What is Red Clover?
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is an herb that belongs to the legume family (which also includes peas and beans). It contains isoflavones, which are compounds that act as phytoestrogens (plant chemicals similar to the female hormone estrogen).
Uses of Red Clover
In herbal medicine, red clover is typically used to treat respiratory issues (such as asthma and bronchitis), skin disorders (such as eczema and psoriasis), and women's health problems (such as menopausal and menstrual symptoms).
Benefits of Red Clover
Studies suggest that red clover may help treat the following conditions:
A number of small studies have shown that red clover may help relieve menopausal symptoms. One report published in 2002, for instance, found that women taking a daily red clover supplement had a 44 percent reduction in hot flashes after 16 weeks.
However, a research review released in 2007 concluded that there is no evidence that phytoestrogen treatments (including red clover) can effectively alleviate menopausal symptoms.
2) Bone Loss
Red clover may protect against bone loss, according to a 2004 study of 177 women (ages 49 to 65). Results showed that women who took red clover supplements daily for a year had significantly lower loss of bone mineral density than those who took a placebo.
Learn more about protecting bone health.
Preliminary research suggests that red clover may help reduce risk of prostate cancer. In a 2009 study of prostate cancer cells, scientists found that treatment with red clover led to a decrease in prostate-specific antigen (a protein found at elevated levels in men with prostate cancer).
Is Red Clover Safe?
Although red clover appears to be safe for short-term use, long-term term use may be linked to increased risk of cancer of the lining of the uterus.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, along with anyone with hormone-sensitive cancers, should avoid red clover.
Red clover may also increase the effects of blood-thinning drugs.
Atkinson C, Compston JE, Day NE, Dowsett M, Bingham SA. "The effects of phytoestrogen isoflavones on bone density in women: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004 Feb;79(2):326-33.
Gray NE, Liu X, Choi R, Blackman MR, Arnold JT. "Endocrine-immune-paracrine interactions in prostate cells as targeted by phytomedicines." Cancer Prevention Research 2009 Feb;2(2):134-42.
Hidalgo LA, Chedraui PA, Morocho N, Ross S, San Miguel G. "The effect of red clover isoflavones on menopausal symptoms, lipids and vaginal cytology in menopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Gynecological Endocrinology 2005 Nov;21(5):257-64.
Lethaby AE, Brown J, Marjoribanks J, Kronenberg F, Roberts H, Eden J. "Phytoestrogens for vasomotor menopausal symptoms." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007 Oct 17;(4):CD001395.
Lukaczer D, Darland G, Tripp M, Liska D, Lerman RH, Schiltz B, Bland JS. "Clinical effects of a proprietary combination isoflavone nutritional supplement in menopausal women: a pilot trial." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2005 Sep-Oct;11(5):60-5.
van de Weijer PH, Barentsen R. "Isoflavones from red clover (Promensil) significantly reduce menopausal hot flush symptoms compared with placebo." Maturitas. 2002 Jul 25;42(3):187-93.