Red Clover

By Zampel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Trifolium pratenseRed Clover

Family: Papilionaceae or Fabaceae

Other names: Cleaver Grass, Marl Grass, Cow Grass, Trefoil, Purple Clover, Wild Clover,

Habitat: Widely distributed throughout Europe including Britain, naturalized in N. America and many other parts of the world. Meadows, pastures and other grassy places, especially on calcareous soils. Usually found on circumneutral soils.


Red Clover Side Effects only occur in diseased clover, even if no symptoms of disease are visible, can contain toxic alkaloids.

Red clover is safe and effective medicinal herb with a long history of medicinal usage. It is commonly used to treat skin conditions, normally in combination with other purifying herbs such as Arctium lappa and Rumex crispus. It is a folk remedy for cancer of the breast, a concentrated decoction being applied to the site of the tumour in order to encourage it to grow outwards and clear the body. Flavonoids in the flowers and leaves are oestrogenic and make Red Clover  a specific for the menopause and may be of benefit in the treatment of all menopausal complaints such as hot flushes. The flowering heads are alterative, antiscrofulous, antispasmodic, aperient, detergent, diuretic, expectorant, sedative and tonic. It has also shown anticancer activity, poultices of the herb have been used as local applications to cancerous growths. Internally, the plant is used in the treatment of skin complaints (especially eczema and psoriasis), cancers of the breast, ovaries and lymphatic system, chronic degenerative diseases, gout, whooping cough and dry coughs. The plant is normally harvested for use as it comes into flower and some reports say that only the flowers are used. The toxic indolizidine alkaloid ‘slaframine’ is often found in diseased clover (even if the clover shows no external symptoms of disease). This alkaloid is being studied for its antidiabetic and anti-AIDS activity.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Red Clover:

Trifolium pratense; Red Clover is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in) at a medium rate. 
It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera. It can fix Nitrogen. 
It is noted for attracting wildlife. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. Needs full sun. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Cultivation of Red Clover:

Succeeds in a moist, well-drained circum-neutral soil in full sun. Prefers a medium-heavy loam. A short-lived perennial. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -23°c. A very important food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species. It is also a good bee plant, but not so valuable as the white clover, T. repens. It grows well in an apple orchard, the trees will produce tastier fruit that stores better. It should not be grown with camellias or gooseberries because it harbours a mite that can cause fruit drop in the gooseberries and premature budding in the camellias. Very polymorphic, there are many subspecies and varieties. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Buttercups growing nearby depress the growth of the nitrogen bacteria by means of a root exudate.

Propagation of Red Clover:

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. If the seed is in short supply it might be better to sow it in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring. Division in spring.

Collection: The flower heads are gathered between May and September.

Culinary uses of Red Clover:

Edible Parts: Flowers,  Leaves,  Root,  Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment,  Tea.

Leaves and young flowering heads – raw or cooked. The young leaves are harvested before the plant comes into flower, and are used in salads, soups etc. On their own they can be used as a vegetable, cooked like spinach.The leaves are best cooked. They can be dried, powdered and sprinkled on foods such as boiled rice. The leaves contain 81% water, 4% protein, 0.7% fat, 2.6% fibre and 2% ash. The seed can be sprouted and used in salads. A crisp texture and more robust flavour than alfalfa (Medicago sativa). The seeds are reported as containing trypsin inhibitors. These can interfere with certain enzymes that help in the digestion of proteins, but are normally destroyed if the seed is sprouted first. Flowers and seed pods – dried, ground into a powder and used as a flour. The young flowers can also be eaten raw in salads. Root – cooked. A delicate sweet herb tea is made from the fresh or dried flowers. The dried leaves impart a vanilla flavour to cakes etc.


Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.

Leaves (Fresh weight)

  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 81%
  • Protein: 4g; Fat: 0.7g; Carbohydrate: 0g; Fibre: 2.6g; Ash: 2g;
  • Minerals – Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins – A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
Red_Clover,Trifolium_PratenseMedicinal uses of Red Clover:

Actions: Alterative, expectorant, anti-spasmodic.

Part Used: Flowerheads.

Indications: Red Clover uses include it being one of the most useful remedies for children with skin problems. It may be used with complete safety in any case of childhood eczema. It may also be of value in other chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis. Whilst being most useful with children it can also be of value for adults. The expectorant and anti-spasmodic action give this remedy a role in the treatment of coughs and bronchitis, but especially in whooping cough. As an alterative it is indicated in a wide range of problems when approached in a holistic sense. There is some evidence to suggest and anti-neoplastic action in animals.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “mild, stimulating and relaxing alterative with a special affinity for the throat and salivary glands. Especially indicated for debilitated children with chronic bronchial or throat conditions.” They give the following specific indications: Salivary gland congestionSpasmodic or croupy coughsPertussis.Pharyngeal inflammationChronic skin eruptions.

Ellingwood recommends it for the following patholgies: irritable conditions of the larynxwhooping cough, the cough of measles.

Preparations & Dosage:

Red Clover Tea or Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 2-6 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: For skin problems it combines well with Yellow Dock and Nettles.

Other uses of Red Clover:

Dye,  Green manure,  Miscellany,  Soil reclamation.

A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers. The plant makes a good green manure, it is useful for over-wintering, especially in a mixture with Lolium perenne. Deep rooting, it produces a good bulk. It is a host to ‘clover rot’ however, so should not be used too frequently. It can be undersown with cereals though it may be too vigorous. It is also grown with grass mixtures for land reclamation, it has good nitrogen fixing properties.

Esoteric uses of Red Clover:

Magickal uses include fidelity, love, money, protection, and the blessing of domestic animals. Carry to aid in financial arrangements. Sprinkle around the home to remove negative spirits.

The Chemistry:


  • Isoflavones; biochanin A, daidzein, formononnetin, genistein, pratensein, trifoside
  • Other flavonoids including pectolinarin and trifoliin (=isoquercitrin)
  • Volatile oil, containing furfural
  • Clovamides; L-Dopa-caffeic acid conjugates
  • Coumarins; coumestrol, medicagol and coumarin
  • Miscellaneous; a galactomannan, resins, minerals vitamins, phytoalexins.