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Family Leguminosae
Galeria
Medicago sativa L.
ALFALFA
Lan mu xu

Scientific names Common names
Medica sativa Lam. Galeria (Bis.)
Medicago afganica (Bordere) Vassilcz. Alfalfa (Engl.)
Medicago beipinensis Vassilcz. Buffalo grass (Engl.)
Medicago grandiflora (Grossh.) Vassilcz. Lucerne (Engl.)
Medicago ladak Vassilcz.  
Medicago mesopotamica Vassilcz.  
Medicago orientalis Vassilcz.  
Medicago polia (Brand) Vassilcz.  
Medicago presativa Sinskaya  
Medicago sativa Linn.  
Medicago sogdiana (Brand) Vassilcz.  
Medicago tibetana (Alef) Vassilcz.  
Trigonella upendraw H.J.Chowdhery & R.R.Rao  
Medicago sativa L. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
AFRIKAANS: Lusern.
ARABIC: Barseem higazi.
CHINESE: Lan mu xu, Mu xu.
CROATIAN: Lucerna.
CZECH: Tolice vojteshka.
DANISH: Foder-Lucerne, Lucerne.
DUTCH: Luzerne.
FRENCH: Luzerne, Luzerne cultivée.
GERMAN: Blaue Luzerne, Echte Luzerne, Luzerne, Saat-Luzerne.
GREEK: Midiki.
HEBREW: Aspeset, Aspeset tarbutit.

HINDI: Jungli lucerne, Vilaiti gawuth.

HUNGARIAN: Lucerna.
ITALIAN: Erba medica, Medica.
JAPANESE: Arufarufa, Murasaki umagoyashi.
KOREAN: Ja ju gae ja ri.
NORWEGIAN: Blålucern, Blålusern.
POLISH: Lucerna, Lucerna sierpowata, Lucerna siewna.
PORTUGUESE: Feno-de-borgonha, Luzerna, Luzerna-de-sequeiro, Melga-dos-prados.
RUSSIAN: Al'fal'fa, Liutserna posevnaia.
SLOVENIAN: Lucerna, Nemshka detelja.
SPANISH: Alfal, Alfalç, Alfalce, Alfalfa, Alfalfa silvestre, Alfalfe, Alfalz, Alfance, Alfás, Alfauce, Alfaz, Alforfa, Almierca, Amelca, Amielcas, Melga, Mielca, Mielcón, Mielga, Ufals, Userda.
SWEDISH: Alfalfa, Blålusern, Blåluzern.
THAI: Thun-anfanfa.
TURKISH: Adi yonca.

Etymology
Alfalfa is derived from Arabic al-fac-facah, which means "Father of all foods."

Botany
Alfalfa is a herbaceous perennial with deeply penetrating taproot. Stems are procumbent, ascending to erect, arising from a woody base. Leaf is trifoliate, stipules triangular, 5 to 15 millimeters long, pubescent on the lower surface, glabrous on the upper surface, and joined at the base, coarsely toothed. Petiole is pubescent, 5 to 30 millimeters long. Leaflets are narrow, oblong to ovate or obovate, 8 to 28 millimeters by 3 to 15 millimeters, dentate near the apex. Inflorescence are in dense racemes, containing 10 to 35 flowers, on peduncles 1 to 5 centimeters long; pedicel 1.5 to 2 millimeters long; calyx 5-lobed and 3 to 6 millimeters long; corolla purple or blue, rarely white, with yellow cultivars. Pod curled through 2 to 5 coils of 3 to 10 millimeters in diameter, indehiscent, containing 2 to 6 seeds. Seeds are yellow to brown, kidney-shaped to ovoid, 1 to 2.5 millimeters by 1.0 to 1.5 millimeters. (1)

Distribution
- Cultivated.
- Primarily native to Asia.
- Widely cultivated as forage crop in the US, Canada, Argentina, France and SW Asia.

Constituents
- Leaf extract yielded 37.0 ± 0.02 mg gallic acid equivalent (GAE)/ g dry matter. Total flavonoids was 12.6 ± 0.17 mg rutin equivalent/g DM. Analysis also yielded gallic acid, pyrogallol, salicylic acid, and caffeic acid as phenolics, and naringenin, apigenin, apigenin, quercitin, myrcitin and daidezin as flavonoids and isoflavonoids. (see study below) (5)
- Phytochemical screening yielded tannins, cardiac glycosides, steroids, and flavonoids. (see study below) (15)

Properties
- Reported to be anti-scorbutic, aperient, ecbolic, hemostatic, nutritive, stimulant and tonic.
- Studies suggest anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic, neuroprotective properties.

