One of the joys of working with and prescribing herbs in all their forms is that often, any additional effects
of an herb are beneficial, unlike the common negative side effects of drugs.
An herb that has traditionally been used as cattle feed, and one that is
more recently getting more attention is Alfalfa, or Medicago sativa. The
origin of the word alfalfa comes from the Arabic word"al-fasfasah"
which means "the best fodder". The Arabs fed it to their animals
and horses to give them superior strength and speed, and considered it an
excellent food for themselves as well.
by Eva Urbaniak, N.D.
Alfalfa is a nutrient dense herbal
food, a member of the pea family, containing high levels of Vitamins A,
B-Complex, C, D, E, K, and trace minerals, in particular, boron, known to
aid in prevention of osteoporosis. The root system of the alfalfa plant
is extremely deep, enabling it to absorb many nutrients from the soil.
is also a significant phyto-estrogen and hormone balancer and historically
was considered a blood purifier due to its extremely high chlorophyll content.
Alfalfa has the unique property of balancing estrogen levels and therefore
other hormonal activities bringing the body back into balance. It can be
safely used for conditions of hypo- or hyper-estrogen conditions and there
is no toxicity associated with its use.
Alfalfa contains the alkaloids asparagine and trigonelline; the isoflavones
formonoetin, genestein, and coumestrol, which give it the estrogenic qualities.
It also contains some steroidal saponins, and proteins. Recent studies
have shown that alfalfa also has anti-tumor properties, as well as cholesterol
lowering activity. In fact, these studies suggest that alfalfa may cause
regression and dissolution of atherosclerotic plaques! This is quite a
repertoire for such a humble herb.
The forms in which one can utilize the healing gifts of alfalfa are quite
varied. It is important to note that we are speaking of the alfalfa plant,
and not the sprouts. In fact, alfalfa seeds and sprouts, although highly
nutritious, contain a compound called canavanine, which if ingested in
large amounts, can cause lupus-like symptoms, or aggravate an already
existing lupus syndrome. The herb may be taken fresh or dried in an infusion
(or tea), one teaspoon, per cup of boiling water, and this tea may be
drunk once or twice daily, or in a tincture, up to 15 mls per day, or
as a solid or liquid extract (much stronger) 1/4 teaspoon one to three
The hormone balancing properties of alfalfa could very successfully be
applied with menopausal conditions, eliminating hot flashes, but this
herb works wonders for PMS symptoms as well. Premenstrual breast tenderness
virtually disappears and fatigue, food cravings, and cramping are significantly
decreased. As newer research continues, we can expect to see even more
uses in natural medicine for this ancient and humble herb.
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