Alfalfa – Medicago sativa

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Alfalfa - Medicago sativa

Alfalfa Quick Facts
Name: Alfalfa
Scientific Name: Medicago sativa
Origin South-central Asia, first cultivated in ancient Iran
Colors Yellow, castaneous or brown
Shapes Ovoid, irregularly cordate or reniform
Taste Slightly bland
Calories 23 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Vitamin K (25.42%)
Iron (12.00%)
Vitamin B5 (11.26%)
Phosphorus (10.00%)
Health benefits Builds Stamina, Muscle Function, Bursitis and Muscle Problems,Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, Arthritis, Blood Clotting
Alfalfa, also named lucerne (Medicago sativa) is an important forage crop in many nations throughout the world. It is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae grown as an important forage crop in several countries. The term alfalfa is derived from Arabic, exactly the phrase al-fac-facah, which accurately means “Father of all foods” because it is rich in crucial nutrients. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage. It is widely cultivated glabrous perennial native to southwestern Asia, was first cultivated in Iran. Common Names of Alfalfa includes lucerne, purple alfalfa, luzerne, common purple lucerne, snailclover, purple medick, common purple lucerne, common lucerne and yellow alfalfa. M. sativa, M falcate, Weevelchek, Saranac, Team, Arc, Classic, and Buffalo are some popular cultivars of Alfalfa. It has been cultivated as livestock fodder since at least the era of the ancient Romans and Greeks.


Alfalfa is a perennial legume that normally lives 4-8 years, but can live more than 20 years as well, dependent on climate and variety. Erect or ascending, glabrous perennial flowering plant grow to the height of 1 m (3.3 ft.) tall and is found growing in wide variety of climatic environments from cold temperate to warm sub-tropical. It prefers friable, rich, well-drained loamy soil along with loose topsoil supplied with lime. It has deep root system, sometimes extending more than 15 m (49 ft.). Stems are decumbent or erect up to 1 m high, glabrous or hairy in the upper parts along with several branches. Leaves are usually alternate compound and are olive-green and trifoliate, 10-45 mm long and 3-10 mm broad; pubescent on lower surface, glabrous on upper surface, coarsely toothed. Leaflets are usually narrow, oblong to ovate or obovate, 8–28 mm x 3–15 mm, glabrous on upper layer, somewhat pubescent on lower surface. Flowers are hermaphrodite, about 1/3″ long; consist of 5 petals that are lavender or purple, 10 stamens, a single pistil, and a green calyx. Flowering normally starts from July to September.


As soon as flower fall, curled pod is developed which is 1/3″ in length from one end to another, 3–10 mm in diameter, indehiscent, containing 2–6 seeds. Pods are normally green and turn to brown as soon as they mature. Seeds are yellow, castaneous or brown colored, ovoid, irregularly cordate or reniform and is slightly bland in taste. Pods can be harvested from Jul to September.


Alfalfa is said to have been originated in southwestern Asia, first cultivated in Iran and presently has a worldwide distribution because of its popularity as agriculture species. Alfalfa is extensively grown all through the world as forage for cattle, and is most often collected as hay, but can also be made into silage, grazed, or fed as greenchop. During 1736 it was introduced to Georgia, but was not popular till 1850. It was grown in all 50 states and is widely planted in Canada.  Although it originated in Asia, it is now exceptionally common in the USA, Europe, and Canada.

Nutritional Value

Apart from their bland taste Alfalfa is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 100 gram of alfalfa offers 30.5 µg of Vitamin K, 0.157mg of Copper, 0.96 mg of Iron, 0.563 mg of Vitamin B5, 70mg of Phosphorus, 0.126 mg of Vitamin B2 and 8.2 mg of Vitamin C. Moreover many Amino acids like 0.143 g of Isoleucine, 0.134 g of Threonine 0.267 g of Leucine, 0.145 g of Valine and 0.214 g of Lysine are also found in 100 gram of sprouted Alfalfa seeds.

Nutritional value of Alfalfa
Serving Size: 1 Cup, 100 g

Calories 23 Kcal. Calories from Fat 6.21 Kcal.


Proximity Amount % DV
Water 92.82 g N/D
Energy 23 Kcal N/D
Energy 96 kJ N/D
Protein 3.99 g 7.98%
Total Fat (lipid) 0.69 g 1.97%
Ash 0.4 g N/D
Carbohydrate 2.1 g 1.62%
Total dietary Fiber 1.9 g 5.00%
Total Sugars 0.2 g N/D
Glucose (dextrose) 0.08 g N/D
Fructose 0.12 g N/D

Minerals Amount % DV
Copper, Cu 0.157 mg 17.44%
Iron, Fe 0.96 mg 12.00%
Phosphorus, P 70 mg 10.00%
Zinc, Zn 0.92 mg 8.36%
Manganese, Mn 0.188 mg 8.17%
Magnesium, Mg 27 mg 6.43%
Calcium, Ca 32 mg 3.20%
Potassium, K 79 mg 1.68%
Selenium, Se 0.6 µg 1.09%
Sodium, Na 6 mg 0.40%

