Red Clover

Trifolium pratense


Red clover, renowned throughout the ages, has been called such honored names as “God’s gift” and “prized-herb.” Cultivated since prehistoric times, red clover was revered by the Greeks and Romans, and was sacred to the Celts, who believed it helped get them in touch with their eternal soul.

Chinese healers use red clover as an expectorant. Russian folk healers use it to relieve asthma, sometimes by smoking the flowers in a cigarette. Algonquins used red clover blossoms as a remedy for whooping cough. And in nineteenth century America, the Eclectics said red clover "unquestionably retards the growth of carcinomata." A powerful alterative, red clover helps alkalinize the blood, and has antispasmodic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects.

The National Cancer Institute found anti-tumor properties in red clover. No less than thirty-three different cultures around the world use red clover blossoms when cancer is suspected or diagnosed. Scientific studies have found at least four anti-tumor compounds in red clover, including daidzein and genistein, as well as significant amounts of antioxidants - especially vitamin E - which helps prevent breast tumors in animals.

Wise ones augment breast, ovarian and lymphatic cancer treatment by consuming two to four cups of dried red clover blossoms infusion daily. Externally, the infused oil of red clover blossoms is massaged into the affected area several times daily, or the freshly gathered blossoms - or those strained from the infusion - used as a poultice.

Red clover is nourishing and vitamin and mineral rich, containing vitamin B complex, vitamin C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and protein. Among its constituents are phenolic glycosides, flavonoids, saponins, calculates, coumarone and cyanogenic glycosides.

Used for centuries to nourish hormones, phytosterol-rich red clover contains ten times more phytoestrogens than soy. Red clover is unexcelled as a tonic for menopausal women, helping reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats. Grandmothers say drink a cup or two of the dried blossom infusion, or splash red clover vinegar liberally over our salads. Ahhh! Because of its hormonal constituents, red clover is unsurpassed as a fertility herb.

Red clover helps regulate the menstrual cycle, but due to its mild blood-thinning effect it's best avoided by women prone to heavy bleeding. This blood-thinning ability is one of the reasons for red clover's reputation for preventing stroke.

Red clover is a soothing ally for nursing mothers. It replenishes minerals lost during pregnancy and lactation and helps the mother stay calm, feel good and produce plenty of nourishing milk. Red clover's abundant calcium, magnesium and niacin, as well as its sedative constituents, help keep mother (and anyone feeling tense) relaxed. We use 20 drops of fresh flower tincture twice daily, or infusion as desired.

When dealing with coughs, colds and bronchial congestion we drink red clover infusion liberally. Sometimes we poultice our chests with the strained plant material to help ease discomfort. Red clover blossom infusion can be enjoyed daily as a vitamin-and mineral-rich beverage with virtually no risk of side effects.

Flower Essence Red clover tincture or flower essence offers psychic first aid and calm in the midst of hysteria. I've used it with excellent results during natural disasters, emotionally charged family situations and emergencies.

Magical Lore Ancient peoples knew red clover as an herb of immortality and protection. Old wives say that placing a blossom in an amulet or magic bag ensures good health and a strong spirit. Red clover is a benevolent herb that creates a protective aura for animals and domestic pets.

Culture Red clover is very easy to find in the wild as it grows freely in fields, open places, hedgerows and around lawns and gardens. The leaves are distinctive: triple-lobed, ovate and pointed at the end, lighter green in the middle and marked with a chevron.

According to Marija Gimbutas, the chevron shape, the same shape that marks each red clover leaf, is associated with the ancient Bird Goddess and signifies nourishment. When the earth began to green again and the water fowl returned, the annual generative cycle of nourishment and food gathering was initiated. Red clover would have been among the first plants to return and it is my guess that the chevron symbol and its meaning were inspired directly by this humble plant.

I’ve noticed this simple mark on many of the Old World bowls and vases I encounter in small, intimate museums I visit in Southern Italia. It reminds me how deep the roots of the Divine Feminine are in human culture and how we women have organized our lives and created implements, since great antiquity, for the purpose of offering nourishment, succor and healing.

This ancient lineage is what I often think about and call upon as I gather the dense, sweet red clover blossoms at the peak of their bloom. Red clover blossoms are gathered any time during the summer months, by using index and middle fingers to pop the blossoms and the attached leaf off their stems. I lay the blossoms out on screens to dry in an airy place, taking care to keep each flower separate so they dry faster and keep their color and medicinal value better. I tincture some fresh in alcohol and also infuse them in vinegar or honey.

