Latin: Medicago sativa
WHAT IT DOES: Alfalfa is sweet and slightly bitter in taste and cooling in action. It nourishes the blood.
SAFETY ISSUES: Alfalfa seeds and alfalfa sprouts have induced lupus in primates and should be avoided by everyone due to the presence of an amino acid, L-canavanine. Patients with lupus or other connective tissue diseases should not ingest alfalfa in any form (Alcocer-Varela et al., 1985).
• 1:5 tincture (with minerals retained): 20-40 drops two to three times per day
• Capsules or tablets: one to four 500-mg. pills two to three times per day
Alfalfa is a classic nutritive tonic herb, rich in chlorophyll, protein, calcium, trace minerals, folic acid, and vitamins B6, E and K. The strong nutrient effects seen with clinical use may be credited to either of two attributes unique to this paricular herb. First, the plant has an extraordinarily strong root system that penetrates up to sixty feet into the soil, allowing the herb to mine out precious nutrients. Second, the herb contains specified plant enzymes which enhance nutrient assimilation (Heinerman, 1980). Alfalfa is also a rich source of plant phytoestrogens, useful in balancing the hormones during menopause (De Leo et al., 1998). The vitamin K content may also be useful for maintaining bone density
I use alfalfa in a sweet liquid extract form as a nutrient tonic to stimulate gentle healing of the digestive tract membranes. The tonic effects become apparent after one or two weeks of use, often causing a sense of mild euphoria in the weakened. I frequently prescribe it for children and the elderly, especially when there are signs of emaciation and weakness. The tincture has a distinct root beer flavor, so I tell parents to add a tablespoon of it to cola-flavored natural sodas (actually made with juice and mineral water) from their local health food store. This is usually the easiest way to get kids to take it. Several weeks of use often imparts a general feeling of well being in such cases. It is also a good tonic base for other herbs.
Several companies make alfalfa in tablets, although I prefer to use it in tincture form when possible. Boericke & Tafel offers a good, inexpensive product–Alfalco–in 32-ounce bottles. Herbalist & Alchemist offers a superior product that undergoes an extra step before packaging to add back the minerals usually lost during tincturing.