Alfalfa health benefit, side effects, review
October 2 2016 by Ray Sahelian, M.D. Information on supplements and how they can be a healthy addition to one's diet

Alfalfa sprouts are popular among natural food shoppers. In addition to sprouts, it is also available as tablets. The medicinal benefits are not well understood. Alfalfa leaves contain approximately 23% saponins. It is the most important forage crop in the United States, accounting for almost half of all the hay produced. This plant contains phytoestrogens and antioxidants.

Health benefit, review
Little human research has been done with alfalfa supplements in human health and disease. Therefore the health benefit of sprouts or supplements are not well known. One study found alfalfa and sage together were helpful in reducing symptoms of menopause, but we need several such studies to confirm these findings. If we do come across any research regarding alfalfa health benefit, we will mention it in the newsletter.

Now Foods, Alfalfa Leaf, 500 mg, 100 Capsules



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Supplement Facts
Serving Size: 1 Capsule
  Amount Per Serving %Daily Value
Organic Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) (Leaf) 500 mg *
* Daily Value not established.

Recommendation and dosage, how much to take: As an addition to the daily diet, take 1 to 3 alfalfa capsules 1 or 2 times daily, preferably with food. Other healthy supplements to consider include curcumin extract, acai berry extract, pomegranate fruit extract, cacao, and noni.

Q. I am researching alfalfa supplement and had a few questions about the one sold on your website. Is it harvested and prepared for capsules within 48 hours? Does it contain seeds or sprouts? What is the percentage of protein it contains?
    A. The maker of this product, NOW FOODS vitamin company, should know these details.

Use with other dietary supplements, interactions
Can an alfalfa supplement pill be taken the same day as ahcc, mangosteen, goji, lyprinol extract, saw palmetto herb or graviola herb?
   I have not come across any research that would preclude the use of alfalfa with the supplements.

Estrogen like effect
Evaluation of the estrogenic effects of legume extracts containing phytoestrogens.
J Agric Food Chemistry. 2003.
Seven legume extracts containing phytoestrogens were analyzed for estrogen activity. Methanol extracts were prepared from soybean (Glycine max), green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), alfalfa sprout (Medicago sativa), mung bean sprout (Vigna radiata), kudzu root (Pueraria lobata), and red clover blossom and red clover sprout (Trifolium pratense). Extracts of kudzu root and red clover blossom showed significant competitive binding to estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta). Estrogenic activity was determined using an estrogen-dependent MCF-7 breast cancer cell proliferation assay. Kudzu root, red clover blossom and sprout, mung bean sprout, and alfalfa sprout extracts displayed increased cell proliferation above levels observed with estradiol. The pure estrogen antagonist, ICI 182,780, suppressed cell proliferation induced by the extracts, suggesting an ER-related signaling pathway was involved. Using HPLC to collect fractions and MCF-7 cell proliferation, the active components in kudzu root extract were determined to be the isoflavones puerarin, daidzin, genistin, daidzein, and genistein. These results show that several legumes are a source of phytoestrogens with high levels of estrogenic activity.

Menopause treatment and hot flashes
Treatment of neurovegetative menopausal symptoms with a phytotherapeutic agent
Minerva Ginecol. 1998.
In this study, the efficacy has been tested of a plant product based on extracts of the leaves of Salvia officinalis (sage) and Medicago sativa (alfalfa) in the treatment of hot flushes in 30 menopausal women with these symptoms. Hot flushes and night sweating completely disappeared in 20 women: four women showed good improvement and the other six showed a reduction in symptoms. GnRH and TRH tests were performed in 8 women to evaluate TSH and Prl responses before and after 3 months of therapy. The plants product induced a significant increase in Prl and TSH response to TRH. Basal levels of estradiol, LH, FSH, Prl and TSH were unchanged. Alfalfa and sage seem to have a central slight antidopaminergic action without side effects and appear to be an effective combination in the treatment of menopausal symptoms.

I am 69 years old and have had hot flashes for 17 years - along with poor sleep. Other than that, I am quite healthy. I have done alot of research on using alfalfa for hot flashes and notice it seems to be estrogenic in nature. I have avoided anything that has to do with hormones. Would you feel that the "root" in capsule form would be safe? If so, would there be a period of time whereby one should discontinue it? Any information you could give me would be most helpful.
    I cannot promise the safety of any supplement since there are some people who may have an unusual reaction to a natural product. There are many herbs that can be tried for hot flashes.

Alfalfa side effects, risks
Since little research has been done in humans regarding the influence of alfalfa ingestion and health, we really don't know the long term benefits or side effects of use. Thus far, there have not been any alfalfa side effects reported in the medical literature.

Are you aware of the potential dangers of consuming large quantities of alfalfa sprouts. I came across about the harmful substance canavanine being present in alfalfa seeds and sprouts only recently. I was consuming several pounds of home-grown alfalfa sprouts every month, and have just stopped. Max Gerson already in the 1950's became aware of the harmful effect of alfalfa sprouts on his recovered cancer patients whose cancer came back when they were transferred to another clinic where they were given lots of alfalfa sprouts, so Max Gerson made the patients aware of this need to avoid them. This is very specifically written about in a 1986 newsletter that I happened to order from the Gerson dot org website, with the headline on the cover of the publication. Incidentally, when looking up canavanine on the web I came across information that it is only present in the seeds and sprouts and not in the adult plant, so tablets and capsules of adult alfalfa should not contain any canavanine, and, important for me since I am a broccoli fan, broccoli sprouts do not contain canavanine. Wishing you lots of luck in helping as many people as possible to achieve optimal health, from Prague.
   Apparently there has been an association of SLE and alfalfa in a volunteer who developed lupus-like autoimmunity while ingesting alfalfa seed for a cholesterol study. Monkeys fed sprouts developed SLE. This is one more reason to consume a diet with a wide variety of foods in order to minimize potential exposure to high doses of toxins. L-canavanine, present in alfalfa sprouts can be changed by arginyl tRNA synthetase to replace L-arginine during protein synthesis. Aberrant canavanyl proteins disrupt protein function.

