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Uses

Toxic parts

The plant contains saponin-like substances[1]. Eating large quantities of the leaves may cause the breakdown of red blood cells[1]. However, although they are potentially harmful, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will normally remove most of them from the food. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K]. Alfalfa sprouts (and especially the seeds) contain canavanine. Recent reports suggest that ingestion of this substance can cause the recurrence of systemic lupus erythematosus (an ulcerous disease of the skin) in patients where the disease had become dormant[1].

Edible uses

Notes

Leaves and young shoots - raw or cooked[2][3][4][5]. The leaves can also be dried for later use[6]. Very rich in vitamins[7], especially A, B and C[8], they are also a good source of protein[9]. The leaves are a rich source of vitamin K[10]. A very nutritious food in moderation, though it can trigger attacks in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and large quantities can affect liver function and cause photosensitization[11]. A nutritional analysis is available[12].

The seed is commonly used as a sprouted seed which is added to salads[2][13][4], used in sandwiches etc or cooked in soups[7]. The seed is soaked in warm water for 12 hours, then kept moist in a container in a warm place to sprout. It is ready in about 4 - 6 days[14]. The seeds can also be ground into a powder and used as a mush, or mixed with cereal flours for making a nutritionally improved bread etc[7][10][14]. Seed yields average around 186 - 280 kilos per hectare[15].

An appetite-stimulating tea is made from the leaves[16][6], it has a flavour somewhat reminiscent of boiled socks[17] and is slightly laxative[18].

Leaves

Unknown part

Tea

Material uses

Often grown as a green manure. It is a bit slow to establish in its first year so is generally only recommended for positions where it can remain for 2 or more years. Alfalfa is very vigorous from its second year, producing a huge bulk of material that can be cut down 2 or 3 times during the season[13][19]. Plants are very deep rooting, descending 6 metres or more into the soil[20], and are able to fix large quantities of atmospheric nitrogen, this makes them one of the very best green manures. Plants are rather intolerant of competition from grass etc, however, and there is the drawback of needing to leave them in the soil for more than 2 years to fully achieve their potential[K].

Alfalfa is a potenially excellent source of biomass. It is possible to produce more than 2 tonnes of protein from the leaves (suitable for human use) per hectare per year. In addition, the plant residues remaining could be used to produce the equivalent of about 10 barrels of oil per year[15]. A yellow dye is obtained from the seed[15]. The fibre of the plant has been used in making paper[15]. The seed yields about 8.5 - 11% of a drying oil. It is used in paints, varnish etc[21][22][23][15].

The plant can be grown as a low dividing hedge in the vegetable garden[4][9].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Alfalfa leaves, either fresh or dried, have traditionally been used as a nutritive tonic to stimulate the appetite and promote weight gain[1]. The plant has an oestrogenic action and could prove useful in treating problems related to menstruation and the menopause[24]. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant, however. It should not be prescribed to people with auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis[11]. See also the notes above on toxicity.

The plant is antiscorbutic, aperient, diuretic, oxytocic, haemostatic, nutritive, stimulant and tonic[6][25][12]. The expressed juice is emetic and is also anodyne in the treatment of gravel[12]. The plant is taken internally for debility in convalescence or anaemia, haemorrhage, menopausal complaints, pre-menstrual tension, fibroids etc[11]. A poultice of the heated leaves has been applied to the ear in the treatment of earache[26]. The leaves can be used fresh or dried[11]. The leaves are rich in vitamin K which is used medicinally to encourage the clotting of blood[10]. This is valuable in the treatment of jaundice[10]. The plant is grown commercially as a source of chlorophyll and carotene, both of which have proven health benefits[1]. The leaves also contain the anti-oxidant tricin[1]. The root is febrifuge and is also prescribed in cases of highly coloured urine[12].

Extracts of the plant are antibacterial[12].

Ecology

Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Green manure


Hedge


Nitrogen fixer

Forage

Nothing listed.

Shelter

Nothing listed.

Propagation

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in situ in autumn[4]. Seed can be obtained that has been inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria, enabling the plant to succeed in soils where the bacteria is not already present.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Medicago sativa. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.



Cultivation

Alfalfa is a very versatile plant that can adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions from cold temperate to warm sub-tropical.[15]. It succeeds on a wide variety of soils[4][15], but thrives best on a rich, friable, well-drained loamy soil with loose topsoil supplied with lime[15]. It does not tolerate waterlogging and fails to grow on acid soils[15]. Grows well on light soils[9]. The plant has a deep taproot and, once establishd, tolerates drought and extremely dry conditions[4][15]. Prefers a neutral fertile soil[19] but succeeds in relatively poor soils so long as the appropriate Rhizobium bacteria is present[20]. A good bee plant[21] and a food plant for many caterpillars[27].

Alfalfa is a very deep rooting plant, bringing up nutrients from deep in the soil and making them available for other plants with shallower root systems. It is a good companion plant for growing near fruit trees and grape vines so long as it is in a reasonably sunny position, but it does not grow well with onions or other members of the Allium genus[8]. Growing alfalfa encourages the growth of dandelions[8]. Alfalfa has long been cultivated for its edible seed, which can be sprouted and eaten in salads. It is also grown as a green manure and soil restorer. There are many named varieties[7]. Botanists divide the species into a number of sub-species - these are briefly described below:-

    M. sativa caerulea (Less. ex Ledeb.)Schmalh. This sub-species is likely to be of value in breeding programmes for giving cold tolerance, drought resistance and salt tolerance to alfalfa.
    M. sativa falcata (L.)Arcang. This sub-species is likely to be of value in breeding programmes for giving cold tolerance, drought and disease resistance plus salt and water-logging tolerance to alfalfa.
    M. sativa sativa. The commonly cultivated form of alfalfa.
    M. sativa varia (Martyn.)Arcang. This sub-species is likely to be of value in breeding programmes for giving cold tolerance, drought resistance and high yields to alfalfa.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[20].

