Clover, Red – flower & leaf (Trifolium pratense)
Other Names: Beebread, Clovone, Cow Clover, Daidzein, Genistein, Isoflavone, Meadow Clover, Miel des Prés, Phytoestrogen, Purple Clover, Trebol Rojo, Trèfle Commun, Trèfle des Prés, Trèfle Pourpre, Trèfle Rouge, Trèfle Rougeâtre, Trèfle Violet, Trefoil.
Red clover is a low growing perennial, native to northwest Africa, Asia, and Europe. It has since been naturalized and cultivated in many parts of the world, including North America. The flower heads are collected in full bloom, during the summer months.
Druids believed that it could ward off evil spells and witches, while Medieval Christians believed that the three lobbed leaves were associated with the trinity and the four lobbed leaves as a symbol of the cross.
Trifolium pratense is used in traditional medicine of India as Deobstruent, Alterative, Antipsoriatic, Antiscrophulatic, Antispasmodic, Aperient, Cancer, Detergent, Diuretic, Expectorant, Sedative, Skin Tonic, Expectorant, Anti-inflammatory and Antidermatosis agent.
Edible parts: Although leaves can be tossed into a salad or used in a tea, the preferable part of this wild edible is the flower. Red clovers are the tastiest of all clovers although it is recommended not to eat too many of these as some people experience bloating.
Red clover is a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Red clover is a rich source of isoflavones (chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants).
RED CLOVER USES & EFFECTIVENESS
It is widely grown as a fodder crop, valued for its nitrogen fixation, which increases soil fertility. For these reasons, it is used as a green manure crop. Several cultivar groups have been selected for agricultural use, mostly derived from T. pratense var. sativum. It has become naturalized in many temperate areas, including the Americas and Australasia as an escape from cultivation.
Red clover is commonly used to make a sweet-tasting herbal tea. It is an ingredient in some recipes for essiac tea.
In alternative medicine, red clover is promoted as a treatment for a variety of human maladies, including symptoms of menopause, coughs, disorders of the lymphatic system and a variety of cancers. Several systemic reviews and meta-analyses concluded that red clover extract reduces the frequency of menopause hot flashes.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF RED CLOVER
Reduces Hypertension: The unique properties of red clover include its ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body, particularly in the cardiovascular system. Studies have linked the use of its tea to a significant reduction in the tension of arteries and blood vessels, therefore reducing blood pressure. This can help to prevent coronary heart diseases and a variety of other cardiovascular conditions.
Boosts Immune System: If you consume the greens of red clover, you are much more likely to get a high dose of vitamin C than if you consume the tea. Vitamin C is a powerful immune system booster and can help to stimulate the production of white blood cells.
Prevents Infections: If you consume the leaves in the form of tea, you can get a healthy dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, which cause degenerative diseases and cell mutation. The overall immune boost of red clover includes preventing infections, both viral and bacterial.
Eases Menstruation & Menopause: The hormonal impacts of red clover are significant, particularly in women. The isoflavones found in red clover mimic estrogen, so for women who may struggle to maintain estrogen levels, red clover can help to balance their hormonal shifts and prevent mood swings, as well as reduce breast pain. This applies to women undergoing PMS as well as menopause, as both of these times can cause dangerous or unpredictable fluctuations in hormone levels.
Prevents Cancer: Red clover is not only useful for women, however, and in terms of cancer prevention, it is extremely important for men. Prostate cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer in men, and some of the compounds found in it can block certain enzymes that could cause prostate growth. Although some forms of prostate enlargement are benign, a reduction in prostate size is always a good thing for long-term male health.
Cholesterol-lowering Properties: If you struggle to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, you significantly increase your chances of heart attacks and strokes as a result of atherosclerosis. Therefore, anything that can lower cholesterol levels is valuable, and research has shown that LDL cholesterol levels can be reduced by adding red clover.
Blood Circulation: Furthermore, coumarins found in red clover have been shown to keep blood flowing smoothly and stimulating healthy circulation, further preventing high blood pressure and cardiovascular distress.
