Red clover is a medicinal plant that has been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments.
In this article, we will look at red clover’s health benefits, safety, and dosage.
Table of Contents
- What is Red Clover?
- Health Benefits of Red Clover:
- Red Clover Safety:
- Naming & Taxonomy:
- History & Traditional Use:
What is Red Clover?
Red clover is a perennial herb, often seen as a flowering weed, growing wild in fields or on the side of the road. It is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The plant’s Latin name is Trifolium pratense, while its common names include red clover, cow clover, meadow clover, and wild clover.
- Isoflavones such as formononetin, biochanin A, daidzein, genistein, formononetin, pratensein, trifoside
- Flavonoids such as pectolinarin, kaempferol
- Volatile oil
- Minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C
Red clover is commonly used in women’s health and for conditions such as menopause, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
Health Benefits of Red Clover:
Below are the top research-backed health benefits of red clover and its constituents:
1. May Help with Menopausal Symptoms
As women age, the hormone estrogen declines and menopausal symptoms may arise. Some common menopause symptoms include:
- hot flashes
- disruptive sleep
- heart palpitations
- vaginal dryness
- low libido
- weight gain
Hot flashes are the most common menopausal symptom, with more than 80% of menopausal women experiencing them.
Red clover contains isoflavones, these compounds have estrogenic effects on the body, binding to estrogen receptors to produce estrogen-like effects. Researchers believe this makes red clover, and other similar herbs for menopause such as vitex, raspberry leaf, and fenugreek, an effective treatment for menopausal symptoms.
The effects of red clover on menopausal symptoms were examined in a clinical study using Promensil, a dietary supplement of standardized red clover extract. Participants were given 80 mg of Promensil per day. By the end of the 16-week study, participants had a significant decrease in hot flashes by 44%.
Another 16-week clinical study demonstrated that Promensil can help significantly reduce the frequency of hot flashes by 48.5% and the severity of hot flashes by 47% in menopausal women.
A systematic review of ten clinical studies showed that red clover can decrease the frequency of hot flashes, and improve other menopausal symptoms, such as heart palpitations, vaginal dryness, depression, and anxiety.
In a study of 109 post-menopausal women, red clover isoflavone supplementation reduced anxiety and depression levels. These findings suggest that the plant’s phytoestrogens have a positive effect on brain function and mood.
A similar study reported improvements in libido, mood, sleep, scalp hair (better texture and less fragility), and skin (better texture, more moisture).
Summary:Clinical research has found that red clover may work to relieve menopausal symptoms. Red clover was found to be especially effective in reducing the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flashes.
2. May Improve Bone Health
The drop in estrogen levels in aging women may also result in bone loss. This puts post-menopausal women at risk for developing osteoporosis, which is low bone mineral density (BMD).
A 12-month study of 205 women looked at the effects of red clover-derived isoflavones on bone density. Results revealed that the isoflavones in red clover may decrease bone loss and have a protective effect on the lumbar (lower) spine.
In a three-month study, the daily consumption of red clover extract (5 ounces) showed a beneficial effect on bone health in menopausal women by reducing bone loss and improving bone mineral density status.
Rimostil, a dietary supplement of isoflavones derived from red clover, was used in a study of post-menopausal women to evaluate its effects on bone health. After a six-month treatment, findings showed a significant increase in bone density, resulting in stronger bones.
Women’s health expert and herbalist, Dr. Aviva Romm indicates that due to red clover’s phytoestrogen and isoflavone content, the herb may play an important role in helping to reduce bone loss.
Summary:Clinical studies show that red clover may improve bone mineral density and lower bone loss, making this a beneficial herb for the prevention of osteoporosis.
3. May Benefit Cardiovascular Disease
Menopause and post-menopausal women are at risk for developing high blood pressure due to their low levels of estrogen. Additionally, they are at risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and increased body mass index (BMI).
A clinical study examined the effects of red clover isoflavones on post-menopausal women with type 2 diabetes. Participants were given 50mg of isoflavone supplementation per day. Red clover isoflavones were shown to significantly lower daytime systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
80mg per day of red clover isoflavones were shown to reduce cholesterol levels in post-menopausal women in another clinical study. Total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), and lipoprotein A (a type of LDL cholesterol) significantly decreased.
A study using Rimostil, a dietary supplement of isoflavones derived from red clover, on post-menopausal women found positive lipid effects such as notably increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).
