Red clover is one of my favorite herbs to have on hand. If you go out into your yard in the spring and summer, you’re likely to see it (depending on where you live).
Like many “weeds” around us, red clover has many health benefits. I use it in teas, in cooking, and topically for skin irritation.
Here’s why red clover is one of my favorite natural remedies:
A Common Weed That’s Much More
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a plant native to Europe and Asia but has been naturalized to grow in North America too. It’s also known by common names such as Beebread, Cow Clover, and Meadow Clover.
Red clover is a member of the legume family. The red flowers are dried and used medicinally for many traditional uses including:
- whooping cough
- respiratory problems
- skin inflammations, such as psoriasis and eczema
- menopause symptoms
- osteoporosis and bone loss (used to improve bone mineral density)
- cardiovascular health (including supporting blood flow, blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, and avoiding blood clots)
While not all of these uses have been backed by science (yet!) many herbalists strongly believe that red clover is helpful for these issues.
Red Clover Health Benefits
There isn’t a lot of definitive research on red clover’s traditional herbal uses, but here is what we do know about the benefits of red clover.
Contains Important Nutrients
Red clover is very high in calcium and also contains chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Additionally, red clover contains a large number of isoflavones (a phytoestrogen), which can act like estrogen in the body. This can be beneficial for people who are low in estrogen.
Red clover also has strong antioxidant properties, according to a 2016 study. This makes red clover a great overall herb to support the body.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
Red clover has been used traditionally for its cardiovascular benefits, though the science is a bit unclear. A 2006 review found no benefit of red clover on cardiovascular health.
However, a study that came out a few months after this review found that red clover does seem to have a positive effect on blood lipid levels (high cholesterol) and bone mineral density.
In another study, red clover significantly reduced C-reactive protein, triglyceride, total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol”). Red clover also seemed to increase HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
We need more research to be sure of red clover’s ability to support cardiovascular health, but because it’s been used traditionally used for generations without harmful side effects, many feel confident in trying it.
Helps with Menopause Symptoms
One of red clover’s most popular uses is for symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. Due to its phytoestrogen content, it is thought to be helpful for low estrogen related issues.
Red clover can decrease the frequency of hot flashes and help with vaginal dryness associated with menopause according to a 2016 systematic review. More research is needed though, to find out if it helps with other menopause symptoms such as sexual function or sleeping issues.
Red clover may be helpful as an addition to anticancer medications. A 2019 review found that red clover had significant anti-tumor properties and that it acted synergistically with anti-cancer medications.
Additionally, in a 2009, researchers discovered that using red clover reduced prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein found at elevated levels in prostate cancer patients.
While it’s generally thought best to avoid any estrogenic herbs if one is dealing with breast cancer, some research shows that red clover may not be a problem. A 2011 study found that red clover, when used along with estradiol, acted as an estrogen antagonist (blocker). More information is needed, but this research suggests that red clover may help fight breast cancer as well as other cancers.
One of my favorite ways to use red clover is to help support healthy skin and scalp. I personally use it this way on rashes or other skin issues. In a 2011 study, researchers confirmed that red clover can improve skin and scalp.
Traditional Usage of Red Clover
Red clover can be used in a number of ways, but the way you choose to use it depends on what you are using it for. Here are some guidelines for using red clover:
- Tea – Red clover tea can be ingested to help with cough, menopausal symptoms, and to get the nutritive benefits of this herb (see the brand I use below).
- Tincture – Tinctures are best when you want a more concentrated product, such as help with menopausal symptoms or cardiovascular support. Teas can work for these things as well but tinctures get more of the medicinal properties into the body quickly.
- Poultice – A poultice of red clover can be used on skin irritations like rashes, eczema, and other mild skin issues. I like to mix red clover with calendula for its soothing properties.
- Capsules – you can use red clover capsules as well, which gets the entire herb into the body. This helps you get the nutritive benefits as well as the medicinal benefits if you can’t tolerate tinctures.
Foraging for Red Clover
Look for the distinctive purple red clover blooms in spring. I’m not a foraging expert by any means, but this site gives some helpful guidance.
What I Use
Is Red Clover Safe? Side Effects
Red clover is generally considered safe and there are no serious side effects. But as always you should ask a healthcare professional before using this or any herb.
Because red clover contains phytoestrogens, it’s not recommended for use by pregnant women, or those struggling with estrogen dominance conditions. It’s also not recommended for use in those with breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer (though there was the study mentioned above that contests this point of view).
Red clover is also not for use:
- in those with liver problems.
- with contraceptive birth control pills.
- in those on blood thinners (red clover may be an anticoagulant).
Always check with your doctor before starting a new herbal regimen.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you ever used red clover supplements? What did you use it for?