Red clover: benefits, side effects and drugs

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Red clover ( Trifolium pratense ) is an herb that belongs to the legume family, which also includes peas and beans. In herbal medicine, red clover is commonly used to treat respiratory conditions (such as asthma , whooping cough, and bronchitis ), skin conditions (such as eczema and psoriasis ), inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and women's health problems ( such as menopause). . and menstrual symptoms).

The brightly colored flowers of red clover contain a variety of nutrients, including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. They are 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 .

What is red clover used for?

In alternative medicine, red clover is said to help with the following conditions. However, keep in mind that research has not shown the herb to be conclusively effective for these or other health problems.

Symptoms of menopause

Several small studies have been done to find out if red clover can ease discomfort during menopause, especially hot flashes . While you may hear some anecdotal support for this, there was no conclusive evidence to back it up.

In fact, a 2013 study review notes that phytoestrogen treatments (including red clover) have not been shown to effectively relieve menopausal symptoms .

Bone loss

It is being investigated whether isoflavones reduce bone mineral loss in postmenopausal women. Red clover is a source of supplements used in some studies.

A 2016 review concluded that there may be some beneficial effects on bone health, while a 2017 review found that various formulations of red clover could 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, researchers found that treatment with red clover resulted in lower levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) , a protein found elevated in men with prostate cancer .

Heart disease

Several clinical trials have examined the effects of red clover on the development of cardiovascular risk factors in postmenopausal women , but there has been no conclusive evidence that it helps, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Note that due to a lack of long-term research, it is too early to recommend red clover for any medical condition. It is also important to note that self-medication for a disease and avoiding or delaying standard treatment can have serious consequences.

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Selection and preparation

Red clover is available in a variety of forms, including teas, tinctures, tablets, capsules, liquid extract, and extracts standardized for a specific isoflavone content. However, it is not always clear whether a product contains the promised isoflavone content.

One study found large differences between red clover foods in this regard, differences that can significantly affect the rate of absorption, permeability, and metabolism of various isoflavones in those foods .

Sometimes red clover is the only ingredient in food, but it is also often available mixed with other herbs. When using commercial products, carefully follow the directions on the package.

Red clover isoflavone extracts differ from the whole plant and, in fact, represent only a small, highly concentrated and probably biologically active part of the whole plant. As noted by the researcher in the study of the above-mentioned product, "The widespread use of self-administered isoflavones raises some concern as much remains to be proven, including efficacy and potential side effects."

Making red clover tea

You can also make tea from the dried flower heads. Some proponents argue that the whole flower should be used to reap the full benefits of red clover, rather than the commercial red clover isoflavones used in many studies.

To make tea, use one to three teaspoons of dried red clover flowers for every cup of boiling (not boiling) water. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Drink up to three cups of tea a day.

Possible side effects.

Pregnant or lactating women, as well as people with hormone-sensitive cancers that can be precipitated by phytoestrogens, should avoid red clover.

Interactions

Red clover thins the blood and can enhance the effects of anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents. Avoid taking it with blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) and stop taking it at least two weeks before your surgery.

The herb can also interact with birth control pills due to the hormonal action of its isoflavones.

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

If you plan to use red clover, check with your doctor first to avoid troublesome drug interactions with herbs.

Self-medication should not exceed three to six months without medical supervision.

Important Supplement Reminders

People often ask if nutritional supplements are safe. It is important to remember that the safety of supplements has not been tested and that nutritional supplements are largely unregulated. As noted above, in some cases, the product may deliver dosages that differ from the amount indicated for each herb. In other cases, it may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

When shopping for nutritional supplements, look for products that are certified by ConsumerLabs, USP, or NSF International. These organizations do not guarantee that the product is safe or effective, but indicate that it has been tested for quality.

Frequently asked questions

  • One option is a supplement called Promensil, a brand of isoflavones from Trifolium pratense designed to treat hot flashes . There is evidence that the standard dose of Promensil, 80 milligrams per day, is effective. According to a meta-analysis of four studies that compared Promensil to a placebo, the supplement reduced the number of hot flashes that menopausal women experience by 30-50%.

  • The standard daily doses of prairie clover are:

    • Capsules containing grated grass: 40 milligrams (mg) to 160 mg.
    • Red clover isoflavones: 28 to 85 mg
    • Tincture: 60 to 100 drops three times a day.
    • Liquid extract: 1 ml three times a day.
    • Standardized Red Clover Isoflavone Extracts: Varies; Follow the instructions for use
    • Local treatments: as needed.

  • As with other phytoestrogens, perhaps. However, in a review of studies that examined the effects of phytoestrogens in menopausal women, only those who had prediabetes , type 2 diabetes , hypertension (high blood pressure), or hyperlipidemia experienced moderate weight gain. A specific isoflavone called daidzein, found in red clover, has been linked to weight gain in women with these pre-existing conditions.

  • Herbalists often turn to red clover to help treat infertility, claiming that it can unblock scars on the fallopian tubes and help prepare a woman's body for nutrition during pregnancy . It is the main ingredient in a popular herbal fertility supplement called Fertilaid, but still, there has been little research showing that red clover is good for fertility in humans. Research in animals that graze on meadow clover has also shown that the plant is unlikely to affect fertility.

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