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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Jul 29;56 Suppl 1:S149-61. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1038378.

Therapeutic Potential of Temperate Forage Legumes: A Review.

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a Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra dell'Ambiente e della Vita , Università degli Studi di Genova , Genova , Italy.
b Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, University of Macau , Taipa , Macau.
c College of Food Science, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University , Fuzhou , Fujian , China.
d Dipartimento di Scienze e Innovazione Tecnologica , Università del Piemonte Orientale , Alessandria , Italy.
e Istituto di Biofisica, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche , Genova , Italy.


The discovery of bioactive molecules from botanical sources is an expanding field, preferentially oriented to plants having a tradition of use in medicine and providing high yields and availability. Temperate forage legumes are Fabaceae species that include worldwide-important crops. These plants possess therapeutic virtues that have not only been used in veterinary and folk medicine, but have also attracted the interest of official medicine. We have examined here Medicago sativa (alfalfa), Trifolium pratense and T. repens (clovers), Melilotus albus and M. officinalis (sweet clovers), Lotus corniculatus (birdsfoot trefoil), Onobrychis viciifolia (sainfoin), Lespedeza capitata (roundhead lespedeza), and Galega officinalis (goat's rue). The phytochemical complexes of these species contain secondary metabolites whose pharmacological potentials deserve investigation. Major classes of compounds include alkaloids and amines, cyanogenic glycosides, flavonoids, coumarins, condensed tannins, and saponins. Some of these phytochemicals have been related to antihypercholesterolemia, antidiabetic, antimenopause, anti-inflammatory, antiedema, anthelmintic, and kidney protective effects. Two widely prescribed drugs have been developed starting from temperate forage legumes, namely, the antithrombotic warfarin, inspired from sweet clover's coumarin, and the antidiabetic metformin, a derivative of sainfoin's guanidine. Available evidence suggests that temperate forage legumes are a potentially important resource for the extraction of active principles to be used as nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.


Alfalfa; clover; coumarin; food supplements; isoflavones; phytotherapeutics; sapogenins

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