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Medical disclaimer: always check with a physician before consuming wild plants, and make positive identification in the field using a good source such as Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.  Michael Moore also has a glossary of medical terms in his books, and maps in later editions. ) 
(Blog Masters Note:   All past posts are now located in a drop-down under comments. )
#163
Common Name: Alfalfa, Lucerne
Latin Name:
Medicago sativa, Medicago sativa falcata 
Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae 
Range:
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MESA
All of North America, except Nunavut, plus Hawaii (Medicago sativa)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MESAF All states west of the Rocky Mountains, except Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico; plus North Dakota south to Kansas, Alaska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinios, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts; All of Canada except Nunavut. ( Medicago sativa falcata)
Photos: Medicago sativa and Medicago sativa falcata
Appearance and Habitat:
Blooms in June to October, an introduced herb that is either an annual or perennial. Introduced as a forage crop in the temperate regions of the world.
Habitat: Near cultivated fields, roadsides, often on dry ground. General discription: Usually glabrous perennial from a long taproot, the stems more or less erect, 3-10 dm. tall. Leaves: Leaves trifoliate, the leaflets elliptic-oblanceolate, finely dentate on the outer end, 2-4 cm. long. stipules entire. Flowers: Inflorescence of dense racemes on peduncles 1-3 cm, long arising in the leaf axils; flowers 20-100, usually bluish-purple, but often whitish, yellow, or even pink; calyx 5-toothed, nearly as long as the corolla; corolla pea-like, 4-5 mm. long, the banner erect, much longer than the wings and keel. Fruits: Pod many-seeded, coiled in 2-3 spirals, not armed.
(1)   Waste ground, avioding acid soils in Europe – Mediterranean and more or less naturalized in Britain. A perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September.(2)  Alfalfa is a tall clover with three part leaves and many stems. At maturity, if not cut, it can reach 2 or 3 feet in height. The flowers are similar to clover with tuffs of lavender or blue blossoms at the ends of the stems. In the west look for it between 3,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation. Commonly found in foothills and mountains. The plant prefers moist soils in dry areas, but drier soils in very moist areas. It likes rich soils that are high in minerals.(3)
Warnings: The plant contains saponin-like substances. Eating large quantities of the leaves may cause the break down of red blood cells. However, although the are potentially harmful, saponins are poorly absorded 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 beans. Through cooking, and perhaps changing the water once, will normally remove mos of them from the food. Saponins ae much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes traditionally put large quanitities of them in streams, lakes ect. in order to stupefy or kill fish. Alfalfa sprouts ( and especially the seeds) contain canavanine. Recent reports suggest that ingestion of this substance can cause recurrence of sytemic lupus erythematosus (an ulcerous disease of the skin) in patients where the dease had become dormant. The FDA advises that children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems should avoid eating alfalfa sprouts due to bacterial contamination. Avoid during pregnany and lactation. Avoid for people with hormone sensitive cancer. Avoid for people with gout (due to purines). Possible antagonize the anticoagulant effect of warfarin (due to vit. K) and interfere with the immunosuppressant effect of corticosteriods.(4)   Some individual constituents can have side effects when tested in high concentrations, the tea is absolutely safe.(5)  Blog Master’s note: I personally don’t agree with all of these Warnings on PFAF, but do as you, or your doctor suggest. I just report. The FDA was started by the Rockefeller family for a purpose to sell drugs, some mammals eat an awful lot of alfalfa, such as horses and cows; even while pregnant. I would be more concerned with which ones are GMO’s. Agreed on gout, it is one of the legume family. Eat everything in moderation, that’s why we try to serve our families a balanced diet.
Edible Uses:Leaves and young shoots – raw or cooked. The leaves can also be dried for later use. Very rich in vitamins, especially A, B and C, they are also a good source of protein. The leaves are a rich source of vitamin K. 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. A nutritional analysis is available. The seed is commonly used as a sprouted seed which is added to salads, used in sandwiches etc or cooked in soups. 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. 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. Seed yields average around 186 – 280 kilos per hectare. An appetite-stimulating tea is made from the leaves, it has a flavour somewhat reminiscent of boiled socks and is slightly laxative. Break-down Protein: 6g; Fat: 0.4g; Carbohydrate: 9.5g; Fibre: 3.1g; Ash: 1.4g; Minerals – Calcium: 12mg; Phosphorus: 51mg; Iron: 5.4mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg; Vitamins – A: 3410mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.13mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.14mg; Niacin: 0.5mg; B6: 0mg; C: 162mg; per 100 grams of plant.(6)
Medicinal Uses :Alfalfa leaves, either fresh or dried, have traditionally been used as a nutritive tonic to stimulate the appetite and promote weight gain. The plant has an oestrogenic action and could prove useful in treating problems related to menstruation and the menopause. 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. See also the notes above on toxicity. The plant is antiscorbutic, aperient, diuretic, oxytocic, haemostatic, nutritive, stimulant and tonic. The expressed juice is emetic and is also anodyne in the treatment of gravel. The plant is taken internally for debility in convalescence or anaemia, haemorrhage, menopausal complaints, pre-menstrual tension, fibroids etc. A poultice of the heated leaves 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. Used for asthma, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders (anti-ulcer).(7)   Collect the upper half of the plant when just in bloom, even better after a rain. Dry the plant after bundling it in 1/2 bundles, dry by hanging in an airy shady spot. The lower leaves have sharp edges so wearing gloves is advised. When dried, remove the leaves and flowers. Alfalfa tea is more of a dietary supplient or food, rather than for medical use. Purchased alfalfa tea has very little flavor, but wild alfalfa tea has flavor. It contains high mineral content, such as calcium and other trace minerals and makes an excellent recuperative aid. It can be mixed with Red Clover and Nettle and drunk on a constant basis when recuperating from surgery or other inflammatory illness. The tea does work well for illnesses like arthritis, rhematism, colitis, ulcers and anemia. It is the mineral content that helps. The calcium in the freshly made tea is in a free form and is absorbed in the small intestine, meaning it helps treat osteoporosis. The calcium content is not as high as Mormon Tea, but still usable. Some German clinics use the tea as a dietary aid to help with celiace disease. The tea is good during pregnany along with Rasberry, and is also good after taking anti-biotics. To make the tea, use 32 parts water to one part dried leaves and flowers (by weight). Boil the water, remove from the heat source, place the herb in the water, and after 20 – 30 minutes, strain out the herb, return the water level to 32 parts, and drink.( 8 )
Foot Notes: (1)http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection.php?Genus=Medicago&Species=sativa

