Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an inexpensive herb that is easy to find, and it has quite a few useful applications. In the Middle East, alfalfa is known as the father of all herbs.
Alfalfa is a member of the pea family and has been used in herbal medicine for nearly 1500 years. It is a perennial that blooms throughout the summer months and grows vigorously in most climates. In fact, it is an aggressive plant and can take over your garden if you are not careful. For this reason, it might be best to purchase your alfalfa from a certified organic source, rather than growing it yourself.
If you grow it yourself, cut alfalfa before it comes into bloom and dry it out of the sunlight in a moisture-free area.
Rich in nutrients
Alfalfa is a nutritive herb that contains considerable amounts of protein. It is also one of the richest sources of vitamins and trace minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, betacarotene, vitamins A, B12, C, D, E and K. It is also high in the antioxidant chlorophyll. Its nutritional value makes alfalfa a commonly used dietary herb for many animals.
Alfalfa is quite effective in fighting arthritis. Clinical research shows that as many as 20% of people who take alfalfa report a marked decrease in painful symptoms and similar results have been reported in animals. Daily supplementation can deliver long-term relief for pets suffering from any inflammatory joint disease, especially if given alongside dandelion, yucca and licorice root.
Kidneys and more
In early Traditional Chinese Medicine, young alfalfa leaves were used to treat disorders of the digestive tract and the kidneys. Herbalists also like alfalfa for its ability to act as a diuretic and to treat overly-acidic urine which may lead to bladder irritation and cyst formation.
Alfalfa contains saponins which help with the absorption of fat soluble nutrients in the small intestine, and can be useful for animals who need to gain weight or adjust to a new diet.
Alfalfa also contains cancer fighting agents which are believed to inactivate carcinogens in the liver and small intestine, effectively reducing the risk of cancerous growths.
How to use
Dried alfalfa can be sprinkled over your dog’s food using a pinch per 10 lbs once a day, or about 1 tsp for a 50 lb dog. If you buy capsules or tinctures sold for humans, assume the recommended dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight. You can also make a tea by boiling 1 quart of water and adding 4 tsp dried alfalfa; steep for 10 – 20 minutes, strain and allow to cool. You can then add tea to your dog’s food or water, about 1/4 cup per 10 lbs. The tea will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Whichever method you choose, It’s best to start out slowly and feed for a month before assessing your dog’s reaction to the herb. At that point you can increase or reduce the dose as appropriate.
Alfalfa contains coumarin and vitamin K content which can make it effective as a anti-coagulant. Because of this, caution should be used with animals with anemia. Although it is regarded as a safe herb, Alfalfa’s saponin content also makes fresh alfalfa a risk for colic in horses and may produce nausea or gastritis in some dogs, especially if it is not in the dried form.
Alfalfa seeds also contain a toxic amino acid, L-canavanine, so the seeds should not be used. It is also important to note that alfalfa should only be used in its pre-bloom state as otherwise it can trigger an allergic response in animals who have pollen allergies.