Although red clover, or Trifolium pratense, is most commonly grown in pastures for grazing cattle, horses and other livestock, the plant has a history of traditional medicinal use to treat skin problems, cancer, respiratory ailments and cardiovascular problems, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Today red clover tea is used to treat certain conditions like menopause, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, although medical researchers are still studying red clover's effects on these ailments. Red clover tea is made from steeping 1 to 2 tsp. of the dried flower tops in 8 oz. of hot water for 30 minutes and is taken two to three times daily.


Red clover contains high levels of isoflavones, which are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants that have estrogen-like effects, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The isoflavones in red clover may help to ease menopausal symptoms, for example by reducing hot flashes. Clinical studies have been, for the most part, inconclusive regarding red clover's effects on menopause symptoms, but the University of Michigan Health System cites double-blind medical studies that discovered that taking 80 mg per day of red clover isoflavones "reduced the frequency of hot flashes in postmenopausal women." After four weeks of taking isoflavones extracted from red clover, the women experienced noticeable benefits, with more significant changes after 12 weeks


Red clover isoflavones may also help slow down bone loss and improve bone mineral density in menopausal women. Studies have indicated that the isoflavones help to prevent or treat osteoporosis by counteracting the drop in estrogen levels during menopause, which increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. "Preliminary evidence suggests that red clover isoflavones may help prevent or treat osteoporosis," agrees the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


Although studies have been small, evidence has indicated that red clover isoflavones may help to improve blood pressure in postmenopausal women, particularly those who suffer from diabetes, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Red clover isoflavones have the potential to increase HDL levels, or "good" cholesterol, in pre- and postmenopausal women, but medical studies haven't yielded strong evidence so far. One study found that "menopausal women taking red clover supplements had more flexible and stronger arteries," which typically helps to prevent heart disease, according to the University of Maryland. Red clover has also shown the ability to prevent clots from forming by thinning the blood and improving blood circulation.


Preliminary medical evidence from test tube trials suggests that red clover isoflavones may prevent cancer cells from growing or kill the cells, claims the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although red clover isoflavones have displayed some antitumor activity in test tubes and the herb has been used in many parts of the world as a cancer remedy, preliminary research "does not prove that red clover can treat cancer," the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center cautions. Red clover may help to prevent prostate and endometrial cancers, but the isoflavones' estrogen-like effects may actually help certain cancer cells to grow, especially breast cancer. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises women with a history of breast cancer to avoid red clover.

Written by: Sarah Terry for livestrong.com