Edition 15: January 2010
What Herb is That?
Promising future for folk tonic
ALTHOUGH red clover is a native European plant, it was not until it became naturalised in North America and the Native Americans had discovered its medicinal properties that it was recognised as a medicine in Europe.
Traditional Chinese physicians used the flowers for bronchial problems. The flowers were a popular anti-cancer remedy with the 19th Century Eclectic physicians and 33 cultures around the world used red clover to treat cancer.
According to the Doctrine of Signatures, the white markings on the leaflets of red clover were seen as a sign that the plant could be of benefit in the treatment of cataracts.
Red clover has good amounts of vitamins, proteins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, silicon, as well as vitamins A, B12, E and K. It is also a source of other nutrients, including niacin, thiamine and vitamin C. It contains the minerals needed by bodily glands, thus frequent use can assist in bringing about hormonal balance.
Red clover is considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones (water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants), which is why it is so useful to for women undergoing menopause. It is used for hot flushes, mood swings, lowering cholesterol, breast enhancement and breast health and it is also used to help prevent osteoporosis.
Some substances in plants produce the same effects in humans as some hormones. Isoflavones in red clover are able to bind to estrogen and possibly other receptors (they may attach to estrogen receptors throughout the body particularly in the bladder, blood vessels, bones, and heart.) and appear to have moderate hormonal effects. For women with normal oestrogen levels, red clover isoflavones may displace some natural estrogens, possibly preventing or relieving oestrogen-related symptoms, such as breast pain, that are associated with PMS.
It has been noted for some time that male sheep that graze on large quantities of red clover eventually develop a diminished sperm count. (There is no evidence that red clover causes low sperm counts in human males. A human could not eat enough clover to affect sperm counts.)
Traditional folk therapy
Red clover has been a traditional folk therapy for infertility and chronic miscarriage, both of which can be due to insufficient estrogen. It is most useful herb in establishing fertility because of its high vitamin content is very valuable to the uterus and its high protein content benefits the whole body - its high calcium and magnesium relaxes the nervous system, helping to promote fertility.
Red clover has the ability to loosen phlegm and calm bronchial spasms; it has also been used to treat coughs and respiratory system congestion, because it also contains resin. Resinous substances in plants have expectorating, warming, and antimicrobial action.
This herb is an excellent remedy for children with skin problems and may be safely used in any case of childhood eczema. It is of particular benefit for children with eczema/asthma syndrome. It is also of value in other chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis.
Traditionally, the blossoms were used as a tonic taken in the spring to promote good health and peace of mind as it also helps to sooth the nerves.
Red clover's constituents are thought to stimulate the immune system. It has been a traditional ingredient in many formulas for cancer as it contains anti-tumor compounds and antioxidants and for those with non estrogen-dependent cancer tumors, red clover may hold some promise. Red clover is also known as a blood purifier, useful for improving the overall health of the liver. It may also act as a digestive aid and stimulator of digestive fluids and bile production.
Did you know?
The three-lobed red clover leaves were associated with the Holy Trinity by mediaeval Christians and were considered a charm against witchcraft.
It is believed that red clover may help to prevent heart disease in several ways. It contains the blood-thinning substance coumarin. Coumarin is not unique to red clover; it is found in many other plants, including common grass. In fact, the pleasant sweet smell of freshly cut grass is due to the coumarin compounds. People on anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin should be cautious of using red clover, as the blood may become too thin.
Taking red clover may also lower the levels of 'bad' low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and raise the levels of 'good' high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the body. In addition, red clover may also promote an increase in the secretion of bile acid of which cholesterol is a major component, increased bile acid production usually means that more cholesterol is used; thus less circulates in the body.
Red clover may also help the arteries remain strong and elastic (a quality often called 'arterial compliance'), which may also help to prevent some of the plaque deposits that may lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
Red clover can promote general prostate health and restore normal urinary tract function.
It blocks enzymes thought to contribute to prostate cancer in men. It has shown a definite limiting effect, however, in the development of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. An enlarged prostate may cause men to experience a weak or interrupted urine stream, dribbling after urinating, or the urge to urinate even after voiding. For most men, BPH is a normal part of ageing.
Red clover has been found to be helpful in quitting smoking.
Name: Red Clover
Latin: Trifolium pratense
What is it? Red clover is a three leafed biennial or perennial plant reaching a height of up to 60cm. It is widespread throughout the world in grassy areas and thrives in the more humid upland areas. The small, reddish-purple, ball-shaped flower heads are used medicinally and have been cultivated as forage since prehistoric times.
Therapeutic properties: Alterative, antispasmodic, diuretic, expectorant, estrogenic activity, sedative
Uses: Acne, Asthma, Bronchitis, lowers cholesterol, colds, coughs, including whooping cough – often used in the form of syrup, improves digestion, by stimulating production of digestive chemicals and bile, eczema, skin eruptions, relieves flatulence, infections, helps improve fertility, lymphatic swelling, piles – applied locally to alleviate the condition, promotes prostate health, sore throats, menopausal health, adjuvant cancer treatments.
Precautions: Because the estrogen-like chemicals it contains may have caused abnormal foetal development in animal studies, taking red clover is not recommended for pregnant women.
People on blood thinning medication should refrain from using this herb in concentrated extract form.
