Herbalists often recommend alfalfa preparations as a potent nutritive in cases of malnutrition, debility, and prolonged illness. Alfalfa contains substances such as isoflavones and coumestans, which bind to estrogen receptors in the body. Estrogen binds to these receptors like a key in a lock. If the estrogen level is low and many of these “locks” are empty, the constituents of alfalfa — which resemble estrogen “keys” — bind to them instead and increase estrogenic activity. Alfalfa’s estrogenlike “keys,” although similar to estrogen, are not nearly as strong.
If estrogen levels in the body are too high, the estrogen “keys” fill up some of the locks, denying the space to estrogen, thereby reducing estrogenic activity. Because alfalfa may provide some estrogenic activity when the body’s hormone levels are low and may compete for estrogen-binding sites when hormone levels are high, alfalfa is said to be hormone balancing.
Both alfalfa sprouts and leaf preparations help lower blood cholesterol levels. The saponins in alfalfa bind to cholesterol and prevent its absorption. Alfalfa also has been studied for its ability to reduce atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup, on the insides of artery walls.
In one study, 15 patients who took an alfalfa seed preparation for eight weeks, without changing diet or exercise levels, had a 17 percent reduction in cholesterol and a significant reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol associated with atherosclerosis.
Physicians who practice traditional Ayurvedic medicine (the main system of health care in India) use alfalfa for poor digestion and to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Other traditional medicine practitioners use alfalfa for anemia and to increase breast milk production in women who have difficulty breastfeeding their infants.
Alfalfa is high in…
- vitamins A
- vitamin C
- folic acid