6 Red Clover Benefits
1. Reduces Menopausal Symptoms
When estrogen levels fall, especially as during menopause, isoflavones can have positive effects in reducing symptoms related to estrogen loss — such as hot flashes, trouble sleeping, weight gain, bone loss, bone fractures or osteoporosis, cardiovascular problems, and inflammation of the joints. It’s estimated that about about two-thirds of all menopausal women and post-menopausal women deal with such side effects and find little relief from traditional treatments. Study results examining the effects of red clover in menopausal or post-menopausal women over the past two decades have been somewhat mixed, but many have shown improvements in symptoms within months, without many unwanted side effects at all.
A 2005 report printed in the International Journal of the Society of Gynecological Endocrinology explained that an unexpected result of the Women’s Health Initiative study was that researchers realized most conventional hormone therapy treatments (HT) given to menopausal women come with unwanted side effects and complications, so as a result there’s been an increase in interest in alternative, natural options for providing menopause relief. (2) HT use has become controversial due to suspected increased risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular complications. It’s also estimated that around 10 percent of women living in developed nations display conditions that contraindicate HT use, including having a history of estrogen-dependent tumor growth, liver disease, arterial disorders and severe migraine headaches.
The random, double-blind study evaluated the effects of phytoestrogens, including isoflavones from red clover extracts (80 milligrams a day), on menopausal symptoms in 53 women over the ages of 40 compared to a placebo for 90 days. After the initial groups completed its treatment, the women were switched to receive the opposite treatment for a further 90 days to compare results.
The results showed that the women’s weights did not change on average (there was no significant effect on body mass index) over the 180 days, but red clover isoflavone supplementation significantly decreased the rate of many other menopausal symptoms and had a positive effect on vaginal cytology, mean total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (3) Cholesterol and triglycerides were only slightly lower compared to placebo, but symptoms were lowered enough to impact the women’s quality of life.
A surprisingly well-rounded supplement, researchers have found that on average adult women using red clover extract experience significant improvements in the health of their scalps, hair and skin within 90 days of use, including lowering signs of aging, collagen loss and hair thinning. A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology International found that on top of its skin-boosting effects, compared to a placebo red clover was shown to significantly improve other common symptoms of estrogen loss during menopause, including low libido, mood, sleep and tiredness. (4)
2. Helps Maintain Bone Strength
Research has shown that the most common type of osteoporosis is bone loss associated with ovarian hormone deficiency at menopause, which is why there’s evidence that diets that contain high levels of phytoestrogenic isoflavones are associated with a low incidence of osteoporosis and other menopausal complications. Thus, red clover makes a great addition to any osteoporosis diet.
Evidence suggests that red clover helps with bone healing and reduces the risk for osteoporosis, especially in post-menopausal women who are at the greatest risk for fractures and bone loss. A woman’s risk for developing osteoporosis goes up during menopause because estrogen is important for bone mineralization. Pre-menopausal women with low estrogen levels or low bone density (such as underweight women or athletes suffering from female athlete triad, which causes an increased risk for osteoporosis due to an energy deficit) can also benefit from red clover supplementation.
Studies using rats have found that supplementation with isoflavones helps significantly improve bone mineral content, bone turnover, mechanical strength of the tibia, femoral weight, femoral density, and prevents the rise of serum alkaline phosphatase levels, bone loss and weakness. (5)
3. Improves Cardiovascular Health
As a result of increased life expectancy, coupled with the fact that many women diet, under-eat and don’t consume enough essential nutrients, it’s estimated that many women today spend more than one-third of their lives in a state of estrogen deprivation, which leads to a number of significant long-term changes. Abnormally low estrogen levels not only increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis, but also raise cardiovascular risk, can cause vasomotor episodes, and often result in sleep disturbances.
Studies have shown that red clover can help improve arterial health, reduce the risk for atherosclerosis (hardening or thickening of the arteries), boost circulation, manage high cholesterol and help prevent coronary heart disease. In older women and men, heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. and many other western nations.
While most studies examining red clover’s effects on heart health have been conducted using animals and not humans, research suggests that red clover helps protect against heart disease thanks to its isoflavones, which can increase HDL “good” cholesterol, keep blood clots from forming and produce more flexibility in arteries. This is called “arterial compliance” and helps improve the flow of blood from the heart to the rest of the body, while also thinning the blood and carrying more nutrients to cells.
4. Lowers the Risk for Certain Cancers
Isoflavones are now being studied in regard to their natural effects on cancerous cells and tumor formation. Researchers have found that isoflavones seem to help stop cancer cells from multiplying or growing and also might be able to induce apoptosis (self-destruction of cancer cells). The types of cancer most likely impacted by red clover use include those related to hormonal changes, such as prostate, breast and endometrial cancer.
On the other hand, there’s still more to learn about how red clover and isoflavones are connected to natural cancer prevention, or even potentially cancer formation, so researchers are hesitant to recommend it for this purpose just yet. At this time there’s still some unknowns when it to comes to understanding all of estrogen’s effects on breast cancer, so people with a history or high risk for breast cancer are advised not to use red clover until more research is conducted. (6)
5. Treats Skin Inflammation
Research findings suggest that red clover’s isoflavones are effective for helping to slow down signs of aging on the skin, as well as lowering inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and various rashes. Studies over the past several decades have shown that red clover’s effects on estrogen levels give it most of its anti-inflammatory, UV protective, collagen-boosting and wound-healing potentials. In older adults, red clover reduces the effects of skin aging induced by estrogen deprivation and can help boost collagen production. (7) It’s also been shown to boost the health of the skin follicles, the scalp and nails.
According to research done by the Pharmaco-Biological Department at the University of Messina in Italy, “estrogens have a profound influence on skin,” and red clover helps stop both internal and external/environmental aging effects caused by estrogen loss. Estrogen improves skin by increasing collagen content, skin thickness and moisture, and research shows treatment for 14 weeks with a red clover extract standardized to contain 11 percent isoflavones (20 and 40 milligrams of total isoflavones daily) helps organize epidermis cells, provides uniform thickness and regular keratinizations, and positively influences collagen and elastic fibers. (8)
An Obstetrics and Gynecology International study mentioned earlier found that red clover used for three months improved patients’ skin conditions better than a placebo, including providing better skin texture, moisture and overall condition, plus possibly offering better protection against skin cancer (malignant skin changes) due to higher estrogen status. Other reports have shown that red clover helps clinically treat wounds or burns and improves skin elasticity, thickness and hydration — plus reduces the appearance of pore size and signs of aging. (9)
6. Fights Respiratory Infections
Red clover is used for prevention and treatment of respiratory conditions like whooping cough, colds, asthma and bronchitis. (10) It has natural cleansing effects within the body, reduces anxiety and discomfort during illness, and has the ability to loosen phlegm. Because it can calm bronchial spasms, improve sleep quality, and help flush extra mucus and fluids from the respiratory system, it’s beneficial to take as soon as you feel an illness coming on