Medicago sativa. Family: Fabaceae
hay, lucerne, purple medic
Alfalfa is a perennial grown worldwide. It’s used as a feedstock for cattle. It looks
like a clover. But it can grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It blooms in the summer
with purple or blue flowers. At harvest time, alfalfa is mowed, field dried, and baled.
The baled hay can be fed directly to cattle. Or it can be ground to a coarse powder
first. It can also be enriched with grain or other supplements.
Alfalfa seeds are sprouted and used as garnish for salads and other foods. Alfalfa
leaves contain triterpenoid saponins (soyasapogenols). These can reduce cholesterol
absorption and vascular plaque formation in animals, but they can also cause hemolytic
anemia. The leaves are safer to use than the seeds. This is because alfalfa seeds
contain the toxic amino acid L-canavanine (arginine analog).
Medically valid uses
Alfalfa has a long history as a medicinal herb. But there is no scientific evidence
supporting its use.
However, studies show that L-canavanine, a non-protein amino acid in alfalfa (in the
seeds and sprouts), can cause lupus or make existing lupus worse. Lupus is an autoimmune
disease that affects connective tissue. This is found in every organ of your body.
Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated
through scientific studies.
There are claims that alfalfa may help allergies, thyroid problems, blood and liver
toxicity, asthma, and how the pituitary works. It’s also said to reduce the risk of
heart attacks. It may also help with an inflamed prostate, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach
problems, and diabetes. There are reports that alfalfa works as a diuretic.
Follow packaging instructions for the correct dose.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
Alfalfa is considered safe when taken by healthy people. It can cause or make lupus
worse in some cases. If you have lupus, you should not use alfalfa. Alfalfa seems
to increase certain immune system functions. It may also make conditions linked with
an overactive immune system worse. These can include rheumatoid arthritis or multiple
In some cases, alfalfa sprouts have been contaminated with Salmonella and E. coli.
This has caused outbreaks of diarrheal disease and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
This is a disease associated with E. coli. There have been improvements in how alfalfa
is processed, which has lowered these risks. To reduce your risk, you should eat alfalfa
sprouts right after you buy them. Don’t store them for a long time.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare provider before
taking any herbal medicines.
Alfalfa contains high amounts of vitamin K. This can reduce the blood thinning (anticoagulant) action
of the medicine Warfarin. If you’re taking this drug, ask your healthcare provider
how much alfalfa you can eat.