Alfalfa is a well-known fodder crop with high nutrition value for many types of livestock. Alfalfa leaf makes a pleasant tasting, tonifying tea and blends well with other herbs.
Medicago sativa L.
Common name: Alfalfa
Synonyms: lucerne, medick, purple medick
The Plant: Alfalfa is a long-lived perennial with a deep and extensive root system. The plants are 3 to 4 feet high and the leaves have three lobes. The whole plant is harvested just as its pale purple flowers are opening. It grows in a wide range of conditions. As a nitrogen-fixing plant with an extensive root system, alfalfa helps restore and nourish poor soils. Alfalfa seeds are small and yellow-tan and are a popular sprouting seed.
Constituents of Note: Alfalfa, an important animal food, is a highly studied crop. Alfalfa is about 15% protein. It contains many vitamins (including A,C,D,K and B) and trace minerals (like calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus and manganese) and is 15 to 25% fiber. No wonder it is an important nutritive crop for many types of livestock! It also contains 2 to 3% saponins, flavones and isoflavones, sterols, coumarins, enzymes and many other constituents.
Quality: Alfalfa leaf should have a good green color with bits of purple flowers. Alfalfa leaf harvested for herb use is usually a second or even a third cutting, which reduces the quantity of large stem in the herb. The nutrition is all in the leaf and one of the goals of plant breeders is to increase the leaf-to-stem ratio in alfalfa plants. Our alfalfa leaf herb is over 90% leaf, and we specify that no more than 5% of leaves can be yellow or tan in color.
Alfalfa leaf has a fresh, faint, hay-like aroma — it should never smell musty or stale. Flavor is herbaceous with a hint of sweetness. No stale, moldy or off-flavors should be present.
We grind alfalfa leaf to make our alfalfa leaf powder. (Most products sold as alfalfa powder are made from alfalfa herb instead of alfalfa leaf. Alfalfa herb contains up to 60% stem by weight, thus greatly reducing the nutritional value of the product.)
Directions: To make alfalfa tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of herb. Cover and let steep 3 to 5 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon of alfalfa leaf powder as a dietary supplement in blended drinks.
Suggested Uses: Just as alfalfa restores poor soils, it can help restore poor souls. It's a nutritive tonic that gently helps cleanse and cool body systems. Alfalfa is also used in cases of poor appetite.
In a tea, alfalfa has a soft, delicate, hay-like flavor. It melds very nicely with stronger herbs and especially complements the flavors of mint and lemon.
The powder is added as a dietary supplement to vegetable juices or added to blended beverages such as breakfast, protein or other drinks. It's often an ingredient in green super food blends where it's combined with herbs like spirulina, wheat grass, barley grass, chlorella and spinach powder. Alfalfa leaf powder can also be encapsulated or combined with other herb powders in herbal formulas.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies Alfalfa Herb as:
Class:1 herbs which can be safely consumed when used appropriately
**Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)
Alfalfa is cultivated around the world, with the U.S. a primary producer. Our alfalfa leaf herb comes from a small organic farm in Oregon State.
Meet Our Grower: Alfalfa serves many purposes at our Well Earth partner’s farm. It is used as a high quality feed for the Belgian horses who work the farm, it is used in a crop rotation plan to control weeds and maintain soil fertility and finally as a source for our high quality alfalfa leaf. Read more about our alfalfa Well Earth partner.