Red Clover and Fertility

I would like to tell you some fertility stories. We’ll start with my dental secretary. She and her husband were trying to have a baby for five years. They were on the brink of going to a fertility clinic in desperation. Her birthday came around and a co-worker bought her a bottle of our Fertility Formula (red clover, red raspberry, wild grape leaves and tendrils) as a gift. “Why not,” she thought and began taking it as directed, 30 drops 3 times daily. Within the first cycle she was pregnant. I met her gorgeous baby last week. Her smile was radiant.

A beautiful familiar lady comes stomping into my booth at the Common Ground Fair trailing a cheerful looking man and five cute little kids about a head apart in size behind her. “Gail,” she announces loudly, “look what you did to me!” And she steps aside to show me her healthy, happy looking family. “A bunch of years ago I came to you for fertility issues. I’d been having a hard time getting pregnant; we had been trying for a few years. Well, whatever was in that bottle you gave me sure did open the floodgates!” She and her husband looked very pleased.

An older woman consulted with me regarding her son. His sperm count was low. Did you know that just smelling the scent of roses makes sperm motility skyrocket? It’s true. He got American ginseng tincture, 30 drops daily, and a bottle of rose oil to use for massage and sex play with his wife. She got daily red clover infusions. Several months later the elder woman emailed me the happy news, they had conceived! The following year the whole family came to visit me. Nice people.

Many years ago a woman came to me, with lots of long-standing problems in the fertility department, long marriage, no children. Last year my grown daughter went to a party with her grown son. She’s still raving about how grateful she is to me! It wasn’t me, it was the red clover infusions I encouraged her to faithfully consume.

A few years ago I got a letter in the mail from a woman in Israel. She used our fertility formula and conceived right away. There was still half a bottle left, so she sent it to her sister, who then also got pregnant. She was so happy to get two babies in the family from the one bottle! I love a happy client.

I cannot tell you how many women I have advised to use red clover for conception have come into my booth at the Common Ground Fair over the years carrying a baby in a backpack or holding it in their arms and just want to introduce the baby to me and to say thank you.

What do all of these women - and I am being totally honest when I tell you that I personally have experience with many dozens of them now - have in common? They all used a common little field herb to help balance their hormonal system to favor conception. Nothing fancy. No cyclic alterations, no balancing act, no hormonal measurements and best of all, no dependence on an “expert.” They simply made a quart of red clover infusions and drank 2-4 cups daily as directed and/or used our fertility formula containing red clover as a primary ingredient and named, aptly, Fertility Formula.

I’m a Community Herbalist. I am not a diagnostician and I do not practice medicine. I practice herbalism and the medicine I choose to use is whole plant medicine. Do I know what was preventing these women from conceiving and carrying a baby full term? No, I do not. I simply had faith in an herb widely known as “God’s Gift.” And I managed to convey that faith to others. I’m most proud of this fertility-enhancing work I’ve done in the world. There is no joy like the joy in a new mother’s eyes. To know that I had just a tiny bit to do with that, via an herbal consultation and a bit of encouragement, means the world to me. So what are the herbs I favor for conception?

For the woman: red clover because it consistently alters the body’s chemistry in favor of conception. Red raspberry because it strengthens the uterus and brings health to the reproductive organs and favors conception. Wild grape leaves and tendrils...because, think of all the art you’ve ever seen where grape leaves are depicted – they are always a symbol of vibrant life, health, fecundity and vitality, and those tendrils add a magical/energetic grabbing on and holding on pattern.

For the man: Add 9-10 drops of essential oil of rose per 4 ounces of infused oil of rose, used for massage and sex play, and American ginseng tincture - 30 drops twice daily or 2 teaspoons of syrup - long valued for its fertility enhancing abilities.

For both: prayer, calling out to the soul of their unborn child, dietary and life style changes as necessary.

"The first sound we hear is the pulse of our mother’s blood. We vibrate to this primordial pulse before we have ears to hear. All the eggs a woman will ever have form in her ovaries when she is a four-month-old fetus.

This means that the egg that developed into the person you are now, was formed in your mother’s ovary when she was growing in the womb of her mother. Each of us, male and female, spent five months in the womb of our grandmother, rocking to the beat of her blood. And our mother spent five months rocking to the pulse of her grandmother’s blood, and her mother pulsed to the beat of her grandmother’s blood.

Back through the pulse of all the mothers and all the grandmothers, through the beat of the blood that we all share, this sound returns us to the preconscious state, to the inner structure of the mind, to the power and the source of who and what we actually are: the pulsing unified field of all consciousness existing everywhere, within everything, beyond past, present or future." Layne Redmond

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