Plant Profile: Red Clover {Trifolium pratense}

Family: Fabaceae

This all-around wellness herb and blood purifier is a key ingredient in herbal blends popularized during the early 1900’s and used in cancer treatment, including Essiac, Dr. Christopher’s Red Clover Combination, and the Hoxsey formula. Red clover has been an Old World symbol for luck and abundance since ancient times. And when it arrived in America with the colonists, its use quickly spread among American Indian tribes.


This stout clover has deep pink – not red – plump, round flower heads that contain numerous, small, pea-type flowers above a three-leaved bract. The leaves are marked with a single pale chevron. The lax stems trail up to 2 feet, creating a soft green mass.

Preparations Infusion:

red-clover-tea-760x428Make a strong infusion or tincture of red clover tops, and drink 1/2 to 1 cup two or three times daily. Commercially available red clover preparations include tinctures and concentrated and often standardized extracts {containing consistent amounts of genistein} in capsules and tablets, as well as syrups and elixirs. Follow the package instructions.

Healing Properties:

Red clover flowering tops are a veritable pharmacy, containing many active compounds that reduce inflammation, activate your immune response, and improve liver function. According to traditional medicine, preparations of this herb are effective expectorants, regulate blood flow, and help your body heal skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and dermatitis.

Red clover formulas are known as “blood purifiers,” which is likely due to their active chemicals – flavonoids and other compounds are known as phenolics – which act as antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties and mild estrogen-like activity, and are stimulating to the liver and bile. Blood purifiers are thought to slowly alter the function of cells and tissues to bring them closer to a normal, healthy function. They are also thought to help create a healthy inner environment for the wellness of your skin, your body’s largest organ. Red clover is a component of many formulas recommended by herbalists to help the body eliminate toxins and fight cancer.

Red clover contains isoflavonoids like genistein, which has been widely studied and is sold in dietary supplements as a natural estrogen alternative.


Red clover can be used regularly as a moderately strong tea infusion. Avoid taking it during pregnancy because of its alleged estrogenic effect. Theoretically, red clover preparations may potentiate, or strengthen, the effects of anticoagulant drugs. However, the coumarins in red clover are not like pharmaceutical anti-coagulants {such as dicoumarol or warfarin}, but are much milder in their action.

In the Garden:

Sprout-Red-CloverRed clover grows wild in open meadows and pastures. {The species name, pratense, means “of the meadows,”}. It loves full sun and rich, fertile, well-drained soil – but it’s not picky. Water it regularly until the plants look big and healthy, and then let it go dry between waterings; this mild drought stress will bring on the flowers. Red clover is a short-lived perennial, but in most areas, you’ll sow it yearly. Treat the seed with inoculant or stratify it, and direct sow in the fall {if you don’t get a snowy winter where you live} or very early spring.

Harvesting Red Clover:

When the blossoms are open and vibrant, pick them by holding them gently and snapping them off with your thumbnail. You can include the triad of leaves just below the flower head. They will brown as they mature, but as long as the browning is less than one-third of the flower, they are still medicinally strong. Collect clover early in the day, when there is only light dew, to help preserve the color. Keep harvesting every 2 or 3 days to keep the flowers coming. They dry quickly, so keep a close eye on them to avoid over-drying them. Before you store them, press the centers of the flowers to make sure there’s no moisture left. Store in a cool, dark place to keep the color from fading.

Also, Known As:

  • Clover
  • Cow Clover
  • Meadow Clover
  • Purple Clover
  • Red Clover

Additional Information About Red Clover:

The red clover is in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria present in the root nodules, the plant is capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, and this enhances the quality of the soil in which it is grown – the primary reason for its use as a rotation crop. Traditionally, a rare four-leaf red clover specimen is believed to bring good luck and children in America love hunting through a patch of red clover for such rare four-leaf specimens of the plant. Folk and herbal medicine make use of the dried red clover flowers in the treatment of different disorders. An expectorant action is attributed to the blossoms of the red clover; disorders such as bronchitis and asthma are treated using the dried flowers. A topical herbal remedy is also made using the red clover, this remedy is believed to speed up the process of healing wounds and other external injuries, red clover is also used in the treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis and other external conditions. The traditional use of the red clover in gaining relief from menopausal symptoms what is generating current interest in the plant. The red clover has high phytoestrogen content, and browsing animals such as cattle and sheep grazing exclusively or heavily on the red clover often tend to develop fertility problems.

