Herb of the Day: Alfalfa

( Medicago sativa )

Originally from southwest Asia, alfalfa is now grown all over the world. Alfalfa is grown primarily as food for livestock. The ancient Chinese noticed their cattle preferred grazing in alfalfa, so they started to sprout the shoots to use as a vegetable. Ancient Arabs fed it to their horses to increase speed and endurance. They called it al-fac-facah., meaning father of every food, and induced it to the Spanish, who changed the name to alfalfa. Alfalfa plant is considered a nutritional supplement and a body cleanser. Its leaves are thought to nourish the body by stimulating the appetite, a laxative, and diuretic, and providing such nutrients as fiber,protein, calcium, and vitamin A. You should consult a qualified practitioner for dosage appropriate for your specific condition.
Combining alfalfa with other herbs may necessitate a lower dosage. Avoid eating alfalfa seeds, they contain relatively high levels of toxic amino acid canavanine. Ingesting the seeds in large quantities over a long period of time may lead to pancytopenia, a blood disorder that causes the deterioration of both platelets, responsible for blood clotting, and white blood cells which fights infections. If pregnant check with a practitioner before ingesting this herb, the seeds contains stachydrine, and homostachydrine which promotes menstruation and in some cases lead to miscarriage. If you have a predisposition to systemic lupus erythematosus, use this herb only with an herbalist or a health care professional. The canavanine in alfalfa is believed to reactivate this disease in some people who are in remission.

Ayurveda have used alfalfa to cleanse the liver, detoxify the blood, treat ulcers, arthritis, and fluid retention. Ayurvedic medicine notes its ability to soothe ulcers, reduce arthritis and fluid retention. The leaves help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and clean plaque deposits from arterial walls. The sprouts produce a similar but lesser effect, they help neutralize carcinogens in the colon, binding them and speeding their elimination from the body. Alfalfa reduces both kapha and vatha, and has a neutral effect on the pitta.


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