Alfalfa Safety Issue, Side Effects, Precautions
Alfalfa leaves are POSSIBLY SAFE for most healthy adults. But taking alfalfa seeds long-term may lead to an adverse
side effect that are similar to the autoimmune disease called lupus erythematosus. [6,8] Alfalfa may also lead to
another side effect that people's skin to become extra sensitive to the sun.
Taking alfalfa in large amounts is possibly unsafe during pregnancy and breast-feeding, alfalfa may act like estrogen.
Alfalfa might also cause our immune system to become more active, people with auto-immune diseases, or certain
hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fiboids,
should avoid taking alfalfa.
Occasionally, there are reports about outbreak of Salmonella associated with Alfalfa. In February 2009, alfalfa sprouts
from a Wisconsin-based grower were removed from store shelves in the state and in Minnesota after routine food
safety tests on a package of alfalfa sprouts from Jack & The Green Sprouts turned up positive for Salmonella, a
bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. [1C] Outbreak of Salmonella Stanley in Sweden associated with alfalfa
sprouts, happened from July to August 2007. [1B]
There are also drug interactions with alfalfa. Do not take alfalfa together with warfarin, birth control pills, estrogens,
immunosuppressants, and photosensitizing drugs.
Bacteria can get into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown. Once this occurs, these
bacteria are nearly impossible to wash out. Sprouts grown in the home are also risky if eaten raw. Many outbreaks
have been linked to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on the seed, they can grow to high
levels during sprouting - even under clean conditions. To reduce the risk:
* Avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean).
* Cook sprouts thoroughly. This significantly reduces the risk of illness. [FDA.gov]
For high cholesterol, a dose of 5-10 grams of the herb has been used. [MedlinePlus]
1. Briggs C. Alfalfa. Canadian Pharm J 1994;Mar.2. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press,
1991.3. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d
ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996. 4. Story JA. Alfalfa saponins and cholesterol interactions. Am J Clin Nutr 1984.
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. 6. Malinow MR, Bardana EJ,
Goodnight SH. Pancytopenia during ingestion of alfalfa seeds. Lancet 1981. 7. Shemesh M, Lindrer HR, Ayalon N.
Affinity of rabbit uterine oestradiol receptor for phyto-oestragens and its use in competitive protein-binding radioassay
for plasma coumestrol. J Reprod Fertil 1972. 8 Akaoqi J. et al, Role of non-protein amino acid L-canavanine in
autoimmunity. Autoimmun. Rev. 2006 Jul';5(6):429-35. Epub 2005 Dec 29.  Branca F and Lorenzetti S Health effects
of phytoestrogens. Forum Nutr. 2005; (57): 100-11. [1A] Hong Y, Huang C, Wang S, Lin B. The ethyl acetate extract of
alfalfa sprout ameliorates disease severity of autoimmune-prone MRL-lpr/lpr mice. Lupus. 2009;18(3):206-15. [1B]
Werner S, Boman K, Einemo I, Erntell M, de Jong B, Lindqvist A, Löfdahl M,
Lofdahl S, Meeuwisse A, Ohlen G, Olsson M, Stamer U, Sellstrom E, Andersson Y. Outbreak of Salmonella Stanley in
Sweden associated with alfalfa sprouts, July-August 2007. Euro Surveill. 2007 Oct 18;12(10):E071018.2. [1C] Sprouts
recalled after positive test for Salmonella fdlreporter.com 02/05/09 [AA1] Jimmy C. Henning and C. J. Nelson, Alfalfa,
University of Missouri Extension, 2011. [B1] Ganesan K, et al, Estrogen and testosterone attenuate extracellular matrix
loss in collagen-induced arthritis in rats. Calcif Tissue Int. 2008 Nov;83(5):354-64. B2 Yang YH et al, Endogenous
estrogen regulation of inflammatory arthritis and cytokine expression in male mice, predominantly via estrogen
receptor alpha. Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Apr;62(4):1017-25. B3 Dimitropoulou C, et al, Estrogen replacement therapy
prevents airway dysfunction in a murine model of allergen-induced asthma. Lung. 2009 Mar-Apr;187(2):116-27. B4
Dimitropoulou C, et al, Estrogen as a new therapeutic target for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Drug News Perspect. 2007 May;20(4):241-52.
Alfalfa Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects
supplement, plant and sprouts December 17, 2011
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in the North America, South
America, Europe Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and many other regions in the world. Alfalfa superficially resembles clover, with clusters of
small purple flowers. Alfalfa sprout is a popular food. Its dried leaves and heat-treated seeds are used as herbal supplements. [Wikipedia.org]
Alfalfa is the most productive legume for Missouri. Alfalfa grows in deep, fertile, well-drained soils with a salt pH of 6.0 to 6.5, but it can be grown
with conservative management on more marginal soils. Alfalfa requires high levels of fertility for establishment, especially phosphorus. Phosphorus
is found to stimulate root growth for summer drought resistance, winter survival and quick spring growth. The alfalfa weevil and potato leafhopper
are the pests of alfalfa in Missouri. Regular monitoring of alfalfa fields is required to prevent economic injury from insects. [AA1]
The primary use of Alfalfa is as feed for high producing dairy cows. Alfalfa is believed to be a galactagogue, a substance that induces lactation.
