Benefits of Alfalfa

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
A field of alfalfa
A field of alfalfa

Used for centuries for its medicinal properties, the benefits of alfalfa are numerous due to its high nutritional content.

What Is Alfalfa?

Cultivated for more then 1,600 years, alfalfa is commonly grown as animal feed in the form of alfalfa hay. The botanical name for alfalfa is medicago sativa. It is also commonly known by the following names:

  • Lucerne
  • California clover
  • Spanish clover
  • Buffalo herb
  • Purple medic

Alfalfa is native to the eastern Mediterranean and western Asian areas. Today it is cultivated in many areas throughout the world including the United States which is the world's largest alfalfa producer.

Alfalfa as an Herbal Medication Throughout History

For more then 1,500 years alfalfa has been used in herbal medicine. As early as 490. B.C. its use is recorded in Roman records. The following are early known uses of alfalfa for medicinal purposes.

  • The ancient Chinese used it to treat digestive problems, such as ulcers, and to stimulate the appetite. It was often prescribed by traditional physicians of the time.
  • Ayurvedic physicians in ancient India used it as a treatment for ulcers, fluid retention and arthritis pain.
  • The Spanish brought alfalfa to the colonies in the 1700s where early settlers used it for the treatment of arthritis, cancer and boils. They also used it for treating scurvy and for bowel and urinary problems. Early pioneer women used alfalfa to bring on menstruation.
  • Native American Indians used alfalfa to promote blood clotting and treat jaundice.
  • Herbalists of the 1800s used a tonic made from alfalfa to treat indigestion, anemia and dyspepsia. They also used it for those that experienced a loss of appetite or assimilated nutrients poorly.

Modern Health Benefits of Alfalfa

A member of the pea family, this highly nutritionally rich food lost its popularity after the Civil War. It was not until the 1970s that alfalfa once again was embraced as a nutritional food with many health benefits.Many herbalists and homeopathic physicians agree that alfalfa, taken in the form of supplements, or as a raw food, is excellent as an herbal medication. It is effective for a number of medical problems and has very few side effects, if any at all.

Adding alfalfa to your diet helps with the following medical conditions and problems.

Arthritis, Bursitis and Muscle Problems

People suffering from arthritis get relief from the constant pain by taking alfalfa supplements. The pain is eased as the alfalfa neutralizes the uric acid that is in their systems. The trace minerals found in alfalfa also assists the body in repairing and rebuilding joint tissue. Alfalfa is also effective in the treatment and management of bursitis and muscles aches.

Digestive Disturbances

Regular use of alfalfa or alfalfa supplements help to promote better overall digestion and eliminate most stomach upset. Containing eight digestive enzymes, alfalfa aids in digestive problems including:

  • Indigestion
  • Gastritis
  • Gas pains
  • Nausea
  • Appetite stimulation

Combining mint with alfalfa makes a pleasing tea that helps with digestion.

Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

The fiber found in fresh alfalfa slows the release of calories from food you eat, helping to reduce blood sugar levels. Although detailed studies are just beginning regarding alfalfa and blood sugar, it is known that several of the minerals contained in alfalfa have a direct result on blood sugar levels. For example, the body needs potassium to convert blood sugar into glycogen and chromium is essential for controlling insulin levels.

Additional Benefits and Uses of Alfalfa

  • Cancer: An amino acid analog, called canavanine, is believed to aid in leukemia as well as colon and pancreatic cancer.
  • Eliminate toxins found in the body and improve the health of the liver
  • The saponins in alfalfa leaves lowers LDL, the bad cholesterol level, but does not lower the good cholesterol, or HDL, level.
  • Improve heart health and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and arteriosclerosis
  • Stabilize blood pressure
  • Stimulate and improve the immune system and helps cure auto-immune disorders
  • Reduce physical and mental fatigue
  • Increase energy levels
  • Antioxidants help prevent the destruction of DNA and slow the effects of aging
  • Helps to increase the density and formation of bone while preventing osteoporosis and the breakdown of bone and bone cells.
  • Helps to ease the effects of menopause, PMS and hot flashes
  • Helps control fibrocystic breast tumors
  • Treats urinary tract infections
  • Assists in treating bladder, kidney and prostate problems including reducing fluid retention and swelling

Contraindications

Although there are many benefits of alfalfa, it is necessary to be aware of the contraindications of its use. To avoid any negative or adverse reactions always use alfalfa, and all herbal products, in moderation. Consuming an excessive amount of alfalfa can cause a very serious condition causing the breakdown of red cells. Anyone that has lupus, takes blood thinners or is pregnant should not consume alfalfa or alfalfa supplements on a daily basis. Their is a potential to increase estrogen which may be unsafe during pregnancy. Women should consult with their health care provider for personal advice.

Benefits of Alfalfa