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Most of us know alfalfa from our sandwiches and salads. But this familiar plant is also useful in increasing milk supply!Alfalfa is a many-branched plant with square stems and leaves composed of three leaflets. It has blue to purple flowers turn into spiral coiled seedpods. Alfalfa grows to a height of up to three feet, and its deep taproot sometimes stretches more than 50 feet. This root system brings up many minerals, including trace minerals, from the soil, and also makes it drought resistant. It’s a tough plant whose seed system allows it to re-grow many times after being grazed or harvested.
Its English name derives from an Arabic term for “fresh fodder,” and it has been cultivated by humans since at least the 4th century and used in herbal medicine for an estimated 1,500 years. It’s used in agriculture as a forage crop for cattle and as hay, and in particular for high producing dairy cows due to its high protein content and highly digestible fiber. It’s fed to dairy goats to help them produce more milk, as well.
Alfalfa is rich in chlorophyll and vitamin K, which promotes clotting. It’s also high in protein, calcium, other minerals, and vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.
The leaves and flowers make a mild tasting, nutritious tea that stimulates the appetite and aids digestion. Alfalfa is used for a wide range of ailments including kidney conditions, bladder and prostate conditions, high cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. The National Institutes of Health rates it as “possibly effective” for lowering cholesterol.
Alfalfa is used commonly to support breast milk, often in combination with fenugreek, marshmallow, and blessed thistle. Fenugreek and blessed thistle are contraindicated during pregnancy, but alfalfa is an herb that can be taken while pregnant.
According to The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, alfalfa should not be taken by mothers who have lupus or other autoimmune diseases, as the L-canavanine contained in it may exacerbate symptoms.
Alfalfa is an ingredient in our More Milk Two Alcohol Free, our breastfeeding product for women who are nursing a toddler while pregnant. The alfalfa used in Motherlove products is certified organic and thus not genetically modified.
Sources: The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, The Nursing Mother’s Herbal, Low Milk Supply, Medline Plus, Wikipedia. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons