Written by Sarah Vadeboncoeur and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated February 8, 2017

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

Abstract and key points

  • Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a medicinal herb containing flavonoids, coumarins, coumestans, and isoflavones.
  • Red clover has been claimed to be effective for treating hormonally driven cancers and for reducing hot flashes in women who experience premature menopause as part of their cancer treatment.
  • The current evidence for its use in women with breast and ovarian cancers is insufficient.
  • Safety data in women with cancer is lacking. Generally red clover appears safe to use in women without cancer but theoretically herb-drug and herb-herb interactions are possible.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a medicinal herb containing flavonoids, coumarins, coumestans, and isoflavones that can be taken orally or applied topically. Red clover has been claimed to be effective for the treatment of hot flushes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. In oncology, it has been claimed to be effective for treating hormonally driven cancers and for reducing hot flushes in women who experience premature menopause as part of their cancer treatment.

The current evidence for its use in women with breast and ovarian cancers based on one systematic review and one additional trial is insufficient.

Evidence is lacking for the use of red clover in women with cancer experiencing hot flushes, and the majority of clinical trials conducted among women without cancer have found that red clover is no more effective than placebo in reducing hot flushes. A single observational study among breast cancer survivors found that women using red clover supplements were less likely to report night sweats.

Preliminary studies suggest that red clover isoflavones may be of benefit in prostate and colon cancers but the evidence is not sufficient.

Although red clover is generally well tolerated by women without cancer, drug-nutrient and nutrient-nutrient interactions are theoretically possible. Safety data is lacking in women with cancer.

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of herbal medicine at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Sarah Vadeboncoeur, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/Red-clover-Trifolium-pratense. February 8, 2017.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in February 2017 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in January 2015 by Barbara Wider.
Summary first published in February 2013 by Sarah Vadeboncoeur.

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