A lengthy line of fascinating studies in humans, primates, and rodents (4–33) indicates that alfalfa sprouts, seeds, and supplements may induce systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), especially when ingested in large quantities. Although the evidence is not conclusive, it appears that sulfur compounds found in alfalfa may be responsible for this effect.
Alfalfa sprouts contain high levels of sulfate salts, which are converted by bacteria in the gut into methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM). MSM has been shown to trigger immune responses similar to those seen with sulfur-containing chemicals found in drugs such as mercaptopurine and methothrexate used to treat leukemia and autoimmune diseases, respectively. Alfalfa sprouts have also been reported to cause hives and angioedema (rashlike symptoms including tongue swelling and throat tightness), which are allergic reactions similar to those caused by sulfite additives used to preserve food colorings and prevent bacterial growth. Although very rare, eating large amounts of alfalfa sprouts may also lead to acute renal failure due to inflammation of the kidneys.
People who are prone to allergies or other forms of hypersensitivity should avoid alfalfa products because even small doses may cause adverse effects.
Alfalfa sprouts contain L-canavanine, an amino acid that stimulates the immune system and can cause inflammation in persons with lupus. As a result, persons suffering from lupus and other autoimmune diseases should avoid alfalfa sprouts entirely.
Because most people consume alfalfa sprouts seldom, the possible negative health consequences of occasional alfalfa consumption are likely to be small, save for persons suffering from autoimmune illness. As modern Paleo dieters, we should draw from the wisdom of our ancestors' diets, which rarely or never used beans. Thus, no one would have considered eating alfalfa sprouts to be harmful.
In fact, early European settlers in North America grew alfalfa as a crop and used its seeds as a food source, because they contained more protein than peas or lentils. They believed that alfalfa helped strengthen bones and improve blood quality. Today, some scientists believe that alfalfa's chemical compounds may help prevent cancer and heal wounds. Of course, these benefits require that you eat enough alfalfa sprouts to see them come into action; otherwise, they're just vitamins and minerals that your body can use easily without worrying about toxic effects.
So, yes, you can eat alfalfa sprouts on a Paleo diet. They're high in nutrients and fiber, and unlike many other foods not recommended on this plan, alfalfa has been used by humans for centuries with no apparent problems. As long as you don't go overboard with your consumption, you should have no issues at all with any adverse effects.
Alfalfa leaves may be SAFE for most individuals. Long-term consumption of alfalfa seeds, on the other hand, is probably risky. Alfalfa seed products may produce symptoms comparable to those seen with the autoimmune illness lupus erythematosus. Alfalfa may also make some people's skin more sensitive to the sun. Use caution if you are taking medications for depression or other mental illnesses, as alfalfa may cause them to act up or lose effectiveness.
Alfalfa is safe when used in food products. However, large doses of alfalfa extract may cause mild diarrhea. It is not known whether this effect would occur with smaller amounts found in food products. High doses of alfalfa may also cause lightheadedness and fainting. These effects are likely due to high levels of calcium in alfalfa. Calcium balances should be checked by patients who use alfalfa products at higher than recommended dosages.
Side effects that involve irritation or inflammation of the digestive system occur with anality spasm, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis. Individuals with these conditions should avoid contact with alfalfa because it could worsen their condition. Those who are allergic to plants from the pea family (legumes) should not eat alfalfa because such reactions may occur. Such persons should seek advice from their doctors before eating any product containing alfalfa.
Alfalfa is a plant that can be used to treat asthma, arthritis, diabetes, excessive urine output (diuresis), high cholesterol, indigestion, and excessive bruising or bleeding (thrombocytopenic purpura). The leaves of the plant are used in some countries to make tea that is taken to treat urinary problems and irritable bowel syndrome.
Alfalfa is well known for its use as a feedstock for livestock. The plant contains amino acids and proteins that can be used by animals as fertilizer or fuel. The young shoots of the alfalfa plant are also eaten by cattle and sheep as a green vegetable. Cattle will usually eat all of their weight in alfalfa every day for several days until it is time for them to rest before starting again later in the week. This is called haymaking and the process by which cattle produce manure is called bailing.
Alfalfa is a perennial plant that grows in temperate climates around the world. It survives winter in colder regions when other plants have died back. This is why you often find alfalfa growing near roads in areas where there is no other vegetation during this time of year.
The flower heads of the alfalfa plant contain small yellow flowers that become purple or red when they ripen.
Alfalfa is used to treat kidney problems, bladder and prostate problems, and to enhance urine flow. It is also used to treat excessive cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, unsettled stomach, and thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding illness. Alford's root was used by Native Americans as a stimulant and diuretic.
Alfalfa is used as a food source for livestock and as a green manure crop for soil enrichment. The young shoots and leaves are harvested before flowering begins and used like spinach. The seeds are dried and the oil contained in the seed coat is pressed out. The remaining pulp is used as a hay feed for horses and cattle.
Alfalfa is a legume that grows in clumps with yellow flowers that develop into black-seed pods containing small, flat, brownish seeds that are used as a food source for livestock and as a green manure crop for soil enrichment.
The word "alfalfa" is Arabic for "dwarf camel". This plant has been used for food and medicine since at least 500 BC. American Indians used the young shoots and leaves of alfalfa as a vegetable. They called it "spotted cowpea" because of its dark green color when young. The Cherokee called it "ohwachska", which means "everything good."