The total content of phytoestrogens in the red clover herb is approximately 0.17 percent of the dry weight per plant. Chemical compounds such as formononetin, the compound genistein, the compound daidzein, and biochanin A. are some of the major compounds present in the herb. A mild estrogen-like effect is displayed by the compound formononetin, the compound biochanin A, the compound daidzein and the genistein compound – that is they tend to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Australian herbal marketers have commercially translated the perceived estrogen-like the effect of the plant and turned the red clover into a herbal estrogen supplement, thus, a very widely advertised product called the red clover blossom dietary supplement is now touted as the natural choice for maintaining estrogen in Australia. The phytoestrogen effects of the red clover need to be supported by thorough clinical studies of the plant in the laboratory, such tests are currently on the anvil. Red clover also contains a class of plant-based compounds called isoflavones, these compounds are also present in familiar plant products like soybeans, the isoflavones are believed to be capable of changing the rate of hormone synthesis and are believed to be capable of influencing metabolism in the body, these compounds are also believed to affect intracellular enzymes, they are also known to affect the rate of cell differentiation and production, and may also be involved in the synthesis of biological growth factors in the body.

The possible benefit of using isoflavones in the process of chemoprevention, which is cancer prevention, is also being investigated by an epidemiologist in many Asian countries where a lot of isoflavone-rich soy products are consumed by the majority of the population. The potential need for further investigation and research is suggested by the results obtained from a recent in vitro study, where it was found that the compound biochanin A sourced from red clover seems to inhibit the activation of carcinogenic cell cultures – further studies will doubtless shed a light on this phenomenon.

Methyl salicylate is one compound among the many other chemical compounds present in the volatile oil of the red clover blossoms. The blossoms have also been found to contain small amounts of coumarin derivatives and certain types of cyanogenic glycosides.

The supplementary use of red clover extract in the treatment of symptoms associated with menopausal women has found sudden prominence due to the release of a herbal supplement called Promensil from Australia – this new supplement is meant for the exclusive use of women in any stage of menopause. Each Promensil pill contains 40 mg of the isoflavones, set to a standardized ratio, Promensil was introduced in the US market in 1998. Australian researchers have been responsible for the majority of the research which supports the beneficial nature of red clover based isoflavones. Another red clover based supplement called Trinivin is marketed by the same Australian firm, this pill also contains 40 mg of the standardized isoflavones isolated from the herb, Trinivin is meant for men affected by disease free but enlarged prostates, this product is also sold in the United States.
Researchers conducted by the company also indicated that the isoflavones present in red clover and Novogen are able to suppress the hot flashes which periodically affect peri-menopausal women without inducing proliferation in the uterine or endometrial tissue of the body. The ability of the isoflavones present in red clover to keep the blood vessels pliable was also demonstrated in a double-blind and controlled trial published in March 1999 edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.



FRESH – The flowers of the red clover can be used in the topical treatment of skin. Red clover flowers can be crushed and applied or rubbed into irritated skin caused by insect bites and stings, the floral poultice will alleviate the pain and speed up healing in the affected area.
TINCTURE – A herbal red clover floral tincture can be prepared from the flowers of the plant, this floral tincture can be consumed to treat cases of eczema and psoriasis.
COMPRESS – A herbal floral compress can also be prepared from the flowers of the red clover, this can be applied to the affected parts of the body in the treatment of arthritic pains, the compress can also be used to alleviate the symptoms of gout by placing the herbal compress on the affected area.
OINTMENT – Red clover floral ointments can also be made for the treatment of lymphatic swellings. This floral ointment can be prepared by covering some fresh red clover flowers in some water and then simmering the water in a slow cooker for a period of forty-eight hours at a stretch. The concoction can then be strained, and the residue evaporated to a semi-dry condition, this can then be combined with an equal amount of a good ointment base. The floral ointment made from red clover blossoms is for topical use only.
EYEWASH – The flowers of the red clover can be used in the preparing herbal eyewash from the diluted floral tincture, the dilution ratio can be 20 ml of water or a full eyecup to which 5 – 10 drops of the floral tincture or a well-strained floral infusion must be added. This floral eyewash can be used for disorders such as conjunctivitis and other conditions of the eye.
DOUCHE – The floral infusion of the red clover herb can be used to alleviate vaginal itching in the form of a douche.
SYRUP – The red clover floral infusion can be boiled down to herbal syrup, this herbal remedy can be used in the treatment of persistent or stubborn, dry coughs.

Indian Tea or Essiac:

  • 3 oz (90 g) red clover flowers
  • 3 oz (90 g) wood sorrel flowers
  • 3 oz (90 g) common burdock root
  • 1 oz (30 g) kelp
  • 1 oz (30 g) slippery elm powder
  • 1 oz (30 g) Canada thistle head

Combine all the plants.
Boil 1 t (5 ml) of the mixture in 1 cup (250 ml) water for 5 minutes. Drink 3 cups (750 ml) per day for 1 to 3 months. This is the closest recipe to the original famous North American Indian tea used to fight cancer. It is also an excellent lymphatic and blood depurative.

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