Herbs & Botanicals
Red clover (trifolium pratense)
What is red clover? What is it used for?
Red clover is a perennial herb that grows up to 18 inches in height.
Native to Europe, central Asia and northern Africa, it is now found in
many other parts of the world. The plant derives its name in part from
its flowers, which are fragrant and can range in color from white to a
dark, fleshy red. Both fresh and dried flower heads can be used medicinally.
Red clover flowers contain a number of substances believed to facilitate
healing, including a volatile oil and isoflavones. In traditional Chinese
medicine, red clover is believed to help clean the blood, clear heat and
remove toxins. Internally, red clover is used as an alternative medicine
for hot flashes that occur during menopause; skin complaints such as eczema
and psoriasis; chronic degenerative diseases; gout; whooping cough; and
Research is currently being conducted on slaframine, an alkaloid found
in diseased versions of red clover, which may be used to fight diabetes.
In addition, many of the isoflavones contained in red clover have demonstrated
antitumor activity. However, this does not mean that red clover can successfully
treat cancer, as some have claimed.
How much red clover should I take?
The recommended daily dosage of red clover is four grams of dried flower
heads, added to water and taken as an infusion up to three times daily.
Alternatively, some practitioners recommend 1.5-3ml of a liquid extract
up to three times per day.
What forms of red clover are available?
Red clover is available in powder and liquid extract forms. The powder
is often used in infusions and elixirs.
What can happen if I take too much red clover?
Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should
When taken in the recommended therapeutic dosages, there are no known
side-effects or drug interactions associated with red clover.
- Howes JB, Sullivan D, Lai N, et al. The effects of
dietary supplementation with isoflavones from red clover on the lipoprotein
profiles of post-menopausal women with mild to moderate hypercholesterolaemia.
- Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural
Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics, 2nd ed.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, pp. 177-8.
- Nestel PJ, Pomery S, Kay S, et al. Isoflavones from
red clover improve systemic arterial compliance but not plasma lipids
in menopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999;84:895-8.
- Wagner H, Wiesenauer M. Phytotherapie. Phytopharmaka
und Pflanziche Homopathika. Stuttgart: Fischer-Verlag, 1995.
- Yanagihara K, Ito A, Toge T, et al. Antiproliferative
effects of isoflavones on human cancer cell lines established from the
gastrointestinal tract. Cancer Res 1993;53:5815-5821.