Red clover benefits and side effects

Know in one minute about red clover benefits

  • Red clover is a perennial herb and an excellent source of isoflavones like soy.
  • The flowers are purple and used as herbal tea.
  • Extract treats menopausal symptoms and viral and bacterial infections.
  • It decreases the frequency of hot flushes and night sweat in postmenopausal women.
  • Suppress age-associated bone loss by balancing calcium and phosphorus.
  • Lower cholesterol level, manage diabetes and enhance pain threshold. 
  • Treat depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disorder, and inflammatory diseases.
  • Prevent skin aging and improve hair and nails.
  • Improve gut, vaginal and sexual health.

Introduction

Red clover is used in the form of infusions (into water), decoctions (extraction by boiling), or tinctures (highly concentrated ) to treat a variety of diseases. It is used for different types of ailments. Based on various scientific research, red clover benefits and side effects are as follows.

  • Infusions of red clover:  Treat respiratory problems, such as whooping cough, asthma, and bronchitis.
  • Dry leaves and flower decoctions: Treat chest pain, malaria, chronic rheumatism, kidney problems, and bladder swelling.
  • Tinctures: Treat various women’s menopausal symptoms and viral and bacterial infections (1).

About the plant

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a perennial herb belonging to the family Fabaceae. The flowers contain more than 100 chemical substances rich in isoflavones like soy. It is a plant-based chemical that acts as a phytoestrogen and produces estrogen-like effects in the body. 

Contains isoflavones such as biochanin A, formononetin, ononin, and sisotrin.  Although, after ingestion this biochanin A and formononetin are metabolized to genistein and daidzein in the gut. 

It also contains tannins, flavonoids, essential oil, polysaccharides, saponins, phenolic acid, and salicylic acid.

Common name: Red clover, cow clover, meadow clover, wild clover

Geographical distribution: Red clover is a native plant of Europe, central Asia, and northern Africa.

What is red clover and how is it different from other clovers?

  • Red clover is a biennial or short-lived perennial plant that produces attractive, purple flowers.
  • It grows somewhat taller and produces larger seeds than other clovers.
  • All clover varieties provide many benefits like fixing nitrogen, preventing soil erosion and weed formation, and supplying forage needs.
  • Red clover is an excellent source of isoflavones which has many health benefits over other clovers.

Red clover Benefits

1. Relieve or treat Menopausal Symptoms 

Menopause is a natural process that develops in women in their late 40s. It involves a decrease in estrogen levels, particularly due to ovarian decline. The women who are under menopause transition show different complaints. These problems are osteoporosis (bone loss), heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

The estrogen depletion also causes vasomotor episodes (hot flashes and night sweats) and sleep disturbances.

The other issue includes urinary complaints, tiredness, and loss of libido. It also causes higher cholesterol levels, mood changes (depression and anxiety), hair, nail, skin, or mucosal status.

However, red clover contains phytoestrogen compounds that stimulate the production of hormones in the female body. It also decreases the severity and frequency of menopausal symptoms. Here we discuss the effect of red clover on these symptoms.

2. Treat hot flushes and night sweat 

Intake of red clover (80 mg/kg) may decrease the frequency of hot flashes, especially in women with severe hot flashes (2). Thus, red clover consumption for 3–4 months reduces hot flushes (up to 2 hot flushes per day) and night sweat in postmenopausal women (3, 4).

3. Lower cholesterol level

Ingestion of red clover extract decreases the ‘bad’ cholesterol level in the blood (5). It also increases the ‘good’ cholesterol level in peri and postmenopausal women with increased BMI. Therefore, red clover isoflavone treats abnormal lipid profiles in women (6).

4. Anti-aging properties

Red clover isoflavones prevent skin aging by increasing the thickness of the skin and the collagen content.

Thus, red clover can be used as a non-steroidal plant compound with estrogen-like biological activity, for skin aging treatment (7).

5. Improve skin, hair, and nails

Red clover isoflavones show estrogenic-like effects. It improves the hair scalp and the status of skin like skin elasticity, thickness, and hydration.  It also improves nail and body hair (less growth) in postmenopausal women (8).

6. Enhance pain threshold

Depletion of estrogens occurs in women during menopause. This estrogen deficiency can cause a reduction in the pain threshold (the body starts feeling pain).

Intake of red clover suppresses the pain and increases the pain threshold. Further study is required to know the exact mechanism of the phytoestrogen on pain (9).

