Friday, September 12, 2008

Red Clover Benefits

By Kalynn Amadio

A symbol of luck for generations, the four leaf clover is hunted by children as a keepsake. The rare four leaf version is found only once in every 10,000 clovers. But in every red blossom of the clover plan is a compound that contains a form of estrogen. These compounds are known as isoflavones and are the reason red clover as an herb is used in herbal medicine.

Clover and Cancer

Current studies are showing that isoflavones like those in red clover, may aid in prevention of cancer cells forming and may even kill cancer cells in laboratory tests. But red clover has estrogen-like effects that could aid in the expansion of certain estrogen hungry cancers in the same way that human estrogen can.

Women may run the risk of developing estrogen hungry cancers like uterine cancer in the lining of the female uterus, if red clover is consumed over a long term. This is because estrogen-like compounds found naturally in red clover, also called phytoestrogens, can act like human estrogen in the body. On the other hand, preliminary research also tells us that people who maintain a plant-based diet including phytoestrogens have a reduced rate of cancer. Scientists believe this could be due to the phytoestrogen locking on to certain human cells thus preventing the natural human estrogens from doing damage to those at risk.

Red clover may alter the effects of any drugs containing hormones or derivatives of hormones like birth control pills for hormone replacement therapy, as well as the levels of natural hormones in the body.

Research is not clear on the consumption of red clover phytoestrogens by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Nor is it certain if women with beast cancer or other hormone based cancers should make use of red clover supplements or teas. In the area of prostate health, studies are under way in treating prostate enlargement and cancer.

Women who are in early stages or peri-menopausal may find comfort from the use of red clover as will women battling adverse symptoms of the menstrual cycle like breast pain. It is also used for the symptoms of prostate enlargement, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. The red blossoms of the clover are processed into extracts formed into capsules and tablets, teas and liquid.

Isoflavones, Menopause and Osteoporosis

Symptoms of menopause like hot flashes have been helped by use of isoflavones. This compound has also shown promise in osteoporosis and cardiovascular health as related to menopause.

There is not enough reliable scientific evidence to recommend red clover for osteoporosis. Menopause increases a woman's risk for developing osteoporosis (significant bone loss). Taking red clover has been shown to help delay osteoporosis in women who have not hit that stage of life.

Red clover goes by several other names like purple clover, bee-bread or cow clover and is used as an herbal remedy for cervical dysplasia. It is available in a variety of forms like tea or liquid extract, capsules and tablets or tinctures. Red clover is also a source for several nutrients: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine, vitamin C, niacin and chromium.

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