Can Red Clover Help With Signs & Symptoms of Menopause?

Red clover (also known as Trifolium pretense) is a species of herb stemming from the clover family that originates from Europe, Western Asia, and Northwest Africa. With a natural sweet taste, red clover has been commonly used as sweet-tasting herbal teas, flavoring ingredient for various foods and beverages, and natural treatments for various health problems related to respiratory system (such as regular coughs, whooping coughs, and congestions) and lymphatic system related disorders.

An interesting observation that the alternative health care practitioners saw is that red clover seems to alleviate stomach cramps, breast soreness, hot flashes, and emotional irritation tendencies in women during their periods and menopause. Thus it has been suggested as an herbal remedy that is beneficial to women’s overall well-being.

The Science Behind Red Clover

Based on an analysis from the University of Maryland Medical Center, red clover is a plant that is full of beneficial nutrients. It is rich in Vitamin C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and thiamine. At the same time, the researchers have found that red clover contains a plentiful source of isoflavones (Isoflavones are plant chemicals that have similar structures to the human hormones estrogens and progesterones, and have the same reactions to the hormone receptors, we have written an in-depth article on topic of isoflavones here). The special quality that separates red clover from many other isoflavones-rich plants is that it contains isoflavones that react both with the estrogen and progesterone pathways in the human body (Hajirahimkhan, 2013). As explained in my article “Hormone Therapy: More Trouble Than Its Worth?”, administration of estrogen without progesterone (depending on the dosage) may result in various degrees of side-effects from more frequent irregular uterus bleeding, thickening of the uterus, to uterus cancer. With red clover, because it contains isoflavones that react with estrogen and progesterone receptors, the risk of running into these side-effects are minimal.

Benefits of Red Clover for Menopause

As a natural source of both estrogen and progesterone, red clover helps alleviate the infamous menopause symptoms of hot flashes and cold sweat. And unlike the isolated estrogen/progesterone extract produced by the pharmaceutical companies, red clover contains all the other healthy nutrients that are known to help women sleep better during menopause.

Let’s take a look at the beneficial qualities of red clover against various menopause symptoms:

Hot Flashes and Cold Sweats:

Many scientific studies have found that estrogen supplements may alleviate the hot flash symptom (Menati, 2014) and that progesterone may alleviate the cold sweat problem (Luoto, 2009). It has been reported that red clover can reduce the frequency of hot flashes by one third. Although hot flashes may still occur, the intensity is significantly less (Menati, 2014).

General Fatigue and Libido:

The boost of vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium in general help women fight against the dryness of skin (you can read about dry itchy skin here), fatigue, and moodiness. During menopause, as the estrogen level declines severely, it decreases the ability of your body to absorb nutrients and dampens your immune system. As a result, many women will feel generally tired as if they are always about to get sick. The vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium in the red clover not only increase the chances for your body to take up more nutrients, but they are crucial to build up your immune system. Together with the boost in estrogen level, many women find red clover to increase their libido and uplift their general well-being (Lipovac, 2011).

Dryness of Skin:

As you have seen in many anti-aging beauty products, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium greatly help women combat against dryness of skin as they promote better fluid retention in skin cells. It has been documented in several scientific studies that red clover preparations can speed up wound healing and greatly ease chronic skin problems such as psoriasis (Lipovac, 2011). It has also been found to promote better scalp, hair, and nail condition in menopausal and post-menopausal women (Lipovac, 2011).

Cardiovascular-related Problems:

Because red clover slows the rate of blood-clotting, it reduces the risk of blood clots floating in the blood stream which may lead to embolism and stroke (Hajirahimkhan, 2013). At the same time, the isoflavones have shown to reduce the bad cholesterol level in the blood.

Osteoporsis:

The calcium and phosphorus is a great helper along with the isoflavones to lower the risk of osteoporosis occurring during and after menopause (Luoto, 2009).

Red Clover vs. Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh, one of the best-selling menopause symptoms reliever in the United States, is made from the North American black cohosh plant roots (we have written an extensive article about black cohosh that you can read here). Although several studies have found it to be helpful with hot flashes, other studies have found it to have no effect at all.

According to scientific research, black cohosh has reported to interact with only serotonin receptors in the human body (Hajirahimkhan, 2013). Although serotonin may help with depression and sleeping disorders, it does not react with estrogen or progesterone at all like red clover does. Consequently, it will not help with many symptoms of menopause that are heavily related to the functioning of estrogen and progesterone receptors. Unless you hare having problem with sleeping or suffering from depression, you can skip over black cohosh as a menopause symptom reliever.

Dosage (how much red clover you should take?) and Possible Side Effects

In general, daily dosage up to 80 milligrams of red clover is safe to be used as a dietary amount. However, to better gauge a safer consumption amount, please consult your family physician before starting the daily intake of red clover.

This procedure is extremely important if you currently have any physical condition and receiving any treatments because red clover may cause a side effect when taken in combination with various medical treatments.

There have been documented cases where individuals, under treatment for liver-related maladies, suffer from severe cases of severe vomiting and epigastric pain upon starting their red clover supplements (Orr, 2013). And because of its coumarin derivatives, individuals with coagulation disorders or currently undergoing anticoagulation therapy should consult with their physicians before taking red clover. It should also be noted that red clover may have the following side-effects: rash-like reactions, muscle ache, headache, nausea, and/or vaginal bleeding in women.

If any of these symptoms occur, immediately stop all intake of red clover and consult your family physician. Although there have been studies that suggest that Isoflavones may lower risk of breast cancer, these studies were done solely on soy Isoflavones and they only shown positive results in Asian populations according to the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study (Heber, 2008). Therefore, red clover should not be taken by women with a family history or a past history, or currently having breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, or other estrogen-sensitive or progesterone-sensitive conditions.

What about you? Have you used red clove during menopause for hot flashes or any other symptoms? Have you used black cohosh? Which do you prefer?

Sources:

  • Hajirahimkhan, A, et.al., 2013. Botanical Modulation of Menopausal Symptoms: Mechanisms of Action. Planta Medica, 79(7): 538-553.
  • Heber, D., Berdanier, C.D, Dwyer, J.T., Feldman, E.B., 2008. Plant Foods and Phytochemicals in human health. CRC Press, 176–181.
  • Lagari, VS, et.al., 2014. Phytoestrogens for menopausal bone loss and climacteric symptoms. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 139: 294-301.
  • Lipovac, M., et.al., 2011. Effect of Red Clover isoflavones over skin, appendages, and mucosal status in postmenopausal women. Obstetrics and Gynecology International: 949302.
  • Luoto, Riitta, 2009. Hot flashes and quality of life during menopause. BMC Women’s Health, 9(13).
  • Menati, Lida, 2014. Evaluation of Contextual and Demographic Factors on Licorice Effects on Reducing Hot Flashes in Postemnopause Women. Health Care for Women International, 35(1): 87-99.
  • Orr, A., et.al., 2013. Red clover causing symptoms suggestive of methotrexate toxicity in a patient on high-dose methotrexate. Menopause International, 19(3): 133-134.

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