Does Red Clover Contain Estrogen? Is It Safe To Use?

Medically reviewed by Vd. Babita Sharma, Ayurveda Physician
by Swathi Handoo

Red clover is a reserve of protein and unique phytochemicals. The plant has beautiful pink-red flowers, and bright green, delicate leaves. The flowers were used by folk medicine practitioners to treat hot flashes and menopausal symptoms in women.

Further research led to the discovery of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and blood purifying effects. But modern-day experiments show no significant effects of red clover on human health and wellness.

What decides the fate of this herb? Is it safe for use for your health? Scroll down to uncover the mystery of red clover.

What Is Red Clover? What Is It Known For?

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Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is a member of the family of beans and peas, known as Fabaceae/Leguminosae. The unique pink-red flower heads are characteristic to this plant (1).

This clover variety is excellent fodder for animals, livestock, and poultry. It has highly digestible protein content and net energy value (2).

For centuries, the clover plant has been used to manage asthma, whooping cough, and gout. Traditional medicine uses semi-purified leaf extracts of this plant to address menopausal disturbances in women (1), (3).

A few of these benefits are attributed to the presence of isoflavones in red clover. Isoflavones are also called phytoestrogens because of the structural similarity they share with the estrogen in our body (3).

Phytoestrogens usually tend to interfere with the activity of estrogen. They may act as agonists or antagonists to this hormone, depending on their level in the body. Hence, red clover and its supplements are sold as a women’s health aid (3) (4).

How effective is this herbal medicine? Is it safe to have red clover supplements? Find answers to these questions in the sections below. Start scrolling!

How Does Red Clover Benefit Your Health?

Red clover may reduce menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. Its extracts may affect cardiovascular and bone health.

1. May Reduce Hot Flashes

Red clover extracts are marketed as a cure for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. A few clinical studies showed a reduction in the frequency of hot flashes, more so in women with high severity (<5 per day) (4), (5).

A study reported that consuming this herbal supplement for 12 weeks had a positive effect on treated menopausal women. Its isoflavones reduced their levels of stress and anxiety (4).

However, a bigger volume of research claims there is no significant effect of red clover on hot flashes (4), (6).

2. May Suppress Asthma And COPD

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Red clover tea or tincture is used to manage whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis, and tuberculosis. The active molecules responsible for these effects include formononetin, biochanin A, daidzein, and genistein. All of these are isoflavones present in red clover and soy (7).

Formononetin and biochanin A are present in a higher proportion in this plant. Biochanin A reduces the levels of inflammatory cells and chemicals. In animal models for asthma, this isoflavone relaxes the tracheal muscles and brings down inflammation (7).

But prolonged use of red clover showed a few side effects, according to recent research. The patients in these studies complained of nausea, headache, and gastrointestinal discomfort (7).

3. May Improve Quality Of Life In Women

One of the symptoms women face during menopause is hair loss. Hair becomes weaker, and the scalp may lose the proliferating hair follicles, all at once. The hormonal changes during this phase also affect your skin texture (8).

Plants like red clover and soybean are rich in phytoestrogens. These molecules may take up the role of estrogen in your body, especially when one is deficient in the latter (8).

Using red clover supplements could improve the health of skin, hair, and nails. They may also enhance libido and sleep in post-menopausal women. This herbal extract may also keep fatigue, mood swings, and anxiety under check (8).

4. May Slow Cancer Progression

Red clover contains isoflavones like genistein, daidzein, and biochanin A. Contrary to the belief, these molecules may not enhance the risk of breast cancer. In fact, they act as weak estrogen agonists and protect you from such cancers (6).

The isoflavones suppress the production of enzymes like cyclooxygenase (COX). The COX enzymes are responsible for flaring up inflammation and cell damage. Hence, having red clover, beans, and legumes can manage the spread and severity of cancer (9).

Also, there is enough evidence showing lower rates of breast, prostate, gastrointestinal, and urinary tract cancers in people consuming isoflavone-rich foods (9).

5. Maintains Your Skin

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Red clover has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Native Americans used it to cure external skin infections. This plant has healed athlete’s foot, burns, sores, and ulcers effectively (10).

Estrogen has a direct impact on your skin. It increases the collagen content and improves the skin’s moisture-holding capacity. Higher collagen levels make your skin look plump and young (11).

Since menopause causes an imbalance in estrogen levels, your skin may look dull, dry, and wrinkly. In such cases, red clover phytoestrogens help, to an extent, repair and rejuvenate your skin cells (11).

6. Purifies Blood And Improves Circulation

Native Americans used an infusion or tea with red clover blooms/flowers as a blood purifier. Tocopherol, the active ingredient in these flowers, possesses the necessary antioxidant potential (12).

