Fleetneedles' Forage: Red Clover

As part of our Save Our Skills year, we are looking at foraging. These post were originally published on our Facebook Page, we'd like to thank Claire Fleetneedle for allowing us to publish them here.

Useful in the garden and in the kitchen, red clover #foraging #saveourskills

RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover has a distinctive raspberry pink coloured round flower, made up from many tiny tube shaped petals. The oval green leaves have a pale green chevron shape on them which is apparently a guide for pollinating bees, who love this plant.

Contains vitamin C plus calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine.

Do not take with blood thinning medication
Not to be taken by pregnant women and nursing mothers

Blood cleanser, circulatory, diuretic, expectorant, liver and gallbladder stimulant, lowers cholesterol, menopausal support, mild laxative, PMS and hormone balancer, prostrate support, purifier and lymphatic tonic, sedative, skin complaint treatment.                  

Everyday Use     
Red clover is one of my favourite abundant wild flowers, I have even been known to pick it and put it in a floral arrangement, completely unaware of how useful it could be to me.
I have suffered from hormone imbalances and ovarian cysts most of my adult life, Drs have pretty much one treatment for this – the birth control pill. After years of taking it I was still no closer to finding a solution to my associated health problems. After much research and experiment’s with various tablets, evening primrose etc... I came across an article in one of my first herbal books about red clover.

Red clover is high in isoflavones, chemicals which mimic oestrogen, consequently it is the ideal plant for a wide range of ‘women’s problems’. Most notably it is thought to be the perfect menopause herb, as it balances the hormones that create hot flushes and mood swings. Recent research has discovered that the oestrogen-like chemicals also prevent osteoporosis. In addition it is known to be useful for women who struggle with PMS and the associated emotional upset. It is also good for balancing women’s hormones in general, especially if they have low oestrogen levels. Some herbalists use this plant to treat heavy periods, fibroids and endremetriosis. A decoction or tea made from the plant is sometimes also used to treat thrush.

However this pretty little plant is not just a female herb, research has shown that it is useful to men too. It is proven that red clover blocks the enzymes that create prostate cancer and also limits the non-cancerous enlargement of the gland which causes urinary problems for so many older men.

I have read that the flowers and leaves can been eaten raw or cooked, however I have only ever tried the tea for medicinal purposes. I make this by simply putting a couple of handfuls of freshly picked, washed leaves and flower heads in a tea pot filled with boiling water.

Traditionally an ointment was made from the crushed plant cooked in warm lard and left to set. This ointment was used to treat eczema, psoriasis and a range of skin complaints such as acne, although I should imagine drinking the tea would have a better results as it is known to purify the system and to cleanse the blood. Its purifying actions are also thought to act as a tonic to the lymphatic system. This is partly why it was traditionally thought to be an anti-cancer remedy.  The plant also stimulates the liver, gallbladder and allows the body to expel toxins through its diuretic and laxative qualities. Historically it was used to treat chronic toxicity and even mild poisonings.

The plant was once thought to be a whooping cough cure and it certainly has expectorant actions. It was also considered a remedy for colds with sore throats, gargling with the tea can certainly help to clear a throat infection.

Red clover is known to be a relaxant and sedative and is still used for this purpose by herbalists. It contains coumarins which are known to prevent the blood from thickening, thus avoiding blood clots and fat from building up in the body. Ultimately this means it lowers cholesterol in the system and maintains a healthy blood flow, eliminating toxins as it goes. It is also thought to aid the circulation.

These are some of my personal experiences using Red clover combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult with a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.

Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle

LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.


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