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What Are the Benefits of Red Clover?

Updated on September 22, 2015
Drawing of red clover, from The National Geographic Magazine, June 1917
Drawing of red clover, from The National Geographic Magazine, June 1917 | Source

Red Clover Benefits People, Animals, Soil

Red clover is a common plant, and familiar to many of us, with its showy dark pink flowers and attractive broad trifoliate (3 leaflets) leaves.

Red clover is grown mostly for agricultural purposes, but it's also one of the common herbal remedies used to promote womens health(menstruation, fertility, menopause) and a variety of other health problems, from asthma and bronchitis to cancer (red clover is one of the herbs in the 8-herb version of Essiac tea).

The botanical name for red clover is Trifolium pratense. Trifolium comes from the Latin "tri" or "3", and "folium" is "leaf" (think of "foliage"). Pratense is Latin, meaning "found in meadows". Red clover is found growing mostly in fields and meadows. It's native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, but as with many common, hardy plants, it has spread to North America as well.

We have a small patch of Red Clover growing along our driveway that I thought the previous owners had planted as an ornamental clover -- it's lovely when in bloom and can be added as a nice accent to garden areas. But it's more likely that our little patch was self-planted (a volunteer!), although I welcome it in our yard.

Red Clover
Red Clover | Source

Red Clover -- Healing Herb

Health Benefits of Red Clover

Although mostly grown for its agricultural uses, my interest is in the health benefits of red clover as a nutritious, healing herb.

Red clover has many nutrients, including the minerals calcium, chromium, magnesium, and potassium, and vitamins such as niacin, thiamine and vitamin C. It's also high in isoflavones. Isoflavones are water soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in plants of the legume (bean) family, including soy beans. Because of its isoflavones, red clover is often used for women's health issues concerning fertility and the menstrual cycle, and menopausal symptoms.

Another major health benefit of using red clover is that it may prevent or slow down heart disease. A few studies (not definitive yet) show that taking red clover may lower the levels of "bad" cholesterol and raise the levels of "good" cholesterol. It may increase the production of bile. More bile production usually means that more cholesterol is used; therefore less cholesterol circulates throughout the body. Also red clover contains small amounts of coumarin, a blood thinner, which reduces plaque build-up in the blood vessels. Red clover may help to keep arteries strong and flexible which also contributes to the health of the heart and circulatory system.

Other health benefits of red clover:

  • May limit the growth of prostate cancer in men, and has been shown to limit non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate.
  • Helps people to stop smoking.
  • Improves urine production
  • Eases coughs and respiratory conditions.
  • Stimulates the immune system; good as an overall tonic
  • May fight some cancers (is an ingredient in the 8-herb version of Essiac tea, known for its cancer-fighting properties)
  • Clears up skin problems

Red Clover Field
Red Clover Field | Source

Agricultural Uses For Red Clover

The two main uses of red clover are as food for livestock, and as a cover crop that makes soil more fertile.

There are records that indicate that red clover was cultivated in Europe in the 3rd and 4th centuries. It was brought to the temperate regions of North America by early settlers as an excellent source of food for livestock, being high in protein and other nutrients. It's often grown mixed in with grasses, and the combination is used for hay, silage and grazing.

Red clover is sometimes called a green manure -- a natural fertilizer. "Green manure" refers to a cover crop that's grown and then plowed into the soil to add nutrients and organic matter, improving the soil for other crops. Red clover adds nitrogen to the soil in a form that can be used by other crops.

Red Clover is helpful for women's health.
Red Clover is helpful for women's health. | Source

Red Clover for Women's Health

Menstrual, fertility, and menopause health

Red clover may be beneficial during many stages of a woman's life, due to its estrogen-mimicking compounds.

I mentioned earlier that red clover contains isoflavones, which act as phytoestrogens in mammals. Phytoestrogens are compounds that mimic estrogen and can be used to regulate estrogen levels.

