Alfalfa is a potently nutritious grass, commonly sold as a nutritional supplement and naturopathic medicine. Although alfalfa sprouts, seeds and tablets are generally safe when they are used for short periods of time by healthy adults, some people should not take alfalfa.
The following circumstances are regarded as contraindications for alfalfa use. If you fall into any of these categories, do not use alfalfa supplements unless specifically directed to do so by your health care provider.
It is find to eat alfalfa sprouts and seeds in small amounts during pregnancy, but large doses found in supplements may be dangerous. Hormone-like compounds in alfalfa, known as phytoestrogens, may cause hormonal problems in the fetus or trigger miscarriage and preterm labor.
People with Autoimmune Disease
Alfalfa can stimulate the immune system, leading to increased symptoms of autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Alfalfa is contraindicated for people with any autoimmune illness, because it can worsen these conditions and lead to uncomortable or even fatal effects.
Women with Hormone-Sensitive Conditions
Alfalfa can interfere with levels of estrogen and progesterone, possibly augmenting the symptoms of hormone-related ailments. If you have– or have a history of– breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids, you should avoid taking alfalfa supplements. Exposure to plant-based estrogens could worsen your symptoms or cause the recurrence of some types of cancer.
People with Diabetes
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, do not take alfalfa. Alfalfa supplements are contraindicated for people with diabetes because they can lower blood sugar to dangerous levels. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to take alfalfa, monitor your blood sugar levels closely and report any changes you notice.
People who have had recent Organ Transplants
Alfalfa stimulates the immune system and may cause your body to reject a transplanted organ. It may make cyclosporine, an immune-suppressing drug used to prevent transplant rejection, less effective. Wait at least three months to take alfalfa supplements if you have had an organ transplant.
People taking Blood Thinners
If you take an anticoagulant drug such as coumadin, you should not take alfalfa supplements under any circumstances. Alfalfa contains very large amounts of vitamin K and will decrease the effectiveness of these drugs. This could cause life-threatening problems such as blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
Visit the National Institutes of Health for more information about alfalfa contraindications.