Lucerneotanical: Medicago sativa
Family: N.O. Papilionaceae
Synonyms: Purple Medicle. Cultivated Lucern.
Part Used: Whole herb in flower.
Habitat: Originally Medea, then old Spain, Italy, France; and cultivated in Persia and Peru.
Description: A deep-rooting perennial plant with nurnerous small clover-like spikes of blue or violet flowers of upright growth. Its herbage is green, succulent, and being an early crop is in a sense of some value as an agricultural plant. It yields two rather abundant green crops in the year - of a quality greatly relished by horses and cattle - it fattens them quickly and was much esteemed for increasing the milk of cows. One of the objections to growing it as a crop is the three to four years required before it attains full growth. When this plant is found in Britain growing wild it is merely an escape from cultivation. It may possibly have been a native of Europe; it is of great antiquity, having been imported into Greece from the East after Darius had discovered it in Medea, hence its name. It is referred to by Roman writers, and is cultivated in Persia and Peru, where it is mown all the year round. It first came into notice in 1757 in Britain. Its chief characteristics are: herb, 1 1/2 to 2 feet high; peduncled racemed; legumes contorted, twisted spirally, hairy; stem upright, smooth; leaves trifoliate; flowers in thick spikes, corolla purple.
To increase weight, an infusion of 1 OZ. to the pint is given in cupful doses.
The root of Lucerne has sometimes been found as an adulterant of Belladonna root.