Alfalfa is considered an insectary due to the large number of insects it attracts. [Wikipedia.org] Extracts of alfalfa sprout have been shown to have
benefits of anti-inflammatory activities. In a study of autoimmune-prone female mice, researchers showed that alfalfa sprout ethyl acetate extract
attenuated cytokine and inflammatory responses of self-reactive lymphocytes, increased survival and life span of the autoimmune-prone
MRL-lpr/lpr mice. [1A]
People use the leaves, sprouts, and seeds to make medicine. Chinese and Indian physicians used young alfalfa leaves to treat digestive disorders
. And, North American Indians used alfalfa to treat jaundice and encourage blood clotting. In 19th century, some herbalists used Alfalfa as a tonic
for indigestion, dyspepsia, anemia, loss of appetite, and poor assimilation of nutrients. Anyway, the traditional uses of alfalfa as an herb for
kidney conditions, bladder and prostate conditions, and alfalfa is also used to increase urine flow. It may benefit people at risk of high cholesterol,
asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, upset stomach, and thrombocytopenic purpura (a bleeding disorder). Alfalfa is a good source
of vitamins A, C, E, and K4; and minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and iron. [nih.gov]
Alfalfa sprout is one of the popular natural foods. Alfalfa is also available in the form of supplements - tablets or
capsules. Its health benefits are not well-studied scientifically. Alfalfa leaves contain about 2-3% saponins, and
Alfalfa also contains phytoestrogens and some antioxidants. Alfalfa supplements contain mainly the extract of
alfalfa leaf. In this section, we are going to review the recent research findings about the potential health benefits
There is no direct scientific evidence to support alfalfa benefits people at risk of arthritis. However, we know that
rheumatoid arthritis is a sexually dimorphic, autoimmune inflammatory disorder affecting the joints. Joint disability
in RA results primarily from loss of matrix components (collagen and glycosoaminoglycan) in the cartilage and
synovium. In a study, Arthritis induction in castrated and ovariectomized rats resulted in enhanced oxidative
stress and this was assessed by lipid peroxidation levels and depletion of antioxidants. This, in turn, led to
significantly increased levels of TNF-alpha and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), subsequently resulting in
loss of collagen, elastin, and glycosoaminoglycan (GAG) and disorganization of reticulin as evidenced by
biochemical quantitation and also by staining for collagen, reticulin, and elastin. Treatment with physiological
doses of dihydrotestosterone (dosage- 25 mg topically) and estrogen (dosage - 5 microg/0.1 ml subcutaneously)
restored the antioxidant levels significantly and reduced the levels of TNF-alpha and MMP-2, with estrogen
exhibiting a higher potency. This, in turn, attenuated the damage to reticulin organization as well as the loss of
collagen and GAG in the articular tissues. [B1] Further, it is known that endogenous estrogen plays an essential
inhibitory role in inflammation in male mice and that ERalpha is the dominant receptor that mediates these
effects. [B2] Since alfalfa contains phytoestrogen, thus, some people believe alfalfa benefits patients suffered
Again, there is no direct evidence that intake of alfalfa benefit people suffered from asthma. But, a study showed
that 17beta-estradiol (E2) prevents hyperresponsiveness to carbachol of murine asthmatic tracheal rings in vitro.
[B3] In many women, the incidence and severity of asthma exacerbations vary along their menstrual cycle.
Estrogen, a natural occurring hormone, affects differently many of the cell types that are involved in asthma,
including macrophages, eosinophils, neutrophils, lymphocyte, mast cells, fibroblasts, epithelial and smooth
muscle cells. By binding to its receptors on the plasma or nuclear membrane, estrogen affects the expression of
a plethora of proteins that are involved in the pathogenesis of asthma and COPD. Estrogen is now considered as
a therapeutic target for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [B4] Lots more studies are needed to
prove if alfalfa really benefits people at risk of asthma and how it benefits the users.
This website discusses the benefits and side effects of various supplements, herbs and drug products. Different
people may experience different side effects and benefits of Alfalfa. You are encouraged to report adverse side
effects of alfalfa supplements to FDA, its website is www.fda.gov., or report the adverse side effects to the
manufacturer, you should be able to find the contact information on the label.
There are always new information. Please, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to correct my mistake(s).
Reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document and the information provided herein is believed to
be accurate. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is important to
seek the advice of a physician about any medical condition or symptom or the benefits and side effects of an
alfalfa supplement, no matter what it is in form of, such as tea, tablet, capsule, liquid etc. Finally, please, do not
transfer the article to other website(s). Thank you. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Bladder and Kidney Problems
More scientific evidence is needed to support alfalfa benefit claims on these issues.
Alfalfa may benefit people at risk of high cholesterol levels. It seems that its benefit arises from its ability to prevent cholesterol absorption in the
gut. [Medline Plus] Alfafa's leaves contain approximately 3% saponins. These saponins may contribute alfalfa's benefits on cholesterol-lowering
effects. Animal studies suggest that these alfalfa constituents block cholesterol absorption and prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
One small human trial found that dosage of 120 grams per day of heat-treated alfalfa seeds for eight weeks led to a modest reduction in cholesterol
 MedlinePlus also considers that taking alfalfa seeds seems to benefit people with high cholesterol levels. [nlm.nih.gov]
It seems that alalfa leaves may be able to benefit people suffered from menupause symptoms. Alfalfa leaves contain flavones, isoflavones, sterols,
and coumarin derivatives. The isoflavones may also cause the estrogen-like effects seen in animal studies[7, 9]. Alfalfa is sometimes used to treat
menopause symptoms, but it is unclear if it works or not.
More scientific evidence is needed to understand how alfalfa benefits our prostate.
Insufficient evidence to make a statement on its health benefits on this issue.