Alfalfa is an edible, flowering plant that is related to the pea plant. Its sprouts are commonly used as a nutritious side dish or salad mix-in. Some breastfeeding mothers use alfalfa sprouts or alfalfa supplements to increase milk supply, but very little research has been conducted to provide evidence supporting positive health benefits for lactating mothers. Consult your doctor before taking herbal supplements or changing your diet.
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The medicago sativa plant, more common known as alfalfa, is a plant that is used most often as a nutritious food for livestock. Humans consume alfalfa for its nutritional value and commonly incorporate these tasty sprouts as a side dish or a salad mix-in. Additionally, it has been used for over a thousand years as an herbal treatment for many ailments including kidney problems, digestive tract issues, arthritis and water retention. Alfalfa may lower blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol and increase milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, although scientific research has not yet proven these claims.
Breastfeeding and Alfalfa
Alfalfa is believed by some to be a galactagogue, a substance that increases milk supply. The basis of this belief derives from years of trail-and-error from communities of mothers working together to find natural treatments for common problems. Many nursing mothers who feel that their milk supply is low consume alfalfa in pill form along with other herbal galactagogues, such as fenugreek and blessed thistle. Some women report a significant increase in supply after taking alfalfa supplements. Although the nursing community might suggests that you use alfalfa to increase supply, no formal studies have been conducted to prove its facilitation of milk production.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa
Alfalfa contains many important nutrients and vitamins such as vitamins K, A, B-1, B-6, C, E, calcium, zinc and iron. These substances are all important for healthy growth and development. Nursing mothers need many of these vitamins and minerals to remain healthy and energized. While little is known regarding the effectiveness of alfalfa for milk production purposes, this leafy green sprout is extremely healthy. The overall health gains that alfalfa provides may have a positive effect on milk supply.
While alfalfa has many positive health benefits, it should be avoided in certain situations. Alfalfa should not be taken during pregnancy because it contains canavanine, a substance that can cause uterine contractions. Lupus patients should not take alfalfa since canavavine can cause lupus flare-ups. Alfalfa is high in vitamin K, which is a great vitamin to aid in blood clotting, but should be avoided in conjunction with blood thinners. Do not consume alfalfa in excess as it can cause a breakdown of red blood cells. Eat alfalfa in moderation.