Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Traditional Indications

Alfalfa is anodyne, antibacterial, antiscorbutic, aperient, diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, haemostatic, nutritive, stimulant and tonic. Alfalfa is high in protein and contains vitamins A, B1, B63 B 12, C, E and K, along with the minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. Alfalfa leaves have traditionally been used as a nutritive tonic to stimulate the appetite and promote weight gain.

Alfalfa is traditionally prescribed for debility in convalescence or anaemia, haemorrhage, menopausal complaints, pre-menstrual tension, fibroids etc. The leaves are rich in vitamin K, which is used medicinally to encourage the clotting of blood. The plant is grown commercially as a source of chlorophyll and carotene, both of which have proven health benefits. The leaves also contain the anti-oxidant tricin. Extracts of the plant are antibacterial. Its high mineral content enables alfalfa to chelate heavy metals. (1)

Pharmacognocy

Alfalfa is rich in antioxidant phenols and flavonoids. (2)

Alfalfa contains heavy metal chelating plant metallothiones. (3)

Alfalfa is well studied as it is used in animal feed for its nutritional value. A study was to examining the effects of alfalfa flavonoids on the production performance, immunity, and ruminal fermentation in dairy cows found alfala supplementation regulating populations of gut microbes, increases antioxidant enzyme status and increases of lymphocyte and neutrophil to enhance immunity. (4)

Nonpharmacological herbal agents are a new approach in the management of diabetes. Aqueous extract of alfalfa have been shown to reduce all signs of diabetes incusing blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density and low-density lipoprotein in diabetic rats. (2)

In human studies, alfalfa seeds help normalize serum cholesterol concentrations in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia. (5)
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1. PFAF. Medicago sativa - L. 2018 [Available from: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Medicago+sativa.
2. Soto-Zarazua MG, Bah M, Costa ASG, Rodrigues F, Pimentel FB, Rojas-Molina I, et al. Nutraceutical Potential of New Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) Ingredients for Beverage Preparations. J Med Food. 2017;20(10):1039-46.
3. Robinson NJ, Tommey AM, Kuske C, Jackson PJ. Plant metallothioneins. The Biochemical journal. 1993;295 ( Pt 1)(Pt 1):1-10.
4. Zhan J, Liu M, Su X, Zhan K, Zhang C, Zhao G. Effects of alfalfa flavonoids on the production performance, immune system, and ruminal fermentation of dairy cows. Asian-Australasian journal of animal sciences. 2017;30(10):1416-24.
5. Molgaard J, von Schenck H, Olsson AG. Alfalfa seeds lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B concentrations in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia. Atherosclerosis. 1987;65(1-2):173-9.