(Last edited: Wednesday, 5 July 2017, 11:29 AM)
Also Known As:
Medicago, Purple Medick,
Botanic Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae.
People Use This For:
Alfalfa is used as a diuretic, for kidney conditions, bladder and prostate conditions, asthma, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, indigestion, and thrombocytopenic purpura. It is also used orally as a source of vitamins A, C, E, and K4; and minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron.
Constituents: Alfalfa contains Protein Vitamin D, Calcium plus other minerals, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin K.
Likely Safe: When the leaves are used orally and appropriately (1,2,3). Avoid excessive amounts of seeds long-term. Consult a medical herbalist if used in more than usual dietary amounts (1,4).
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Consult a medical herbalist if used in more than usual dietary amounts (1,4).
Scientific knowledge of effectiveness: There is insufficient scientific information available about the effectiveness of alfalfa.
Mechanism of Action: The leaves and sprouts contain saponins. The saponins appear to decrease serum cholesterol, but not triglycerides, by binding cholesterol and decreasing its absorption(6,7).
Alfalfa leaves also contain triterpene glycosides including medicagol, which appear to have antifungal and antibacterial activity (15,16). The isoflavonoids coumetrol, genistein, biochanin A, and daidzein have also been isolated and may be responsible for alfalfas reported estrogenic effects (17).
Adverse Reactions: Alfalfa herb is well tolerated at usual dietary doses (1,2,3). Associations of Alfalfa with autoimmune disease relate to the seeds, mostly in animal studies.
Interactions with Herbs & Supplements: VITAMIN E: Alfalfa contains saponins which may interfere with the absorption or activity of vitamin E (17).
Interactions with Drugs:
CONTRACEPTIVE DRUGS Excessive doses of alfalfa may interfere with contraceptive drugs. Alfalfa contains isoflavonoids with estrogenic effects (1). Herb teas would not constitute excessive doses in usual amounts on a daily basis.
ESTROGENS Excessive doses of alfalfa may interfere with hormone therapy due to estrogenic effects of isoflavonoids alfalfa (1). Herb teas would not constitute excessive doses in usual amounts on a daily basis.
IMMUNOSUPPRESSANTS Alfalfa seeds may influence the immune system (8, 9,13). This is not relevant to leaves used in herbal teas.
PHOTOSENSITIZING DRUGS Excessive doses of alfalfa may potentiate photosensitivity induced by antipsychotic drugs (18). Herb teas of the leaves would not constitute excessive doses in usual amounts on a daily basis.
WARFARIN (Coumadin) Alfalfa contains large amount of vitamin K (1,2) which may reduce the activity of warfarin.
Interactions with Foods: None known.
Interactions with Lab Tests:
CHOLESTEROL: Alfalfa seed might lower serum cholesterol concentrations and test results in individuals with type II hyperlipoproteinemia (1). Alfalfa leaves may reduce total Cholesterol(6,7).
Interactions with Diseases or Conditions:
AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES: alfalfa seed (not herb as found in Dr Clare’s Herb Tea Blends) might have immunostimulant effects in animal studies (8, 9,13).
DIABETES: Alfalfa might reduce blood sugar levels; monitor closely (1). Patients may have reduced requirement for blood sugar reducing medications, introduce slowly and increase the amount gradually. Advise patients to check blood blood sugar a little more frequently and discuss any changes with their medical adviser.
HORMONE SENSITIVE CANCERS/CONDITIONS: Because alfalfa may have estrogenic effects (17), women with hormone sensitive conditions should avoid alfalfa in doses in excess of usual dietary amounts.
Consult a medical Herbalist
KIDNEY TRANSPLANT: Avoid with immune suppressant drugs. Alfalfa is thought to have immune stimulating effects that might counteract the immunosuppressant effects of cyclosporine (8).
SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS (SLE): Long-term use of alfalfa seed products may reactivate latent SLE. There are two case reports of patients experiencing disease flare after taking alfalfa seed products long-term (19). Tell patients with a history of SLE or drug-induced lupus reactions to avoid alfalfa seed products until more information is known.
ORAL: A typical dosage is 5-10 grams, or as steeped strained tea, three times a day (1). Liquid extract (1:1 in 25% alcohol) 5-10 mL three times a day has also been used (1).
Comment Dr Clare
Alfalfa leaves within usual dietary amounts only are used in Dr Clare’s Tea Blends. The problem with research is that animal studies are extrapolated to humans, in fact the herb to be tested may not ever be eaten by the test species of animal as part of their normal diet. Therefore they may not have the appropriate enzyme systems to digest the herb rendering it toxic to that animal where it would be properly metabolosed by humans. Seeds are especially nutrient packed with added potential for inappropriate reactions in animal studies under these conditions. There is virtually no research on the Alfalfa herb, it has been used as part of a normal diet and as a medicine for over 1.500 years with an excellent safety record.
Specific reference: Alfalfa
1. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
2. The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999.
3. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
4. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
5. Molgaard J, von Schenck H, Olsson AG. Alfalfa seeds lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B concentrations in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia. Atherosclerosis 1987;65:173-9.
6. Story JA, LePage SL, Petro MS, et al. Interactions of alfalfa plant and sprout saponins with cholesterol in vitro and in cholesterol-fed rats. Am J Clin Nutr 1984;39:917-29.
7. Malinow MR, McLaughlin P, et al. Comparative effects of alfalfa saponins and alfalfa fiber on cholesterol absorption in rats. Am J Clin Nutr 1979;32:1810-2.
8. Light TD, Light JA. Acute renal transplant rejection possibly related to herbal medications. Am J Transplant 2003;3:1608-9.
9. Alcocer-Varela J, Iglesias A, Llorente L, Alarcon-Segovia D. Effects of L-canavanine on T cells may explain the induction of systemic lupus erythematosus by alfalfa. Arthritis Rheum 1985;28:52-7. Montanaro A, Bardana EJ Jr. Dietary amino acid-induced systemic lupus erythematosus.
10. Rheum Dis Clin North Am 1991;17:323-32.
11. Bardana EJ Jr, Malinow MR, Houghton DC, et al. Diet-induced systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in primates. Am J Kidney Dis 1982;1:345-52
12.Malinow MR, Bardana EJ Jr, Goodnight SH Jr. Pancytopenia during ingestion of alfalfa seeds.
13.Prete PE. The mechanism of action of L-canavanine in inducing autoimmune phenomena. Arthritis Rheum 1985;28:1198-200.
14. Swanston-Flatt SK, Day C, Bailey CJ, Flatt PR. Traditional plant treatments for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetologia 1990;33:462-4.
15.Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
16.Zehavi U, Polacheck I. Saponins as antimycotic agents: glycosides of medicagenic acid. Adv Exp Med Biol 1996;404:535-46.
17.Timbekova AE, Isaev MI, Abubakirov NK. Chemistry and biological activity of triterpenoid glycosides from Medicago sativa. Adv Exp Med Biol 1996;405:171-82.
18. Brown R. Potential interactions of herbal medicines with antipsychotics, antidepressants and hypnotics. Eur J Herbal Med 1997;3:25-8.
19. ƒarber JM, Carter AO, Varughese PV, et al. Listeriosis traced to the consumption of alfalfa tablets and soft cheese [Letter to the Editor]. N Engl J Med 1990;322:338.
20. Roberts JL, Hayashi JA. Exacerbation of SLE associated with alfalfa ingestion. N Engl J Med 1983;308:1361.