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A. Alfalfa is a flowering plant in the genus Medicago, belonging to the family Fabaceae, It has been cultivated all over the world as hay for cattle feeding. The leaves, sprouts, and seeds to make medicine has been used in traditional medicine over thousands of year to treat high cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, enhance digestive system, bleeding disorder, kidney and urinary tract infection, etc. North Americal aboriginal has used Alfalfa seed as food, such as making bread and mush.
B. Health benefits of Alfalfa
In a study of measurements of pH, water holding capacity, color, oxymyoglobin content, TBARS and oxidation-reduction potential in evaluating the effects of a dietary protein-xanthophylls (PX) concentrate of alfalfa to turkey diets conducted by University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Skromna 8, 20-704 Lublin, Poland.(1), researchers found that TBARS and oxidation-reduction potential values suggested that the inclusion of the concentrate to turkey diets acts as an antioxidant in the raw meat.
In a study to test the effect of Alfalfa used in traditional medicine to treat high blood cholesterol conducted by Malinow MR, McLaughlin P, Stafford C.(2), in 3 human volunteers during ingestion of diets containing alfalfa seeds (AS) for 3 weeks, researchers found that Plasma cholesterol concentrations were reduced and No signs of toxicity were detected through serum determinations of multiple parameters. The ingestion of AS in rats decreased the concentration of plasma cholesterol, reduced intestinal absorption of exogenous and endogenous cholesterol, and increased fecal biliary excretion.
In a study of Fifteen patients with hyperlipoproteinemia (HLP), types IIA (n = 8), IIB (n = 3) and IV (n = 4) were given 40 g of heat prepared alfalfa seeds 3 times daily at mealtimes for 8 weeks with otherwise unchanged diet, conducted by Mölgaard J, von Schenck H, Olsson AG.(3), found that patients with type II HLP alfalfa treatment caused after 8 weeks a maximal lowering of pretreatment median values of total plasma cholesterol from 9.58 to 8.00 mmol/l (P less than 0.001) and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from 7.69 to 6.33 mmol/l (P less than 0.01), which corresponds to decreases of 17% and 18%, respectively. Maximal decrease was 26% in total cholesterol and 30% in LDL cholesterol. In two patients with hypercholesterolemia the LDL cholesterol decreased less than 5%. Apolipoprotein B decreased in the same period from 2.17 to 1.43 g/l (P less than 0.05) in type II HLP, corresponding to 34% decrease, whereas apolipoprotein A-I did not change. Body weight increased slightly during the first 4 weeks of alfalfa treatment (P less than 0.001) probably because of the caloric content in the alfalfa seeds. After cessation of treatment, all lipoprotein concentrations returned to pretreatment levels. We conclude that alfalfa seeds can be added to the diet to help normalize serum cholesterol concentrations in patients with type II HLP.
4. Disease of autoimmune
In a study of five groups of 12-week-old female mice were per oral treated with vehicle (control), lyophilized AS (550 mg wt/kg BW), ASEA (ASEA, 25 mg/kg BW), coumestrol (CUM, 0.075 mg/kg BW) and tamoxifen (TAM, 0.375 mg/kg BW) as the positive control, conducted by Institute of Microbiology and Biochemistry, College of Life Science, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan (4), researchers found that alhalfa decreased the disease severity, increased survival and life span of the autoimmune-prone MRL-lpr/lpr mice, suggesting a potential of ASEA in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
5. Anti-inflammatory activity
In a study of anti-inflammatory effects may be used for inflammatory disorders by examining alfalfa sprout ethyl acetate extract (ASEA) in ,ice coducted by College of Life Science, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.(5), researchers found that significantly higher survival rates than the control group and suggests that ASEA supplementation can suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and alleviate acute inflammatory hazards.
6. Systemic lupus erythematosus
In experimental studies in primates ingesting alfalfa sprout seeds and L-canavanine (a prominent amino acid constituent of alfalfa) is presented,conducted by Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland (6), researchers indicate that a potential toxic and immunoregulatory role of L-canavanine in the induction of a systemic lupus-like disease in primates.
7. Menopause symptoms
In a study of Eight botanical preparations that are commonly used for the treatment of menopausal symptoms were tested for estrogenic activity, conducted by University of Illinois at Chicago (7), researchers found thatestrogenic components of plant extracts can be identified using assays for estrogenic activity along with screening and identification of the active components using ultrafiltration LC-MS. These data suggest a potential use for some dietary supplements, ingested by human beings, in the treatment of menopausal symptoms.
8. Neuroprotective activity
In a study of the neuroprotective effect of methanol extract of Medicago sativa (MS, Alfalfa) on ischemia and reperfusion-induced cerebral injury in mice, conducted by Institute of Pharmacy, Solan 173 223, India. (8)found that suggest that treatment with MS enhances the antioxidant defense against BCAO-induced global cerebral ischemia and exhibits neuroprotective activity.
C. Side effects
1. High amount of vitamin K may reduce the effectiveness of anticogulation medicine
2. Causing additive effects for women who are under estrogen replecement therapy or taking the oral contraceptive pill.
3. It may cause stomach upset and diarrhea
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(1) "Effect of protein-xanthophylls (PX) concentrate of alfalfa supplementation on physico-chemical properties of turkey breast and thigh muscles during ageing" by Karwowska M, Stadnik J, Dolatowski ZJ, Grela ER., posted in PubMed
(2) "Alfalfa seeds: effects on cholesterol metabolism." Posted in PubMed
(3) "Alfalfa seeds lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B concentrations in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinemia", posted in PubMed
(4) " The ethyl acetate extract of alfalfa sprout ameliorates disease severity of autoimmune-prone MRL-lpr/lpr mice" by Hong YH, Huang CJ, Wang SC, Lin BF., posted in PubMed
(5) "Ethyl acetate extracts of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) sprouts inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo" by Hong YH, Chao WW, Chen ML, Lin BF., posted in PubMed
(6) "Dietary amino acid-induced systemic lupus erythematosus" by Montanaro A, Bardana EJ Jr., posted in PubMed
(7) "Evaluation of estrogenic activity of plant extracts for the potential treatment of menopausal symptoms" byLiu J, Burdette JE, Xu H, Gu C, van Breemen RB, Bhat KP, Booth N, Constantinou AI, Pezzuto JM, Fong HH, Farnsworth NR, Bolton JL., posted in PubMed
(8) "Evaluation of Antioxidant and Cerebroprotective Effect of Medicago sativa Linn. against Ischemia and Reperfusion Insult" by Bora KS, Sharma A., posted in PubMed