Generic Name: red clover

Brand and Other Names: beebread, cow clover, meadow clover, purple clover, trefle des pres, trefoil, trifolium pratense, wild clover, Promensil

Drug Class: Herbals

What is red clover, and what is it used for?

Red clover is a wild, perennial flowering herb (Trifolium pratense) of the legume family. Red clover grows wild in the meadows of Asia and Europe, and has become naturalized in North America. Red clover has been used as a medicinal herb in the treatment of many conditions including menopausal symptoms, respiratory conditions, cancer prevention, indigestion, and skin inflammations.

Red clover contains phytoestrogens known as isoflavones, which have properties like human estrogen, although weaker. The isoflavones are believed to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and breast pain (mastalgia), and protect against menopause-associated heart disease and bone loss (osteoporosis). Limited trials of red clover use in menopausal women, however, show conflicting results on its efficacy.

Red clover is also believed to act like a diuretic that gets rid of excess fluid in the body, which works like an expectorant to remove mucous secretions from the lungs, and helps cleanse the liver. Red clover may also have blood-thinning properties that help reduce clot formation and improve blood circulation. There is, however, little research to establish the safety and efficacy of any of the uses of red clover.

Red clover is also a source of many trace minerals and nutrients including calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, thiamine, niacin, and vitamin C. Red clover dried flowers are used to make tea and it is also available in many oral formulations including tablets, capsules, tinctures, liquid extracts, and standardized red clover isoflavone extracts. Red clover may also be used topically as liquid extracts or ointments.

Suggested uses of red clover include:

Oral

Topical

Warnings

  • Do not take red clover if you are taking blood thinning medications, it may enhance their effect, increasing the risk of bleeding.
  • Do not take red clover if you have a bleeding disorder. Stop taking red clover at least 2 weeks before surgery.
  • Red clover may slow down the breakdown of drugs that are metabolized by the liver and increase their effects.
  • Avoid red clover during pregnancy and lactation because of its estrogen-like effects.
  • Do not take red clover supplements if you have any estrogen-sensitive condition including uterine fibroids, endometriosis, uterine, ovarian or breast cancer.
  • Some studies found that red clover inhibits the growth of normal prostate cells and increases resistance of prostate cancer cells to high-dose radiation treatment.
  • There were reports of bleeding and hematoma between the membrane layers that protect the brain and spine (subdural and subarachnoid), in two women who were taking herbal supplements containing red clover for a prolonged period. The women had no other risk factors for bleeding and symptoms resolved after stopping the supplements.

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What are the side effects of red clover?

Common side effects of red clover include:

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.

Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What are the dosages of red clover?

Typical dosing guideline

Standardized commercially prepared isoflavones

  • 40-80 mg/day

Flower Tops

  • 4 g orally three times daily

Tea

  • 1 cup orally three times daily; 4 g flower tops/150 ml water

Liquid Extract

  • 1.5-3 ml orally three times daily; 1:1 in 25% alcohol

Tincture

  • 1-2 ml orally three times daily; 1:10 in 45% alcohol

Topical

  • Dosage varies

Hot Flashes

  • Isoflavones extract: 40-160 mg/day orally

Cystic Mastalgia

  • Isoflavones: 40-80 mg/day

Osteoporosis

  • Specific extract (Promensil): 40 mg/day

Overdose

  • Propolis is considered to be nontoxic and there are no reports of human overdose.
  • In case of an allergic reaction, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.

What drugs interact with red clover?

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • Red clover has no known severe interactions with other drugs.
  • Red clover has no known serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Moderate interactions of red clover include:
  • Mild interactions of red clover include:

The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • Small amounts of red clover in food may be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Red clover has phytoestrogens which can act like human estrogen. There isn’t enough reliable information on the safety of red clover use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Avoid use.

What else should I know about red clover?

  • Small amounts of red clover consumed in food is generally safe for most people. 
  • Natural products are not always necessarily safe, check with your healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplement including red clover.
  • Always check labels of herbal supplements for the ingredients they contain.
  • Red clover is marketed as an herbal supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. There may be discrepancy between the labeling and the actual ingredients and their amounts. Choose your product carefully.

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Summary

Red clover is a wild, perennial flowering herb (Trifolium pratense) that contains phytoestrogens known as isoflavones, which have properties like human estrogen. Red clover is used to treat symptoms of menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), breast pain (mastalgia), osteoporosis, indigestion, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, cancer prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, burns, skin sores, skin diseases (eczema, psoriasis), and sore eyes. Common side effects of red clover include muscle aches, headache, nausea, vaginal bleeding or spotting, rash, and estrogen-like effects (breast tenderness, irregular menstrual periods, decreased libido, mood changes, bloating, weight gain).

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Medically Reviewed on 6/20/2022
References
REFERENCES:

United States. RXList.com. Sept. 3, 2021. "Red Clover." https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_red_clover/drugs-condition.htm

United States. MedScape. June 20, 2022. "Red Clover (Herb/Suppl)." https://reference.medscape.com/drug/beebread-cow-clover-red-clover-344581#0

United States. Wolters Kluwer. UptoDate.com. April 27, 2020. "Menopausal hot flashes." https://www.uptodate.com/contents/menopausal-hot-flashes

United States. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Feb. 10, 2022. "Red Clover." https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/red-clover

United States. WebMD.com. June 20, 2022. "Red Clover - Uses, Side Effects, and More." https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-308/red-clover

United States. National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Oct. 2020. "Red Clover." https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/red-clover

United States. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. June 20, 2022. "Red Clover." https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/red-clover