Mention the word “alfalfa” and lush farm fields of green plants with small flowers on them might come to mind.
But alfalfa is much more than animal feed or ground cover. Studies show that this plant offers significant benefits for those who use it.
Wendi Michelle, health coach, author and speaker, explains that alfalfa is full of nutrients and many people incorporate the plant into their health regimen. “It assists with over all wellness due to its extensive amount of micronutrients. It has been found to assist with gut health and digestion, offers kidney, blood and liver support and has a positive effect on insulin levels, cholesterol and immunity,” she says. “Alfalfa has also been used for its anti-inflammatory effects.”
The Global Healing Center credits the plant’s extensive root system with the ability to absorb a significant amount of nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as all the B-vitamins.
Alfalfa extracts are basically a concentrate of all these vitamins, according to Michelle. She compares it to juice that has been frozen. “It is a dense version of the beneficial chemicals in a plant. By creating a solution utilizing alcohol primarily as a solvent, it allows you to extract the medicinal constitutes from the plant and preserve them,” she explains. “The liquid combination of plant constitutes and solvent is also for the purpose of carrying the chemicals into the blood and assisting with absorption.”
Studies have shown that this extract can exert some powerful effects. Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan reports that alfalfa might be somewhat effective in reducing menopausal symptoms; when coupled with sage, the effects are increased, eliminating night sweats and hot flashes. Additionally, the plant has been found to block the formation of plaques, thus lowering cholesterol.
A 2012 study found that “alfalfa leaf extract enriched with Vitamin C can be a dietary supplement supporting the human body in fighting malnutrition, ischemic diseases, and various disorders of digestive tract. It also strengthens and enhances immunity.”
Michelle reports that the “confirmed nutrient density of alfalfa alone supports many of the potential benefits, as a good amount of conditions people look to treat or prevent are driven or aggravated by low or suboptimal micronutrient levels.” This is good news for those who have diabetes. A study from 2015 demonstrated the beneficial effects of alfalfa administered orally in helping to repair damaged livers and improve diabetic symptoms.
Who shouldn’t use alfalfa extract
In spite of the many benefits, it’s wise to customize your patients’ supplement plans based on their individual needs and conditions. “A benefit of utilizing natural compounds is accessing the full spectrum of beneficial chemicals, which serve multiple purposes. That being said, dosing cannot be one-size-fits-all and would be dependent upon which health goal an individual is seeking to accomplish. Someone looking to lower cholesterol will want a different dose than someone supplementing for the purpose of boosting general health.”
Long-term use should be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to Michelle. Additionally, there are some contraindications for use. In an article published at the Global Healing Center’s website, Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM of the Global Healing Center cautioned individuals with autoimmune disorders, hormonal cancers or gout to avoid alfalfa; pregnant women should also forego taking this supplement until after delivery.
Additionally, the vitamin K content in alfalfa improves the blood’s clotting ability, so anyone taking a blood thinner should nix this supplement, suggests Michelle. “As always, it is safe and advisable to check with an herbalist or expert for a personalized review of conditions, medications and allergies before choosing to add an extract,” she says. “When grown, picked and processed properly, herbs can be very powerful. It is worth mentioning that this plant is seasonal and cycling our foods and herbal supplementation to mimic nature should always be a consideration.”
Under the guidance of a health professional, adding alfalfa to your supplementation program could offer some significant benefits and improve your overall health condition.