The Benefits of and Uses for Red Clover

What everyone should know about the benefits of Trifolium pratense

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

Benefits of Red Clover

In alternative medicine, red clover is said to help with the following conditions. Note, however, that research has not shown that it is conclusively effective for any health condition. 

  • Menopausal Symptoms: A number of small studies have been done to see if red clover may help relieve menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes. However, there has been no conclusive evidence that it is effective. A research review in 2013 concluded that there is no evidence that phytoestrogen treatments (including red clover) can effectively alleviate 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 in 2016 concluded there may be some beneficial effects on bone health, while a 2017 review found that different formulations may be effective or ineffective.
  • Cancer: Preliminary research suggests that red clover may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In a 2009 study of prostate cancer cells, scientists found that treatment with red clover led to a decrease in the prostate-specific antigen (a protein found at elevated levels in men with prostate cancer). However, because of the estrogen-like effects of red clover, it could promote the growth of cancers that boosted by estrogen such as breast cancer and endometrial cancer.

    Things to Know Before Using Red Clover

    • Although red clover appears to be safe for short-term use, long-term or regular 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 also can increase the effects of anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs.

    As always, it's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

    Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

    Using Red Clover for Health

    Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend red clover for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using red clover, make sure to consult your physician first.

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