Could Ancient Herbal Remedy Boost Fertility? Alfalfa Seeds Show Promise

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Seeking affordable alternatives to costly IVF, Iranian researchers revive an ancient herbal fertility remedy to give undiagnosed couples new hope for beating the odds

Of couples seeking treatment for infertility, nearly 20% battle "unexplained infertility" - no identified mechanical, hormonal or genetic explanation despite extensive medical workups.1 Seeking accessible alternatives to costly IVF or lackluster lifestyle recommendations, Iranian researchers decided to test an ancient herbal fertility remedy used for centuries in Persian folk medicine - humble alfalfa seeds.

In a 2023 double-blind trial, adding alfalfa seed powder to standard vitamin E therapy significantly improved sperm count, shape, and movement compared to vitamin E alone in men with undiagnosed infertility.2

Putting Alfalfa Seeds to the Test

Previous research demonstrates certain bioactive compounds abundant in alfalfa called saponins and L-canavanine positively impact sperm health and production.3 Hoping to extend these effects to infertility treatment, researchers recruited 60 couples struggling to conceive without an identified medical cause.

For 12 weeks, half of the men added 6 grams daily of alfalfa seed powder to their regimes of 100 IU vitamin E, while controls only took the standard vitamin. By study's end, the alfalfa group experienced substantial boosts in sperm count (+33%), motility (+9%) and morphology (+30%) over baseline.2 The placebo group in contrast saw minimal changes, establishing alfalfa as the clear agent of fertility benefit.2 Four pregnancies also occurred in partners of alfalfa seed consumers over this brief study period compared to none in the control group.2

Safety Profile and Accessibility

Aside from two early withdrawals due to minor bloating and allergy symptoms, alfalfa seed powder proved safe and well-tolerated by the vast majority of patients in the trial.2 This safety profile - combined with alfalfa's affordability, availability, and minimal side effect risk compared to other herbal aphrodisiacs like Panax ginseng - renders it an attractive natural therapy for boosting pregnancy odds when no mechanical fertility barriers exist.

An Ancient Solution for Modern Woes?

"While small, our study results hold promise for conditions with few reliable treatments like unexplained infertility," says lead author Dr. Azita Sadough Shahmirzadi. "Given alfalfa's centuries of traditional use, benign safety data even in pregnancy, and minimal contraindications, fertility specialists should strongly consider adding alfalfa seed powder as an accessible first step before progressing patients to invasive treatments."

Of course, larger clinical trials over longer periods can better clarify alfalfa's utility.. But for now, adding just a sprinkling of this sprouted seed powder looks to offer couples struggling with fertility a safe, natural way to potentially tip the scales toward new life.

To learn more about natural fertility boosting approaches, visit our database on male infertility here, and female infertility here.


References

1. Smith ADAC, Tilling K, Nelson SM, Lawlor DA. Live-birth rate associated with couple infertility treatment relative to live-birth rate without treatment. JAMA. 2021 Jun 15;325(23):2367-2376. 

2. Shahmirzadi AS, Shafi H, Shirafkan H, Memariani Z, Gorji N, Moeini R. Effect of Medicago sativa seed powder (Plus vitamin E vs. vitamin E alone) on semen analysis in men with idiopathic infertility: A double blind randomized clinical trial. J Ethnopharmacol. 2024 Mar 25:322:117606.

3. Bahmanpour S, Talaei T, Vojdani Z, Panjehshahin MR, Poostpasand LA, Zareei S, Ghaeminia M. Effect of Phoenix dactylifera pollen on sperm parameters and reproductive system of adult male rats. Iran J Med Sci. 2006 Apr;31(4):208-12.

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