Find Search

Other Information

Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)


Also known as lucerne, alfalfa is a member of the pea family. While alfalfa sprouts have become a common food, it is the leaves that are primarily used as medicine. Today, alfalfa is used to treat High Cholesterol, poor appetite, and Menopause. The herb is available in bulk, in tablet and capsule form, and as a liquid extract.


Traditionally, alfalfa has been used to treat digestive problems, Water Retention, and Arthritis. North American Indians used the plant to treat jaundice and promote blood clotting (1). It has also been used as a tonic for indigestion, dyspepsia, Anaemia, loss of appetite, and poor assimilation of nutrients (2). The seeds were used to treat Boils and insect bites.


Part of the plant used: LEAF.

Liquid extract (1:1 in 25% alcohol), 5-10 ml three times daily (3).

Dried leaf, 500-1000 mg daily.

1-2 ml tincture three times per day (4).


High Cholesterol:
Alfalfa leaves contain a substance called saponin. Animal studies have shown that saponins block cholesterol absorption and prevent plaque formation (5,6).

Alfalfa leaves also contain isoflavones, which may produce oestrogen-like activity in animals (7). For this reason, the herb has been popularly recommended to treat menopausal symptoms. However, clinical human studies have not yet been conducted to verify its effectiveness.

Poor appetite:
Alfalfa has also been used to improve appetite.


When used as directed, alfalfa is generally quite safe, aside from occasional reported allergies. Use in excessive dosages may be harmful, however. Studies have shown that excessive dosages of seeds or sprouts are associated with systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease characterized by inflamed joints and kidney damage (8). People with SLE or a history of SLE are advised to avoid use of alfalfa products.


Alfalfa contains coumarin, which has anticoagulant properties. Coumarin may interact with the action of almost any drug. Alfalfa may interact with quinidine, an antiarrhythmic agent. Allopurinol may increase the retention of alfalfa in the body. Alfalfa may also interfere with the absorption of tetracyclines - avoid taking large quantities of the herb within two hours of taking tetracyclines.

Alfalfa is contra-indicated in Lupus.


1. Briggs C. Alfalfa. Canadian Pharm J Mar 1994; 84,85,115.
2. Castleman M. The Healing herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1991, 37-39.
3. Newall CA, Linda AA, and Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
4. Foster S. herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 2-3.
5. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 13-15.
6. Story JA. Alfalfa saponins and cholesterol interactions. Am J Clin Nutr 1984;39:917-29.
7. Shemesh M, Lindrer HR, Ayalon N. Affinity of rabbit uterine oestradiol receptor for phyto-oestragens and its use in competitive protein-binding radioassay for plasma coumestrol. J Reprod Fertil 1972;29:1-9.
8. Malinow MR, Bardana EJ, Profsky B, et al. Systemic lupus erythematosus-like syndrome in monkeys fed alfalfa sprouts: Role of a nonprotein amino acid. Science 1982;216:415-17.


Print this page