Parts used
Leaves, roots, sprouts.

Uses

Culinary / Nutrition
- High in vitamins (B, A, D, E, and K) and minerals (biotin, folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium).
- Brewed as a tea drink.
- Dried alfalfa is considered as good, if not better, than fresh alfalfa.
Folkloric
- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Decoction used to boost energy.
- Anecdotal reports on use as diuretic, treatment of bladder problems, diabetes, dyspepsia, and asthma.
- In South American traditional medicine, used for diuresis, kidney and vesicular swelling, and lung ailments.
Others
- Fodder: Primary use as feed for high-producing dairy cows, because of high protein content and easily digestible fiber. Popular as livestock forage: horses, goats, sheep, cattle.
- Plant serves as a commercial source of chlorophyll and carotene. (6)

Concerns
- Contraindications: FDA issued an advisory for children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems to avoid eating alfalfa sprouts because of frequent bacterial contamination (S. enterica, E coli). (6)
- Pregnancy: Avoid use as it may cause uterine stimulation. (6)
- Interactions: May cause decreased anticoagulant effect of warfarin and lowered prothrombin time. Also theorized as possibly interference with immunosuppressive action of corticosteroids or cyclosporine. (6)
- Toxicities / Lupus: Alfalfa tablets have been associated with reactivation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In rats, changes in intestinal cellular structure have been reported. (6) Alfalfa contains canavanine, an amino acid known to aggravate symptoms of lupus. Excess intake can also cause breakdown of RBCs. (7) Medscape provides a long list of medicines and supplements that may potentially interact with alfalfa. (8)