Crops

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Medicago sativa. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Medicago sativa.

Descendants

Cultivars

Varieties

None listed.

Subspecies

None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Taxonomy
Binomial name
Medicago sativa
Genus
Medicago
Family
Leguminosae
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Botanic
Propagation
Cultivation
Environment
Cultivation
Uses
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Environment
Hardiness Zone
5
Heat Zone
?
Water
moderate
Sun
full sun
Shade
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Drought
Ecosystems
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Life
Deciduous or Evergreen
?
Herbaceous or Woody
?
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
Mature Size
1 x meters
Fertility
Pollinators
Flower Colour
?
Flower Type

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"image:Medicago sativa Alfals006.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Medicago sativa Alfals006.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


"image:Medicago sativa Alfals006.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

"image:Medicago sativa Alfals006.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

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References

  1. ? 1.01.11.21.31.41.51.6 Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
  2. ? 2.02.12.2 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
  3. ? 3.03.1 Ceres. Free for All. Thorsons Publishers ISBN 0-7225-0445-4 (1977-00-00)
  4. ? 4.04.14.24.34.44.54.64.7 Larkcom. J. Salads all the Year Round. Hamlyn (1980-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.1 Singh. Dr. G. and Kachroo. Prof. Dr. P. Forest Flora of Srinagar. Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh (1976-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.16.26.36.4 Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health (1973-00-00)
  7. ? 7.07.17.27.37.4 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  8. ? 8.08.18.28.3 Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting. Cassell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-304-34324-2 (1993-00-00)
  9. ? 9.09.19.29.39.4 Larkcom J. Oriental Vegetables John Murray ISBN 0-7195-4781-4 (1991-00-00)
  10. ? 10.010.110.210.310.410.5 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.111.211.311.411.5 Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
  12. ? 12.012.112.212.312.412.512.6 Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
  13. ? 13.013.113.213.3 Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. ISBN 0-88266-064-0 (1978-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.114.2 Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
  15. ? 15.0015.0115.0215.0315.0415.0515.0615.0715.0815.0915.1015.11 Duke. J. Handbook of Energy Crops - (1983-00-00)
  16. ? 16.016.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
  17. ? 17.017.1 Cribb. A. B. and J. W. Wild Food in Australia. Fontana ISBN 0-00-634436-4 (1976-00-00)
  18. ? 18.018.1 McPherson. A. and S. Wild Food Plants of Indiana. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-28925-4 (1977-00-00)
  19. ? 19.019.119.2 Woodward. L. Burge. P. Green Manures. Elm Farm Research Centre. (1982-00-00)
  20. ? 20.020.120.220.320.4 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
  21. ? 21.021.121.2 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  22. ? 22.022.1 Schery. R. W. Plants for Man. ()
  23. ? 23.023.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  24. ? 24.024.1 Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
  25. ? 25.025.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
  26. ? 26.026.1 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
  27. ? Carter D. Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. Pan ISBN 0-330-26642-x (1982-00-00)
  28. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)

"image:Medicago sativa Alfals006.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

Facts about "Medicago sativa"RDF feed
Article is incompleteYes +
Article requires citationsNo +
Article requires cleanupYes +
Belongs to familyLeguminosae +
Belongs to genusMedicago +
Functions asGreen manure +, Hedge + and Nitrogen fixer +
Has binomial nameMedicago sativa +
Has common nameAlfalfa +
Has drought toleranceTolerant +
Has edible partLeaves +, Seed + and Unknown part +
Has edible useUnknown use + and Tea +
Has environmental toleranceDrought +
Has fertility typeSelf fertile +, Bees +, Lepidoptera + and Self +
Has flowers of typeHermaphrodite +
Has growth rateModerate +
Has hardiness zone5 +
Has imageMedicago sativa Alfals006.jpg +
Has lifecycle typePerennial +
Has material partUnknown part +
Has material useOil +, Paper +, Dye + and Biomass +
Has mature height1 +
Has medicinal partUnknown part +
Has medicinal useAnodyne +, Antibacterial +, Antiscorbutic +, Aperient +, Diuretic +, Emetic +, Febrifuge +, Haemostatic +, Nutritive +, Stimulant + and Tonic +
Has primary imageMedicago sativa Alfals006.jpg +
Has search namemedicago sativa + and alfalfa +
Has shade toleranceNo shade +
Has soil ph preferenceAcid +, Neutral + and Alkaline +
Has soil texture preferenceSandy +, Loamy + and Clay +
Has soil water retention preferenceWell drained +
Has sun preferenceFull sun +
Has taxonomic rankSpecies +
Has taxonomy nameMedicago sativa +
Has water requirementsmoderate +
Is taxonomy typeSpecies +
PFAF cultivation notes migratedNo +
PFAF edible use notes migratedNo +
PFAF material use notes migratedNo +
PFAF medicinal use notes migratedNo +
PFAF propagation notes migratedNo +
PFAF toxicity notes migratedNo +
Tolerates nutritionally poor soilNo +
Uses mature size measurement unitMeters +
Has subobjectThis property is a special property in this wiki.Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa +, Medicago sativa + and Medicago sativa +