Alfalfa - It's Not Just For Horses

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) was only familiar to me as a type of horse hay. In fact, it was general knowledge at the barns I frequented that Alfalfa hay was to be used sparingly because it was a protein-rich legume hay that effected a horse’s system. Horses that ate alfalfa were typically athletic horses that needed that extra energy that Alfalfa could provide. I really had no idea that Alfalfa was used for centuries in the healing of humans. Sure, every now and then, I would buy alfalfa sprouts at the grocery to add to my salads, but besides that, I didn’t have much use for the plant.

Alfalfa was well known in Ancient Greece and Rome – especially as horse feed. According to Francis P. Griffiths in the article “Production and Utilization of Alfalfa,” the word “alfalfa” is derived from an old Iranian word meaning “Horse Fodder.” It wasn’t until later, when the plant was introduced in Greece that it was called “Medic.”

The plant’s pharmacological actions are varied and many; and there is some indication that the ancient users of Medicago sativa knew it. It can used as a: diuretic, antispasmodic, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, blood purifier, hypocholesterolemic, and of course, a nutrient. According to the American Botanical Council, ancient Arabs, “used alfalfa medicinally in the belief that the leaves possessed a diuretic effect that was useful in the treatment of kidney, bladder, and prostate disorders.” In fact, Medicago sativa is used for different uses all over the world:

In India, the seeds of alfalfa have been used historically in a cooling poultice for boils. The mucilaginous (moist and slimy) fruits are utilized for coughs in Colombia. The seeds contain alkaloids that are believed to stimulate menstrual flow and lactation (Herbalgram.org).