Studies
Antioxidant / Anti-Inflammatory / Xanthine Oxidase Inhbitory Activities:
Study evaluated the phenolics and flavonoids content of M. sativa leaves extract, together with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and xanthine oxidase (XO) inhibitory activities. Results showed antioxidant activity by DPPH and FRAP assays, although lower than standard BHT and α- tocopherol. Extract showed moderate anti-inflammatory activity on NO inhibition assay and 51.6% inhibition of XO at concentration of 250 µg/ml. (see constituents above) (5)
Antioxidant / Neuroprotective: Study investigated the neuroprotective effect of a methanol extract of MS on ischemia and reperfusion induced cerebral injury in mice. Results showed treatment with MS enhances antioxidant defense against BCAO (bilateral carotid artery occlusion)-induced global cerebral ischemia and exhibits neuroprotective activity. (9)
Anti-Inflammatory / Inhibition of Liposaccharide Induced Inflammation: In vitro study showed alfalfa sprouts ethyl acetate (ASEA) extract significantly reduced IL-6 and IL-1ß production and the NF-kB trans-activation activity of mitogen-stimulated RAW264.7 cells. Results suggest ASEA supplementation can suppress production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and alleviate acute inflammatory hazards. (10)
Antidiabetic / Effects on Oxidative Stress and Hepatic Renal Functions: Study evaluated the potential of an ethanolic leaf extract of M. sativa in combating diabetic hyperglycemia in adult albino rats with alloxan induced diabetic.
Results showed effective glycemic control with potency that is better than metformin. Effect was attributed to the promotion of increased insulin secretion, and possibly, some extra pancreatic mechanism mediating an antihyperglycemic effect. Diabetic induced increase in lipid peroxidation and renal and hepatic markers of dysfunction were normalized by MSE treatment. (11)
Antioxidant / Free Radical Scavenging: Study evaluated an alcoholic extract of M. sativa for in vitro antioxidant activity using various assays. Results showed a significant correlation between extract concentrations and percentage inhibition of free radicals, metal chelation or inhibition of lipid peroxidation. The activity may be related to polyphenols and flavonoids present in the extract. Results indicate activity against free radical mediated disease. (12)
Antidiabetic / Free Radical Scavenging: Study evaluated the ability of seed extract of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) and lucerne extract to modulate post-challenge carbohydrate metabolism in type 2 diabetes animal model. Results showed decrease in postprandial glycemia in type 2 diabetes and non-diabetic rats, probably through enhancement of insulin secretion. (13)
Improved Motility and Vigor in Ram Semen: The addition of homeopathic medicine Medicago sativa at 12CH, added to GGL diluent, resulted in decreased loss of motility and vigor compared with Aloe vera, coinciding with fertility in ram semen manipulated and evaluated in a farm field. (14)
Antibacterial: Study evaluated various solvent extracts for antibacterial activity against seven important bacterial strains (S. aureus, S. pyogenes, E. coli, P. mirabilis, P. aeruginosa, S. typhi, and K. pneumonia). A methanol extract showed significant activity against all tested bacteria, followed by chloroform and ethanol extracts. (see constituents above) (15)
Estrogenic: Estrogenic activity has been reported in ruminants fed large amounts of alfalfa as fodder, probably associated with the coumestrol and isoflavone constituents of alfalfa. In humans, consumption of seeds has been reported to be lactogenic and to affect the menstrual cycle.
(16) Study showed three treatments of guayus (Ilex guayusa Loes) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) extracts produced estrogenic effects in rats as evidenced by estradiol levels and weights of reproductive organs. (23)
Iron Chelating: Study showed the protective effect of M. sativa and A. porrum against iron overload in a rat model. Results showed significant decrease in serum ferritin and iron concentration in iron overload in rats induced by iron dextran. (17)
Hypoglycemic / No Distinct Renal Benefit: Study evaluated the effect of aqueous extract of M. sativa on blood sugar and kidney histopathological changes in Wistar rats with streptozotocin induced diabetes. Results showed that although there was a significant reduction in blood sugar, there was no distinct effect on nephropathy side effects in this short term study. (18)
Inhibition of Liposaccharide-Induced Inflammation: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory potential of alfalfa and the mechanisms involved. The chloroform extract of alfalfa aerial parts inhibited lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated immune responses betters than ether, butanol, or water soluble extracts. Cinnamic acid derivatives and fatty acids were found to be active constituents of the extract. The anti-inflammatory activity of the extract suggests a potential as a functional food for the prevention of inflammatory disorders. (19)
Roots as Subtitute for Streptolysin O in ASO Diagnostic Test: Study evaluated the application of alfalfa root extract instead of SLO as a routine test in post-streptococcal infection diagnosis. Study showed the hemolytic effect of roots extracts is similar to SLO and ASO. There is significant similarity in antigenic properties in both alfalfa extract and SLO. The purified extract of alfalfa has potential as alternative suitable reagent instead of SLO for ASO testing. (20)
Anxiolytic Effect : Study evaluated various extracts of aerial parts for anxiolytic activity. Only the methanol extract exhibited significant (p<0.05) anti-anxiety activity as evidenced by average time spent, and number of entries in open arms at dose of 100 mg/kg in mice. (21)
Cardioprotective Effect / Stems: Study evaluated the cardioprotective effect of an ethanolic extract of MS stems on isoproterenol induced myocardial infaction in Wistar albino rats. In ISO induced rats, pretreatment with the extract reversed lipid profile levels to near normal reverted to near normal the significantly increased liver marker and cardiac marker enzymes in ISO induced rats. (22)

Availability
- Cultivated.
- Capsules, leaf tinctures, and extracts in the cybermarket.

Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

March 2016

IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: File:Medicago sativa Alfals006.jpg / Victor M. Vicente Selvas / Public Domain / Wikipedia

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
(1)
Medicago sativa botany / Forages / R.J. Clements