The isoflavones in red clover are thought to displace some natural estrogens in the body, which may ease estrogen-related PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms including breast pain and swelling.

It's this same effect that may help with endometriosis and reduce the possibility of developing estrogen-related cancers (such as cancer of the endometrium) A review of nearly 1000 women suggests that red clover may interfere with an enzyme that promotes the progression of endometrial cancer (note: I found the previous statement a number of times online, but couldn't find the original source).

Red clover promotes milk production in lactating women.

The use of red clover may reduce hot flashes and other symptoms in perimenopausal and menopausal women, and may slow bone loss or even increase bone density in pre- and perimenopausal women. (Unfortunately, this benefit hasn't been seen in men or in post-menopausal women.)

There is some controversy whether or not pregnant women should take red clover because of its estrogenic effects. The same is true for women who have had breast cancer. It may be best to avoid red clover until more studies are done to determine whether it's helpful or harmful in these situations.

Red Clover extract
Red Clover extract | Source

Red Clover Supplements - Easy ways to get the benefits of red clover

Taking red clover herbal supplements is an easy way to get the benefits of this healthful herb if you don't want to go out and harvest it yourself. Try in an extract form, in capsules, or as the dried plant for tea.

Health food stores will often carry these supplements. You can also buy them online through Amazon or a natural foods store.

I prefer the liquid extract such as Nature's Answer Red Clover Flowering Tops, shown right.

Red Clover Harvest

Herbalist Susun Weed of the Wise Woman Tradition talks about Red Clover. This video shows a large tray of drying red clover flowers.

Red Clover Infusion

Herbalist Susun Weed makes a nutritious red clover herbal infusion, and tells about the health benefits of red clover.

Edible red clover flower
Edible red clover flower | Source

Edible Red Clover Flowers

The red clover flowers are edible and slightly sweet. Did you ever, as a kid (or even recently!), pluck off the red clover florets and suck out the nectar? You can pull out the individual florets and add them to summer salads or to iced tea. One suggestion is to serve mint iced tea with a slice of lemon and a few red clover florets floating on top -- a refreshing, elegant tea!

Honey bees like the sweetness of red clover flowers too. It's one of the more common types of honey.

Raw clover honey (unpasteurized) has more health benefits than the pasteurized honey that's sold in regular grocery stores. It's a natural anti-microbial and antioxidant, and contains more nutrients than pasteurized honey.

White Gold raw honey
White Gold raw honey | Source

Red Clover Honey

Honey bees love red clover!

You can buy regular pasteurized clover honey (heated) in any grocery store. But the best honey is raw, unpasteurized honey. You can often find it at your local natural foods or health foods stores, or at the farmers' market.

Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties, and also has many nutrients. It retains pollen impurities, and may help to reduce hay fever symptoms. My son has tested it himself, and he feels his spring allergies are much less severe after eating raw red clover honey over the winter.

You can also buy clover honey online, such as the White Gold Honey shown here. White Gold Honey is raw and unpasteurized. It's also spreadable.

Red Clover Tea is Also Good

Alvita Tea Bags, Red Clover, Caffeine Free, 30 tea bags [1.125 oz (32 g)] (Pack of 3)
Alvita Tea Bags, Red Clover, Caffeine Free, 30 tea bags [1.125 oz (32 g)] (Pack of 3)

You can easily make your own red clover tea by picking a few flower heads and steeping them for a few minutes. But for most of us, it's just easier to buy the tea bags!

 

If You Want to Read More About Red Clover

Here are the major sources I used to write this.

Have you used red clover as a healing herb? - Leave your comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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    • KarenHC profile image
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      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @Zola Mars: I haven't heard this before! It's an intriguing idea. Thanks for the comment!

    • Zola Mars profile image

      Lydia Workman 3 years ago from Canada

      I have heard that red clover can be used as a slimming bath. I have done this. Haven't any idea if it worked.

    • profile image

      tamjo5 4 years ago

      I just purchased Red Clover extract and so I wanted to find out more and I found your Lens. Very informative Thank You!