Essential Oil of the Month
Clove oil: useful for both medicine and linen closets
THE CLOVE tree has been cultivated in plantations for more than 2000 years.
It has been extensively used as a spice worldwide and imported by the French and Portuguese as an important commodity in perfumes, mulled wines and liqueurs.
The tincture was used by the Greeks, Roman and the Chinese; commonly to ease toothache and sweeten the breath.
The Indians used it in love potions and to ease the pain in childbirth, (steeped in wine) and dress the umbilical cord. It was used for skin infections and digestive upsets and to expel intestinal parasites and in the prevention of contagious diseases, such as the plague,
Clove oil is valuable as an emergency treatment for a toothache, because it numbs the nerves like a local anaesthetic. Just a drop of Clove Oil on a cotton swab applied to the sore tooth, avoiding the surrounding gum area, can provide dramatic relief from the pain of a toothache until dental treatment is available. As an effective antiseptic and a natural anaesthetic to dull pain; clove oil can be used for acne, bruises, burns and cuts, keeping infection at bay and as a pain reliever.
It calms broken bone pain and helps heal torn ligaments and tendons. It may alleviate infectious wounds such as leg ulcers and the chronic skin disease lupus. Its warming qualities bring blood to the peripheral body to aid in healing and consequently treats stiff aching muscles, rheumatism and arthritis. It triggers heat within the bones and soft tissue and tends to work best on local areas rather than the whole system. (In this capacity it works beautifully with black pepper, manuka and peppermint).
Clove is a long-lived evergreen tree with large bright green leaves and rosy-pink buds, which become fragrant red flowers and purple fruits. It is a native of Indonesia and the Malacca Islands and the essential oil is distilled from the flower buds and the leaves and stems. The Latin word 'Clavus' means nail shaped, referring to the bud.
Clove is beneficial as a tonic to the digestive system and treats intestinal disorders in general. It is effective against vomiting, diarrhoea, spasms. It relieves wind in flatulence, reducing the griping action of colicky pains and eases the nausea and bad breath due to gastric fermentation.
Clove counters parasites and other micro-organisms. For dispelling parasites, a blend of clove, eucalyptus and lavender (1-2 per cent dilution) can be applied across the abdomen up to twice daily.
Clove oil is valuable for relieving respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, asthma and tuberculosis.
It encourages resistance to germs with its wonderful disinfecting property when used in a vapouriser and is thus useful in cases of infectious diseases, especially colds and flu.
This pungent oil repels most insects and is excellent to deter moths from clothes and linen cupboards. Place a few drops of clove oil on a cotton ball and place where it is needed. Included in an oil blend (sparingly) and rubbed on the skin, it works well to repel mosquitoes and flies.
Clove features prominently in dental preparations and as a fragrant component in soaps and toiletries, as well as perfumes where it adds an interesting, mysterious oriental element.
Massage: Clove oil can be used in a blended massage oil to assist with diarrhoea, bronchitis, chills, colds, muscular numbness, spasms, rheumatism and arthritis. For toothache the outer jaw can be massaged with this oil. Use a low dilution of less than one per cent.
Burners and vapourisers: Clove oil can be useful for bronchitis and dizziness and to help lift depression, while strengthening memory and fighting weakness and lethargy.
Clove oil has benefit for those suffering from impotence and frigidity with its aphrodisiac properties and is helpful in love potions and blends. Psychologically, it is a restorative and stimulating, improving mental function and memory. It also counters mental exhaustion and burn- out.
It promotes a willingness to let go of the old and make way for the new and reveals to us the ephemeral nature of everything, including what we have created and our views on life; all is subject to change.
We become more peaceful inwardly, by letting go without bitterness and opening up to new possibilities.
Clove oil is indicated when we invest too much energy into clinging to certain thoughts and consequently some types of pain and headaches prevail.
It encourages introspection into the pain and helps us reflect upon the root causes so we can recognise how it has served us and realise it is no longer needed.
Clove teaches us how anger is born of fear and it addresses the repressed anger before it erupts into violence so we can experience life afresh with spontaneity and joy.
Clove oil lifts the martyr’s burden of responsibility, releasing tension and relaxing the physical body. It overcomes the belief that life is a struggle and encourages self-care; teaching us to receive nourishment if all kinds. Use clove to reclaim your power and zest for life.
People with oral fixations can benefit from clove, as it releases stagnant energy held within the throat chakra, namely the teeth and the mouth.
Name: Clove Bud Oil
Latin: Eugenia caryophyllata
Therapeutic properties: Analgesic, antiseptic, antibiotic, antispasmodic, anti-emetic, anti-oxidant, carminative, stimulant and stomachic. Anti-viral, aphrodisiac, counter-irritant, expectorant, vermifuge (expels intestinal worms) disinfectant, insecticide
Scent: A Pale yellow liquid that is strong and penetrating. It has fresh, fruity top notes and deep sweet spicy undertones
Clove Oil blends well with: Most citruses, florals including rose, clary-sage, sandalwood ylang-ylang
Warning: Clove oil can cause skin and mucous membrane irritation. Use sparingly at high dilutions (less than one percent.) Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid in alcoholism, in haemophilia, in prostatic cancer, with kidney and liver problems and if taking anti-coagulants.