Red Clover Fights Cancer

Other names: Purple clover, Trifolium, Sweet clover, Cow clover

Red Clover can assist in a holistic cancer treatment. Red Clover will not cure cancer alone but in combination with other herbs, juices and therapies, red clover will boost cancer treatment effectiveness.

In China and Russia, red clover was used to treat respiratory infections and congestion. It has also been used to treat coughs, speed wound healing, and relieve water retention. Today, red clover is being studied for its possible benefits to those suffering heart disease, diabetes, menopausal symptoms, and prostate enlargement.

Since the 1800s red clover has been promoted as a potential treatment for cancer. Recent research by the National Cancer Institute found that red clover contains four phytoestrogens: biochanin-A, formononetin, daidzein, and genistein. Daidzein and genistein actually help prevent the growth of cancerous tumors. Red clover also contains tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that some studies have linked to reduced risk of heart attack and cancer.

Red clover is an active ingredient in a combination formula marketed for treatment of cancer, called the Hoxsey formula. However, it is important to note that the use of herbs for treatment of cancer should be under a doctor’s care.

Red clover contains a high concentration of phytoestrogens, which mimic the action of female hormones in the body. One study of cows found that those fed large amounts of red clover had significant size increases in their teats; today red clover is included in some herbal supplements that claim to promote natural breast enlargement.

Although the phytoestrogen effects of soy and flaxseed have been more widely studied, red clover may actually be a more effective treatment for relief of menopausal symptoms. It is an active ingredient in Promensil, an over-the-counter supplement used to help treat hot flashes.

One Australian study found that Promensil helped improve elasticity of the arteries in menopausal women as well, and other studies have also shown that red clover improves the blood flow through the arteries and veins. Thus, red clover may prove helpful in treating high blood pressure and decreased circulation in both cardiovascular and diabetic patients. The estrogen-like effects of red clover have lead some researchers to theorize that it may help treat symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a condition in which the prostate gland starts growing again in middle age.

Red Clover Traditional Uses

Red clover has traditionally been used to treat inflammation and infection, including syphillus, venereal disease, and tuberculosis. Recent laboratory studies have shown that this plant does indeed kill many types of bacteria, including the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.

In many cultures, including traditional herbal medicine in Great Britain, clover flowers, stems and leaves have been combined with other herbs to make compound remedies for asthma, eczema, psoriasis, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, kidney stones and, more recently, for hormone-related cancers.

Its actions are:

  • Blood purifying and diuretic (helping to rid the body of excess fluid).
  • Anti inflammatory (due to its volatile oils)
  • Anti catarrhal (due to compounds which reduce airway congestion)
  • Antiviral (Chinese research),
  • Antispasmodic, helping to relieve painful cough spasms.

Due to the many attributes of red clover it is found in many herbal decoctions and this makes it a very valuable contribution indeed to the whole of nature’s medicine chest.

One 86 people strong survey on perimenopausal women over a period of 8 months showed a significant reduction in hot flushes. At the 10th AGM of the American Menopausal Society it was reported that 50mg doses of red clover raised HDL cholesterol levels by an average of 28.6%. And more HDL means better heart protection.

Another trial with women receiving 80mgs of the herb, showed that there was a 23% improvement in the elasticity of their arteries. This would explain the traditional use of red clover in China and Russia for heart disease, although decades ago they would not have had the science or research tools to back up their findings.

Red Clover Health Benefits

1) Cancer Treatment – research from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) confirms that red clover extract contains four anti-tumor compounds. Red clover also contains the powerful antioxidant tocopherol, which is a form of Vitamin E. Antioxidants help prevent cancer and other diseases by fighting dangerous free radicals in the body.

2) Menopause Alleviation – Red clover contains isoflavones, potent phytoestrogens that stimulate estrogen tissue. Isoflavones help treat hot flashes, mood swings and loss of sexual desire.

Red Clover Historical Medical Usage

Red Clover was originally dubbed ‘The herb of Hippocrates’ as it formed an important ingredient in his medical endeavours. Pliny who suggested taking it with wine for kidney stones and water retention.

Red Clover tea, made from the red blossoms, was an old remedy for winter colds. German Mennonites took the plant over with them to America and it is still used to help treat whooping cough, croup and to give support in some cancers. Red Clover roots have also been used to treat diphtheria.