Vitamins Amount % DV
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 30.5 µg 25.42%
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 0.563 mg 11.26%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.126 mg 9.69%
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) 8.2 mg 9.11%
Vitamin B9 (Folate, Folic acid) 36 µg 9.00%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) 0.076 mg 6.33%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 0.481 mg 3.01%
Choline 14.4 mg 2.62%
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.034 mg 2.62%
Vitamin A 8 µg 1.14%
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.02 mg 0.13%
Beta Carotene 87 µg N/D
alpha Carotene 6 µg N/D
Beta Cryptoxanthin 6 µg N/D
Betaine 0.4 mg N/D

Lipids Amount % DV
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.069 g 0.11%
Myristic acid  14:00(Tetradecanoic acid) 0.002 g N/D
Palmitic acid 16:00 (Hexadecanoic acid) 0.059 g N/D
Stearic acid 18:00 (Octadecanoic acid) 0.008 g N/D
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated    
Oleic acid 18:1 (octadecenoic acid) 0.056 g N/D
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.409 g 2.41%
Linoleic acid 18:2 (octadecadienoic acid) 0.234 g N/D
Linolenic acid 18:3 (Octadecatrienoic acid) 0.175 g N/D

Amino Acids Amount % DV
Isoleucine 0.143 g 8.55%
Threonine 0.134 g 7.61%
Leucine 0.267 g 7.22%
Valine 0.145 g 6.87%
Lysine 0.214 g 6.40%

Flavonols Amount % DV
Quercetin 1.7 mg N/D
Daidzein 0.02 mg N/D
Genistein 0.02 mg N/D
Total isoflavones 0.04 mg N/D
Biochanin A 0.03 mg N/D
Formononetin 1.43 mg N/D
Coumestrol 1.6 mg N/D

*Above mentioned Percent Daily Values (%DVs) are based on 2,000 calorie diet intake. Daily values (DVs) may be different depending upon your daily calorie needs. Mentioned values are recommended by a U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are not recommendations. Calculations are based on average age of 19 to 50 years and weighs 194 lbs.

Health benefits of Alfalfa

1. Cardiovascular disease

Scientific research done to test the effects of alfalfa on cardiovascular disorders, discovered dietary alfalfa increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (‘good’ cholesterol); a reduction in the build-up of fat in the arteries was also noted.

2. Diabetes

Research done in Budapest to test the effect of alfalfa leaf extract on diabetic patients concluded that one gram of Alfalfa two times a day over 16 weeks, displays  24% drop in blood cholesterol levels right after eight weeks, which stabilized in the following months. This research concludes that regular consumption of Alfalfa will help to reduce the blood cholesterol level effectively.

3. Arthritis, Bursitis and Muscle Problems

Alfalfa is extremely beneficial for People suffering from arthritis. Alfalfa help to neutralize the uric acid that is in their systems, thus pain is relieved. The trace minerals present in alfalfa assists the body to repair and rebuild joint tissue. Alfalfa is effective in the treatment and management of muscle aches and bursitis.

4. Blood Clotting

Alfalfa is loaded with Vitamin K which is essential to regulate blood clotting, due to the role in amalgamation of prothrombium. Blood clotting comprises of a set of molecules that are constantly circulating through the bloodstream. Vitamin K present in helps in the regulation of blood clotting by carrying calcium around the body. One cup sprouted alfalfa consists of 30.5 µg Vitamin K which is 25.42% of the daily recommended value. Vitamin K helps in improving blood disorders named myelodyplastic syndromes.

5. Arthritis

Alfalfa relate to its anti-inflammatory actions which assist in decreasing the symptoms of arthritis. Copper present in Alfalfa work as a home cure for arthritis; store water in a copper container overnight to gather copper traces. These are helpful in strengthening the muscular system; therefore drink the water as soon as you wake up in the morning. You will feel energized and active for entire day, because your metabolism got good source of copper for its daily procedures.

6. Muscle Function

Iron is an essential protein component for metabolism, and the human body needs iron to produce red blood cells. It is also vital element for muscle health. It can be found in the muscle tissues and assists to provide the source of oxygen essential for contraction of the muscles. Without iron, muscles will lose their tone and elasticity. Alfalfa intake is essential to fulfill iron requirement of the body as it include 0.96 mg of iron which is 12% of the recommended value.

7. Builds Stamina

Alfalfa intake helps to reduce body fatigue and tiredness and sets the metabolic actions of the whole body on the right way. It means vitamin K present in Alfalfa has the capacity to increase stamina on the body to perform several tasks in efficient and healthy way.

How to Eat

  • Alfalfa is used in along with corn for silage.
  • In parts of China and Russia Tender alfalfa leaves are serve as a vegetable in China and Russia.
  • Herbal teas can be made from alfalfa leaves and flowers and drunk up to three times a day.