Detoxify the Body: If you want to find a quick way to detoxify your body and clear your system of excess toxins and salts, nothing works better than a diuretic. Red clover has been connected to increased urination, thereby helping to release excess water, toxins, and even fat from the body.
TREATMENTS WITH RED CLOVER
Cardiovascular health: Researchers theorize that red clover might help protect against heart disease, but studies in humans have not found strong evidence. Red clover isoflavones have been associated with an increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol in pre and postmenopausal women, but other studies show conflicting results. One study found that menopausal women taking red clover supplements had stronger, more flexible arteries (called arterial compliance), which can help prevent heart disease. Red clover may also have blood-thinning properties, which keeps blood clots from forming. It appears to improve blood flow.
Menopause: Researchers think that isoflavones, like those found in red clover, might help reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats, because of their estrogen-like effects. So far studies have been mixed. Several studies of a proprietary extract of red clover isoflavones suggest that it may significantly reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. However, the largest study showed no effect.
Osteoporosis: As estrogen levels drop during menopause, a woman’s risk for developing osteoporosis (significant bone loss) goes up. A few studies suggest that a proprietary extract of red clover isoflavones may slow bone loss and even boost bone mineral density in pre- and perimenopausal women. But the evidence is preliminary, and more research is needed.
Cancer: Based on its traditional use for cancer, researchers have begun to study the role of isoflavones from red clover in cancer prevention and treatment. Preliminary evidence suggests these isoflavones may stop cancer cells from growing or kill cancer cells in test tubes. Researchers theorize that red clover may help prevent some forms of cancer, such as prostate and endometrial cancer. However, because of the herb’s estrogen-like effects, it might also contribute to the growth of some cancers, just as estrogen does. Until further research is done, doctors cannot recommend red clover to prevent cancer. Women with a history of breast cancer should not take red clover.
Other uses: Traditionally, red clover ointments have been applied to the skin to treat psoriasis, eczema, and other rashes. Red clover has also been used as a cough remedy for children. More recently, studies have shown that women using red clover may experience psychological benefits.
DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION
Red clover is available in a variety of preparations, including teas, tinctures, tablets, capsules, liquid extract, and extracts standardized to specific isoflavone contents. It can also be prepared as an ointment for topical (skin) application. Due to lack of long-term studies, self treatment should not exceed 3 to 6 months without the supervision of a health care professional.
Pediatric: Red clover has been used traditionally as a short-term cough remedy for children. Products containing isolated red clover isoflavones are very different than the whole herb, however, and are not recommended for children. DO NOT give a child red clover without talking to your pediatrician first.
Adult: Dose may vary from person to person, but general guidelines are as follows:
Dried herb (used for tea): 1 to 2 tsp dried flowers or flowering tops steeped in 8 oz. hot water for 1/2 hour; drink 2 to 3 cups daily
Powdered herb (available in capsules): 40 to 160 mg per day, or 28 to 85 mg of red clover isoflavones
Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 60 to 100 drops (3 to 5 mL), 3 times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
Fluid Extract (1:1): 1 mL, 3 times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
Standardized red clover isoflavone extracts: follow directions on product labels carefully
Topical treatment (such as for psoriasis or eczema): an infusion, liquid extract, or ointment containing 10 to 15% flower heads; apply as needed unless irritation develops. DO NOT apply to an open wound without a doctor’s supervision.
RED CLOVER SIDE EFFECTS & SAFETY
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Red clover is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in food. However, it is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts. Red clover acts like estrogen and might disturb important hormone balances during pregnancy or breast-feeding. Don’t use it. Not enough is known about the safety of red clover when applied to the skin during pregnancy or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and don’t use it.
Bleeding disorders: Red clover might increase the chance of bleeding. Avoid large amounts and use with caution.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Red clover might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use red clover.
