Red clover is a legume, which like soy contains "phytoestrogens" (plant-based chemicals that are similar to estrogen, and may act in the body like estrogen or may actually block the effects of estrogen). Red clover was traditionally used to treat asthma, pertussis, cancer, and gout. In modern times, isoflavone extracts of red clover are most often used to treat menopausal symptoms, as an alternative hormone replacement therapy, for high cholesterol, or to prevent osteoporosis. However, at this time, there are no high-quality human studies supporting the use of red clover for any medical condition.
Ackerklee (German), beebread, cow clover, genistein, isoflavone, isoflavone clover extract (ICE), meadow clover, phytoestrogen, Promensil®, purple clover, Rimostil®, Rotklee (German), trefle des pres (French), trefoil, trifolium pratense, Trinovin®, wild clover.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Cardiovascular - blood flow
Red clover has been shown to improve the flow of blood through arteries and veins. However there is limited study in this area and more research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.
Red clover has been studied in patients with type 2 diabetes to determine potential benefits in diabetic complications such as high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries and veins.
Red clover has not been clearly shown to have beneficial effects on blood cholesterol levels. Due to conflicting study results, further research is needed in this area before a recommendation can be made.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Laboratory research suggests that red clover isoflavones have estrogen-like activity. However, there is no clear evidence that isoflavones share the possible benefits of estrogens (such as effects on bone density). In addition, hormone replacement therapy itself is a controversial topic, with recent research reporting that the potential harm may outweigh any benefits.
Red clover isoflavones are proposed to reduce symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes), and are popular for this use. Blood pressure and triglyceride levels may be lowered. However, most of the available human studies are poorly designed and short in duration (less than 12 weeks of treatment).
It is not clear if red clover isoflavones have beneficial effects on bone density. Most studies of isoflavones in this area have looked at soy, which contains different amounts of isoflavones, as well as other non-isoflavone ingredients. More research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Red clover isoflavones may have estrogen-like properties in the body, and have been proposed as a possible therapy in prostate cancer and related hot flashes. Some isoflavones have also been shown in laboratory studies to have anti-cancer properties. Because there is no-well designed human research in this area, a recommendation cannot be made.
Prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hypertrophy)
There is only limited study of red clover for benign prostatic hypertrophy. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.