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Capsule Alfalfa

Latin name: Medicago sativa
Family: Leguminosae
Common name: Willayati ghas, Lasun ghas
English name: Lucerne, Guinea grass


Habitat: The leguminous plant has entered India through northwest viz. Baluchistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir and other countries approached from northwest. It is found all over India.

Macroscopic identification: An erect perennial herb with deep roots. Stem 30-60 cm high. Leaves are narrowly ovate. Flowers are violet in color and fruit is spirally twisted with 2-3 turns.

Parts used: Whole plant excluding root.
Pharmacological action: Alterative, diuretic, antipyretic, haemostatic. The plant is anti scorbutic, aperient's, ecbolic, and haemostatic, nutritive, stimulant and tonic. The expressed juice is emetic and is also anodyne in the treatment of gravel. Tonic, anti fungal, laxative, detoxifier, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, hepatoprotective, digestive, nutritive.

Actions and uses in ayurveda: Ancient ayurvedic physicians use alfalfa to treat ulcers, arthritis and fluid retention. Chinese used it to stimulate appetite and treat digestive troubles particularly ulcers. Early Americans used alfalfa to treat arthritis, boils, cancer, scurvy and urinary-bowel trouble.

Photochemical: it contains upto 50% protein, and has good quantity of beta-carotene, chlorophyll and octacosanol. Other ingredients are: saponin, sterols, flavonoids, coumarins, alkaloids, acids, vitamin (A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid), amino acids, sugar, minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper), trace elements and other nutrients. Whole alfalfa has been applied to the ear in the treatment of earache. The leaves can be used fresh or dried. The leaves are rich in vitamin K, which is used medicinally to encourage the clotting of blood. This is valuable in the treatment of jaundice. The plant is grown commercially as a source of chlorophyll and carotene, both of which have proven health benefits. The leaves also contain the anti-oxidant tricin. The root is febrifuge and is also prescribed in cases of highly coloured urine. Extracts of the plant are antibacterial. The plant is a kidney tonic, prostatic tonic, reproductive tonic, musculoskeletal tonic, glandular tonic and so forth. It also contains plenty of fiber with anticholesterolemic properties.

Leaves (Fresh weight)- Water: 82.7 Calories: 52 Protein: 6 Fat: 0.4 Carbohydrate: 9.5 Fiber: 3.1 Ash: 1.4 Calcium: 12 Phosphorus: 51 Iron: 5.4 Vitamin A: 3410 Thiamine: 0.13 Riboflavin: 0.14 Niacin: 0.5 Vitamin C: 162

Indications: The plant is taken internally for debility in convalescence or anaemia, hemorrhage, menopausal complaints, premenstrual tension, fibroids etc. A poultice of the heated leaves

Preparations: powder and decoction.

Therapeutic classification index:

  • Blood and haemopoeitic tissue: High concentration of vitamin K has beneficial effect on several kinds of hemolytic disorders.
  • Cardiovascular system: it helps to prevent heart disease and strokes. It inhibits increase in blood cholesterol levels by 25% in experimental animal fed on high cholesterol diet.
  • Nutrition and metabolism: Alfalfa has an extremely high nutritive value, which includes vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E and K, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, minerals, protein, beneficial saponin, amino acid, tracer elements (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper). It contains several saponin, sterols, flavonoids, cournarins, alkaloids, acids, vitamins, amino acids, sugar, proteins (25% by weight), minerals, trace elements and other nutrients. Overall it is the most nutritious food known. High concentration of vitamin K is found in alfalfa. It is also a rich fibrous plant. Alfalfa it self means "father of all food." It has been seen that diabetic patients that fail to respond to insulin improve on alfalfa diet.
  • Genito- urinary system: it has been investigated in the laboratory as a source of plant estrogen, which might make it helpful for menopause. It is used as a diuretic.
  • Musculoskeletal system: it is successfully used for symptomatic arthritis.
  • Immunity system: It has anti fungal, anti bacterial, anti tumoral properties. The saponin in alfalfa has shown anti fungal properties. The aqueous extracts are antibacterial against gram-negative bacteria.

