What is Red Clover?
Red Clover is a plant that has fragrant red and purple blossoms which, when dried, are used for their medicinal value. It’s grown in light sandy meadows throughout Europe and as well as in North America and Australia. The plant grows wildly and is a good leguminous plant for animals.
Scientifically the herb is called Trifolium pratense while common names include meadow, cow and purple clover.
One of the most active substances extracted from the herb is red clover isoflavone. There are different types of this isoflavone which exhibit specific and distinct health benefits. The common subtypes are formononetin and Biochinin A. Research has demonstrated many health benefits attributed to these isoflavones in human and animal studies.
The health benefits of Red Clover have been investigated in various major research facilities and in renowned universities. The University of Maryland Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are just two of the many examples.
Traditionally, red clover has been used as a medicinal herb for conditions like chest congestions, muscle spasms and post-menopausal disorders. Science has however, identified many more potential benefits of the herb. They include:
- Treatment of dermatological conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Management of edema as it has diuretic effects.
- It has expectorant effect and so helps to decongest the lungs.
- It supports liver health by detoxifying it.
- Helps to alleviate menopausal period disorders like hot flushes, night sweats and bone thinning problems.
- The isoflavone extract, Biochinin-A, has shown the ability to inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells.
- Improves cardiovascular health by its diuretic properties as well as the ability to promote blood vessels elasticity. May also be due to the effects of increasing the good cholesterol and its blood thinning properties, which can all reduce risk of stroke and high blood pressure.
- Red clover also contains important minerals and vitamins. Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are available and important for good bone development and many other body functions.
- It also contains Vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant), chromium (important for muscle health and other functions), potassium and Vitamin B3 (Niacin, an important anti-cholesterol agent).
- Red clover has also been used for sexually transmitted diseases, menstrual disorders (PMS), breast infections (mastitis), digestive problems and even for whooping cough.
- Animal tests have shown that it has anti-aging skin properties.
Although red clover has all these benefits, there are precautions you should take when you decide to take it in supplement form.
- People with hormone sensitive cancers like breast, ovary and prostate should seek medical guidance before using it. The isoflavone in the red clover have estrogen-like properties that can promote malignant cells multiplication.
- Due to its blood thinning effects, people on anti-coagulant medications should avoid red clover products because using the two at the same time can trigger severe bleeding.
- If on the drug methotrexate (a cancer drug) avoid red clover as the two can interact adversely.
- Children should not take red clover extracts.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are better advised to avoid it.
- Any patient on a hormone-based therapy should consult their doctor before using red clover. This includes those on the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or estrogen. Red clover products can enhance effects of these medications.
Red clover products are considered as generally safe but anyone with a health condition should talk to a well-informed health person first.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2015.