By 1917 a book on herbs, Health from the Field and Forest, listed Red Clover as one of the very best blood purifiers, and especially for its use in cancer.

Not surprisingly by the 1930s it was a popular cancer remedy, and is today recommended by herbalists in support of the treatment for, and prevention of, breast, ovarian and lymphatic cancer.

Interestingly, one of the longest surviving ‘less conventional therapies’ of recent years has its roots in a herbal formula discovered by a horse breeder. Vet John Hoxsey had a favourite stallion which developed a cancerous growth. However, this growth healed and Hoxsey noticed his stallion had grazed in a particular area of his pastures. John was convinced that the wild plants growing in that particular area had caused the stallion´s recovery and developed a formula out of grasses and wild flowers growing there. This formula included red clover.

Wild flowers and plants have been used by cultures worldwide to treat illness and confer greater immunity in the population and very often it is the animal kingdom that can provide the first clues as to the efficacy of certain plants.

John Hoxsey went on to concoct a formula made from Red Clover, Alfalfa, Buckthorne, Prickly Ash Bark and other herbs , all gathered from the area where the stallion had supposedly healed himself. He then used this ‘secret’ mixture to treat horses in the area around his farm in Illinois. His reputation as the man with a healing touch brought him business from horse breeders all over Illinois and as far away as Kentucky and Indiana.

John was the grandfather of Doctor Harry Hoxsey and handed his ‘special formula’ for treating horses onto his grandson, who then went on to use variations of the herbal mixtures to treat humans, especially those with particular (largely hormone-driven) cancers. Dr Harry Hoxsey met with a great deal of success and, not surprisingly, controversy, but a reporter sent to investigate him (and ruin his reputation) became a supporter of his works and wrote an article entitled ‘The Quack who Cured Cancer’.

Red Clover is also included in the 8 compound formula of Essiac and the cancer active Patron, breast cancer expert Professor Powles, initiated trials with the herb at the UK’s cancer centre, The Royal Marsden.

Red Clover Anti-Oestrogen

Red Clover´s blood purifying properties and variety of natural plant nutrients includes vitamin C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and thiamin. However, one of the most important ingredients in Red Clover is the Isoflavone content. Isoflavones are plant phytoestrogens. These can help in a number of health issues, including the control of hot flushes and cardiovascular health.

However Powles has dubbed phytoestrogens ‘Anti-oestrogens’, for the way in which they are capable of blocking the action of human oestrogens in the cancer process, particularly oestradiol and its ability to attach to receptor sites and cause havoc within a healthy cell. It is likely that up to 70 per cent of breast cancers, plus other female cancers such as endometrial and ovarian are driven by oestradiol. But then cancers such as colorectal and brain tumours can also depend upon localised oestrogen, as can male cancers such as testicular and prostate.

Phytoestrogens (which are far less powerful than human forms) have the ability both to block the receptor sites that human oestrogens attack, and also in some cases to even denature aggressive human oestrogens. One study by Cancer Research UK showed that women in the Far East can have 1000 times the blood levels of phytoestrogens when compared to their New York cousins.

Red Clover Phytoestrogens Benefits

Following a large body of research studies at the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Bari in Italy, it is now known that phytoestrogens found in red clover, can actually increase the bone density. It can therefore contribute towards the treatment of osteoporosis.

Breast Health: Dozens of studies show that phytoestrogens inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, which is the reason why Red Clover has been promoted as a potential aid in the treatment of cancer.

Perimenopausal women are more likely to get breast cysts which can be stimulated by too much oestrogen. Royal Marsden and others have found that the plant oestrogens in clover are not found to be harmful although they too attach to breast tissue receptors. However the significant benefit is that this blocks the action of human oestrogens, thus discouraging the growth of cysts. It is speculated that the same degree of protection may be afforded against breast tumours, but more research is needed to support this hypothesis.

The June 2004 edition of Breast Cancer Research states that red clover does not cause any oestrogenic increase in breast density, while human and synthetic oestrogen does. An increase in density is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, inferring that taking red clover could prove to be preventative.

There is some preliminary evidence that isoflavones in clover may stop cancer cells from growing and even kill off cancer cells in test tube studies.

