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Clover (Trifolium) or trefoil

CLOVER

Key Uses: blood cleanser, phytoestrogenic, anticancer, expectorant, antispasmodic, laxative, skin health

Excerpt:

Clover is a wild plant that is a primary food source for grazing cattle and other animals. It has also been used medicinally to treat a number of conditions and is high in vitamins and minerals. Traditionally, these have included cancer, whooping cough, respiratory problems, and skin inflammations, such as psoriasis and eczema. Red clover, particularly its flower, is commonly used medicinally. It was thought to “purify” the blood by acting as a diuretic (helping the body get rid of excess fluid) and expectorant (helping clear lungs of mucous), improving circulation, help cleanse the liver, menopausal symptoms, and to treat skin conditions. It can be a mild laxative.clover bud 150x150 Clover (Trifolium) or trefoil Read more to learn more about nutrition and medicinal uses of clover and watch our selected video.

Modern scientific tests have shown that red clover contains isoflavones, plant-based chemicals that produce estrogen-like effects in the body. Isoflavones have shown potential in the treatment of a number of conditions associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, cardiovascular health, and osteoporosis. However, as researchers have become aware of the side effects of taking estrogen, there is also some concern about the safety of isoflavones. And the evidence that red clover helps reduce any menopausal symptoms — like hot flashes — is mixed.

Plant Description

Clover is a perennial herb that commonly grows wild in meadows throughout Europe and Asia, and has now been naturalized to grow in North America. The red flowers at the end of the branched stems are usually dried for therapeutic use. Clover, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the leguminous pea family Fabaceae.  The “shamrock” of popular iconography is sometimes considered to be young clover. The scientific name derives from the Latin tres, “three”, and folium, “leaf”, so called from the characteristic form of the leaf, which has three leaflets (trifoliate); hence the popular name trefoil. Several species are extensively cultivated as fodder plants.

white clover 150x150 Clover (Trifolium) or trefoilThe most widely cultivated clovers are white clover Trifolium repens andred clover Trifolium pratense. Clover, either sown alone or in mixture with ryegrass, has for a long time formed a staple crop for soiling, for several reasons: it grows freely, shooting up again after repeated mowings; it produces an abundant crop; it is palatable to and nutritious for livestock; it grows in a great range of soils and climates; and it is appropriate for either pasturage or green composting.

Medicinal Uses and Indications

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).red clover 150x150 Clover (Trifolium) or trefoil

Medicinal Uses:

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 “good” HDL cholesterol in pre- and postmenopausal women, but other studies show conflicting evidence. One study found that menopausal women taking red clover supplements had more flexible and stronger 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 also think that isoflavones, like those found in red clover, might help reduce symptoms of menopause because of their estrogen-like effects. But so far studies have not been conclusive. Several studies of a proprietary extract of red clover isoflavones suggest that it may significantly reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. The largest study, however, showed no such 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 to say for sure.

Cancer

Based on its traditional use for cancer, researchers have begun to study isoflavones from red clover. There is some preliminary evidence that they may stop cancer cells from growing or kill cancer cells in test tubes. It’s been proposed that red clover may help prevent some forms of cancer, such as prostate and endometrial cancer. But 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, red clover cannot be recommended 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 also has a history of use as a cough remedy for children.

Watch this informative video on Red Clover attributes and uses and suggestion for tea:0 Clover (Trifolium) or trefoil

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.

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 – 2 tsp dried flowers or flowering tops steeped in 8 oz. hot water for 1/2 hour; drink 2 – 3 cups daily
  • Powdered herb (available in capsules): 40 – 160 mg per day, or 28 – 85 mg of red clover isoflavones
  • Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 60 – 100 drops (3 – 5 mL) three times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
  • Fluid Extract (1:1): 1 mL three times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
  • Standardized red clover isoflavone extracts: directions on product labels should be carefully followed
  • Topical treatment (such as for psoriasis or eczema): an infusion, liquid extract, or ointment containing 10 – 15% flowerheads; apply as needed unless irritation develops. Do not apply to an open wound without a doctor’s supervision.

Although some red clover isoflavones are being studied for a variety of conditions, it is important to remember that extracts of red clover isoflavones are very different from the whole herb. In fact, they represent only a small, highly concentrated part of the entire herb.

Side Effects

No serious side effects from red clover have been reported in people taking red clover for up to one year. General side effects can include headache, nausea, and rash. However, animals that graze on large amounts of red clover have become infertile.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take red clover.

Interactions and Depletions

Red clover may interfere with the body’s ability to process some drugs that are broken down by liver enzymes. For that reason, you should check with your doctor before taking red clover.

Estrogens, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills — Red clover may increase the effects of estrogen.

Tamoxifen — Red clover may interfere with tamoxifen.

Anticoagulants (blood thinners) — Red clover may enhance the effect of these drugs, increasing the risk of bleeding. The same is true of herbs and supplements that have blood-thinning effects (such as ginkgo, ginger, garlic, and vitamin E).

References:

1. Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press.

2. Chevallier, Herbal Remedies, DK Press

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