Red clover is a common perennial herb that grows wild in fields and meadows in Asia, Europe and North America and is part of the legume family. There are a number of other common names for this herb, including cow clover, meadow clover, wild clover, cow grass, purple clover and beebread. Its scientific name is Trifolium pratense. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM, one of the active compounds in red clover is its phytoestrogen, which is similar to natural estrogen. Red clover has some serious side effects, so you should talk to your health-care provider before starting to use it.
Due to the phytoestrogens in red clover, it is often used to ease the discomfort of menopause. The University of Maryland Medical Center, UMMC, says that specifically, its isoflavones are used to reduce the occurrence and severity of hot flashes. The UMMC also describes the use of red clover to treat osteoporosis. The active compounds in the herb are said to slow the loss of bone and even may increase bone density.Red clover is also used to increase HDL cholesterol, which is the "good" cholesterol, and acts as a natural blood thinner, which may help to prevent blood clots from forming. UMMC also refers to some preliminary tests that suggest red clover may stop cancer cells from growing and that it may kill cancer cells in test tubes. However, there are concerns that the phytoestrogens in red clover may also contribute to some cancers' growth. So far, there has not been enough clinical research done to definitively support any of these uses.
Parts of Herb Used
The NCCAM web site describes the portion of the red clover plant used in medicinal preparations. The flowering tops of the red clover plant are the portions that are dried for use in capsules, tea or extracts. Be sure to check with your health care provider for instructions.
According to the UMMC web site, animals that regularly graze on red clover plants have sometimes become infertile. Therefore, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid the use of red clover. Any new substance can cause allergic reactions. Be aware of any rashes, shortness of breath or hives while taking red clover. If any of these symptoms occur, stop the use of the herb right away and contact your health-care provider.
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, or MSKCC, gives detailed descriptions of the chemical reactions in the body when taking red clover. Available research suggests that the isoflavones in red clover act to protect the functions of the cardiovascular system and the neural system in the body. Much more research needs to be done to understand fully the herb's effects.
The UMMC warns that red clover may interfere with the body's ability to process certain drugs. In addition, since the herb acts to thin the blood, it may be dangerous to combine its use with blood thinning medications. Taking red clover in combination with these medications can run the risk of serious bleeding problems. Also, as with any form of medical treatment, you should tell your health-care provider about every substance, including red clover, that you use for your health.
- a clover image by alri from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.