(2)
Sorting Medicago names / /Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1995 - 2020 / A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia.
(3)
Alfalfa Benefits / Herb Wisdom
(4)
Medicago sativa / Synonyms / The Plant List
(5)
Insight into the functional and medicinal properties of Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) leaves extract / Ehsan Karimi, Ehsan Oskoueian*, Armin Oskoueian, Vahid Omidvar, Rudi Hendra and Hani Nazeran / Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 7(7) pp. 290-297, 17 February. 2013 / DOI: 10.5897/JMPR11.1663
(6)
Alfalfa / Concerns, interactions, and Toxicity / Drugs.com
(7)
Alfalfa / Medical Health Guide
(8)
Alfalfa / Interaction checker / Medscape
(9)
Evaluation of Antioxidant and Cerebroprotective Effect of Medicago sativa Linn. against Ischemia and Reperfusion Insult / Kundan Singh Bora and Anupam Sharma / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2011 (2011) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/neq019
(10)
Ethyl acetate extracts of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) sprouts inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo / Yong-Han Hong, Wen-Wan Chao, Miaw-Ling Chen and Bi-Fong Lin /
Journal of Biomedical Science200916:64 / DOI: 10.1186/1423-0127-16-64
(11)
Medicago Sativa leaf extract supplementation corrects diabetes induced dyslipidemia, oxidative stress and hepatic renal functions and exerts antihyperglycaemic action as effective as Metformin / Baxi, D. B., Singh, P. K., Doshi, A. A., Arya, S. Mukherjee, R. and Ramachandran A.V.* / Scholars Research Library Annals of Biological Research, 2010, 1 (3) : 107-119
(12
IN VITRO ANTIOXIDANT AND FREE RADICAL SCAVENGING STUDIES OF ALCOHOLIC EXTRACT OF MEDICAGO SATIVA L. / M.G. RANA, R.V. KATBAMNA, A.A. PADHYA., A.D. DUDHREJIYA, N.P. JIVANI, N.R. SHETH / ROM. J. BIOL. – PLANT BIOL., VOLUME 55, No 1, P. 15–22, BUCHAREST, 2010
(13)
The effects of plant extracts of Medicago sativa and Trigonella foenum-graecum on postprandial glucose levels in type 2 diabetic rats / Hanna Winiarska*, Marzena Dworacka, Małgorzata Borowska, Teresa Bobkiewicz-Kozłowska, Piotr Gorecki, Alina Mścisz, Przemysław M. Mrozikiewicz
(14)
Homeopathic Medicine Improves the Motility and Vigor of Semen in Rams / Antônio Carlos Duenhas Monreal*, Albert Schiaveto de Souza, Simone Marques Caramalac, Silvana Marques Caramalac, Mariana Adalgiza Gilberti Urt, Gabriel Athas and Arthur Lopes / Int J Vet Sci Res 1(1): 003-007.
(15)
Antibacterial evaluation and phytochemical analysis of Medicago sativa against some microbial pathogens / A. Doss, V. Parivuguna, M. Vijayasanthi and Sruthi Surendran / Indian Journal of Science and Technology, Vol 4, No 5 (May 2011)
(16)
Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products: Medicago sativa extractum: Summary report
/ The European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products / Veterinary Medicines Evaluation Unit
(17)
The Effects of Medicago Sativa and Allium Porrum on Iron Overload in Rats / Ali Mirzaei, Hamdollah Delaviz, Mahsa Mirzaei & Mohsen Tolooei / Global Journal of Health Science; Vol. 7, No. 7; 2015
(18)
Effects of Medicago sativa on nephropathy in diabetic rats / MS Mehranjani, MA Shariatzadeh, AR Desfulian, M Noori, MH Abnosi, ZH Moghadam / Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol 69, Issue 6, pp 768-772 (2007)
(19)
Chloroform Extract of Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) Inhibits Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Inflammation by Downregulating ERK/NF-κB Signaling and Cytokine Production / Ki-Choon Choi, Jung-Min Hwang, Sung-Jun Bang, Beom-Tae Kim, Dong-Hern Kim, Minseon Chae, Seung-Ah Lee, Gi Jun Choi, Da Hye Kim, and Jeong-Chae Lee. / Journal of Medicinal Food. May 2013, 16(5): 410-420. / doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.2679.
(20)
The use of alfalfa root instead of streptolysin O in ASO diagnostic test / Hamid Chegni, Mojgan Oshaghi, Behnaz Gharegozlou, Mehrangiz Kaviany / International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2015; 2 (6): 10-12
(21)
Evaluation of anxiolytic effect of Medicago sativa in mice / Kundan Singh Bora* & Anupam Sharma / Pharmaceutical Biology, Vol 50, Issue 7, pp 878-882 (2012) / DOI:10.3109/13880209.2011.641227
(22)
CARDIOPROTECTIVE EFFECT OF ETHANOLIC EXTRACT OF MEDICAGO SATIVA STEM ON ISOPROTERENOL INDUCED MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION IN WISTAR ALBINO RATS / GOMATHI R, VIJIPRIYA M, K USHA / International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol 6 suppl 2, 2014
(23)
ESTROGENIC ACTIVITY OF ETHANOLIC EXTRACTS FROM LEAVES OF ILEX GUAYUSA LOES. AND MEDICAGO SATIVA IN RATTUS NORVEGICUS / Contero, F.*; Abdo, S.; Vinueza, D.; Moreno, J.; Tuquinga, M.; Paca, N. / PharmacognosyOnLine / Archives • 2015 • vol.2 • 95-99

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