Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Alfalfa, also known as “king of the herbs,” was one of the first herbs known to man. It is native to Asia and was brought to North America around 1850. Today this plant is common all over the United States and Canada. The ancient Arabs called alfalfa the “father of all foods,” and it continues to function as an important food today. The ancient Chinese decided that what was good food for the cattle must be good for the people too. Soon traditional Chinese physicians were using this herb to stimulate the appetite and to treat digestive problems, especially ulcers.
Traditionally, alfalfa was used in India to soothe arthritis pain and to prevent fluid retention. The pioneers also used this perennial to treat boils, cancer, scurvy, urinary and bowel problems and to bring on menstruation.
Pound for pound, fresh green alfalfa has more vitamin C than orange juice, helps relieve morning sickness with it high vitamin K content and contains a high amount of beta-carotene to help build the immune system, skin and mucous membranes. Alfalfa has proven itself to be one of the best sources of vitamin E and contains high amounts of vitamin D, niacin, and the B-complex vitamins.
In addition, alfalfa has a high mineral content. Alfalfa roots go down as far as 40 to 60 feet to get minerals that other plants can’t reach. This makes the herb relatively high in copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sulfur and zinc. Calcium content in alfalfa is particularly high which makes it a good substitute for milk. It also happens to be one of the best sources of chlorophyll available.
Alfalfa is helpful for all types of conditions including maintaining or regaining health. It works as a tonic for the kidney and liver and for the digestive, reproductive, glandular and musculoskeletal systems.
This herb is also reported to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Animal studies show that alfalfa leaves reduce blood cholesterol levels and plaque deposits on the artery walls. In doing this, the risk of heart disease and stroke is decreased.
Alfalfa can also be used to treat obesity, bladder and kidney infections, hay fever, nausea, difficult pregnancies and bad breath. It is also used in many weight gain programs because of its high protein and appetite stimulating properties. Also, alfalfa has been used to treat gangrene and epileptic seizures.
This clover-like herb has traditionally been one of the best herbal treatments for arthritis, gout and rheumatism. In fact, research suggests that at least one or two people in ten will respond very well to the use of alfalfa. Those responding well will experience an almost complete reduction in painful symptoms associated with these diseases.
Alfalfa also contains digestion aiding enzymes, amino acids and carbohydrates. Past experience has shown that alfalfa helps anemia, appendicitis, bloating, sluggish bowels, colds and flus, constipation, diabetes, edema, estrogen deficiency, exhaustion, fatigue and gout. Alfalfa has also been used for halitosis, hormone imbalances, hypertension, hypoglycemia, indigestion, jaundice, morning sickness, muscle tone, nosebleeds and normalization of weight loss and gain.
This herb can generally be used as a food, but should be avoided in large quantities by people using blood-thinning drugs. Normal use is two to four capsules with meals three times daily. For digestive problems drink as a tea flavored with peppermint leaves.
A Handbook of Native American Herbs by Alma R. Hutchens (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala, 1992).
“Alfalfa” by Judith Cobb in Nature’s Field (May/June, 1993).
“Chlorophyll–A Green Wonder” and “The Hay that Heals the Hurt” in Sunshine Sharing (Volume 4, Number 3).
Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Nuts, Berries and Seeds by John Heinerman (West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Co., 1995).
Herbal Tonic Therapies by Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D. (New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1993).
The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman (Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 1991).
The Wild Rose Scientific Herbal by Terry Willard, Ph.D. (Calgary, Canada: Wild Rose College of Natural Healing, 1991).