Red clover – characteristics, cultivation, use and curative effects

red clover - flowers
red clover - flowers

Red clover, commonly referred to as meadow clover, is a major medicinal herb. The herb belonging to the legumes is a common companion on meadows and roadsides. Red clover preparations and teas are used today especially in menopausal complaints and mucosal inflammations. But also the seedlings or the sprouts find its way into many kitchens.

Profile of Red clover:

Scientific name: Trifolium pratense

Plant family: bean family, legume family, pea family

Other names: trefoil, cow clover, meadow honeysuckle

Sowing time / Planting time: March – May

Flowering period: April – October

Harvest time: May – October

Location: sunny to slightly shady

Soil quality: nutrient rich, well drained and moderately moist

Use as a medicinal herb: wound treatment, menopause, menstrual cramps, liver complaints, rheumatism, gout

Use as spice herb: seedlings or sprouts for salads

Plant characteristics and classification of Red clover

Origin and distribution of red clover

Red clover is a native plant to us, whose occurrence extends from Europe to Asia. The herbaceous plant can be found mainly on nutrient-rich meadows, forest clearings or roadsides. The meadow clover is also found in the highlands and can, depending on the area and mountain location, populate heights of up to 2,500 meters (7,500 feet). It has also been naturalized in other continents, like North and South America.

Red clover is grown as a medicinal herb in many countries due to its great importance. Large acreage can be found today, for example, in China and in many Eastern European countries.

Plant order of red clover

Red clover known as Trifolium pratense in botanical taxonomy belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae). This family includes among other many crops such as pea or bean, but also many other medically used herbs such as licorice or the restharrow. In the narrower classification, the plant belongs to the genus clover, which summarizes more than 200 different types.

Characteristics of red clover


The perennial herb shows typical characteristics of a herbaceous plant. The herb can reach heights of growth of up to 70 cm (28 inches), whereby the plants in the natural environment are usually much smaller (about 20 to 40 cm (8 to 15 inches) ). Red clover is a characteristic deep rooting that can form tap roots with a length of up to 2 meters (80 inches). The large root length is one of the reasons why the plant is very adaptable.


The leaves of the meadow clover reach lengths between 1.5 and 6 cm (0.6 and 2.4 inches) and are characterized by a nearly smooth leaf margin. Striking is the bright spot in the middle of the leaf, which is not always directly visible. The leaves are almost always arranged in groups of three and have a very fine hair on both sides. Rarer is the famous four-leaf clover (lucky clover). The stem is slightly edged and sometimes hairy, but not as clear as the leaves.


At flowering time, which usually lasts between the end of April to the middle of October, red clover forms a globular inflorescence containing up to 100 red to pink colored single flowers. The inflorescence usually reaches lengths up to 2 cm (about 1 inch). Each flower contains five sepals, which are fused together.


To ripeness, red clover produces the legumes, which are between 2 and 5 mm (0.08 and 0.2 inches) long and have a brownish color.

red clover - blossom
red clover – blossom

Red clover – cultivation, sowing and care

Red clover is more and more often grown as a crop in recent years. In addition to being used as a medicinal herb or fodder plant, it is also considered as a green manure alternative, since the plant is able to bind nitrogen.


The cultivation of red clover in the garden is quite simple. Both the cultivation and the care are no difficulty in good site conditions. Sunny to partially shaded locations on nutrient-rich, well-drained and moderately moist soils are considered good site conditions. Owners of acidic soils should add limescale to the crop when growing, as too acidic environments can lead to growth problems.

Sowing and cultivation

The best sowing time is spring between March and May. In the field, however, the summer months are also possible until August. Red clover seeds are light germinators. The sowing depth should therefore be between 0.5 and 1 cm (0.2 and 0.4 inches). It is sufficient here completely to press the seeds slightly into the soil and then to cover with some soil. The planting distance between the individual plants should be at least 20 cm (8 inches), otherwise an increased nutrient competition can occur.

The cultivation on the balcony can be difficult, because the plant roots quite deep. However, if cultivation is desired, deep pots are recommended to allow the plant the largest possible root area. As a substrate commercially available potting soil are usually completely sufficient.


Red clover loves a moderately humid environment. Regular watering therefore promotes lush growth of the plants. The floor should be moist and not wet. It survives shorter dry phases usually without any problems. Through its deep tap roots, the weed can also get water in deeper soil layers.


In the first year of cultivation, no targeted fertilization is usually necessary. Red clover usually provides itself because of the deep root system. However, suppling fertilizer may be necessary if the soil is leached and has little nutrient binding. Above all, nitrogen and potassium are needed. In the field, it is usually advantageous if the soil is mixed with compost or cattle manure before sowing.


Red clover is hardy and needs no special preparation for wintering. The foliage dies off in wintertime and grows again in spring.

