Alfalfa or Medicago sativa is a plant from the pea family. It is said to be one of the most cultivated herbs in history. The name for this ingenious herb comes from Arabia and means “father of all food."
The history of the alfalfa herb is an interesting one. First presumed to be used by Native Americans in the mid-1800’s, this herb has made headlines and continues to be the go-to plant for most health conditions and concerns.
The young leaves were a delicacy amongst the earlier Chinese and Russian civilizations, and continue to be so today.
The Alfalfa herb is mainly cultivated in the US today but was highly propagated in Afghanistan and Iran many years ago.
Ways in which earlier civilizations benefited from alfalfa.
The alfalfa herb contains many valuable vitamins and minerals, which are needed in soil cultivation. It is believed to return the lost nutrients to the earth, which in turn lead to healthier crops.
Because of the many health benefits of alfalfa, earlier civilizations used this herb to feed their animals. Higher in nutrients than hay and other feeds, the alfalfa herb would be dried and ground into a naturally healthy feed for animals.
Before the use of modern medicine, and the advancements we have access to today, alfalfa herb would be used in the treatment of many ailments and illnesses.
Alfalfa herb was consumed in many forms including teas, tinctures, powders, and as seeds and sprouts in meals.
Alfalfa has been used to treat digestive complications, headaches, loss of appetite, malnutrition, bad breath, aches and pains within the joint areas, Urinary tract infections, etc.
The Health Benefits of Consuming Alfalfa
Medicago Sativa or Alfalfa is high in natural vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, D, E, K4, most of the B-group of vitamins as well as biotin, calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, and potassium. These essential vitamins and minerals play an indispensable role in many major parts of our bodies. These nutritional benefits are needed for the optimal health of our skin, nails, hair, organ functioning, brain chemistry, circulation and so much more. Is it any wonder then, that this herb was so popular amongst earlier cultures?
alternative methods to try if you are suffering from breastfeeding
problems. Try to rule out other issues which may be contributing to your
breastfeeding concerns first, before using medications.
The Herb Alfalfa and Breastfeeding
Alfalfa mimics the natural estrogen found within a woman’s body. Estrogen is the most critical hormone for breastmilk production and supply. There are numerous research papers done on the use, benefits, and validity of alfalfa during lactation.
Alfalfa is used to help increase not only breast milk supply but the volume of breast tissue as well.
The Estrogen found within Alfalfa is plant-derived, as such there are some concerns that an oversupply of breastmilk may become a problem should the herb be consumed in large quantities, or when used over an extended period. Painful, engorged breast symptoms may present in such cases. Alfalfa is, therefore, not recommended if you have an overabundant breast milk supply.
Using Alfalfa as Food
The recommended way to benefit from the alfalfa herb is to add it to
your diet in its natural form.
What are alfalfa sprouts?
Alfalfa sprouts and seeds taste similar
to peas, and you can add them to salads, soups, and a variety of other
foods or meals.
Growing your own alfalfa sprouts
Using Alfalfa as a Tea
Using the dried leaves, you can easily make your own herbal teas at home. Growing and cultivating your plants, or purchasing dried leaves from reputable suppliers is a good place to start. Seep the leaves in hot water until it is strong enough for your taste. It is said to be bitter, so you might want to add a touch of honey until you’re comfortable with the taste.
Unlike the sprouts, the alfalfa leaf is bitter, so it is usually dried
and prepared as a tea. To make alfalfa tea, use one or two teaspoons of
dried alfalfa leaves per cup of boiling water. You can safely drink up
to three cups of alfalfa tea each day.
Consider mixing a few other herbs with alfalfa to increase its effectiveness, such as:
Dry ground Alfalfa herb seems to be quite common in Chinese cultures. The powder would be used to sprinkle over a variety of food dishes. You can try to add a bit to your soups, casseroles, and curries. This way the taste of your meal will disguise most of the herb.
Alfalfa herb can be purchased in capsule form at health-food stores and online. Capsules seem to be the most preferred method of ingestion since the quantity of herb is controlled for you, ready prepared and packaged.
Alfalfa Dosage for Increasing Milk Supply
The alfalfa herb is available to use as a raw food source, or you can take it as:
Alfalfa tablet or capsules (2 - 4 capsules, 3 - 4 per day) You can start with one Alfalfa capsule four times a day (depending on the strength of herb), you could increase the dose safely as per instructions received from your lactation consultant or health-care professional.
Alfalfa tea is also a great option. (3 cups of tea per day) Use 2 tbsp of tea leaves in one cup of tea)
Six dropper squeezes per day of alfalfa tincture. ( 4ml four times per day.)
Precautions & Possible Alfalfa Side Effects
In earlier times, the alfalfa herb would be used to “flush" the body of toxins. For this reason, it would cause a natural diarrheic effect. Using alfalfa herb over a prolonged period, or in higher than needed quantities would cause a runny tummy. In small amounts, alfalfa should not be transferred in breast milk, but overuse can cause diarrhea in mom and baby.
While alfalfa herb is considered safe to use over the short term, it must be noted that studies conducted on its safety and efficacy have concluded that certain medical conditions may be aggravated or induced by the use of this herb in some people.
Alfalfa herb has been said to be unsafe to use for people who may be suffering from auto-immune disorders such as Lupus, conditions affected by hormones such as ovarian cancer, endometritis, uterine fibroids, and uterine cancer, not to mention other immune system disorders like RA (Rheumatoid arthritis) and MS (Multiple sclerosis). While it cannot be denied that Alfalfa has many health benefits, it is essential that you rule out these health conditions, and others before use.
Store bought sprouts may be contaminated with E-coli or salmonella. It is always best to grow your own. (video above)
When using alfalfa herb to increase breastmilk supply, it is advised to use only what is required, and over short periods of time. Try combining alfalfa with other herbs and roots to increase the efficacy.
Herbs and roots such as alfalfa are not administered or monitored by the FDA, (Food and drug administration) therefore it should be used with caution especially in small children, the elderly and already ill.
If you are interested in using alfalfa herb for breastfeeding, always start off with the lowest quantity and slowly work your way onto the directed dose.
Should you or your baby at any point experience diarrhea, it would be best to stop using alfalfa immediately until all symptoms of runny, uncomfortable tummy upsets have disappeared, and then gradually work your way up to the directed dosage again starting with the lowest amount.
Once the desired effect is seen (breast milk has increased sufficiently), tamper down or stop using alfalfa for a while, until it may be needed again.
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical
protocol# 9: use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate
of maternal milk secretion (First revision January 2011
MedlinePlus. Alfalfa. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Mills E, Dugoua JJ, Perri D, Koren G. Herbal medicines in pregnancy and lactation: an evidence-based approach. CRC Press. 2013.
Scott CR, Jacobson H. A selection of international nutritional and
herbal remedies for breastfeeding concerns. Midwifery Today Int Midwife.
2005;75:38-9. PMID: 16320878
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