Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Its Latin name, Trifolium pretense, means “three leaves, found in the meadow”. Red clover is a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Red clover is a rich sources of isoflavones (chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants). The flowers are the parts of the herb used, either fresh or dried. Sheep and other animals that graze on these plants develop fertility problems and it is thought that this is because of the phytoestogens they contain. It is a very gentle herb and is great for long-term use or for weak, debilitated patients, such as children, elderly, or those recovering from a long illness.
Red clover has many medical properties. The flowering heads of red clover improve urine production, circulation of the blood and secretion of bile. They also act as detergent, sedative and tonic. Red clover has the ability to loosen phlegm and calm bronchial spasms. The fluid extract of red clover is used as an antispasmodic. Red clover is used in the treatment of skin complaints (especially eczema and psoriasis), cancers of the breast, ovaries and lymphatic system, chronic degenerative diseases, gout, whooping cough and dry coughs. The dried flowers have been used for bronchitis and asthma and as an expectorant. Red clover is one of the richest sources of isoflavones. Isoflavones are effective in treating several conditions such as hot flashes, cardivascular health and osteporosis.
Red clover and Isoflavones
Isoflavones can be extracted from red clover. These isolated isoflavones have not the same benefits as the whole red clover plant but they are used to treat menopause, hot flushes, cardiovascular health and bone loss. On dry matter basis, 100 g red clover contains 10 x more isoflavones than soy. According to the database of the State University of Iowa 100 g dry clover contains 1322 mg formononetin en 833 mg biochanin A.
Red Clover and Fertility
Phytoestrogens are less potent than the oestrogen (the major female hormone) produced in the body, and are contained in the isoflavines (genestein and daidzein) in the plant which are being used in ERT (Estrogen Replacement Therapy) for menopausal women. It has also been found that red clover constituents can help in the prevention of prostate and breast cancer, as well as (perhaps) ovarian cancer, but trials are still ongoing.
“One of the most cherished of the fertility-increasing plants is red clover (Trifolium pratense). Common in fields and along roadsides, it has bright pink (not really red) blossoms from mid-summer into the chilly days of fall. A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use. The raw blossoms are delicious in salads and nutritious when cooked with grains such as rice or millet.
To make a fertility-enhancing infusion, I take one ounce by weight of the dried blossoms (fresh won’t work for this application) and put them in a quart size canning jar. I fill the jar with boiling water, screw on a tight lid, and let it steep at room temperature overnight (or for at least four hours). Dozens of women have told me that they had successful pregnancies after drinking a cup or more (up to four cups) a day of red clover infusion.
It is especially helpful if there is scaring of the fallopian tubes, irregular menses, abnormal cells in the reproductive tract, or ‘unexplained’ infertility. It may take several months for the full effect of this herb to come on and pregnancy may not occurs until you have used it for a year or two. You can improve the taste by including some dried peppermint.” (Susun Weed)
Assisting the liver with the detoxification process, red clover has been reputed as a safe and useful remedy for a variety of health complaints associated with the liver or ‘dirty blood’. Over the last several centuries, one of red clover’s primary uses has been for dermal inflammations, including childhood and adult eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and various rashes. Red clover would often be added to the tea pot for daily consumption and detoxification when symptoms arose. Ointments or salves containing red clover would be applied topically to the affected area. More recently, red clover has been useful for teen, cystic or hormonally-activated acne.
Relevant Research Results
Effect of red clover isoflavones on cox-2 activity in murine and human monocyte/macrophage cells. – Nutr Cancer. 2004.
Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is associated with a reduction in the incidence of a range of cancers, the mechanism of which is thought to be cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibition. Because long-term ingestion of foods rich in isoflavones, such as legumes (beans, peas, lentils) has been associated with reduced cancer incidence, it was considered useful to examine the COX-inhibitory activities of individual isoflavones. Red clover dietary supplements also contain varying ratios of the 4 isoflavones commonly found in legume-based diets, namely, daidzein, genistein, formononetin, and biochanin. Thus, it is possible that the lower rates of some cancers in populations with a high intake of dietary isoflavones is linked to their inhibition of COX activity.
