Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Common in fields, roadsides, gardens, lawns, and meadows throughout North America, red clover is a small herbaceous and short lived plant originally from Europe, Northwestern Africa, and Western Asia. It has alternate leaflets that grow in threes, often with pale markings resembling chevrons, and purple to magenta flowers that grow in a dense ball. Red clover is a legume and a nitrogen-fixer, so companion planting it in your garden will increase soil fertility and health. It can grow in a range of different soils except sandy or gravel soils and does best in full sun. The seeds should be sown in the spring, and the flowers are harvested when the flowers are in full bloom, typically late summer or early fall, and dried for storage.

Medicinal Uses
Red clover is an alterative, expectorant, and anti-spasmodic. Red clover has shown to affect estrogen receptors in some studies, so it is often not recommended for people with cancers, fibroids, or other conditions of the female reproductive systems. However, other studies have shown the high isoflavones can benefit those conditions, especially for women with breast cancer. Red clover is an ingredient in Essiac Tea, also consisting of burdock root, slippery elm bark, rhubarb root, watercress, sheep sorrel, blessed thistle, and kelp, which is used to holistically treat and prevent cancers. The flowers are usually dried to be used as an infusion, as they are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. Red clover honey is also known to have skin detoxifying properties, and goes well in a tea of nettles, yellow dock, and red clover for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. It can also be used in salves to heal minor cuts and burns, and is great for sensitive individuals and children. As a expectorant, it is useful for coughs and bronchitis, most notably for whooping cough.

Folk Uses
Red clover has been an important agricultural crop for thousands of years, and been a religious symbol of the Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Celts of pre-Christian Ireland. During the middle ages, red clover was considered a charm against witchcraft, and a clover with four leaves was considered the ultimate luck charm, symbolizing health, wealth, fame, and true love. The leaves can be eaten fresh in a salad, and the flowers can be battered and fried (really, what can’t be battered and fried, though). It produces a mild, sweet flavor in teas. Both Traditional Chinese and Russian folk healers recommended it as an expectorant useful for asthma. Early American healers used the herb for soothing whooping cough, bronchitis, and tuberculosis.

An infusion of 1-3 teaspoons dried herb per cup of water, steeped for 10-15 minutes, drunk three times a day, or a tincture of 2-6ml three times daily.

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Close up of the flower head of Red Clover.

Close up of the flower head of Red Clover.