It improves circulation and relaxes stiff muscles. You can brew a tea with red clover, burdock roots, prickly ash, and sassafrass and drink it to detox your body.

But beware! Having red clover tea with these herbs can have certain side effects (13).

7. May Manage Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

One of the prevalent conditions in women is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Obesity, inflammation, and free radicals worsen PCOS in obese/overweight women.

Foods/supplements rich in phytoestrogens prevent/control several metabolic disorders. These molecules eliminate free radicals in your body and purify your blood (14).

Red clover may have progesterone-like compounds in its extracts. Along with phytoestrogens, these chemicals aid in treating complex conditions like endometriosis and fibroids (14), (15), (16).

With further research, such plants could be used in hormone replacement therapy. They can substitute the current estrogen and progesterone regime, provided they have no side effects (16).

Most of the benefits of red clover could be attributed to the presence of isoflavones. Many other biochemical components participate in these activities. Know more about them below.

Trivia

  • Red clover forage is actually a good animal feed. Often, cattle rearers let the herds chew on these plants. It is also widely grown and harvested to be used as hay and fodder (1). In a few studies, the isoflavones in this plant increased the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and reduced triglyceride levels in volunteers (17).
  • These lipid-lowering effects may aid better management of body weight, in both men and women. They may also protect you from cardiovascular diseases. However, a large number of studies do not report any change in cholesterol levels in animals and humans (17).

What Are The Chemical Components In Red Clover?

Scientists have identified about 22 compounds that make up >36% of the red clover plant. These include isoflavones, pterocarpans, flavonoids, and coumarins (18).

Isoflavones include: daidzein, genistein, formononetin, pratensein, irilone, biochanin A, prunetin, and calycosin.

Flavonoids are: fisetin, naringenin, quercetin, kaempferol.

Coumarins include: scopoletin, fraxidin, xanthotoxol, coumestrol, daphnoretin.

These components, together, exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects on your body.

But is it safe to add this isoflavone-rich plant to your diet? Scroll down to know more.

Is It Safe To Have Red Clover?

No serious side effects of consuming red clover have been reported in research studies. However, it may not be safe for women who are pregnant or lactating (1), (4).

Children or women who have breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancers should be mindful about the dosage (1).

Moreover, red clover has not been clearly shown to be helpful for any health condition. Research is ongoing as current data stands insufficient (1).

Despite these facts, if you wish to try red clover, how do you do it? Should you eat it raw or use its extract externally?

How To Take Red Clover

The easiest way to consume red clover would be through its supplements. You can find red clover extracts in the form of capsules. Buy them here.

Another preferred way is to brew its tea. You get ready-to-use tea bags on the market. Or check them out here.

If you don’t wish to use the tea bags, here’s how you can make red clover tea at home.

DIY: How To Make Red Clover Tea

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What You Need
  • Red clover blossoms: 3 teaspoons, dried
  • Filtered water: 2 cups
  • Teapot: small-medium sized
Let’s Make It!
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a stainless steel pot.
  2. Add the blossoms to the pot and leave them to simmer for 2-5 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat.
  4. Allow the mixture to steep for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Strain the mixture into serving cups.
  6. Serve hot or warm.

You can add herbs like burdock root, evening primrose, or chamomile to this blend.

How much of red clover can you consume?

What Is The Recommended Dose Of Red Clover?

With current research findings and data, it is difficult to establish a safe dose range for red clover across age groups. In fact, there is no recommended dose established yet.

However, many clinical trials suggest that daily doses of 80–120 mg of isoflavones, in general, have the most significant effect on subjects. This dose range showed almost no toxicity in them.

Hence, if you are using/wish to use red clover supplements, take a dose equivalent to this range. Your healthcare provider would be the right person to set the best dose for you.

In Summary

Red clover is a perennial, short-lived plant native to Europe, Central Asia, and northern Africa. Its pink-red flower heads have been used in traditional medicine to treat/manage cough, menopausal symptoms, and cancer (10).

However, a large body of scientific evidence claims that red clover has no promising effect on human health. The safety of this herb is still debatable. So, talk to your doctor about it. Check out its supplements or the herbal tea recipe we’ve shared. See how any of them work for you.

You can drop your queries, suggestions, or feedback in the box below.

18 sources

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Swathi Handoo

Swathi holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and has worked in places where actual science and research happen. Blending her love for writing with science, Swathi writes for Health and Wellness and simplifies complex topics for readers from all walks of life.And on the days she doesn’t write, she learns and performs Kathak, sings Carnatic music compositions, makes plans to travel, and obsesses over cleanliness.
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