Red clover is one of my favorite herbs, of which I frequently prescribe in my dispensary. It is abundant in grassland and road verges throughout Ireland at this time of the year. It has had sacred past and was of great significance to the Druids. St Patrick was said to have used a clover in the meadow to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans. The shamrock which is our national flower means “small clover’.
Red clover is a blood cleanser and I include it in many herbal formulae for skin disorders, degenerative diseases and for balancing hormone levels. It has a slow steady action, therefore I prescribe it to be taken consistently for several months. It improves elimination of impurities on all levels – increasing the flow of urine, expelling mucus from the lungs, increasing the flow of bile and it also acts a mild laxative.
Red clover has a high level of flavonoids, which are oestrogen-like plant chemicals that help balance normal oestrogen levels during menopause, thus providing relief for hot flushes.
Red clover does not have a blood thinning effect, but if the flowers ferment on drying the coumarin in them can convert to dicoumarol, which is a blood thinner. Therefore, I never prescribe red clover to patients who are taking anti-coagulants such as aspirin or warfarin.
To harvest red clover, pick the flowers and top leaves in the summer when the morning dew has dried off. It’s best to pick newly opened pink flowers. Dry them thoroughly by spreading them out on paper trays, no more than one flowerhead deep. Place them in a warm dry place away from direct sunlight. When fully dry they are crunchy to touch. Store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.
Red clover tea/infusion
Place 1-2 heaped teaspoons of dried flower per cup of boiling water. Infuse for 10 minutes, strain and drink 3-4 times daily.
Drink consistently for 6-8 weeks for chronic toxicity, skin disorders and constipation. Drink cold at the onset of a hot flush.
The leaves and flowers look and taste wonderful in salads, and the seeds can be soaked and sprouted and then added to soups and salads.