Aside from being a favored food of both livestock and wildlife, as well as the state flower of Vermont, red clover has been shown to have some amazing health benefits. The short-lived perennial has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries for the treatment of many health conditions.
Typically consumed as a tea, red clover has grown in popularity in the west in recent years after the herb’s health benefits started becoming more well known. Red clover contains isoflavones, a compound that mimics human estrogen in the body. Isoflavones are known to provide health benefits, especially in those who have a hormonal deficiency.
16 Healthy Benefits of Red Clover
#1: Reduced Menopausal Symptoms
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports modern scientific tests demonstrate that red clover contains isoflavones, which are plant-based chemicals that reproduce estrogen-like effects in the body. A limited number of smaller studies have shown some promise that red clover may help to relieve, or at least reduce, some of the menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, women commonly experience. For instance, one report published in 2002 discovered that women who took daily red clover supplements showed a 44 percent reduction of hot flashes after four months.
#2: Reduction of Bone Loss
Research has shown that red clover may be of benefit in protecting against osteoporosis, also known as postmenopausal bone loss. A 2004 study of females between the ages of 49 and 65 who were given red clover supplements showed that the women in the experimental group who took the supplements every day for 12 months showed significantly less loss in bone-mineral density than women in the control group who took a placebo, or sugar pills, for the same period.
#3: Reduces the Risk of Some Forms of Cancer
Some preliminary research is showing promise that red clover isoflavones may help to reduce the risk of some forms of carcinomas, like prostate cancer. In a laboratory study conducted at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland in 2009, research showed some promising evidence that treating prostate-cancer cells with isoflavones from red clover had a significant impact on decreasing production of PSA, or prostate-specific antigens, that are found in elevated levels in men with prostate cancer.
#4: Hypertension Treatment
One of the most unique properties of red clover is its ability to reduce systemic inflammation throughout the body, especially in the vascular system. Some studies have shown a link with the use of red clover tea to a substantial reduction in the tension placed on both blood vessels and arteries, thereby reducing blood pressure. This may also show some promise in helping to stave off coronary heart disease, as well as other heart conditions like angina.
#5: Increase Immune System Function
Consuming the greens of the red clover plant provides higher doses of vitamin C than consuming red clover tea. Studies have shown vitamin C to be a powerful immune-system booster and can also aid in stimulating the production of white blood cells.
Making the green leaves into a tea will also provide a healthy dose of disease-fighting antioxidants that work to neutralize free radicals, a short-lived but highly reactive molecule, that can cause cell mutation and may lead to cancer, viral and bacterial infections and degenerative diseases.
The hormonal-production impacts of red clover are quite significant, particularly in women who may be struggling to maintain estrogen levels. The isoflavones found in the red clover plant mimic estrogen and can aid in balancing a woman’s hormonal shifts and reduce, or even prevent, mood swings as well as lessen breast pain during menstruation.
Red clover also shows promise for helping women undergoing PMS related symptoms, as often time these symptoms are caused by unpredictable changes in hormone levels.
#7: Cholesterol-Reducing Properties
Red clover’s medicinal properties have been examined for a possible effect on levels of both “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoproteins, and high-density lipoproteins, the “good” cholesterol. Research has shown the coumarins found in red clover assist in stimulating healthy circulation by helping to keep blood flowing evenly.
Red clover may also help in preventing high blood pressure and cardiovascular distress, as patients who are struggling with unhealthy cholesterol levels have a significant increase in the risk of developing blood clots.
#8: Detoxify the Body
Red clover tea is a diuretic, having powerful properties that causes an increase in urination to flush out, or detoxify the system. Detoxifying the body is beneficial for the lungs, liver, nerves, digestion and lymphatic system. Red clover has long been used as a blood purifier and is a natural solution for those looking for a quick and easy way of clearing their system of excess salts and toxins.
#9: Blood Thinner
Chris Kilham, an instructor of ethnobotany, the scientific study of relationships between humans and plants, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst states that coumarins are natural blood-thinning agents found in high concentrations in red clover blossoms. Coumarins have been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years to treat cases of thrombosis and other health aliments that cause blood vessel obstructions. However, because of its blood-thinning properties, red clover tea and supplements should be avoided prior to surgery.