Protein S deficiency: People with protein S deficiency have an increased risk of forming blood clots. There is some concern that red clover might increase the risk of clot formation in these people because it has some of the effects of estrogen. Don’t use red clover if you have protein S deficiency.
Surgery: Red clover might slow blood clotting. It might increase the chance of extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking red clover at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
RED CLOVER INTERACTIONS
Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs) interacts with RED CLOVER: Some birth control pills contain estrogen. Red clover might have some of the same effects as estrogen. But red clover isn’t as strong as the estrogen in birth control pills. Taking red clover along with birth control pills might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you take birth control pills along with red clover, use an additional form of birth control such as a condom. Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.
Estrogens interacts with RED CLOVER: Large amounts of red clover might have some of the same effects as estrogen. But red clover isn’t as strong as estrogen pills. Taking red clover along with estrogen pills might decrease the effects of estrogen pills. Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates) interacts with RED CLOVER. Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Red clover might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking red clover along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking red clover, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver. Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), haloperidol (Haldol), ondansetron (Zofran), propranolol (Inderal), theophylline (Theo-Dur, others), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, others), and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates) interacts with RED CLOVER. Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Red clover might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking red clover along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking red clover, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver. Some medications that are changed by the liver include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and pantoprazole (Protonix); diazepam (Valium); carisoprodol (Soma); nelfinavir (Viracept); and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates) interacts with RED CLOVER. Red clover might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking red clover along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking red clover, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver. Some medications that are changed by the liver include diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), ibuprofen (Motrin), meloxicam (Mobic), and piroxicam (Feldene); celecoxib (Celebrex); amitriptyline (Elavil); warfarin (Coumadin); glipizide (Glucotrol); losartan (Cozaar); and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates) interacts with RED CLOVER. Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Red clover might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking red clover along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking red clover, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver. Some medications changed by the liver include lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with RED CLOVER. Large amounts of red clover might slow blood clotting. Taking red clover along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) interacts with RED CLOVER. Some types of cancer are affected by hormones in the body. Estrogen-sensitive cancers are cancers that are affected by estrogen levels in the body. Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is used to help treat and prevent these types of cancer. Red clover seems to also affect estrogen levels in the body. By affecting estrogen in the body, red clover might decrease the effectiveness of tamoxifen (Nolvadex). Do not take red clover if you are taking tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
Recipes for Red Clover
- 4 cups red (and white) clover flowers
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
- Boil the flowers for about 10 minutes or until the color comes out of the flowers. Strain and measure 2 1/4 cups liquid (add water if needed).
- Return to pot. Add lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil then reduce heat. Simmer until liquid becomes syrupy.
- Pour into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge up to 6 months.
Red Clover Biscuits
prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Yield: Serves 4-6
Start your morning on the wild side with these tasty red clover biscuits served with homemade jam or jelly.
- 2 cups unbleached flour + extra for rolling
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup butter at room temperature
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dried or fresh red clover flowers (broken down)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl combine flour, almond flour, and baking powder. Add butter and knead until fully blended.
- In a separate bowl, mix eggs, yogurt, and vanilla. Add in red clover flowers and blend well. Gradually add to the dough until it is completely blended.
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of almost 1/2″. Use a cookie cutter about 1½” in diameter and cut.
- Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve (preferably) warm with jam or jelly.
Red Clover Ice Tea
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 60 minutes Yield: Makes 8 one cup servings.
Harvest and store red clover flowers so that you can enjoy this tasty, healthy ice tea any time of the year.
- 12 red clover flowers (with leaves is fine)
- 8 cups water
- 3/4 cup organic can sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
- one half lemon, squeezed
- Boil water in a saucepan, then remove from stove and allow to cool 10 minutes. Place red clover flowers in water; let infuse minimum 1/2 hour. (For a stronger flavor and more nutrients allow to sit 1-2 hours.)
- Strain, add sweetener of your choice and the fresh squeezed lemon juice. (The amount of sweetener can be reduced or increased based on your taste buds.) Place in ridge to chill then enjoy!
- Makes 8 one cup servings.