Latin Name – Trifolium pratense
Red clover belongs to the family of plants called legumes. The flowering tops of the red clover plant are used to prepare extracts available in tablets and capsules, as well as in teas and liquid forms. Red clover contains phytoestrogens—compounds similar to the female hormone estrogen.
Historically, red clover has been used as an herbal remedy for respiratory problems, such as whooping cough, asthma, and bronchitis.
Currently red clover is used as an herbal remedy in the hope of improving menopausal symptoms, breast pain associated with menstrual cycles, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and symptoms of prostate enlargement.
Although several small studies of red clover for menopausal symptoms had mixed results, a large study found that red clover had no beneficial effects on menopausal symptoms.
There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether red clover is effective for any other health conditions.
Side Effects and Cautions Summary
- Because red clover contains estrogen-like compounds, there is a possibility that its long-term use would increase the risk of women developing cancer of the lining of the uterus. However, studies to date have been too brief (less than 6 months) to evaluate whether red clover has estrogen-like effects on the uterus.
- It is unclear whether red clover is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancers.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Red clover. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed on July 5, 2006.
- Red clover (Trifolium pratense). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on July 3, 2007.
- Fugh-Berman A, Kronenberg F. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) for menopausal women: current state of knowledge. Menopause. 2001;8(5):333–337.
- Tice JA, Ettinger B, Ensrud K, et al. Phytoestrogen supplements for the treatment of hot flashes: the Isoflavone Clover Extract (ICE) study. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2003;290(2):207–214.
- Red clover (Trifolium pratense). In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:587–602.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Red Clover fact sheet, Created June 2006, Updated June 2008