its use as early as 490 B.C. This particular species was brought to
North America by colonists in the 1700's. It is grown just about all over the world. It
is prized for its high content of nutrients, protein, and especially trace minerals. The
extraordinarily tough and long tap root of this plant makes it able to survive
drought as well as utilize minerals and vitamins deep in the soil. It is rich in the
vitamins, and contains a high percentage of protein. A member of the legume
family, it is an herbaceous perennial, grows about 2 to 3 feet tall depending on soil
and conditions, and has bright purple or blue flowers (although many cultivars and
related species may have yellow or whitish blooms). The seed pods corkscrew for an
interesting addition to flower arrangements. It is grown also for its uses in
controlling erosion and water runoff. Because of its ability to fix nitrogen into the
soil, it is a valuable cover crop, and increases the vigor and yields of succeeding

Medicinal Uses of Alfalfa

Alfalfa eliminates retained water, relieves urinary and bowel problems, and helps in
treating those recovering from narcotic and alcohol addiction. It is also useful for
rebuilding the body after serious or prolonged illness or weakness, stimulates milk
production, eases morning sickness (by helping to balance the hormones), for
cleansing the blood, and to lower cholesterol levels. Alfalfa is used in treating
anemia, gout, arthritis, fatigue, insomnia, kidneys, peptic ulcers, pituitary problems,
stimulating the appetite, regulating diabetes, and for building general health. The
Chinese have used alfalfa to treat kidney stones for centuries. Alfalfa sprouts
contain more protein than corn and wheat, and is one of the richest sources of
vitamins and trace minerals, such as the necessary selenium, being high in vitamins
A, D, E, and K.
Alfalfa in all of its forms can trigger attacks in those who suffer from lupus or
rheumatoid arthritis, so it is best to avoid this herb if you have either of these
ailments. The cause is apparently one of the active constituents, an alkaloid known
as conavanine, in conjunction with the amino acid L-canavanine, present in greatest
concentration as the alfalfa is in the sprout stage, and lessens as the alfalfa matures.
I would certainly advise anyone with lupus or other immune-deficient diseases to
avoid alfalfa sprouts, and to use the mature form only as a mild infusion,
discontinuing immediately if there is any sort of reaction. Lupus is a disease that
acts differently within each person who contracts it, so to err on the side of caution
is the safest route. There are other sprouts that are just as healthy for those of you
who suffer from these illnesses that do not contain this constituent. There are four
isoflavones in alfalfa that produce an estrogen response in animals and humans,
which can disrupt reproductive cycles when ingested in high amounts, especially
when the whole fresh plant is consumed (as with livestock feeding). These responses
do make this plant a possible choice for helping with the problems of premenstrual
syndrome and menopause.
Studies have shown that this plant contains constituents that may trigger a
destruction of carcinogens built up in the liver during the digestive process. It aids
in removing toxins from the body as well as neutralizing acids, which of course
makes it an aid to digestion.
Properties and/or actions generally attributed to Alfalfa are: tonic, antifungal,
laxative, diuretic, detoxifier, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, hepato-protective,
digestive, nutritive, anodyne, anti-arthritic, coagulant, cleansing, stomachic,
antipyretic, alterative, and lactagogue. The seeds are considered emmenagogue and
lactogenic. The parts generally used in medicinal treatments are the leaves and the
flowers, although occasionally the seeds may be used.
After the alfalfa plant was introduced into North America, it was adapted for use by
the Natives of the land. Costanoan Indians in California used the heated leaves of
this plant for treating earaches. Navajos cultivated and harvested this legume to
feed their livestock over winter. It was also used in beds, in mattresses and bedding,
to keep bed bugs and fleas away.

Religious Uses of Alfalfa

Alfalfa is believed to be a sign or bringer of prosperity. Placed in a small jar and

kept in a pantry or cabinet, dried alfalfa protects the home and all who dwell within
from hunger, poverty, and unhappiness. Burn alfalfa and scatter the ashes around
the property, garage, and any outbuildings to protect them. Arabs held this plant
sacred, and believed that it imparted the attributes of the gods (wisdom, swiftness,
stamina, etc.) to their beloved horses as they ate it.