Alfalfa Leaf and Herb Profile
Also known as
Medicago sativa, lucerne, holy-hay, and trefoil.
If you have ever driven across the western deserts of the United States and noticed occasional fields of bright green grass, chances are you saw alfalfa. Alfalfa is one of the oldest cultivated plants. It has been used for centuries for hay, but it has also been used for centuries as a human food. Its name comes from the Arabic, al-fac-facah, "father of all foods."
As a food, alfalfa provides beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and K (although it is not, as frequently claimed, a source of vitamin A).
Seeds, sprouts, and the aboveground parts of the plant as a bulk herb, for teas, and in capsules.
Alfalfa sprouts are found in groceries and salad bars. Capsules or tables containing alfalfa leaves or seeds as well as the bulk powdered herb are found in health food stores. The usual dose of alfalfa for tea is 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup, steeped in boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. Capsules and tablets of whole alfalfa should be taken according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
The biggest risk in using alfalfa is eating sprouts grown in contaminated water. Avoid limp or smelly sprouts, and rinse sprouts thoroughly before use. For most people, alfalfa sprouts are inherently safe, but they do interact with certain medications. If you're taking anti-rejection drugs for kidney transplant, don't use any form of alfalfa. In rare cases the herb can interact poorly with the medication, leading to serious adverse reactions. Similarly, treat alfalfa the same way you treat any other green, leafy vegetable if you take Coumadin. Alfalfa is rich in vitamin K that can interfere with the drug's anti-coagulant effects. All forms of alfalfa contain the amino acid, L-canavanine. With excessive consumption of the raw vegetable, this chemical may cause abnormal red blood cell counts, enlargement of the spleen, or relapses of lupus. To avoid issue, limit raw consumption to twelve 1-gram capsules or three tablespoons a day.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.