Red Clover

There are many different clover varieties, the most common being white, red, and crimson. Today, I want to talk about Red Clover, Trifolium pratense. It is most commonly known as a foraging crop for livestock and in gardening, as it fixes nitrogen in the soil. But you know, if I am doing a post on it, this lady has so much more to offer than feeding animals and suppressing weeds.

Red Clover has been used extensively over the centuries as a blood cleanser, but it also helps with chronic constipation, skin ailments, degenerative diseases, and bronchitis. It can also balance hormone levels during menopause…which means it helps with those hot flashes and night sweats! But that isn’t all! Red Clover can also improve bone mineral density and lowers the risk for osteoporosis and other heart-related problems like high cholesterol and high blood pressure!

The name “Trifolium” means three leaves.

Lore has it that St. Patrick used Clover to explain the Trinity to pagans.

The Irish national flower, the shamrock, means “small clover,” though it’s really an Oxalis.

Backyard Medicine, Second Edition, page. 155

Welcome to a rabbit trail. Don’t worry. We won’t go too far off track: Oxalis is a genus in the Oxalidaceae family that includes wood sorrel. They are extremely similar to clover, but they are also edible, so no worries. You do want to limit ingestion of them, though, because oxalic acid can cause stomach upset if you aren’t acclimated to consuming it. Oxalates are deemed poisonous in large quantities, and they can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb calcium. I have even seen it called an antinutrient. You won’t drop dead if you accidentally eat a few, though, and as I said, they are edible if you get them mixed up. But it’s better to get the identity right before consuming, as with all plants. Not all look-alikes are so forgiving.

Please feel free to do your own research on this lovely little plant and enjoy a few pictures of Oxalis from my yard. I learned to not fight it, and now just let it grow in my raised beds as a cover crop in its own right. But this post is about Clover, so let’s move on.

Pink Wood Sorrel, aka Oxalis articulata
Yellow Wood Sorrel, aka Oxalis stricta

Red Clover is an abundant perennial plant with pink to purple egg-shaped flower heads and grows to about 16 inches tall. The stem is hairy and upright with 3 (rarely 4) oval leaflets with a white crescent, or chevron, marking. It likes to grow in grasslands and roadways, but as always, don’t harvest plants on the side of busy roads and highways.

Heavy metals and toxins released by vehicle emissions are absorbed into the plants that grow in the immediate vicinity. You don’t want to ingest that mess.

Red Clover is native to Europe and Asia but naturalized in North America and Australia. It is widely cultivated for hay and as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop between crop planting.

Red Clover contains:

  • Benzyl alcohol
  • Methyl salicylate
  • Isoflavones
  • Coumarins
  • Cyanogenic glycosides

The isoflavones are marketed today as a treatment for menopause, but a simple infusion drank daily is much cheaper and just as, if not more, effective, especially if you harvest it yourself.

Flower heads and upper leaves are collected in early summer for fresh use and drying for later use.

White Clover, Trifolium repens, has medicinal uses similar to Red Clover.

Crimson Clover or Italian Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) growing in the field for cattle food.

The name Trifolium incarnatum basically means “blood red 3-leaf.” It lacks the medicinal benefits of Red Clover but still makes a lovely tea and can be used in smoking blends. It still fixes nitrogen, so the ground it is found growing on is more than likely great for leafy gardens that require lots of Nitrogen. They prefer near-neutral Ph soil to grow in.

If you are like me, and Crimson Clover is what grows around you most, check out this site for more information. Also, Foraging Texas is always great. Merriweather is the best, in my humble opinion.

Clover is beloved by honey bees, and you can commonly find hives in fields of clover for commercial honey harvesting. I know you have seen Clover Honey on the shelves at your local grocery store. The field pictured below is actually at the end of my driveway, although Crimson Clover is what mostly grows here. They love it all.

This is not my land, but in the family, and these are not our hives, but omg, how cute are they? It looks like Easter if you ask me.

Local beehives. The reddish patches toward the back are Crimson Clover flowers.

Clover leaves, as well as the flowers, can be eaten raw in salads, and the dried flowers have been known to blend well with coltsfoot as a tobacco alternative, whether smoked or used as snuff.

I’m sure most of you have gone hunting for four-leaf clovers at some point in your life. Traditionally, the three leaves symbolize Faith, Hope, and Love. The fourth leaf, found on rare occasions, is said to symbolize God’s grace, which today people usually call ‘luck.’ But using Red Clover herbally will bring more ‘luck’ than simply finding a four-leaf clover and hoarding it. Clover gently removes toxins from the body and increases the flow of urine. It also aids in moving mucus from the lungs as well as the oral and nasal passages, increases the flow of bile to aid digestion, and is a gentle laxative.

For tumors to grow, they need blood supply, and they send out biochemical signals that coax the body into growing blood vessels right into them, a process called angiogenesis.
…one compound with an anti-angiogenic effect is genistein, a constituent of Red Clover.

The Green Pharmacy, by James A. Duke, pg. 399

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Many blessings,
Emma Lee Joy


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