    • Chocolatealchemy profile image

      Chocolatealchemy 5 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      No, but thanks for a wonderfully informative Lens; I'm inspired to grow this herb in my garden and am going to buy some teabags!

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I had no idea the healing properties of red clover, thank-you for this article. I just picked some for my pet rats the other day - they loved it. I'll have to pick more for me, too :)

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      I didn't now red clover has so many benefits. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I haven't yet. We have a lot of red clovers in our pasture though.

    • joannalynn lm profile image

      joannalynn lm 5 years ago

      I haven't, but I have plenty of it in my garden and you have given me plenty of ideas. People always find it surprising that as a botanist, I am always reluctant to use herbal remedies. I have had many Nez Perce students in my classes, and learned a lot about how the Nez Perce people used local plants throughout the centuries. In the field, the students bring a tool called a toucas to dig up edible roots and tell me to give it a try....I always say, you first. I'll try in a few days. If you haven't undergone kidney failure by then, I'll try :). I've actually tried several of the staples, such as camas and cous. Trifolium pratense is very pretty. I love the illustration you have at the beginning.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thak you, this lens is very informative

    • emily potts profile image

      emily potts 5 years ago

      I really learned a lot from this lens - I had no idea red clover had so many benefits.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      This winter (in Central Florida) I'm growing red clover all around the house, even in planters. I just hope it will start blooming before the hot days return.

    • GreenfireWiseWo profile image

      GreenfireWiseWo 6 years ago

      Great lens. Very informative. Thank you.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I am a big fan of red clover but more for agricultural use than herbal. The one time I tried to harvest red clover I had taken it into the house to work on it in the morning and awoke to find a chipmunk sitting there dining on it (IN THE HOUSE). So after chasing the chipmunk around for a half hour to try to scoot him out the door that was it for my clover picking days. I am so glad to see a lens on the importance of red clover at squidoo.

    • profile image

      FlorEssenceTea 6 years ago

      red clover is in the herbal blend of FlorEssenceTea very beneficial herb. Those who are interested in discovering the Secret To Radiant Health, should visit www.floressencetea.com

    • howtocurecancer profile image

      howtocurecancer 6 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi! I'm featuring all of your edible weed lenses in my lensography "Squidoo lenses on edible wild plants".

    • Springbok LM profile image

      Springbok LM 6 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your lens and found it very interesting- Thank you

    • Nightowl John profile image

      Nightowl John 6 years ago

      This is really interesting. I'm always skeptical of eating things in the wild. I'd probably starve to death or poison myself if I had to survive in the wilderness, ie. without a grocery store! Thanks for some great info.!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Wow, what a great resource for red clover. I had no idea of all the benefits. One of my favorite honeys is from clover...I'll eat some more of that.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Nice lens! I remember clover as a child during the war(don't ask me how I can remember that far back, I just do) we ate clover, wild spinach and many other things eatable...I never knew it was healthy but then my mom must have known as she knew we could eat it...

      I would harvest and bale our hay for the horses, it had a lot of clover, when they ate it their mouths would foam up, but they loved it.

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 7 years ago

      Great lens! I will have to give this a try. Thank you!

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 7 years ago

      Very interestimng and informative lens on the benefits of red clover. I didn't know it was such a benificial plant.

    • profile image

      mealplan4me 7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing! I had never heard of red clover until I read this. It's very interesting and an amazing herb with the amount of health benefits it has.

    • vanidiana24 profile image

      vanidiana24 7 years ago

      Nice article!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi! I'm lensrolling you to my Clover lens.

    • burgessvillian profile image

      burgessvillian 7 years ago

      I haven't used it, but I'm going to give it a try. I'm all for eating food that heals and prevents than taking suppliments

    • Shades-of-truth profile image

      Emily Tack 7 years ago from USA

      Yes, I have used Red Clover, a lot - usually by eating it right out of the ground.