Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

background

Red clover is a legume. Like soy, it contains chemicals that are called "phytoestrogens," which may act like estrogen in the body. Red clover has traditionally been used for asthma, whooping cough, cancer, and gout. In modern times, red clover extracts are used for symptoms of menopause, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis.
Aside from breast pain, there is a lack of high-quality evidence to support the use of red clover for most conditions. Although red clover has often been used to treat menopause symptoms, available human research has generally been unsupportive. Some studies suggest that red clover may lack cognitive effects in postmenopausal women. More information is needed.

Related Terms

Ackerklee (German), apigenin, beebread, biochanin A, biokain A, clovamides, clover Trifolium spp., coumarin, coumestrol, cow clover, daidzein, equol, Estro-Logic®, Fabaceae (family), flavonoids, formononetin, genistein, glycitein, isoflavone, isoflavone clover extract (ICE), Lipolysar Long Action®, luteolin, meadow clover, Menoflavon®, MF11RCE, O-desmethylangolensin, O-DMA, P-07, P081, phenolic acids, phytoestrogen, Promensil®, purple clover, raloxifene, Rimostil®, Rotklee (German), saponins, trèfle des prés (French), trefoil, Trifolium pratense, Trinovin®, wild clover.

evidence table

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.
 
Breast pain (Grade: B)
Red clover has been studied as a possible treatment for breast pain. Early research suggests that red clover may decrease breast pain and promote higher treatment response. Although promising, more high-quality research is needed in this area.
Cancer (Grade: C)
Red clover contains estrogen-like chemicals called isoflavones. These chemicals may have anticancer effects and have been studied for prostate and breast cancer. However, convincing human evidence is lacking. Red clover may lack effect on colorectal cancer, but higher isoflavone intake has been linked to lower risk of endometrial cancer. More research is needed in this area.
Cardiovascular - blood flow (Grade: C)
Red clover has been shown to improve the flow of blood through arteries and veins. Isoflavone treatment may also lower blood pressure, although findings are conflicting. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Diabetes (Grade: C)
Red clover has been studied for its possible effects on insulin resistance in healthy postmenopausal women. It has also been studied for complications of type 2 diabetes, including high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries and veins. Early findings suggest that red clover may lack effect. Further high-quality research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Enlarged prostate (Grade: C)
Evidence is lacking in support of the use of red clover for enlarged prostate. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Hair loss (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that a combination treatment in which red clover flower extract is applied to the skin may benefit people with hair loss. Although promising, further study is needed in this area to confirm early findings and to determine the effects of red clover alone.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (Grade: C)
High-quality evidence is lacking in support of the use of red clover as an alternative to standard hormone replacement therapy. Evidence that isoflavones have similar benefits to those suggested for estrogen, including lower heart disease risk and cholesterol improvement, is also lacking. More research is needed in this field.
Hyperhomocysteinemia (high homocysteine levels) (Grade: C)
Homocysteine is an amino acid that may indicate heart health problems when found in high levels. Early research in healthy women found a lack of effect of red clover on homocysteine and folate levels. However, there is a lack of evidence in this area and further high-quality study is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Lipid lowering effects (Grade: C)
Red clover has been studied for possible effects on levels of low-density lipoprotein ("bad") and high-density lipoprotein ("good") cholesterol. However, there is a lack of strong evidence to support its use for this purpose. Early research suggests that red clover may lack effect on lipid profile, although results are conflicting. Some studies have found soy protein to be superior to red clover for lipid lowering effects. More research is needed.
Osteoporosis prevention (Grade: C)
It is unclear what effects red clover may have on bone loss. Most studies have looked at soy products, which have a higher concentration of isoflavones than red clover. Evidence is lacking on the use of red clover as a treatment for osteoporosis.
Uterine complaints (Grade: C)
Early research in healthy women about to undergo menopause suggests that red clover may lack effect on excessive cell growth in the uterus lining. However, strong evidence is lacking and more high-quality research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.
Menopause (Grade: D)
Red clover isoflavones have been proposed as a treatment for menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. Overall, evidence suggests a lack of benefit in spite of some positive results. Estrogen-like supplements have been studied in breast cancer survivors, but lack effect on quality of life, fatigue, and hormone-related symptoms. Red clover has been compared to black cohosh for the treatment of menopause symptoms, with inconclusive results. More research is needed in this area.
Cognitive function (Grade: F)
Evidence suggests that isoflavones may lack major short-term effects on cognitive function in postmenopausal women. More high-quality studies are needed to determine the effect, if any, in this population.