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

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

What is it?


Red clover is a legume in the Fabaceae family that is indigenous to Europe and parts of the Middle East and has been naturalized to North America1.

Scientific Names/Brand Names

Trifolium pratense. Red clover products include Promensil®, Rimostil®, Menoflavon®, and Estrofactors®.


Red clover contains flavonoids, coumarins2, isoflavones and is especially high in coumestans. Red clover contains at least 9 isoflavones3 including formononetin and biochanin A (glycosides), and daidzein and genistein (aglycones)1.

Application and dosage

Red clover is most commonly taken orally but can also be used topically. The recommended daily dose of red clover extracts ranges from 40 to 80 mg daily4.


For centuries, red clover has been grown in pastures to feed cattle and other grazing animals. Humans have rarely consumed red clover in their diets, although it has a long history of medicinal uses.

Claims of efficacy/alleged indications

Traditionally, red clover has been used for a variety of health conditions. Currently, it is commonly used in the treatment of hot flushes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. In oncology, it has been claimed to be effective for treating hormonally driven cancers (breast, ovarian, uterine) and for reducing hot flushes in women who experience premature menopause as part of their cancer treatment5. Topically, red clover is used for cancer, burns, and chronic skin diseases including eczema and psoriasis.

Mechanism of action

Red clover has been shown to function as both an oestrogen receptor agonist1 and antagonist, depending on the state of its metabolites 36. Red clover metabolites exhibit a highest affinity for beta-estrogens receptors yet weak binding affinity for androgen and progesterone receptors6. Its anti-neoplastic effects may be attributed to effects on the cell cycle and apoptosis7 and COX-8 and angiogenesis inhibition9.

Prevalence of use

Increasingly, many women are turning to phytooestrogens as an alternative to hormone replacement therapies because of their adverse effects. Precise prevalence figures are unavailable; however, one study reported that 39.5% of 767 breast cancer survivors were using estrogenic botanical supplements10.

Legal issues

Red clover is sold as a natural health product or herbal dietary supplement in North America and Europe.

Cost and expenditure

An average daily cost of the red clover supplements such as Promensil is €0.70, US$ 1.00 and CDN $1.25.


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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  23. Han E, Kim J & Jeong H. Effect of Biochanin A on the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and Cytochrome P450 1A1 in MCF-7 Human Breast Carcinoma Cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2006;29(7):570-576.
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