Presence of Phytoestrogens in alfalfa:
One of the most promising new uses for Medicago appears to be in the treatment of endocrine imbalance. Investigators were able to identify several hormonally active compounds in Medicago, the most important group of these being the phytoestrogens. These compounds are not true estrogens, yet they possess molecular structures similar enough to estrogen to bind to estradiol receptors. Medicago contains three major phytoestrogens: coumestrol, genistein and formonetin; and two less important ones, diadzein and biochanin A. Most phytoestrogens are isoflavones, while coumestrol is a coumarin derivative. Although all lack a true steroid structure, they do have at least one phenol ring and free hydroxyl groups in positions 7 and 12.

Coumestrol is the most hormonally active of the group, with a relative estrogenic activity 5% that of estradiol. This is followed by genistein with 1% and formonetin with .01% activity. The relative weakness of their estrogenic action means that these compounds will have an "alterative" or "balancing" effect.

phytoestrogens may be used therapeutically in both hypoestrogenism and hyperestrogenism states. It is precisely this quality that makes them so useful therapeutically, especially in a naturopathic setting.

In conditions of hypoestrogenism the plant estrogens will bind directly to estrogen receptors and provide a mild estrogenic effect. This is enhanced by the tendency of the phytoestrogens to concentrate in reproductive tissues, in preference to the serum proteins.

In conditions of hyperestrogenism the relatively weak-acting phytoestrogens will compete for binding sites, thus reducing the number of receptors available to the stronger endogenous estrogens and reducing net estrogenic stimulation. This is most useful in estrogen excess conditions such as premenstrual syndrome, fibrocystic breasts, uterine leiyomyomas, and estrogen-responsive cancers of the breast and uterus.

Alfalfa in hypothyroidism
Medicago contains an additional compound with thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) activity. This TRH analog is biologically active, probably via the hypothalmus rather than the pituitary, and has the additional effect of inhibiting prolactin release. These findings would suggest that Medicago extracts could be potentially therapeutic in the treatment of secondary hypothyroidism and conditions of prolactin excess such as polycystic ovaries.

Jackson I. Abundance of immunoreactive thytropin releasing hormone-like material in the alfalfa plant. Endocrinology 1981; 108; 344

Effect of alfalfa on muscles Flavone, tricin, has the ability to relax smooth muscle. It is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and would thus be primarily useful in conditions of GI cramping or colic.

Use of alfalfa in managing cholesterol
All parts of the plant have been used in one or more studies, and in each study the component tested, whether it be the seeds, the roots or the meal, has demonstrated anticholesterolemic and anti-atherogenic activity. Alfalfa meal appears to lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins, (LDL) and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) while not significantly lowering the desirable HDL sub fractions.

Alfalfa as a rejuvenator People have used alfalfa for centuries worldwide for overall support and rejuvenation. Because of its deep root system, alfalfa is a rich source of the minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, potassium, and trace minerals. Specifically, it is one of the best sources for protein and is very high in chlorophyll, carotene, the vitamins A, D, E, B-6, K, and several digestive enzymes. This may be why it is said to help reconstitute bone and when fresh, is beneficial for rickets. Research suggests that it may inactivate dietary chemical carcinogens in the liver and small intestine before they have a chance to do the body any harm. It is commonly used for bladder infections. Alfalfa is used as an appetite stimulant, a vitality augmenter (tonic), a digestive stimulant, for insomnia, and to relax the nervous system.

Dose: dried herb: 5-10 gms

Capsule Alfalfa contains pure powder of Alfalfa.
Dosage: one capsule twice a day.
Package 60 capsules


References:

  1. HPI page no.30
  2. Dr.KM Nadkarni, The Indian Materia Medica, Vol.I, pg 774
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