Medicago sativa arrived in Mexico with the Spanish colonists in the 16th century as fodder for their horses. The original Arabic word al-faṣfaṣa has evolved to alfalfa, which is how it is referred to in North America. It’s still commonly used as animal food. However, alfalfa is also used to strengthen lungs, treat kidney inflammation and anemia, as a relaxant, to prevent scurvy, and alleviate rheumatism in traditional Mexican medicine.
Studies have shown that alfalfa stems and leaves reduce cholesterol absorption and atherosclerotic plaque formation. Regular ingestion reduces hyperglycemia levels. It also has antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Alfalfa is also antioxidant and may protect the brain from damage as a result of strokes. The plant loses potency when dried, so using fresh leaves, flowers, and roots is best.
As a detoxifier, three teaspoons of lightly crushed leaves are steeped into a cup of boiling water daily. For kidney infections, a full plant with roots and two Agave lechuguilla plants are boiled in a half liter of water for five minutes. Another remedy calls for four complete agave lechuguilla plants and one full alfalfa plant with roots. Boil them for five minutes a liter of water. Allow it to cool. Drink half in the morning before breakfast and half in the afternoon before dinner. Alfalfa is effective in reducing painful urination and can help with peptic ulcers as well. It has a mild diuretic effect, making it a useful digestive aid.
For nerves, one cup is taken every other day with 25 grams of new leaves boiled in a half liter of water for three minutes. For anemia, the flowers and leaves are used in a decoction.
Blend lime, alfalfa and water into a beverage for lung remedies. For general well-being, and to avoid scurvy, fresh leaves are often added to soups, atole, or eaten with tortillas by children. Not surprisingly, alfalfa has properties known to improve immune system functioning.
As a treatment to encourage increased lactation, 50 grams of new leaves are boiled in a liter of water and given to the new mother. Since it has been shown that alfalfa has significant estrogenic activity, if the low milk production issue is due to hormones, this is an effective remedy. Alfalfa has also been useful in treating hot flashes and night sweating in menopausal women and increasing thyroid functioning.
Boiled alfalfa seeds sweetened with honey is prescribed to alleviate rheumatism. However, raw alfalfa seeds and sprouts are toxic and can cause lupus-like symptoms in certain individuals. Seeds should never be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Alfalfa has a grassy taste, as you might expect. It’s not a strong flavor and can be easily added to blended juices if you are considering including this herb in your regular diet.
Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.