Foot Notes: (2, 4, 6, 7) http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Medicago+sativa
Foot Notes: ( 3, 5, 8 ) Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 2nd Edition, by Michael Moore, pages 23-24, Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 2003, ISBN 0-89013-454-5
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#164
Common Name: Figwort, Carpenters Square, Water Figwort, Pineland Figwort, Oregon Figwort, Woodland Figwort, Lanceleaf Figwort
Latin Name:
Scrophularia californica, S. lanceolata, S. marilandica , S. nodosa, S. oregona, S. parviflora, S. umbrosa.
Family: Scrophulariaceae
Range:
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCROP Main database, all of the lower 48 States; In Canada; British Columbia to Saskatchewan, Ontario to Newfoundland and south.

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCCA2 California (Scrophularia californica)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCLA All of the lower 48 States, except Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina; In Canada same as main database, except not Newfoundland.(Scrophularia lanceolata)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCMA2 All States east of the Mississippi R. and along the west bank, plus South Dakota to Texas; In Canada; Ontario and Quebec. (Scrophularia marilandica)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCNO2 Washington, Minnesota, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhone Island and Massachusetts; In Canada; Quebec, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.(Scrophularia nodosa)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCOR Oregon and Washington; In Canada; British Columbia. (Scrophularia oregana)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCPA6 Arizona and New Mexico. (Scrophularia parviflora)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SCUM Pennslyvania and New Jersey. (Scrophularia umbrosa)
Photos : (Click on Latin name after common name )