In a clinical study consisting of men and post-menopausal women, red clover isoflavones helped to improve arterial function by reducing arterial wall stiffness and improving arterial circulation. Researchers concluded that this is an important factor in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Summary:Clinical research indicates that red clover may promote heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL cholesterol, and improving arterial circulation.
4. May Help Mastalgia & Fibrocystic Breasts
Mastalgia is breast pain and is a very common condition among women. Fibrocystic breasts are painful, lumpy breasts typically caused by hormonal changes. Both of these conditions are common among women.
In a clinical trial, isoflavones derived from red clover demonstrated an anti-estrogenic effect on women by relieving breast pain associated with cyclical mastalgia. There was a reduction in pain by 44% for 40mg of isoflavone per day and by 31% for 80mg per day.
Women’s health expert Dr. Aviva Romm suggests that red clover may be used to treat breast pain or fibrocystic breasts.
Summary:Red clover is thought to alleviate breast pain. Additional clinical research would be beneficial in further confirming these findings.
5. Other Potential Health Benefits:
- May Help Improve Prostate Health: Research has suggested that a high intake of isoflavones may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and enhance overall prostate health in men. Additional research has shown that isoflavones may induce apoptosis (cell death) in low to moderate-grade prostate tumors and halt the growth of prostate cancer.
- May Help Improve Skin Conditions: Herbalist David Hoffman states that red clover may be useful in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis in children or adults.
Summary:Red clover has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
Red Clover Safety:
Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
According to the Botanical Safety Handbook, safety class 1 indicates that red clover can be safely consumed when used appropriately.
The Botanical Safety Handbook also states that an interaction class of A means that no clinical interactions are expected when using red clover.
Those who take hormonal or anti-coagulant medications should use caution with red clover, according to Dr. Aviva Romm.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
The Botanical Safety Handbook states that there is limited information on the use of red clover during pregnancy and lactation, therefore safety has not been conclusively established.
Below are the standard adult dosing recommendations for red clover, according to herbalist David Hoffman.
- Tincture: (1:5 in 40%) 2 to 4 mL 3x per day.
- Infusion (Tea): Pour 1 cup of hot water over 1 to 3 tsp. of dried herb. Steep for 10 to 15 mins. Drink 3x per day.
- Dried herb: Take 4 grams of dried herb 3x per day.
Red clover is considered to be a sustainable herb. It’s popular in agriculture and farming as it is good for hay, silage, and livestock grazing. In addition, due to its ability to add organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, it is acknowledged for its importance in soil conservation and crop rotation.
Red clover is not on the United Plant Saver’s “species-at-risk” list of plants that are sensitive to the impact of human activities.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Red clover’s scientific name is Trifolium pratense. It belongs to the Fabaceae, or legume, family of plants.
The genus name Trifolium in Latin is tres, meaning three, and the species name pratense means growing in meadows.
The plant grows about 1-to-2 feet tall and produces purple-pink tubular flowers. The flowers are used medicinally.
History & Traditional Use:
Native American cultures used red clover in various ways:
- eating its leaves as food
- the whole plant for sore eyes
- as a salve for burns
- for treating whooping cough, fevers, menopause symptoms, and cancers
In Chinese culture, red clover flowers have been traditionally used as an infusion for expectorant purposes (to clear phlegm).
In Russian culture, red clover flowers have also been used as an infusion to treat bronchial asthma.
European cultures have used red clover to aid in liver and digestive conditions.
Red clover benefits the body, in particular the female body, in a variety of ways. While there is clinical evidence to support red clover’s benefits, more research and larger studies are necessary for conclusive evidence.
As always, it is recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before adding any new herbal dietary supplements to your regimen, especially if you are taking a medication, have an existing medical condition, or are pregnant or nursing.
Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (2013). Botanical safety handbook (2nd ed.). American Herbal Products Association.
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, VT.
Jeri, A. R. (2002). The use of an isoflavone supplement to relieve hot flashes. Female Patient, OB/GYN ed, 27 (8), 35-37. https://www.proquest.com/openview/d9f403b164c346cf6ffe2d09f26ba625/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=47705
Romm, Aviva. (2018). Botanical medicine for women’s health (2nd ed.). Elsevier, Inc: St. Louis, MO.
Thorup, A. C, Lambert, M. N., Kahr, H. S., Bjerre, M., & Jeppesen, P. B. (2015). Intake of novel red clover supplementation for 12 weeks improved bone status in healthy menopausal women. Evidenced-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 689138. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523657/