When out walking, it's usually one eye on my girls and one eye on the foliage - you never know what you might find! The other day, we were walking by the river where I noticed red clover, Trifolium pratense, part of the pea/legume family, Fabaceae, growing in abundance. I've had my eye out for red clover since spring because I drink it as an infusion once or twice a week and I'm told it's good for balancing hormones. Having not found it until now, I took note and returned with a pair of scissors and a small bowl to collect some. I brought it home, gave it a good wash (because dogs) and put it in my dehydrator at a low heat overnight.
Red clover is very photogenic so I thought I'd make a post about its benefits except, when I really thought about it, I realized that, apart from that little bit about balancing hormones, I didn't know that much about this herb. Clearly it's good for fertility. Is it good for moms? What about pregnancy? I used it during my last postpartum, but bodies can vary so much. I went to my books and here's what I learned:
According to Susun Weed's book "The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year", red clover is an excellent herb for balancing hormones because of the high vitamin and mineral content that soothes the nervous system and replenishes the glands. For these reasons, it's considered an herb that promotes fertility and also makes a choice herb for supporting lactation because it's a galactagogue (improves milk quality and quantity).
Jeannine Parvati, in her book "Hygieia" echos this sentiment and adds that the herb has an alkalizing and blood purifying quality that restores fertility.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad, once again describe it as a gentle blood cleanser that's great for children or the elderly where a stronger blood cleanser might be too harsh and further weaken the body. It's considered pitta and kapha pacifying and vata stimulating: KP- V+
Some additional information I learned from a few podcasts:
* the magnesium in red clover makes for a good night's sleep
* contains coumarin which is a blood thinner
* harvest them in spring and summer, while the bees are on them and they are in bloom. Mold can grow on the plants come autumn and when they are left to mold, the coumarin can produce toxins that reduce prothrombin in the body, making blood clotting over wounds more difficult
* contain phytoestrogens that can help with menopause
* is thought to be tumor inhibiting
* is a traditional breast cancer treatment herb that reduces inflammation
* antiseptic and great for skin complaints like eczema, psoriasis, fungus and works from the inside out or topically
* reduces phlegm from the pulmonary and intestinal tract
* a cardiovascular tonic promoting heart tissue repair
* nourishes and moves blood and lymph
* is an appetite suppressant
* from a gardening perspective, it replenishes nitrogen in the soil
* there's some controversy around the phyto-estrogenic properties
* has a hair conditioning effect and makes a nice hair rinse
Knowing that this herb contains blood thinning qualities, I don't think it would be a good herb for the immediate postpartum where blood needs to clot and seal over the placental site. Also the vata stimulating qualities would only add to the postpartum mom's generally aggravated vata. I would probably wait a month or so post birth before incorporating it into a routine when it could be useful to replenish lost nutrients and enhance milk supply.
I'll be collecting more while it's still in season as I've noticed a difference between my freshly dried clover and the one I had on hand from the organic grocery. I made an herbal infusion of both to further test it. Quite a difference in taste too with mine tasting sweet and the store bought red clover much darker and tannic tasting.
And of course, this is not a pat "Red clover is good for you. Have lots. Here's why." I want to avoid that because everyone is different and every situation is unique. This is an invitation to consider how this plant medicine might work in your body. For example, I developed a blood clot during my twin pregnancy (a very scary story that I'll save for a different day) and had to inject tinzaparin (a pharmaceutical blood thinner) every day from about 30 weeks onward. I wonder if red clover, with its blood thinning qualities, might have been a practical herbal ally during this time? I think it probably wouldn't have hurt.