Good for the digestive system, alkalizes and detoxifies the body.
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Alfalfa is a legume with, has a long history of dietary and medicinal use. A small number of animal and preliminary human studies report that alfalfa supplements may lower blood levels of cholesterol and glucose. However, most research has not been well designed. Therefore, there is not enough reliable evidence available to form clear conclusions in these areas.
Alfalfa supplements taken by mouth appear to be generally well tolerated. However, ingestion of alfalfa tablets has been associated with reports of a lupus-like syndrome or lupus flares. These reactions may be due to the amino acid L-canavanine which appears to be present in alfalfa seeds and sprouts, but not in the leaves. There are also rare cases of pancytopenia (low blood counts), dermatitis (skin inflammation), and gastrointestinal upset.
Al-fac-facah, arc, alfalfa weevil, buffalo herb, California clover, Chilean clover, Fabaceae, feuille de luzerne, isoflavone, jatt, kaba yonca, Leguminosae, lucerne, medicago, mielga, mu su, purple medic, phytoestrogen, purple medick, purple medicle, sai pi li ka, saranac, Spanish clover, team, weevelchek, yonja.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
*Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use;
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use.
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Allergies, antioxidant, appetite stimulant, asthma, bladder disorders, blood clotting disorders, boils, breast cancer, cervical cancer, cough, convalescence, diuresis (increasing urination), estrogen replacement, gastrointestinal tract disorders, gum healing after dental procedures, hay fever, increasing breast milk, indigestion, inflammation, insect bites, jaundice, kidney disorders, menopausal symptoms, nutritional support, prostate disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, scurvy, skin damage from radiation, stomach ulcers, thrombocytopenic purpura, uterine stimulant, vitamin supplementation (vitamins A,C,E,K), wound healing.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
There are no standard or well-studied doses of alfalfa, and many different doses are used traditionally. Safety of use beyond 8 weeks has not been proven in studies.
Adults (18 years and older)
Dried herb: 5 to 10 grams of dried herb taken by mouth three times daily has been used.
Tablets: Two tablets (one gram each) of Cholestaid® (esterin processed alfalfa) taken by mouth three times daily for up to two months, then one tablet three times daily, has been recommended by the manufacturer.
Liquid extract: 5 to 10 milliliters (one to two teaspoonfuls) of a 1:1 solution in 25% alcohol taken by mouth three times daily has been used.
Seeds: For treating high cholesterol, 40 grams of heated seeds prepared three times daily and taken by mouth with food has been used.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is not enough scientific data to recommend alfalfa supplements for use in children, and it is not recommended due to potential side effects.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Alfalfa should be avoided in people with allergies to members of the Fabaceae or Leguminous plant families. Caution is warranted in individuals with grass allergies.
Side Effects and Warnings
Alfalfa appears to be well tolerated by most individuals, although rare serious adverse effects have been reported.
Mild gastrointestinal symptoms may occur, such as stomach discomfort, diarrhea, gas, or larger/more frequent stools. Dermatitis (skin inflammation/redness) has been reported, and may be due to alfalfa allergy.
Based on animal studies and a human case report blood sugar levels may be reduced. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
Lupus-like effects have been associated with alfalfa use, including antinuclear antibodies in the blood, muscle pains, fatigue, abnormal immune system function, and kidney abnormalities. Therefore, people with a history of lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus), or family history of lupus should avoid alfalfa supplements.
Other rarely reported adverse effects include abnormal blood cell counts (pancytopenia) and lowered potassium levels (hypokalemia). In theory, thyroid hormone levels may be increased, gout flares may be stimulated, and estrogen-like effects may occur.
Contamination of alfalfa products with potentially dangerous bacteria (including Escherichia coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes ) has been reported. One case report exists of seaweed and organic alfalfa associated with vomiting found to be caused by contamination of the capsules with high amounts of entospore forming and streptomyces-like bacteria. Copper, arsenic and antimony has been found in alfalfa plants.
Many tinctures/liquid extracts contain high levels of alcohol, and should be avoided when driving or operating heavy machinery.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Alfalfa supplements are not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to insufficient evidence and a theoretical risk of birth defects or spontaneous abortion. Amounts found in food are generally believed to be safe. Traditionally, alfalfa is believed to stimulate breast milk production, although this has not been well studied.
Tinctures/liquid extracts may contain high levels of alcohol, and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Based on animal studies and a human case report, blood sugar levels may be reduced. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Alfalfa contains vitamin K, and therefore may reduce the "blood thinning" effect of the drug warfarin (Coumadin®). Alfalfa may add to the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications such as atorvastatin (Lipitor®) or simvastatin (Zocor®).
Alfalfa may increase the risk of severe sunburns when used with drugs that increase sun sensitivity, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine®). Due to estrogen-like chemicals in alfalfa, the side effects of drugs that contain estrogens may be increased (such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy). In theory, alfalfa may increase thyroid hormone levels and may alter the effects of thyroid drugs such as thyroxine (Synthroid®, Levoxyl®).
Many tinctures/liquid extracts contain high levels of alcohol, and may cause nausea or vomiting when taken with metronidazole (Flagyl®) or disulfiram (Antabuse®).
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Based on animal studies and a human case report, blood sugar levels may be reduced. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Possible examples include Aloe vera , American ginseng, bilberry, bitter melon, burdock,fenugreek, fish oil, gymnema, horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE), maitake mushroom, marshmallow, milk thistle, Panax ginseng, rosemary, shark cartilage, Siberian ginseng, stinging nettle, and white horehound. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Alfalfa may add to the effects of cholesterol-lowering agents such as fish oil, garlic, guggul, red yeast and niacin.
Because alfalfa contains estrogen like chemicals, the effects of other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties may be altered. Possible examples include black cohosh, bloodroot, burdock, hops, kudzu, licorice, pomegranate, red clover, soy, thyme, white horehoumd, and yucca.
Alfalfa may contain significant levels of zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Michelle Harrison, PharmD (New England Medical Center); Mamta Vora, PharmD (Northeastern University); Ethan Basch, MD (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center); David Kroll, PhD (Duke University); David Sollars, MAc, HMC (New England School of Acupuncture); Michael Smith, M.R.PharmS, ND (Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine); Cathi Dennehy, PharmD (University of California San Francisco); Philippe Szapary, MD (University of Pennsylvania); Richard Liebowitz, MD (Duke University); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Mary Giles, PharmD (University of Rhode Island).