Medicago sativa – Alfalfa
Alfalfa – Medicago sativa
Medicago = Persian name for a grass;
sativa = L. for “pleated, cultivated, sown, not wild”;
Identification: Alfalfa is a deep-rooted perennial with a thick crown and decumbent or erect stems up to 8 cm long. The flowers are in racemes and are usually blue-violet to purple, occasionally whitish. The leaflets are obovate, toothed and slightly hairy. The deep and spreading root enables this plant to absorb its valuable nutrients.
Distribution & Habitat: This is an introduced forage plant that has often escaped the fields. It is commonly found in waste places and along roadsides.
Preparation & Uses: The seeds of alfalfa can be ground into flour, parched and eaten, or of course used as “sprouts”. Besides being very tasty, the sprouts are very high in nutrients. Many health clinics put patients on alfalfa sprout diets. To sprout alfalfa seed, take a large jar and cover the bottom with seeds. Let them soak overnight. It is best to put a screen over the lid to make drainage easier. In the morning, drain off the water and rinse the seeds. This water is high in nutrients and can be used to water plants. The water is also good in stews. Rinse the seeds 2-3 times a day, making sure you drain them thoroughly each time. The sprouts grow best in the dark, although excellent sprouts can be grown in the light. After about 3 days the sprouts will have grown to fill the bottle. Expose them to sunlight for a few hours and the little cotyledons will turn green. They are now ready to eat.
The leaves of alfalfa can be eaten raw in salad, but are better dried and ground to obtain most of the nutrients. The word alfalfa comes from the Arabic word meaning “father of all food”. Alfalfa is high in vitamins A, B, C, E, K and P. It contains potassium, phosphorus, iron, chlorine, sodium, silica, magnesium and many other trace elements because of its deep roots and preference for fairly rich soil. It has a fairly high protein content (18.9%) and also contains the antioxidant tricin.
Alfalfa is a very good tonic, both for gaining health or retaining it. The pleasant tea made from the leaves is very rejuvenating if taken every day. Alfalfa is listed as an appetizer, diuretic, tonic and nutrient.
The tea will improve appetite, relieve urinary and bowel problems, eliminate retained water and even help cure peptic ulcers, if taken regularly. Its action is slow but it will soon put the body in balance. In Europe and Russia the tea has been used as a dietary aid for celiac disease (along with a proper diet). Alfalfa is being used experimentally as an antifungal and estrogenic agent.
Alfalfa, especially the seed or alfalfa concentrate, has been found to be very effective in lowering high cholesterol conditions, by stopping excessive production of cholesterol in the body.
The authors of Some Useful Plants came up with a good way to make a natural tooth brush. Take the root, peel off the bark, dry it slowly, cut into 5-inch pieces then gently hit the end with a hammer.