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Alfalfa Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings

  • Alfalfa sprouts can induce systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in monkeys. This property of alfalfa sprouts has been attributed to their non-protein amino acid constituent, L-canavanine. Occurrence of autoimmune hemolytic anemia and exacerbation of SLE have been linked to ingestion of alfalfa tablets containing L-canavanine. Immunoregulatory effects of L-canavanine may explain the induction or exacerbation of SLE by alfalfa.
    - Arthritis Rheum 1985 Jan;28(1):52-7 -- Effects of L-canavanine on T cells may explain the induction of systemic lupus erythematosus by alfalfa. -- Alcocer-Varela J, Iglesias A, Llorente L, Alarcon-Segovia D.

  • Alfalfa seeds can have an effect on cholesterol levels.
    - Atherosclerosis 1987 May;65(1-2):173-9 -- Alfalfa seeds lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B concentrations in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia. -- Molgaard J, von Schenck H, Olsson AG.

  • Alfalfa sprouts contain phytoestrogens; isoflavones, coumestans and lignans.
    - Annu Rev Nutr 1997;17:353-81 -- Dietary phytoestrogens. -- Kurzer MS, Xu X.

  • Alfalfa (medicago sativa) contains saponins. Results indicate that some dietary saponins may reduce iron absorption and hence have an adverse effect on iron status in man and simple-stomached animals.
    - Br J Nutr 1988 May;59(3):389-96 -- The effect of three types of saponin on iron and zinc absorption from a single meal in the rat. -- Southon S, Wright AJ, Price KR, Fairweather-Tait SJ, Fenwick GR.

  • Since alfalfa contains vitamin K, it may be wise to avoid taking it if you have heart or blood disorders or are taking a medication such as Warfarin. It may affect blood clotting, which is dependent on vitamin K.
    - Methods Mol Biol. 2010;663:229-40. -- Antithrombotic effects of naturally derived products on coagulation and platelet function. -- Mousa SA.

  • May cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Discontinue its use and inform your physician if the diarrhea and upset stomach does not go away.
    - Murray, M. -- The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines: Vitamins, Minerals, Nutritional Supplements, Herbs, and Other Natural Products. -- Bantam, 2002. 520-521.

  • Alfalfa has been known to aggravate lupus and other autoimmune disorders. The canavanine in alfalfa is believed to reactivate this disease in some people who are in remission. If you have an autoimmune problem, avoid this herb.
    - Roberts JL, Hayashi JA. -- Exacerbation of SLE associated with alfalfa ingestion. -- N Engl J Med . 1983;308:1361.

last update: February 2014

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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