Herb Article
Alfalfa

Erin Hilgendorf, Clinical Herbalist

Alfalfa Herb
Alfalfa

Latin Name
Medicago sativa

Family
Fabaceae (Pea Family); a legume! Alfalfa is a perennial plant with deep roots, trifoliate leaves, bluish-purple flowers, and tiny kidney shaped seeds.

Parts used
Aerial parts

History
Alfalfa is said to originate in southwest Asia, and was used primarily as livestock feed. Making its way from Greece to Italy then spreading across Europe in the first century C.E., Alfalfa eventually made its way to the United States in 1736 amongst European colonization.

Medicinal Properties
The Alfalfa seed, sprouted, is commonly used as a food source. When using the leaves, Medicago sativa is known for its full spectrum vitamin and mineral content. Alfalfa contains bitter alkaloids, coumarins (which are common to the Fabacea family), isoflavonoids (specifically phytoestrogens), protein, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, F, K, and U. Common minerals found in Alfalfa include calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. Its rich mineral content explains Alfalfa's traditional use for bone support especially when combined with horsetail and nettle leaf. In addition to being rich with nutrients, Alfalfa is alkaline and helps to neutralize acidity in the body (or soil). Alkalization helps to sedate the nerves and muscles while removing acids from the digestive tract thereby improving gut function. Traditionally Alfalfa was combined with Peppermint as a tonic for the intestinal tract. With both bitter and sweet flavors, Alfalfa is stimulating and regulating to the intestinal tract, specifically the stomach.

Mathew Wood writes about Alfalfa to help with nervousness, irritability, and insomnia. It is emotionally indicated when one is always busy, conscious of the clock, and carries the feeling that there "is not enough time" (Wood, 339*).

Preparations & Applications
Preparations & Applications: Alfalfa is traditional prepared as a tea; both hot and cold infusion may be indicated. A long cold infusion is commonly prepared to extract water-soluble vitamins and minerals, like those found in Medicago sativa.

Bone Strength Tea from Healing Herbal Teas
1 part Nettle leaf
1 part Alfalfa leaf
1 part Oat straw
1 part Red Raspberry leaf
1/2 part Green Tea leaf

Sources
*The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal by Matthew Wood
The Encyclopedia of by Healing Foods by Michael T. Murray Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno
The Practicing Herbalist: Thoughts for Meeting with Clients by Margi Flint
Healing Herbal Teas: A Complete Guide to Making Delicious, Healthful Beverages by Brigitte Mars