Alfalfa (Alfalfa, Medicago sativa), Lucerne

Main Facts about Alfalfa

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
The alfalfa plant is primarily native to Asia, and is considered to be one of the first known herbs to mankind. Alfalfa is a purplish-flowered clover with a deep root that reaches down to 4 m, but can reach 7-9 m in well drained soils. Its stems are erect or decumbent, glabrous or hairy in the upper parts. Leaves are trifoliate, with obovate leaflet. Fruits are 2-8 seeded curly pods turning from green to brown. Alfalfa is a very palatable and productive herbaceous perennial legume with worldwide distribution. Due to its high nutritional quality, high yields and high adaptability, alfalfa is one of the most important legume forages of the world. A major source of protein for livestock.

Using Alfalfa

One of most common uses of alfalfa in Chinese medicine was in the treatment of ulcers. Nutritious fresh or dried leaf tea traditionally used to promote appetite, weight gain, as a diuretic, and to stop bleeding. Alfalfa contains a broad spectrum of nutrients: considerable quantities of protein, trace mineral and vitamins, dietary fiber and chlorophyll, which serves as an antioxidant in the bloodstream. The deep root system absorbs minerals from the soil resulting in a plant rich in vitamins and minerals and a great source of fiber and protein. Alfalfa leaf is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K. The leaves contain eight essential amino acids. Alfalfa is not recommended as primary treatment for any condition, alfalfa is a tonic herb, one that supports health by nourishing the body. Alfalfa is of special interest to women because of its estrogenic activity. Saponin in alfalfa can help lower blood cholesterol (by impeding intestinal absorption) without affecting heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.


Don’t eat too much at once or take if you have lupus or any autoimmune disease. May interact with certain medications, such as Warfarin (Coumadin). Do not take if pregnant.

Cooking with Alfalfa

Dry it, grind into powder, make tea, juice or put into smoothies. Alfalfa sprouts are a staple of salads and contain nutrients, but the leaves hold the best healing potential. Alfalfa tea is mild and good tasting, and blends well with many other tonic herbs like nettle, mints, and citrus. Use alfalfa only during its prebloom stages of growth. Alfalfa seeds should never be eaten unless sprouted because they contain high levels of the toxic amino acid canavanine.

How to grow Alfalfa

Alfalfa is high yielding and high in quality, but requires high fertility and large quantities of water for optimum productivity. Alfalfa is a small-seeded crop, and has a slowly growing seedling, but after several months of establishment, forms a tough "crown" at the top of the root system. This crown contains many shoot buds that enables alfalfa to regrow many times after being grazed or harvested. This plant exhibits autotoxicity, which means it is difficult for alfalfa seed to grow in existing stands of alfalfa. Therefore, alfalfa fields are recommended to be rotated with other species. Regrowth initiates from crown buds or axillary stem buds. Periodic defoliation (28-35 day schedule) is required to restore root carbohydrates.