Other Traditional uses and benefits of Alfalfa

  • Alfalfa leaves dried or fresh is used as a nutritive tonic to stimulate the appetite and promote weight gain.
  • Due to its oestrogenic action, it is useful in treating problems associated to menstruation and the menopause.
  • To treat of earache poultice of the heated leaves has been applied to the ear.
  • Leaves are rich in Vitamin K so it is used to encourage clotting of blood.
  • Root is febrifuge so it is prescribed in case of highly colored urine.
  • Due to its antibacterial properties it is used for diabetes, asthma as well as other gastrointestinal disorders.
  • In India and China the plant has been used to relieve fluid retention and to treat kidney stones.
  • In folklore, it is supposed that alfalfa offers protection and the ashes of burnt alfalfa are scattered around a property to guard against negative influences.
  • Alfalfa is used to protect the home from poverty and hunger in pagan rituals.
  • In India they are used as a cooling poultice for boils.
  • A cupful of 1:16 alfalfa: water infusion has been recommended to increase weight.
  • For treating insect bites and boils alfalfa seeds were made into a paste.
  • Fresh alfalfa juice is used to treat kidney stones in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Plant root is said to control fevers and improve jaundice.

Other Facts

  • It is used for grazing, hay, and silage.
  • It is cultivated as livestock fodder.
  • It is planted to reduce water runoff and soil erosion.
  • Seeds yield about 8.5–11% of a drying oil suitable for making paints and varnish.
  • The seeds also contain a yellow dye.
  • Alfalfa fiber has been utilized in manufacturing paper.


  • Alfalfa is usually safe in its natural form. However, the amino acid L-canavanine, present in alfalfa seeds and sprouts, has been displayed to trigger lupus flare-ups in patients with a history of the disease.
  • As for the herb’s effects on estrogen, some specialists warn that excessive alfalfa consumption may negatively alter hormone levels.
  • It is not prescribed to individuals with auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Extreme consumption of alfalfa may result in the breakdown of red blood cells, which is extremely serious.
  • Alfalfa must be avoided during pregnancy because of its potential canavanine content and hormonally active saponins.
  • Alfalfa may lower blood sugar levels. In case you have diabetes and take alfalfa, view your blood sugar levels carefully.

Alfalfa Facts

Alfalfa also known as Lucerne is a glabrous perennial flowering plant which is native to south-central Asia, first cultivated in ancient Iran. Slightly bland taste Alfalfa is full of important nutrients, minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

Name Alfalfa
Scientific Name Medicago sativa
Native Originated in south-central Asia, and was first cultivated in ancient Iran
Common/English Name Lucerne, purple alfalfa luzerne, snailclover, common lucerne, purple medick, common purple lucerne and yellow alfalfa
Name in Other Languages English: bastard medic, sand lucerne, variegated lucerne
Türkçe: Yonca gl=Alfalfa
USA: alfalfa
Français: Luzerne
Português: Alfafa
German: bastardluzerne
Spanish: alfalfa de las arenas
Ceština: Tolice vojtěška
Suomi: Sinimailanen
Nederlands: Alfalfa
Español: Alfalfa, Mielga
Italiano: Medicago sativa
Norsk bokmål: Alfalfa
French: luzerne bigarrée, luzerne intermédiaire
Català: Alfals
Deutsch: Luzerne
Svenska: Blålusern
Plant Growth Habit Erect or ascending, glabrous perennial
Growing Climate Adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions from cold temperate to warm sub-tropical.
Soil Thrives best on a friable, rich, well-drained loamy soil along with loose topsoil supplied with lime
Plant Size 1 m (3.3 ft)tall
Lifespan Normally lives four to eight years, but can live more than 20 years
Root Deep root system, sometimes stretching more than 15 m (49 ft.)
Stem Stems are erect or decumbent, up to 1 m high, glabrous or hairy in the upper parts with many branches.
Leaf Alternate compound leaves are olive-green and trifoliate, 10-45 mm long and 3-10 mm broad;  pubescent on lower surface, glabrous on upper surface, coarsely toothed
Leaflets Narrow, oblong to ovate or obovate, 8–28 mm x 3–15 mm, glabrous on upper surface, somewhat pubescent on lower surface
Flowering Season June to July.
Flower Hermaphrodite, about 1/3″ long, consisting of 5 petals that are lavender or purple, 10 stamens, a single pistil, and a green calyx.
Taste Slightly bland
Pods Pod curled, 1/3″ in length from one end to another, 3–10 mm in diameter, indehiscent, not spined, containing 6–8 seeds
Seed 6 or 8 per pod, yellow, brown or castaneous, ovoid, irregularly reniform or cordate
Varieties/Types M. sativa,  Weevelchek, M. falcate, Saranac, Classic, Team,  Buffalo and Arc.
Season Jul to September.
Major Nutrition Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 30.5 µg (25.42%)
Copper, Cu 0.157 mg (17.44%)
Iron, Fe 0.96 mg (12.00%)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 0.563 mg (11.26%)
Phosphorus, P 70 mg (10.00%)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.126 mg (9.69%)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) 8.2 mg (9.11%)
Vitamin B9 (Folate, Folic acid) 36 µg (9.00%)
Isoleucine 0.143 g (8.55%)
Zinc, Zn 0.92 mg (8.36%)
Health Benefits
  • Builds Stamina
  • Muscle Function
  • Bursitis and Muscle Problems
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Arthritis
  • Blood Clotting
Calories in 1cup (100gm) 23 Kcal






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