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#164 (a)
Common Name: Carpenters Square, Maryland Figwort (Scrophularia marilandica)
Appearance and Habitat:
A 4-sided, grooved stem bearing a banching, somewhat pyramidal, terminal clusters of small, erect, sac-shaped, greenish-brown flowers with magenta – brown interiors. Figworts are tall plants with brownish or greenish flowers in a large branched panicle. The common name figwort refers to the early use of the plants in treating hemorrhoids, an ailment once known as figs. The plants were also used as a tonic; in the 1800s an infusion of the roots was given as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety. Hare Figwort (S. lanceolata), similar to Maryland Figwort, has shiny flowers and a greenish-yellow fifth stamen; it is found from Alberta east to Nova Scotia, south to North Carolina, northwest to Ohio and Illinois, southwest to Oklahoma, and north to North Dakota. Figwort (S. nodosa), a very similar European species, has become established in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; it has a brownish-purple sterile stamen and usually finishes flowering in June.
(1)
   Rich woods and thickets in eastern N. America from Quebec to Alabama. A perennial growing to 3 m (9ft 10in). It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from Aug to September, and the seeds ripen in September.(2)
Warnings: None
(3)

Edible Uses: None
(4)

Medicinal Uses :Alterative, appetizer, diaphoretic, vermifuge and vulnerary. A tea made from the roots is diuretic, emmenagogue and tonic. It has been used in the treatment of irregular menses, fevers and piles. A poultice made from the roots is a folk remedy for cancer. Carpenter’s square is said to have similar properties to the knotted figwort, S. nodosa. These properties are:- Knotted figwort is a plant that supports detoxification of the body and it may be used as a treatment for various kinds of skin disorders. The whole plant is alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, mildly purgative and stimulant. It is harvested as the plant comes into flower in the summer and can be dried for later use. A decoction is applied externally to sprains, swellings, burns, inflammations etc, and is said to be useful in treating chronic skin diseases, scrofulous sores and gangrene. The leaves can also be applied fresh or be made into an ointment. Internally, the plant is used in the treatment of chronic skin diseases (such as eczema, psoriasis and pruritis), mastitis, swollen lymph nodes and poor circulation. It should not be prescribed for patients with heart conditions. The root is anthelmintic.
(5)

Foot Notes: (1) http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=SCMA2

Foot Notes: (2, 3, 4, 5) http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Scrophularia+marilandica

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#164 (b)
Common Name: Knotted Figwort, Woodland Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
Appearance and Habitat:
Damp ground in woods, hedgebanks, by streams etc. An occasional garden weed in Europe, including Britain, south and east to Norway Spain and temperate Asia to the Yensei region. A perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.3 m (1ft). It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September.
Warnings: Avoid in patients with ventricular tachycardia (increased heart rate). Lack of toxicological data excludes use during pregnany.
Edible Uses: Root cooked. It smells and tastes unpleasant, but has been used in times of famine. There must be some doubts about the edibility of this root.
Medicinal Uses : Knotted figwort is a plant that supports detoxification of the body and it may be used as a treatment for various kinds of skin disorders. The whole plant is alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, mildly purgative and stimulant. It is harvested as the plant comes into flower in the summer and can be dried for later use. A decoction is applied externally to sprains, swellings, burns, inflammations etc, and is said to be useful in treating chronic skin diseases, scrofulous sores and gangrene. The leaves can also be applied fresh or be made into an ointment. Internally, the plant is used in the treatment of chronic skin diseases (such as eczema, psoriasis and pruritis), mastitis, swollen lymph nodes and poor circulation. It should not be prescribed for patients with heart conditions. The root is anthelmintic.