Diseases and pests

Although pest infestation on red clover is relatively rare, it can occasionally occur. The most well-known pest is the (red) clover seed weevil, a beetle that is up to 3 mm (0.12 inches) in size. Particularly dangerous are the larvae of the beetle, which feed on the flowers and usually eat holes in the leaves.

red clover - blossoms, stems and leaves
red clover – blossoms, stems and leaves

Red clover and its use

The herb is used today mainly as a medicinal plant and useful plant. However, it is also possible to use the plant for food preparation.

In addition to its importance as a medicinal herb, the meadow clover is used in agriculture as animal feed and as a green manure plant.

Red clover in the kitchen

Red clover is usually used in the kitchen in the form of sprouts. The fresh seedlings contain many important minerals and trace substances and have a pleasant, mild taste. The sprouts can be used similar to cress and are suitable for many salad dishes. The sprouts can be easily grown in so-called germination devices and take about 5 to 8 days to be ready for consumption.

Sometimes the blossoms are used for soups, salads or spreads. The striking red flowers are also quite mild in taste and can also be used for decoration purposes.

Red clover as a medicinal herb

Then as now, red clover is considered as a valuable medicinal herb. When used as a remedy, especially the blossoms are important, which contain numerous valuable ingredients. These include, in particular, the tannins and a substance group called isoflavones.

In old herbal books, the flowers of red clover were used for painful intestinal complaints and menstrual cramps. Externally the healing plant was used for ulcers and “hard tubers”. Recommended was boiling the flowers with the seeds in honey water or wine and drinking. Even the direct consumption of the entire plant was recommended at that time.

In today’s medicine and folk medicine, red clover is also used for numerous other ailments and diseases. However, today it is also used as a precautionary measure for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. In summary, red clover is used for the following diseases or conditions:

  • blood purification
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • gout
  • intestinal inflammation
  • liver ailments
  • menopausal
  • menstrual cramps
  • rheumatism
  • various mucosal inflammations
  • worm infestation
  • wound treatment

Responsible for the widespread use of red clover in natural medicine are the containing ingredients, which give a fairly large spectrum of activity. The totality of medically useful substances has the following effects and properties:

  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • blood fat-lowering
  • cytostatic
  • estrogenic
  • partly anticarcinogenic
  • slight cholesterol lowering

The use in the prevention of tumors and cancer treatments is conceivable and will be discussed scientifically. Above all, it is a possibility in the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or various lymphoma diseases represent. Responsible for a possible use are mainly the containing isoflavones. These should be able to inhibit the cell division of tumor cells and to prevent the neovascularization of the tumors.

The main application of red clover today is the abatement of various menopausal symptoms. It is mainly due to the containing phytoestrogens as a hormone replacement. The isaflavones are also responsible for the estrogen-like effect. For this purpose, the flowers are usually used in the form of capsules or tinctures. In folk medicine, however, the consumption of red clover tea is possible and recommended.

red clover - plant
red clover – plant

Preparation of red clover tea

  • Pour about 2 to 3 heaped teaspoons of dried red clover blossoms with 250 ml (8.5 fl oz) of boiling water.
  • The infusion should then brew between 12 and 15 minutes before the flowers are strained.
  • If necessary, the tea can be sweetened with a little bit of honey.
  • Not more than 3 cups of this tea should be drunk each day. The period of use should also not exceed five to six weeks.

Side effects

Side effects are rather not to be expected with proper intake of red clover and its preparations, but not completely excluded. Direct or short-term side effects are rare. Most are intolerances or allergic reactions to individual drugs in red clover. There are discrepancies in terms of long-term effects. This is partly speculated about whether a longer-term use of such hormone replacement drugs can also cause certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer. This can be explained by the fact that too much estrogen can trigger certain reactions in the body that stimulate the formation of cancer cells. However, this is opposite that a particular isoflavone, biochanin A, has been shown to have a protective effect against breast cancer in several laboratory tests.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Red Clover – What to pay attention to?

Red or meadow clover are available in many product variations to buy in the trade. In addition to capsules, sprouts, tea and tinctures, many manufacturers now also offer seeds. However, fresh plants are hardly to be found.

Fresh red clover sprouts or cultivation kits can be found in many health food stores and some greengrocers. The sprouts can be grown with such sets quite easily and in larger quantities at home.

Many well-known manufacturers of plant seeds offer seeds. Mostly the seed is led directly under red clover, a few use however also the label meadow clover.

Especially for menopausal women many different red clover preparations are available. Capsules are most often offered. Here it should be ensured at the purchase that a proven proportion of isoflavones is included. In many reviews it can be read that typical complaints such as hot flashes can be alleviated. Sometimes large differences in pricing exist between the individual manufacturers. A good comparison value is always the weight and not the number of capsules.

In many herbal shops, online marketplaces and pharmacies, dried red clover blossoms can also be purchased for tea applications. Who wants to dose it optimally and comfortably, can also fall back on pre-packaged medicinal teas, which are in total priced slightly higher than the loose flowers of the meadow clover.

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