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Red Clover: Rich in Helpful Isoflavones

Red clover is known as an alterative agent—in other words, one that produces gradual beneficial changes in the body, usually by improving nutrition. It is a traditional remedy for psoriasis and eczema, although the mechanism of action and constituents responsible for its purported benefit in skin conditions are unknown.

Red clover contains high amounts of isoflavones, which have weak estrogen-like actions. Modern research has focused on a red clover extract high in isoflavones as a possible treatment for symptoms associated with menopause and cardiovascular health in menopausal women. Although the isoflavones in red clover may help prevent certain forms of cancer (for example, breast and prostate), further research is needed before red clover can be recommended for cancer patients.

Parts used and where grown
This plant grows in Europe and North America. The flowering tops are used in botanical medicine. Another plant, white clover, grows in similar areas. Both have white arrow-shaped patterns on their leaves.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western folk medicine used this plant as a diuretic, a cough expectorant (an agent that promotes discharge of mucus from the respiratory passages), and an alterative. Alterative plants were considered beneficial for chronic conditions, particularly those afflicting the skin.

Active constituents
Modern research has revealed that red clover contains high amounts of isoflavones, such as genistein, which have weak estrogen-like properties. In a double-blind study, administration of 80 mg of isoflavones per day from red clover reduced the frequency of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. The benefit was noticeable after 4 weeks of treatment and became more pronounced after a total of 12 weeks. Another double-blind trial found that red clover improved cardiovascular function in menopausal women. Various laboratory studies and one case report of a man with prostate cancer suggest red clover isoflavones may help prevent cancer. In another case study, use of red clover by a man with prostate cancer led to noticeable anticancer effects in his prostate after the cancer was surgically removed

How much is usually taken?
Traditionally, red clover is taken as a tea, by adding 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water to 2 to 3 teaspoons (10 to 15 grams) of dried flowers and steeping, covered, for ten to fifteen minutes. Three cups (750 ml) can be drunk each day. Red clover can also be used in capsule or tablet form, equivalent to 2 to 4 grams of the dried flowers. Also, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon (2 to 4 ml) of tincture three times per day may be taken. Standardized extracts providing 40 mg isoflavones per day are available as well.

Are there any side effects or interactions?
Nonfermented red clover is relatively safe. However, fermented red clover may cause bleeding and should be avoided. Red clover supplements should be avoided by pregnant or breast-feeding women and their safety has not been established in young children and infants.

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