What Is Red Clover?

What everyone should know about the benefits of Trifolium pratense

Red clover capsules, tablets, tea, tincture, and liquid extract

Verywell / Anastasiia Tretiak​

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is an herb that belongs to the legume family, along with beans and peas.

In herbal medicine, red clover is typically used to treat respiratory issues (such as asthma, whooping cough, and bronchitis), skin disorders (such as eczema and psoriasis), inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and women's health problems (such as menopausal and menstrual symptoms).

Red clover's brightly colored flowers contain many nutrients, including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.

They're also a rich source of isoflavones. These are compounds that act as phytoestrogens—plant chemicals similar to the female hormone estrogen.

Isoflavone extracts are touted as dietary supplements for high cholesterol and osteoporosis in addition to menopausal symptoms.

This article explains the benefits of using red clover, the possible side effects and interactions, and why (like all supplements) consumers should research it carefully.

What Is Red Clover Used For?

In alternative medicine, red clover is said to help with the following four conditions. Note, however, that research has not shown a conclusive link.

Menopausal Symptoms

A number of small studies have been done to see if red clover may help relieve the discomforts of menopause, especially hot flashes. Though you may hear some anecdotal support for this, no conclusive evidence backs it up.

In fact, a research review conducted in 2013 found that phytoestrogen treatments (including red clover) are not proven to effectively ease menopausal symptoms.

Bone Loss

Research is ongoing as to whether isoflavones lower the loss of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Red clover is one source of supplements used in some studies.

A review done in 2016 concluded there may be some beneficial effects on bone health. But a 2017 review was inconclusive.

Cancer

Preliminary research suggests that red clover may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

In a 2009 lab study using prostate cancer cells, scientists found that treatment with red clover led to a decrease in the prostate-specific antigen (PSA). This is a protein found at elevated levels in men with prostate cancer. The finding suggests the cells were less active.

Heart Disease

A few clinical trials have looked at the effects of red clover on the development of risk factors for heart disease in postmenopausal women. But there's no strong evidence yet that it helps.

The lack of long-term studies says two things. One, it's too soon to recommend red clover for any condition. And two, avoiding or delaying standard care, as well as self-treating, may have serious consequences.

Selection and Preparation

Red clover is available in a variety of forms, including teas, tinctures, tablets, capsules, liquid extract, and extracts standardized with specific amounts of isoflavones.

It's not always clear, however, that a product contains the promised isoflavone content.

One study found big differences between red clover products. These differences can significantly affect absorption rates and metabolism of various isoflavones within these products. In turn, these factors can affect how well a product works.

Sometimes, red clover is the sole ingredient in products. Other times, it's mixed with other herbs. When using commercial products, follow the package instructions carefully.

Extracts of red clover isoflavones are different from the whole herb. In fact, they represent only a small, highly concentrated part of the entire herb.

As the researcher in the product study mentioned above notes, "the widespread use of self-administered isoflavones is somewhat unsettling since much remains to be proven including efficacy and possible side effects."

Red clover tablets

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

Making Red Clover Tea

You can also make red clover tea from dried flower heads, though some proponents claim you must use the entire flower to fully benefit from red clover.

To make a tea, use 1 to 3 teaspoons of dried red clover flowers for every cup of simmering (not boiling) water. Let it steep for 15 minutes. Then drink up to three cups of tea a day.

Possible Side Effects

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, along with anyone with hormone-sensitive cancers, should avoid red clover. Because isoflavones have similar activity in the body as the hormone estrogen, it could be unsafe in these groups.

Interactions

Red clover has blood-thinning abilities and can increase the effects of anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs, which are used to prevent blood clots.

Avoid taking it with blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) and stop taking it at least two weeks prior to surgery.

The herb may also interact with birth control pills due to the hormone-like actions of its isoflavones. This could cause the birth control to be less effective.

Red clover causes toxic effects when taken with methotrexate, a drug used to treat certain types of cancer and control severe psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.

If you're considering using red clover, make sure to consult your physician first to avoid possible interactions.

Important Reminders About Supplements

People often ask if dietary supplements are safe. It's important to keep in mind that:

  • Supplements generally aren't tested for safety.
  • Dietary supplements are largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

When shopping for supplements, look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLab, The U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention, or NSF International.

These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective. But they do indicate if it's undergone quality testing.

Summary

Red clover is an herb that could ease menopausal symptoms, reduce bone loss, and even lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. These high hopes have not been confirmed by large studies. So consumers should tread carefully and be aware of potential side effects and interactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What kind of red clover should I take for menopause symptoms?

    One option is a supplement called Promensil—a brand of Trifolium pratense isoflavones marketed for treating hot flashes. There is evidence that a standard dose of Promensil—80 mg per day—is effective. Based on a meta-analysis of four studies in which Promensil was compared to a placebo, the supplement reduced the number of hot flashes experienced by menopausal women by 30% to 50%.

  • How much red clover should I take?

    Standard daily dosages of red clover are:

    • Capsules containing the powdered herb: 40 to 160 mg
    • Red clover isoflavones: 28 to 85 mg
    • Tincture: 60 to 100 drops three times a day
    • Fluid extract: 1 mL three times a day
    • Standardized red clover isoflavone extracts: Varies, so follow product directions
    • Topical treatments: As needed
  • Does red clover cause weight gain?

    As with other phytoestrogens, it could. However, in a review of studies looking at the effects of phytoestrogens on menopausal women, only those who had prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), or hyperlipidemia experienced modest weight gain. A particular isoflavone called daidzein, which is found in red clover, was associated with weight gain in women with these pre-existing conditions.

  • Can red clover help with infertility?

    Herbalists often turn to red clover to help treat infertility, claiming it can unblock scarred Fallopian tubes and help prepare a woman's body to nourish a pregnancy. Red clover is a primary ingredient in a popular herbal fertility supplement called Fertilaid. Even so, there appears to be little to no research to support red clover as a fertility aid. Studies of animals that graze on red clover have also found it unlikely that the plant affects fertility.

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13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Red clover. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/redclover/ataglance.htm.