Latin: Trifolium pratense
WHAT IT DOES: Red clover blossom is sweet and slightly salty in taste, and cooling in action. It thins the lymph, cools, nourishes and detoxifies the blood, and reduces respiratory irritability.
SAFETY ISSUES: Do not use during pregnancy. Use cautiously with blood-thinning pharmaceuticals.
• Tincture (dried, 1:5): 10-30 drops two to six times per day.
Red clover blossoms can be used as part of a safe treatment for chronic skin problems such as eczema, eruptions and psoriasis. In our clinic, we have sometimes found that addition of this gentle herb to our treatment protocol for childhood eczema can improve results in difficult cases. Perhaps the mild blood-thinning chemicals (coumarins) and the herb’s hormone-like nourishing qualities improve micro-circulation and bring more moisture and nutrition to the skin cells. Equally plausable is its historical reputation as a lymph cleanser. It also exhibits mild anti-bacterial activity against gram-positive organisms, and was used by Eclectic physicians for dry, irritable or spasmodic cough, including whooping cough. They also reported it retarded cancers.
Red clover contains a broader spectrum of beneficial plant estrogens (isoflavones including genistein, daidzein, biochanin and formononetin) than the more commonly used soybean extracts. This may account for its usefulness in reducing hot flashes and maintaining bone health after menopause, and may also explain its repuation as a cancer-fighter.
It is important to note that the use of phyto-estrogens in herbal therapy should be guided by the philosophy of treating the whole person. For example, we often use liver herbs such as dandelion root (Taraxicum officinale), burdock root (Arctium lappa), and white peony root (Peonia lactiflora) to improve the liver’s conjugation of estrogenic compounds to enhance their elimination from the body.
• A recent randomized controlled trial indicated that red clover helps maintain the elasticity of large arteries such as the thoracic aorta, reducing cardiac risk (Nestel et al., 1999).
• Of the 150 herbs and spices tested for estrogen and progesterone activity, only red clover, thyme and turmeric were found to exhibit high levels of both (Zava et al., 1998). This indicates that the herbs are more beneficial (balanced) than herbs that only exhibit estrogenic activity, as progesterone deficiency is as much a problem for menopausal women as estrogen deficiency.