Red clover is a herb that offers many uses, aiding in anything from cholesterol to increased hormone balance. It offers a wide range of beneficial nutrients, including chromium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and more. Red clover is also considered to be one of the best sources of isoflavones, which are chemicals that act like estrogen in various plants.
Based on these isoflavones, red clover has been closely studied for hormonal imbalances. Studies suggest that it’s a great supplement to reduce hot flashes for women going through menopause. Since menopause is also associated with bone loss and the development of osteoporosis, some studies show that red clover’s isoflavones could reduce bone mineral loss. It’s also commonly used to target symptoms of PMS, improve breast health and circulation, and reduce blood clots.
What Exactly is Red Clover?
As mentioned, red clover is a herb that’s native to Europe, northern Africa, and central Asia, but was naturalized within Australia and North America long ago. The plant itself is a perennial herb, producing hairy stems and leaves. It thrives in dry and moist soil and flowers between the months of May and September.
The History of Red Clover
Being a member of the bean family, red clover has been used throughout history as a nutrient-rich food for cattle and for medicinal purposes. In the 1930s, it began to gain attention for its potential anticancer properties. During this period, a concentrated amount of red clover was applied to tumors sites, which apparently causes the tumor to grow outwards, eventually clearing the body.
Today, it is still prescribed to some individuals struggling with lymphatic, breast, or ovarian cancer. Throughout the world, it’s used for different purposes. In China, red clover is used as a tonic to treat colds and influenza. German Mennonites also use red clover to treat whooping cough and stomach cancer. Regardless of its use, red clover offers many key actions. It’s an antispasmodic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and produces estrogenic activity.
Red Clover as a Hormone Balancer
As mentioned, red clover is known for its high concentration of isoflavones, belonging to a larger class of chemicals known as phytoestrogens, meaning they’re plant-derived. These isoflavones are a similar shape to the female hormone, estrogen. In turn, they’re able to attach to estrogen receptors within the human body, targeting blood vessels, bones, the bladder, and heart.
When women display normal levels of estrogen, red clover may potentially displace some of the estrogen naturally found in the body, reducing estrogen-related symptoms, such as breast pain and other symptoms associated with PMS. Due to red clover’s high magnesium and calcium levels, this is what’s thought to aid in the reduction of menstrual cramps.
Other Benefits of Red Clover
The effects of red clover may also influence estrogen-dependent cancer within the lining of the uterus. When studying the effects of red clover, a review of nearly 1000 women suggested that this herb may interfere with an enzyme that’s known to promote the development of endometrial cancer.
In men, red clover may block enzymes that support the development and growth of prostate cancer. It has also shown effects regarding a benign prostate hyperplasia. Although this is a non-cancerous condition of the prostate gland, an enlarged prostate can lead to issues regarding urination.
While focusing on heart disease, red clover may hep reduce one’s risk. Some studies have shown that red clover is able to reduce levels of bad cholesterol, known as LDL while raising HDL levels or good cholesterol. Red clover may also support bile acid secretion and cholesterol is a major component regarding bile acid production. When bile acid production increases, more cholesterol is used, meaning, less bile acid circulates throughout the body.
There are also chemicals within red clover, known as coumarins, which could reduce the risk of blood clots and arterial plaques. When plaques begin to form, they restrict blood flow and increase one’s risk of complications. Red clover, however, helps to keep arteries flexible and strong, reducing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Red clover is also known to have blood purifying properties. If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, this is a great herb for preparation, as it helps detoxify environmental pollutants before you conceive. If pregnant or breastfeeding, please do not take red clover until you speak to your doctor. Although red clover aids in circulation, it also support circulation to the genitals, which helps boost reproductive success, by increasing cervical mucus and reducing vaginal dryness.
Possible Side Effects
When taking red clover for up to a year, no serious side effects have been reported. In some cases, users experience mild side effects including headaches, rashes, and nausea. In animals, those who graze on large amounts of red clover have become infertile. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, please speak with your doctor before taking this supplement. The same is true for individuals on blood thinning medication, as red clover can increase bleeding.
There are some possible interactions when taking red clover so please speak with your doctor if you’re currently taking any other medications or supplements. Some of the key medications to be aware of are:
- Birth control pills, estrogen, or hormone replacement therapy drugs: As mentioned, red clover increases the effects of estrogen.
- Tamoxifen: Red clover could interfere with efficiency.
- Blood Thinners: Red clover can enhance blood thinning medications, causing potential bleeding. This is also true for other herbs and supplements that have this effect on blood thickness, such as garlic, ginger, ginkgo, and vitamin E.