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Medicago sativa, also known as alfalfa, is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement and for the treatment of various medical conditions. Alfalfa may be consumed raw, dried, or in a prepared form, such as a tea or tablet. Though there are no known side effects associated with the use of medicago sativa, its use has been known to induce allergic reactions in certain individuals.
Native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa, alfalfa grows wild in the grasslands of temperate climates. Cultivated in locales with moderate temperatures, alfalfa is harvested during the summer months and is commonly grown perennially as feed for livestock. Medicago sativa possesses many dietary benefits for both animals and humans.
Active constituents of the alfalfa plant include numerous proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Enzymes contained in alfalfa contribute to the biochemical and metabolic regulation of energy within living systems. The chlorophyll found in alfalfa possesses beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Greatest benefit is derived from consuming alfalfa raw, either as a salad or sandwich dressing. Medicago sativa picked in the wild is thought to hold higher concentrations of valuable minerals and chlorophyll than that which is frozen or stored prior to use.
Traditionally, alfalfa has been used for the treatment of sore throat, anemia, stomach ulcers, and as an appetite stimulant. Individuals with high cholesterol may benefit from the use of medicago sativa-based products, which may contribute to the lowering of bad cholesterol. Though not always consumed for medicinal purposes, alfalfa is a beneficial health food. The nutrients of alfalfa are easily absorbed by the body, which make it a valuable part of a healthy diet, especially for individuals recuperating from a recent illness.
As a long-standing herbal remedy and dietary supplement, alfalfa is best consumed as a tea. Drinking three cups of alfalfa tea daily will provide an individual with the daily mineral and protein requirements associated with a healthy diet. Traditionally, alfalfa tea has been utilized as a treatment for easing symptoms associated with arthritic conditions. When taken in capsule or tablet form, alfalfa is beneficial for treating conditions associated with circulation and the heart. The estrogenic properties contained in medicago sativa herbal infusions are useful in the treatment of symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause.
There are no side effects associated with alfalfa when it is used in moderation. Though rare, the use of medicago sativa has been known to trigger allergic reactions in some people. Individuals who have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or have a family history of the disease, should avoid using alfalfa and products that contain alfalfa. Medicago sativa contains a compound known as canavanine, which is thought to contribute to blood abnormalities and joint inflammation similar to that experienced by individuals with SLE.