7. Treat depression and anxiety symptoms 

Estrogen and testosterone deficiency may cause mood disorders in peri and postmenopausal women. Red clover isoflavones (80 mg) increase the estrogen and testosterone level.

It reduces the depressive and anxiety symptoms among postmenopausal women by improving hot flush. This plant shows a positive effect on mood and sleep (10).

8. Improve vaginal and sexual health

Endometrial hyperplasia is a condition in which the lining of the uterus (endometrium) becomes too thick. It is due to the growth of too many cells (hyperplasia) which may cause cancer (11).

However, intake of red clover reduces the endometrial thickness. It also decreases the rate of dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse). It also increases vaginal dryness and libido in postmenopausal women (12).

9. Anti-inflammatory properties

Red clover contains isoflavones and anthocyanins which act as an anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory agents (13).

These compounds reduce swelling, and oxidative stress and promote wound healing thus treating inflammatory diseases (14).

10. Reduce fatigue and improve gut health

Daily intake of red clover improves intestinal health by enhancing the good microbiota in the gut. It also treats physical fatigue by reduction of fatigue-related serum markers.

Thus, red clovers reduce tiredness after exercise and improve the gut health of female athletes (15).

11. Manage diabetes

Red clover contains a polysaccharide that acts as a natural antioxidant and glucose controlling agent. These agents remove harmful radicals from the body and lower the glucose level in the blood (16).

12. Improve bone health

During and after menopause, intense bone loss occurs in women. Red clover extract contains isoflavones that suppress age-associated bone loss and enhance calcium, and phosphorus content in bone. It also enhances bone formation rate thus preventing osteoporosis (17).

13. Treat cancer 

Red clover suppresses the growth of cancer cells and prevents their metastasis to the lung and brain. It also reduces the formation of harmful radicals, delays the formation of tumors, and increases apoptosis in the body (18). However, further study is needed to determine the safety of red clover in humans.

Side effects of red clover

Daily doses of red clover in the amount of 40–120 mg are considered to be safe, well-tolerated, and non-toxic (19).

A research study suggested that it is also safe for women when taken for three years without any side effects.  Moreover, red clover was found to be safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (20). However, it may cause some mild side effects like cold, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle and joint pain (21).

Other side effects are as follows 

1. Risk of excessive bleeding

Red clover is a natural source of phenolic compounds like coumarin (22). This compound inhibits platelet adhesion and causes bleeding inside the skull or brain (23). Thus, a person taking any medication like warfarin (anticoagulants) or having bleeding disorders should avoid red clover because it may cause bleeding. It may be due to the herb-food interactions (24).

2. Risk of herb-drug interaction

The person who is undertaking medication like methotrexate or other drugs that are metabolized by the liver should not take red clover. It may develop severe vomiting and epigastric pain (upper abdominal pain) (25). Red clover enhances the estrogenic effects thus precaution should be needed with the person taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (26)

Q&A

1. What are the benefits of red clover?

Red clover contains isoflavones that have estrogen-like effects on the body and treat menopausal symptoms in women. It treats hot flushes, night sweats, obesity, abnormal cholesterol level, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, diabetes, and other symptoms in menopausal women.

2. What are the health benefits of red clover tea?

Red clover is used in the form of herbal tea.  It contains antioxidants that remove harmful radicals from the body and boost the immune system.

3. What are the benefits of red clover tea?

Red clover tea is good for skin, hair, nails, bones, hearts, and guts. It improves mood by treating depression, anxiety, and tiredness. Moreover, it also mitigates many menopause symptoms and eases the transition.

4. What are red clover benefits good for?

Red clover can be used as an “estrogen substitute” for menopausal symptoms and the prevention of osteoporosis. It acts as a potent antioxidant and functional food ingredient that removes harmful radicals and is a great food supplement.

5. What are the benefits of the extract of red clover?

Red clover extract can be used in various forms of traditional medicine including Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and many more. It contains 40 mg of isoflavones per tablet, which is equivalent to the isoflavone content of one cup of soy milk and 5 cups of chickpeas (27).

This compound improves various symptoms of menopause such as preventing body weight gain and decreased fat weight. The extract also lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, boosts bone health, and removes harmful radicals from the body.

Furthermore, red clover extract reduces inflammation, treats fatigue, and improves mood and gut health (28).