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This article is from the Herb Reference series.


Other Names:

Purple Medicle
Purple Medic
Cultivated Lucern
Buffalo Herb

Latin Name:

Medicago Sativa
Family: Leguminosae or (?) Papilionaceae

The first recorded mention of Alfalfa is in a book on plants by the Emperor of China in 2939 BC. It may possibly have been a native of Europe; it is of great antiquity, having been imported into Greece from the East, after Darius had discovered it in Medea, hence the name Medicago. The name Alfalfa comes from the Arabic name al-fasfasa meaning "best fodder". It is referred to by Roman writers, and is cultivated in Persia and Peru, England, North America, and other geographical locations. The first modern account is in 1757 in Britain.

Originally Medea, then old Spain, Italy, France; and cultivated in Persia and Peru. The Americas, Europe, Asia, and my guess, Australia.

Stems: An erect, smooth stem.

Flowers: Racemes of blue or purplish flowers from June to August.

Leaves: Alternate, pinnately divided, trifoliate leaves with linear-oblong or oblong-obovate leaflets that are toothed towards the ends.

Fruit: legumes contorted, twisted spirally, hairy

Rootstock: An elongated taproot.

Height: 1 1/2 feet to 2 feet high


Its herbage is green, succulent, and being an early crop is in a sense of some value as an agricultural plant. It yields two rather abundant green crops in the year -- of a quality greatly relished by horses and cattle -- it fattens them quickly and was much esteemed for increasing the milk of cows.

One of the objections to growing it as a crop is the three to four years required before it attains full growth.

The root of Lucerne has sometimes been found as an adulterant of Belladonna root.
Nutritive tonic
Alfalfa is used to help the assimilation of protein, calcium, and other nutrients. Its cooling property makes it useful in reducing fevers. It is very beneficial to the blood, acting as a blood purifier, as a remedy for anemia and to help stop bleeding.

It is grown for fodder, has unusually high amounts of vitamins U,D,K,A & E, and eight important digestive enzymes. It can be used in soups, salads, or as a steamed vegetable.

Drunk daily as a Tea it improves the appetite, aids in the cure of peptic ulcers, in a diuretic for the kidneys, and aids in bowel regulation. It also contains lots of lime and phosphorus, can relieve the dropsy, helps narcotics and alcoholics reduce addiction, and has a stimulating effect on the growth of supportive connective tissue cells. The sprouts are delicious and contain more protein than wheat and corn.

The Chinese indicate that excessive use will cause one to lose weight and become thin.


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