Prostate & Uterine Cancers

Some experts have proposed that red clover may also help in beating other forms of cancer, such as prostate and endometrial cancer. Recent research by the National Cancer Institute found that red clover contains four phytoestrogens – Bochanin A, Formononetin, Daidzein and Genistein, the latter two having been found many times previously to prevent the growth of cancerous tumours.

Genistein is possibly the most researched phytoestrogen (it is also in pulses such as soya beans) and shows an impressive array of anti-cancer properties. In one study it was found to revert breast and prostate cancer cells back to their pre-cancerous states, and also delay the growth of new blood vessels essential for the growth and spread of tumours. (prostrate 1993,22:335-345)Nutr Biochem 1995;6:481-485)

Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia found that an active supplement derived from red clover helps prevent prostate cells from advancing to cancerous stages (Cancer epidemiology,|Biomarkers and Prevention,Dec 2002). The researchers involved measured the PSA ( Prostate Specific Antigen) level, The Gleason score ( grade of cancer) , serum testosterone, incidence of cancer cell death, and excreted isoflavone levels before and after treatment. The supplement used was found to be particularly effective in fighting early-stage cancer cells and cancer cells were killed off five times more frequently than was the case in the control group.

It is too simplistic to think that oestrogen (the female sex hormone) can only lie behind female cancers. And equally we need to acknowledge that isoflavones and phytoestrogens are important in terms of prostate health. Our diet is clearly vital in bringing us this phytoestrogen protection. Not surprisingly, in Asia, where the diet is high in isoflavone foods such as red clover, lentils , chick peas and beans, the incidence of prostate cancer is also far lower than it is in the West. The British diet contains about 1-2 mgs for the average male whereas men in Asia consume upwards of 20 to 50 mgs daily. Studies of men with BHP ( Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) or enlarged prostate gland have showed (over a 3 month period) a reduction in prostate size and improved urinary flow by 10% – with no side effects.

Red Clover Tea

Fresh red clover is easily identified by its signature three-leaflet leaves, and sweet-smelling pink or purple edible, ball-shaped flowers. You can also buy red clover seed and plant it in the spring or fall.

Here are the instructions for using red clover flowers as an (adjunct) cancer treatment according to Jerry Lee Hoover N.D.:

  • Make a tea by bringing the water to a boil, removing from the heat and adding the herb.
  • Let it steep for 20 minutes or longer. Use one to two teaspoons of herb per cup of tea.
  • The best time to take the tea is at night before bed on an empty stomach.
  • If you take it twice a day, then also first thing in the morning when you first get up on an empty stomach.

Red Clover Dosage

There is little doubt that for regular and controlled doses, organic tinctures (of 1:2 extractive) can be the best way of taking the herb. Up to 20 drops three times daily can be taken. Red Clover combines well with some other beneficial herbs like golden seal, echinacea, and astragalus.

Red Clover Precaution

Red clover has documented phytoestrogenic activity-if you have a condition that prohibits you from taking estrogen supplements, you probably shouldn’t take red clover supplements either.

In extremely high amounts, red clover has been linked to miscarriage, certain birth defects, infertility, and growth disorders. Because estrogen has been shown to accelerate the growth of estrogen-dependent breast and gynecological tumors, people with a history of these growths should not take clover.

Estrogen also increases the risk of blood clots-smokers, people taking birth control pills, and anyone with a history of heart disease or stroke should not take red clover without doctor approval.

Red Clover Interactions & Contra-Indications

As Red clover contains salicylates, which thin the blood, it should not be taken when patients are also on blood thinners like warfarin (coumadins), or during pregnancy or whilst breast feeding. Red clover will enhance the effects of other blood thinners like gingko, ginger, garlic, vitamin E and serapeptase so the intake of these items should ideally be regulated by a health professional or medical herbalist.

It is not recommended that Red Clover is taken at the same time as tamoxifen as it may interfere with its action. (University of Maryland) Indeed it may even act much in the same way by blocking the oestrogen receptor sites.

Red Clover may also interfere with some drugs that are broken down by liver enzymes. For that reason you should check with your doctor before taking Red Clover.

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Red Clover Research Links

Red clover-derived isoflavones and mammographic breast density: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) for menopausal women: current state of knowledge.

Phytoestrogens for vasomotor menopausal symptoms.

Phytoestrogen supplements for the treatment of hot flashes: the Isoflavone Clover Extract (ICE) Study: a randomized controlled trial.

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