Red clover isoflavones in practice: a clinician’s view. – J Br Menopause Soc. 2004.
The subject of phytoestrogen use must be seen against the background of increasing controversy surrounding the role of hormone replacement therapy. Phytoestrogens such as those derived from red clover may help with hot flushes, which are a common menopausal complaint. Red clover isoflavones have more evidence base than most herbal medicinal products, although the literature is beset by difference in methodologies making direct comparison between studies difficult. There certainly does not appear to be any increased risk for women with breast cancer, who often suffer severely from sweats and flushes. There is currently insufficient evidence to recommend red clover isoflavones use for bone protection in a group of women who are at high risk.
The effects of red clover isoflavones on bone density in women: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. – Am J Clin Nutr. 2004.
Isoflavone phytoestrogen therapy has been proposed as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT has a beneficial effect on bone, but few trials in humans have investigated the effects of isoflavones on bone. The objective of the study was to determine the effect on bone density of a red clover-derived isoflavone supplement that provided a daily dose of 26 mg biochanin A, 16 mg formononetin, 1 mg genistein, and 0.5 mg daidzein for 1 y. Effects on biochemical markers of bone turnover and body composition were also studied. Women aged 49-65 y were enrolled in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial; 177 completed the trial. Bone density, body composition, bone turnover markers, and diet were measured at baseline and after 12 mo. Loss of lumbar spine bone mineral content and bone mineral density was significantly lower in the women taking the red clover isoflavone supplement than in those taking the placebo. There were no significant treatment effects on hip bone mineral content or bone mineral density, markers of bone resorption, or body composition, but bone formation markers were significantly increased in the red clover group compared with placebo in postmenopausal women. These data suggest that, through attenuation of bone loss, red clover isoflavones have a potentially protective effect on the lumbar spine in women.
Phytoestrogens derived from red clover: An alternative to estrogen replacement therapy? – J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005.
The benefits of plant extracts from soy and red clover as alternatives to conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have been debated in the past. Here, an attempt has been made to summarize the biochemical and pharmacological data in the light of clinical aspects. Red clover and soy extracts contain isoflavones, which have a high affinity to estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha), estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta), progesterone receptor (PR) and androgen receptor (AR). The higher affinity to ERbeta compared to ERalpha has been used as an explanation why red clover extracts function as food additives to treat menopausal disorders and may reduce risk of breast cancer. Biochemical analysis shows that these representatives of phytoestrogens have multiple actions beside selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)-activity. They act as selective estrogen enzyme modulators (SEEMs), have antioxidant activity and interact with transcription factors such as NF-kappaB. Furthermore, it is indicated that they have protective effects on osteoporosis and the cardiovascular system. Currently 40-50mg of isoflavones (biochanin A, daidzein, formononetin and genistein) are recommended as daily dose. This recommendation is based on the daily intake of phytoestrogens in a traditional Japanese diet.
To read about more ongoing research studies about Red Clover, you may be interested checking out Healthy Fellow.
How to use
The fluid extract of Trifolium is used as an alterative and antispasmodic. An infusion made by 1 OZ. to 1 pint of boiling water may with advantage be used in cases of bronchial and whooping-cough. Fomentations and poultices of the herb have been used as local applications to cancerous growths.
Red clover vinegar can be made at home. Pack a Kilner jar or any jar with an airtight seal with red clover flower heads and cover with white vinegar. Store in a cool dark place and turn once a day for two weeks. Leave to stand for a further week, the use. You can strain the vinegar or leave the flowers in it for a more intense flavor.
CAUTION: DRUG INTERACTIONS
• Not taken in combination with ESTROGEN REPLACEMENT THERAPY.
• Not taken with ANTICOAGULANTS (ie Warfarin).