Health Benefits of Alfalfa

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on August 22, 2022
3 min read

Alfalfa’s scientific name is Medicago sativa, but it goes by several other names, including buffalo herb, Lucerne, and purple medic. California is the largest producer in the U.S. The clover-like plants bloom there in the summer, reaching 2 to 3 feet high and producing blue or purple flowers.

Alfalfa’s stout nutrient profile means that it provides significant health benefits. It’s also used in alternative medicine to help treat a wide variety of health issues.

Benefits of alfalfa include:

Effective Blood Clotting

A single serving of alfalfa provides 13% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin K, which is an important vitamin for blood clotting. Vitamin K, along with chlorophyll and iron, also promotes blood production, which can help people with anemia. If you take the blood-thinning medication Coumadin, you may want to limit your intake, however, as Vitamin K can decrease its effectiveness.

Lower Risk of Certain Diseases

Free radicals in the body can lead to oxidative stress and cell damage, increasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. The antioxidants in alfalfa fight free radicals and help your body to fight those diseases as well.

Steady Blood Sugar

Alfalfa is a fiber-rich food and may help to control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose into the intestines. As a result, it may help to control diabetes and prediabetes.

Lower Cholesterol

Plant compounds called saponins lower the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. Decreasing LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type) can help to lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Healthy Urinary Tract

As a natural diuretic, alfalfa promotes urine flow, which can help to clear out harmful bacteria. While it’s not a proven method to treat an active urinary tract infection, it may help prevent an infection from starting.

Although alfalfa is frequently used to feed horses and rabbits, it’s good for people, too. Besides consuming it as a supplement, humans eat alfalfa in the form of sprouted seeds, found in the produce section of most grocery stores.

Nutrients Per Serving

Just 1 cup of alfalfa sprouts provides the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 7.6
  • Protein: 1.3 grams
  • Fat : 0.2 grams
  • Carbohydrates : 0.7 grams
  • Fiber : 0.6 grams
  • Sugar: 0.1 grams

Alfalfa may be low in calories, but it has several significant nutrients that make it a powerhouse food. It contains:

In addition to many vitamins and minerals, alfalfa also has bioactive compounds such as alkaloids, coumarins, flavonoids, and phytoestrogens. These compounds may help prevent health issues such as cancer and heart disease.

Things to Watch Out For

Alfalfa may interfere with how well certain medications, such as some forms of birth control, work. And because alfalfa promotes blood clotting, you should talk to your doctor if you’re taking Coumadin. You may need to limit how much alfalfa you eat or avoid it altogether.

Fresh alfalfa sprouts are sprouted seeds that growers harvest before they are fully mature. You can find them with the produce at most grocery stores. If you prefer, you can also sprout them at home.

To sprout alfalfa, add approximately 2 tablespoons of seeds to a bowl or jar of water and let sit for 8 to 12 hours. Drain the seeds and rinse them off. Remove as much water as you can and let them sit at room temperature in a sunny area for 3 days. Rinse and drain them every 8 to 12 hours.

After 3 days, move the seeds to a spot with indirect sunlight and continue to rinse them periodically. They should be ready to eat after 5 or 6 days.

There is a risk for bacterial contamination when sprouting seeds at home. Take precautions to ensure safe growing conditions. Rinse both store-bought or home-grown sprouts thoroughly before using them.

Fresh alfalfa sprouts are a delicious addition to sandwiches and salads. They can also be used in summer rolls or as a garnish for soups or tacos.

You can also purchase alfalfa in dried form. Dried alfalfa can be boiled in water with other herbs to make a tea or ground up and added to smoothies. It can also be added to capsules and consumed as an herbal supplement.