The Pros and Cons of Red Clover

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.


Current studies are showing that isoflavones like those in red clover, may aid in prevention of cancer cells forming and may even kill cancer cells in laboratory tests. But red clover has estrogen-like effects that could aid in the expansion of certain estrogen hungry cancers in the same way that human estrogen can.

Phytoestrogens are the estrogen-like compounds contained in red clover. Estrogen can overstimulate the body and cause certain cancers like uterine cancer that develops in the lining of the uterus. Long term use of herbs with phytoestrogens then could contribute to cancer, but there is also contrary evidence to this. People who consume a mostly plant-based diet, like vegetarians or vegans, have a greater absence of notable cancers. Researchers believe that phytoestrogen links with certain cells in the body thus preventing human estrogen from combing with those cells and stimulating the production of cancerous cells.

Red clover may alter the effects of any drugs containing hormones or derivatives of hormones like birth control pills for hormone replacement therapy, as well as the levels of natural hormones 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

Isoflavones have shown potential in the treatment of a number of conditions associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, cardiovascular health, and osteoporosis.

There is not enough reliable scientific evidence to recommend red clover for osteoporosis. Menopause increases a woman’s risk for developing osteoporosis (significant bone loss). Taking red clover has been shown to help delay osteoporosis in women who have not hit that stage of life.

Red clover can be a source of several nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, niacin and calcium to name a few. It is currently available in several ways as a liquid extract, tea or tincture, and capsule or tablet. Red clover is also known as bee-bread, purple clover or cow clover and is used as an alternative medicine therapy for the treatment of the early stages of cervical dysplasia.