Alfalfa - Medicago sativa (in the Fabaceae or legume family)
Part used: Aerial parts.
Tendencies: Cooling, moistening.
Dosage: Infusion: 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water; or 1:1 fresh + dry plant liquid extract: 30-60 drops in a little water 1-4 times per day.
Use: (a) Diuretic, (b) Anti-inflammatory, (c) Nutritive, (d) Phytoestrogen.
Alfalfa contains a high mineral and vitamin content, rich in protein, carotene, calcium, trace minerals and vitamins E and K as well as many water soluble vitamins. It has been shown to stimulate lactation and increase the quality of breast milk. It is used as a general tonic and in a variety of chronic degenerative diseases. Alfalfa has been shown to decrease cholesterol and cause regression of atherosclerosis.
It contains both coumestans as well as isoflavones. In a rat study, an ether extract was estrogenic, a chloroform extract was antiestrogenic and an acid extract interfered with seminal vesicle growth and potentiated action of estrogens. Many isoflavones and coumestans have been found to have estrogenic activity. Alfalfa contains the isoflavones biochanin A, daidzein, formononetin and genistein and coumestans coumestrol, 5-methoxy-4'-O- methylcoumestrol, 4'-O-methylcoumestol, sativol, medicagol, 3'-methoxycoumestrol, trifoliol, lucernol. The isoflavones formononetin and biochanin A, have very weak estrogenic activity compared with natural estrone or synthetic DES.
Phytoestrogens can act as anti-estrogens by competing with estrodial for cytoplasmic receptors in estrogen-sensitive tissues. Soybeans, which also contain estrogenic isoflavones, have been implicated as being responsible for the low incidence of breast and other female reproductive cancers in Japanese women who consume large amounts of soybean products. The same protective action may be possible with Alfalfa and should be studied further.
Contraindications: Plants with coumestans and isoflavones have been shown to decrease fertility in animals who graze on these types of plants. Alfalfa should be used with caution in women or men with fertility problems. It is contraindicated in pregnancy due to the uterine stimulant action on animals by the constituent stachydrine. There is a potential of drug interaction with blood thinning agents. The presence of vitamin K in any plant can cause an antagonistic effect with blood thinning agents like coumarin (warfarin) or indandione (anisindione). Alfalfa is thought to exacerbate symptoms of Lupus.