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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  Red Clover  (Trifolium pratense; Leguminosae)

Other Names:  purple clover, trefoil, wild clover  (2); Trefoil, purple clover  (57)

Character/Energetics:    sweet, salty, cool  (6); slightly sweet, cool   (15)                          

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:   liver, heart, lungs (6); nerves, lungs, blood, liver and lymph    (14)

Parts used:  flowers  (6); flowerheads  (8)                                                                                                    

Identification & Harvesting:    A perennial herb, up to 18″ high with a bushy rhizome and a basal leaf rosette.  An erect, angular stem grows from the rhizome.  The rhizome is covered in alternate, trifoliate, elliptical or ovate leaves, which have a characteristic arrow-shaped white spot on the upper surface.  Leaflets are short-stemmed, margined, softly pubescent.  1-4 globular ovate flower heads form on the tip of the stem.  Petals are light carmine to fleshy red, occasionally yellowish or white.  Fruit is an ovate pod, 1-seeded;  seed is an oblong-ovate yellow to brown to violet.  Grows in temperate to subtropical zones almost worldwide.    (2)

Harvest during flowering.  (15) gather between May and September.    (8)

Flowerheads are ovate, sessile, usually with a stalked trifoliate leaf and two purplish-veined ovate stipules beneath the head, purplish pink, about an inch long and 1-3/4 inch broad.  Flowers are slender, 1/2 inch long, small, papilionaceous.  Taste and odor, agreeable.    (57)

A member of the pea family widely grown as animal fodder in temperate climes.  Native to Europe and naturalized throughout US.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Volatile oils incl benzyl alcohol, 2-phenyl ethanol, their formates and acetates, methyl salicylate, methyl anthranilate (only in the fresh blossoms);  isoflavonoids incl. biochanin A, coumarin derivatives;  cyanogenic glycosides, presumably lotaustralin, linamarin.    (2)

These have not been very well studied, but it is apparendy high in many important nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. It contains blood‑thinning coumarins, which make it very effective for many chronic degenerative diseases. These are quite mild, however, and generally are more regulatory than specific in blood‑thinning qualities. Laboratory tests seem to indicate that it has some estrogenic activity and is antibiotic against several bacteria including those of tuberculosis, which are more characteristic in strumous or wasting diseases.     (6)

phenolic glycosides, flavonoids, salicylates, coumarins, cyanogenic glycosides, mineral acids  (15)                    

Contains isoflavones with estrogenic activity:  genistein, diadzen, formononetin, biochanin A.  Certain of them bind with estrogen receptors and are called phenolic phytoestrogens, recognized as significant natural sources of complementary estrogens for humans.  Red clover is the richest source of these.    (61)

Actions:    antispasmodic, expectorant, vulnerary   (2)

alterative, antispasmodic, expectorant, antitumor  (6)

Primarily alterative;  also nutritive, sedative, stimulant.    (14)

    …diuretic, anti-inflammatory, possible estrogenic action  (15)

Alterative, sedative.    (57)

Epidemiologists believe the presence of phytoestrogens helps account for much lower incidence of breast, colorectal and prostate cancers in many largely vegetarian Asian countries.  Certain dietary components can have significant influence on the incidence and location on cancers in humans, and red clover is a good candidate for further study as a supplement that may help prevent cancer.  The flavonoid genistein is mostly extracted from soybeans and is now available as a supplement.  A recent preliminary study found that biochanin A inhibits activation of cancer in cell cultures.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Used for coughs, respiratory conditions, particularly whooping cough;  used externally for chronic skin conditions as psoriasis and eczema.    (2)

It is used to treat cancer, to clear the skin, to counteract fevers, to

treat inflamed Iungs, whooping cough and inflammatory conditions associated with arthritis and gout. For cancer it is combined with chaparral for greater effectiveness.  (6) 

One of the most useful remedies for children with skin problems.  May be used with complete safety in all cases of childhood eczema.  May also be of value in other chronic skin conditions as psoriasis.  As an alterative it is indicated in a holistic approach to a wide range of conditions.    (8)

Internal uses — blood purifier, psoriasis, skin diseases:  tincture, fluid extract, infusion, powder.  Cancer, rheumatism:  tincture*, fluid extract*, infusion*, powder*.  Whooping cough:  infusion.

