Alfalfa, also called lucerne and called Medicago sativa in binomial nomenclature, is a perennial flowering plant in the legume family Fabaceae. The name alfalfa is used in North America. The name lucerne is the more commonly used name in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Alfalfa leaf, is also known as Chilean Clover, Buffalo Grass, Lucerne and purple medic.
The plant superficially resembles clover, when trifoliate leaves comprising round leaflets predominate. Later in maturity, leaflets are elongated, it has clusters of small purple flowers followed by fruits spiraled in 2 to 3 turns containing 10–20 seeds.
In ancient India, Ayurvedic texts prescribe the use of alfalfa seeds and sprouts for improving blood cell production and its leaves and stem as a good source of protein and minerals. Alfalfa seems to have originated in south-central Asia, and was first cultivated in ancient Iran.
According to Pilny, it was introduced to Greece in about 490 BC when the Persians invaded Greek territory. Pliny and Palladius (both Ancient writers) called alfalfa in Latin medica, a name that referred to the Medes, a people who lived in ancient Iran. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed, probably correctly, that alfalfa came from the Medes' land, in today's Iran.