#10: Treatment of Coughs
Red clover is known to have expectorant properties that work to facilitate the expulsion of phlegm and other mucus-related matter from the respiratory tract. When made into a tea, red clover can help reduce coughing by helping to get rid of the mucus that is often the cause of the cough while clearing congestion from the upper and lower respiratory tracts, meaning nasal passage and the lungs, respectively.
#11: Psychological Benefits
Drinking red clover tea has been shown to produce emotional benefits, especially for women suffering from anxiety symptoms commonly associated with menopause. A 90-day study published in 2009 separated 109 women into control and experimental groups. The women in the experimental group were given red clover supplements and women in the control group were given a placebo for three months. The women in the experimental group, who took the red clover supplements, experienced close to an 80-percent reduction in anxiety, significantly greater than the 22-percent reduction which was experienced by women in the placebo group.
#12: Heart Health
Because of the potential isoflavones have at increasing high density lipoprotiens, especially in women, red clover may be an effective preventative of atherosclerosis. Also known as hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis can often lead to heart attacks caused by blockages in the arteries that obstruct blood flow. There is also some evidence to suggest red clover may work to strengthen the arteries in menopausal women, further reducing the risk of heart attack.
#13: Skin health
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, red clover extract is often applied topically, to the skin, in the form of creams and ointments. Red clover salves are helpful in the treatment of conditions such as minor skin irritations, rashes like eczema and psoriasis and even shingles. Taken internally, as a tea, it’s a rich source of antioxidants and nutrients that are known to protect skin from sun damage and also to rejuvenate sallow or tired looking skin.
#14: Migraine Reduction
Red clover tea may be beneficial in helping to reduce both the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. While much of the causes of migraines are still unknown, there is some evidence that migraines are related to changes in the brainstem and how it interactions with the trigeminal nerve, which is a major nerve pathway. Women who have a history of migraines frequently report headaches during or just before their periods, when they experience a major drop in estrogen. Because of these fluctuations in hormones in some women who suffer from migraines, it is believed red clover may help through reproducing estrogen-like effects in the body.
#15: Asthma Remedy
The breathing condition asthma is sometimes caused by emotional stress. As reported in the US National Library of Medicine, one study that assessed how stress affected 25 women diagnosed of severe asthma showed that emotional stress, as well as blood pressure, peaked immediately before the onset of an asthma attack. The results suggest that stressed was a trigger for individuals with chronic asthma. Because of its soothing properties, red clover tea can be of benefit to asthma suffers.
#16: STD Prevention
Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease, is the result of a bacterial infection known as Chlamydia trachomatis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that chlamydia infection is the number one sexually transmitted disease in the US. Because of its blood cleansing properties, red clover tea may help to keep the bacteria from getting a foothold in the system. However, this is an ounce of prevention situation, as there is no evidence to support that red clover tea, supplements or extract has the ability to cure chlamydia once the bacteria has taken hold.
Red Clover Herb FAQs
Where can I buy red clover?
Since red clover isn’t as popular as many other herbs, it’s often difficult to find it fresh in your local grocery store, though you may be able to purchase it in supplement form. Specialty health food stores may carry it fresh, otherwise you’ll have to rely on a reputable online store that specializes in herbs.
How can I consume red clover?
If you have it fresh, you can add it as a flavor to a variety of dishes. The easiest way to consume it fresh is by making it into a tea, a jam or other sort of cool, refreshing drink, such as lemonade. And in supplement form, you can of course take it as a pill.
Are there any negative side effects of red clover?
No serious side effects have been reported by people taking red clover, but general side effects may include nausea, rash and headache. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid it. There have been interactions with blood thinners, birth control, estrogen pills, hormone replacement therapy and tamoxifen. (1)
Where does red clover grow naturally?
Despite its many healthy benefits, red clover is still considered a weed because it grows wild and can overcome surrounding plants. As a general rule of thumb, it grows well wherever corn grows well and does best in cooler conditions. If you want to grow it yourself, check out this article from Heirloom Organics on how to Grow Red Clover.