External uses — cancerous growths:  fomentation, poultice.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

This herb is an excellent blood purifier when used alone or in combination with yellow dock, dandelion root, sassafras or other blood purifiers.  It is a powerful remedy for cancerous growth.  It is soothing to the nerves and is good for whooping cough and stomach problems.  Red clover can be used in salves for all skin afflictions.  Use the tea as a gargle for all throat swelling and infections.  Inject the tea into the bowel and uterus and retain for a few minutes for problems in those areas.    (14)

     (Clover flowers are) mainly used for skin complaints, the flowers are also useful for coughs and have been widely used for bronchitis and whooping cough. In the 1930s, they became popular as an anticancer remedy and may still be prescribed to breast, ovarian, and lymphatic cancer sufferers….cleansing and diuretic; useful for many skin problems including eczema.   (15)       

An excellent remedy in spasmodic and bronchial coughs, whooping coughs, etc.  Externally, red clover is often used as a plaster in cancer.   (57)

Traditionally used as a blood purifier, diuretic, tonic;  to relieve spasms in asthma, bronchitis;  to treat sores or ulcers.  One of the ingredients of the controversial Hoxsy, a formula used at alternative cancer clinics in Mexico.  Its use as a cancer remedy is not corroborated by research in humans.    (61)

Combinations: For cancer it is combined with chaparral for greater effectiveness; (6) for skin problems, combine with yellow dock and nettles (8)

For psoriasis  combine w/anti-inflammatory and cleansing herbs like cleavers, bittersweet, yellow dock, or 10 drops arbor vitaetincture (15)

Generally combined with other alteratives such as stillingia, lappa, xanthoxylum, etc. (57)

Precautions:    No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages.    (2)

No side effects reported;  however, cattle ingesting late-season or spoiled red clover have developed diarrhea, frothing, dermatitis and decreased milk production.  It is possible that similar effects could occur in humans.    (61)                                                                                                              

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Infusion:  steep 30 min.; 1-2 oz. frequently, or 4-6 cups daily.  Tincture:  5-30 drops frequently.  Fluid extract:  1 tsp. frequently.  Powder:  5-10 #0 capsules (30-60 grains) frequently.    (14)

(Fresh) Flowers–              

                       Crush the flowers, and apply to insect bites and stings.

                       Tincture: Take internally for aczema and psoriasis.

                       Compress: Use for arthritic pains and gout.

                       Ointment: For lymphatic swellings, cover fresh flowers with water and simmer in a slow cooker for 48 hours. Strain, evaporate the residue to semi-dryness, and combine with an equal amount of ointment base.

          Eyewash: Use 5-10 drops tincture in 20 ml water (a full eyecup) or a well-strained infusion for conjunctivitis.

          Douche: Use the infusion for vaginal itching.

          Syrup: Take a syrup made from the infusion for stubborn, dry coughs.    (15)


Dosage:  6‑15 gms. in infusion   (6)                                                                                                                                

The infusion of an ounce to a pint of boiling water may be used freely.  Liquid extract dose, 1/2-2 drachms.    (57)

Up to 2.2 g. capsules daily.  Steep 1 tbsp in a cup of hot water for 10-15 min.  Tincture 15-30 drops up to 4 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:   The red clover we now use medicinally was mainly used in the past as a fodder crop for cattle. Gerard knew it as meadow trefoil or “three-leaved grasse,” and its familiar three-lobed leaves were associated by medieval Christians with the Trinity. The Romans used strawberry-leaved clover (T. fragiferum), a Mediterranean plant, which Pliny suggested taking in wine for urinary stones, and recommended the root for dropsy.  (15)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 1188-89

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 191-192

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 227

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 166-67

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pg. 105, 146-147

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 293

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 168-69


PHOTO: Wikipedia