What is red clover?

Red Clover is a herbaceous, short-lived perennial plant, Trifolium pratense, of the leguminous pea family Fabaceae. It is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, but has been introduced worldwide as a forage crop.

A red clover plant has an erect stem 20-60 cm (8-24 in) tall with trifoliate leaves each having three oval leaflets 5-15 mm (0.2-0.6 in) long and 2-8 mm (0.079-0.315 in) broad; the stipules are ovate-lanceolate and 3–7 mm (0.12–0.28 in) long. The flowers are small and pinkish-red, produced in dense branched heads. Each flower has 10 stamens, the lower nine of which have reached maturity and fuse to form a tube around the ovary; the uppermost stamen is reduced and does not function in pollination.

Red clover can be found throughout North America, Europe, Asia and northern Africa. It prefers sunny areas with moist soils but can also tolerate some shade. Red clover is often used as a cover crop or green manure due to its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. It is also grown as forage for livestock and as a source of nectar for honeybees.

The red clover plant is rich in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other minerals. It also contains compounds that have been shown to have cancer-preventative properties. Red clover is used medicinally for a variety of conditions, including coughs, colds, bronchitis and skin disorders.

Red clover is an annual plant that grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It can be started from seed or transplanted as a young plant. Red clover will self-seed if left to flower and mature. The plants can become invasive if not managed properly.

Health Benefits

Red clover is a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. It also contains phytoestrogens, which are plant-based compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.

Red clover has been used medicinally for centuries to treat a variety of conditions. Today, it is most commonly used as a dietary supplement or tea.

Red clover is thought to be beneficial for the following health conditions:

Cancer: Phytoestrogens in red clover may help to protect against cancer by binding to estrogen receptors and preventing excess estrogen from stimulating the growth of cancer cells. Some studies have suggested that red clover may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer, but more research is needed.

Cholesterol: Red clover has been shown to lower cholesterol levels in animal studies. It is thought that the plant compounds in red clover bind to cholesterol and prevent its absorption in the gut.

Menopause: Red clover is often used as a natural remedy for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. This is due to its high content of phytoestrogens, which can help to balance hormone levels and ease menopausal symptoms.

Skin disorders: Red clover has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may be beneficial for treating skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. The plant compounds in red clover are thought to help reduce inflammation and calm the skin.

Side Effects

Red clover is generally considered safe when taken in small doses. However, it can cause side effects such as nausea, bloating, and headaches in some people.

Red clover may also interact with certain medications, so it is important to speak to a healthcare provider before taking red clover supplements.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid red clover as it may stimulate the uterus and lead to miscarriage. Red clover is not recommended for children.

Mechanism of Action

Red clover contains plant compounds called phytoestrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. These compounds can bind to estrogen receptors and help to regulate hormone levels.

The phytoestrogens in red clover may also help to protect against cancer by preventing excess estrogen from stimulating the growth of cancer cells. Red clover is also a source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help to protect against disease.

Some people may experience side effects from taking red clover supplements, including nausea, bloating, and headaches. Red clover may also interact with certain medications, so it is important to speak to a healthcare provider before taking red clover supplements.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid red clover as it may stimulate the uterus and lead to miscarriage. Red clover is not recommended for children.

Interactions

Red clover may interact with certain medications, herbs, and supplements.

Some of the most common interactions include:

Anticoagulants: Red clover may increase the effects of anticoagulant medications such as warfarin (Coumadin). This can lead to an increased risk of bleeding and bruising.

Estrogen-containing drugs: Red clover may increase the effects of estrogen-containing drugs such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. This can lead to side effects such as nausea and bloating.

Hormone therapies: Red clover may increase the effects of hormone therapies such as testosterone replacement therapy. This can lead to side effects such as acne and hair loss.

Thyroid hormone: Red clover may increase the effects of thyroid hormone replacement therapy. This can lead to side effects such as anxiety and heart palpitations.

It is important to speak to a healthcare provider before taking red clover supplements, especially if you are taking any medications or have a chronic health condition.