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Scrophularia+nodosa
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#164 (c)
Common Name: Water Figwort, Water Betony, (Scrophularia umbrosa)
Appearance and Habitat:
Damp shady ground, usually near water. An occasional garden weed in Europe, including Britain, south and east to S. Sweden to France Palestine and Asia to Tibet. A perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September.
Warnings: The plant is probably poisonous to cows.
Edible Uses: Root cooked. It smells and tastes unpleasant, but has been used in times of famine. There must be some doubts about the edibility of this root.
Medicinal Uses : The leaves are detergent and vulnerary. They are harvested as the plant comes into flower and can be used fresh or dried for later use. The plant has a good reputation as a wound herb, either applied externally as a poultice or taken as a decoction. Water betony is said to have similar medicinal properties to the knotted figwort, S. nodosa. These properties are as follows:- Knotted figwort is a plant that supports detoxification of the body and it may be used as a treatment for various kinds of skin disorders. The whole plant is alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, mildly purgative and stimulant. It is harvested as the plant comes into flower in the summer and can be dried for later use. A decoction is applied externally to sprains, swellings, burns, inflammations etc, and is said to be useful in treating chronic skin diseases, scrofulous sores and gangrene. The leaves can also be applied fresh or be made into an ointment. Internally, the plant is used in the treatment of chronic skin diseases (such as eczema, psoriasis and pruritis), mastitis, swollen lymph nodes and poor circulation. It should not be prescribed for patients with heart conditions. The root is anthelmintic.

 http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Scrophularia+umbrosa
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(Now for Michael Moore who covers the rest.)
Additional Photos: Scrophularia californica , Scrophularia lanceolata , Scrophularia oregana and Scrophularia parviflora
Appearance and Habitat:
Figworts are tall, slender, with stems that are brittle. They range in height from 3 to 5 feet and lots of times spreading by falling over. S. californica can reach 6 feet or more. It can be found in Nevada and Arizona as well, but is abundant in the coastal ranges and inland mountains to 6, 500 feet. It has smaller leaves than S. lanceolata which are oval-triangular in shape, and opposite along the branches. S. lanceolata is throughout New Mexico and Arizona and is the predominant species outside of California. It has four sided stems when young, but as the plant gets older it becomes 8 sided. The leaves are large, serrated and oval – triangular. S. lanceolata grows in the Rocky Mountians from Gila to Canada and the mountians fringing the Great Basin. Watch for it in spruce and fir meadows. The over-all appearance is similar to Nettles, but the plants are smooth and not hairy. The flowers from semi-opened blossoms along terminal spikes of rust, thinged with green or brown maroon.
Warnings: The European variety of S. nodosa contains cardiac depressants, strongest in the root in the spring to summer so avoid with ventricular tachycardia, or other heart medications, or when pregnant.
Medicinal Uses : Collect the above ground plant in middle summer, tie it into 1/2 inch bundles and hang in the shade to dry. After it has dried, remove the larger stems keeping the small stems, leaves, flowers and seeds for tea. You can also make a fresh tincture of the plant using water at a rate of 1 part plant to 2 parts water (by weight). As with all tincures, shake daily for a week before straining the plant out, then take up to 30 drops 3 times a day (internal). For the tea, use 1 part dried plant to 32 parts water, bring the water to a boil, remove from the heat and place the herbs in. After 30 minutes, strain out the plant and return the water level to 32 parts. Both the tea and tincture can be used by applying them to fungal infections of the skin. It works well for ‘cradle cap’ , althele’s foot, eczema and burns. It can also be drunk as a tea, using under a tablespoon of the dried plant in a cup of hot water, straining the plant out before drinking. Internally the tea works for skin erruptions of the back, chest, and as a blood tonic. It also has a mild sedative effect. A salve can be made from the fresh wilted plant as well, blend equal parts of the plant with olive oil. Allow this to stand for at least a week, strain out the plant, using cloth. Then heat the remaining oil just hot enough to melt bees wax and add the bees wax to the consistency you prefer. The salve can be used for PMS breast pain by applying from the arm pit to the nipple. The salve can also be used on cold sores. The fresh plant, or powdered plant makes a good poultice for joint injures, bruises and insect stings, just mix it with water. For arthritis brought on by cold and damp weather try a cup of the tea in the evening.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 2nd Edition, by Michael Moore, pages 115-118, Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 2003, ISBN 0-89013-454-5

Reproduced, in part, (as well as previous postings under this title) in accordance with Section 107 of title 17of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
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