Alternative Medicine:Red Clover

by Kalynn Amadio

I can remember spending hours in the neighbor’s yard sorting through patches of clover looking for that one lucky four leaf variety. On two occasions I found such a specimen and still have one in my wallet today, 35 years later. While that clover might have brought a countless measure of luck, it’s the blossom that is considered lucky in alternative medicine. The red clover or trifolium pratense, is an herb that has compounds called isoflavones. Isoflavones are a form of estrogen.

Cancer

Isoflavones are currently being studied as a possible means of fighting cancer. Preliminary research shows that red clover might aid in prevention of cancer cell growth or kill the cells in lab test tubes. Because red clover’s isoflavones have an estrogen quality that is similar to human estrogen, it is possible that cancers fed by estrogen production would be aided to grow rather than diminished.

Because red clover contains estrogen-like compounds known as phytoestrogens, there is a possibility that its long-term use would increase the risk of women developing cancer of the lining of the uterus. Conversely, phytoestrogens may be responsible for the absence of cancer in people who eat a plant-based diet, because these plant-based estrogens lock on to certain cells, preventing the “real” human estrogens from over stimulating the body.

Since red clover contains estrogen-like compounds, it could change the behavior of hormone derived, prescribed medicines (birth control pills), and natural human hormones already at work in the body.

Research is not clear on the consumption of red clover phytoestrogens by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Nor is it certain if women with beast cancer or other hormone based cancers should make use of red clover supplements or teas. In the area of prostate health, studies are under way in treating prostate enlargement and cancer.

Red clover is currently being used to combat symptoms of early and peri-menopause, menstrual pain, prostate enlargement, osteoporosis and high cholesterol. The pink flowers of red clover are processed for extracts that can be put into capsule or tablet form. There are also recipes for red clover tea or liquid tinctures.

Isoflavones, Menopause and Osteoporosis

There are good reports on the use of isoflavones in treatment of several menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular health.

While red clover has yet to prove advantageous for fighting osteoporosis, it has shown promise in delaying osteoporosis in women who haven’t begun menopause. Menopause is a large factor in the development of osteoporosis or bone loss, in women.

Red clover is a source of many valuable nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Red clover is available in a variety of preparations, including teas, tinctures, tablets, capsules, liquid extract, and extracts standardized to specific isoflavone contents. Also called cow clover, bee-bread, and purple clover, red clover can be included as part of an alternative treatment of early cervical dysplasia.

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