For centuries, healers have turned to the alfalfa plant as a naturopathic treatment for several common ailments. Although alfalfa supplements have been the subject of only limited scientific inquiry, preliminary evidence suggests that it can help prevent or treat several diseases and conditions. Aqueous and ethanol-based extracts of alfalfa offer a concentrated source of the plant's natural medicinal compounds. Consult your health care provider before using any nutritional supplement to treat a medical condition.
Alfalfa extract offers a concentrated source of several micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals. According to NutritionData, an online service provided by "Self" magazine, sprouted alfalfa seeds are an excellent source of vitamin K, which is essential for normal platelet function. Alfalfa extract also contains six B-vitamins, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Because of alfalfa extract's high vitamin K content, it is not an appropriate supplement for people taking anticoagulants such as warfarin.
According to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, compounds in alfalfa may help reduce low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol levels, without impacting "good" cholesterol. The NIH also reports that alfalfa reduces cholesterol plaques in the arteries of the heart, a serious condition known as atherosclerosis. Although preliminary evidence is encouraging, the NIH notes that there is insufficient evidence to conclusively prove alfalfa extract's benefits for treating high cholesterol. Do not stop taking any cholesterol-controlling medication unless your doctor instructs you to do so.
Although evidence is limited, the NIH notes that alfalfa appears to cause slight reductions in blood sugar levels. Because of this, alfalfa extract may be used as a complementary or alternative treatment for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and reactive hypoglycemia. Until further studies have demonstrated its efficacy, it is best to avoid using alfalfa to self-treat blood sugar fluctuations. The NIH warns that it may theoretically cause an abrupt drop in blood glucose levels, particularly when it is combined with other blood sugar-lowering products.
Alfalfa extract may offer benefits to women suffering from hormonal imbalances, infertility and problems with lactation. According to the NIH, alfalfa contains natural plant compounds that are chemically similar to estrogen. The NIH acknowledges alfalfa's theoretical and traditional use as a menopause remedy, breast cancer treatment and uterine stimulant. However, no studies have confirmed its safety or effectiveness for any of these conditions.
Pregnancy and Lactation
Traditionally, alfalfa was used to stimulate breast milk production in new mothers. Because of its high vitamin K content, modern midwives may recommend alfalfa to pregnant women and mothers of breastfed newborns. According to the NIH, babies should receive vitamin K shortly after birth to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding, a life-threatening hemorrhagic event. Although intramuscular vitamin K injections are the primary method for preventing this condition, some alternative practitioners recommend that pregnant women use high-vitamin K products like alfalfa to enrich the vitamin K content of breast milk.