Systemic lupus erythematosus-like syndrome in monkeys fed alfalfa sprouts: role of a nonprotein amino acid.
Science. 1982. Hematologic and serologic abnormalities similar to those observed in human systemic lupus erythematosus developed in cynomolgus macaques fed alfalfa sprouts. L-Canavanine sulfate, a constituent of alfalfa sprouts, was incorporated into the diet and reactivated the syndrome in monkeys in which an SLE-like syndrome had previously been induced by the ingestion of alfalfa seeds or sprouts.

You can find alfalfa as a tablet, capsule, in tea form, and of course as sprouts. Powder and juice are also sold. Seed growers sell alfalfa seeds. Organic form is preferable to ingest whenever possible.

Refrigerate sprouts
J Food Prot. 20130 .Behavior of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, enteropathogenic E. coli, and enterotoxigenic E. coli strains on alfalfa sprouts. Refrigeration reduces the number of viable diarrhea causing E coli bacteria on sprouts.

Is it okay to use an alfalfa supplement daily with a week off each month?
    Since it has many nutrients, vitamins, chlorophyl, and other compounds, this plant appears to be safe used daily with the occasional breaks as you mention.

Sprout consumption
Is it okay to eat alfalfa sprouts daily?
   They are a healthy snack, and there is no indication that eating alfalfa sprouts on daily basis would lead to harm, however, just like any supplement or food, it is best to take a break from use just in case your body does not tolerate a particular chemical or substance in the food.

Q. l;My cousin who actually has lupus and I have both reacted to alfalfa sprouts now, and the actual medical literature on this is pretty conclusive, though some other websites suggest its only a theoretical risk! I got a terrific mood boost and remission of "bad" (for me at least) xenoestrogen induced symptoms by eating alfalfa sprouts. This is the first time that I have had to stop cold turkey something "healthy" that I actually liked, and its pretty disconcerting, but I can't deny it happened. The other surprise is that NONE of the other physicians I have talked to had ever heard of this, and they would be likely to treat SLE patients. Can you help me find something with the good stuff in alfalfa (apparently coumestrol) and without the canavanine? Either truly seed-free extract of alfalfa, or could I substitute red or white clover? Re phytoestrogens, I don't react as well to something in soy, and the one I definitely react badly to is zearalenone.

Alfalfa Plant Research studies
Soy and alfalfa phytoestrogen extracts become potent low-density lipoprotein antioxidants in the presence of acerola cherry extract.
J Agric Food Chem. 2001.
Postmenopausal women have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) has been implicated in atherogenesis, and the presence of modified LDL (LDL(-)) in plasma appears to represent LDL oxidation in vivo. Because previous studies have demonstrated a strong antiatherogenic effect of estrogen due to its antioxidant activity and similar antioxidant activity was found for specific isoflavones derived from soy extract, the antioxidant activity of a phytoestrogen extract derived from soy and alfalfa was studied. Copper-mediated LDL oxidation was inhibited in the presence of soy and alfalfa extracts, and this effect was further enhanced in the presence of acerola cherry extract, which is rich in ascorbic acid. Male rabbit aortic endothelial cells pretreated with soy extract were resistant to the toxic effects of high levels of LDL and LDL(-), and a lesser, but significant protection, was also afforded by alfalfa extract. Cell-mediated oxidation of LDL, measured by LDL(-) formation, was inhibited in the presence of soy extract but not alfalfa extract. However, in the presence of acerola cherry extract, both soy and alfalfa extracts potently inhibited the formation of LDL(-). These findings show that acerola cherry extract can enhance the antioxidant activity of soy and alfalfa extracts in a variety of LDL oxidation systems. The protective effect of these extracts is attributed to the presence of flavonoids in soy and alfalfa extracts and ascorbic acid in acerola cherry extract, which may act synergistically as antioxidants. It is postulated that this synergistic interaction among phytoestrogens, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid is due to the "peroxidolitic" action of ascorbic acid, which facilitates the copper-dependent decomposition of LDL peroxides to nonradical productss. The combination of these extracts markedly lowers the concentrations of phytoestrogens required to achieve significant antioxidant activity toward LDL.

Other products sold online
Nature's Way buy Alfalfa Leaves supplement, 405 mg per pill
Medicago sativa has a deep root system which pulls valuable minerals from the soil. With the aid of sunlight, nutrients including beta carotene and chlorophyll are made available to the body in a usable form. Nature's Way sources tender young plants to supply a high portion of supple leaves and to avoid the inclusion of woody stems. Nature's Way Alfalfa is Organically Grown by Trout Lake Farm, Washington, and Certified Organically Processed in accordance with Oregon Tilth standards and the California Organic Foods Act of 1990. A rich natural source of chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and protein.

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Amount Per 3 capsule: Alfalfa (leaf) 1,220 grams