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Home Plant Lore Red Clover

Red Clover

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MAY 2012: RED CLOVER (Trifolium Pratense)

Red Clover Description and Habitat:: A member of the Legume family, Red Clover is abundant in Britain, throughout Europe, Central and Northern Asia from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle and high up into the mountains. A biennial or short duration perennial plant reaching a height of up to 60cm, it is widely found on meadow land where it produces abundant blossom forming an excellent mowing crop. Not of great value to bees which prefer the White Clover it also thrives in the more humid upland areas. It has a short rootstock which produces several simple or slightly branched reddish stems with close-pressed whitish hairs. It has a base rosette of long-stalked leaves while the stem leaves are alternate, the lower ones long-stalked and the upper ones short-stalked. The leaves have three oval leaflets which are minutely toothed and sometimes blotched with a white crescent towards their base. The globular red to purple fragrant flower heads grow densely in the upper and lateral leaves. Each flower head contains thirty to sixty florets.

Synonyms and Common names: Wild clover, Trefoil, Purple Clover, Cow Clover, Cow Grass, Marl Grass, Meadow Clover, Honeysuckles.

Red Clover The name “Honeysuckles” comes from children sucking the nectar from the flowers.

A native of England, Red Clover is one of the first plants cultivated by man to improve the soil and as forage for cattle and has been highly regarded since ancient times. Clover first came to North America with the English as well as to other British colonies including Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and in all those countries today people use clover for healing.

Parts used: The flowers which are gathered between June and September.

Medicinal Uses: Traditionally, cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and a range of other serious illnesses were treated with red clover as it was seen as a blood purifier, an antibiotic, a relaxant and an appetite suppressant. It was considered good for inflamed lungs, colds, flu, cough, fever, whooping cough, and other inflammatory conditions related to gout and arthritis, most glandular ailments, gastric trouble, skin disorders, headaches, neuralgia, and the AIDS virus. A syrupy extract of the flowers can be used externally for persistent sores, burns, abscesses, fever sores, and ulcers and was also believed to prevent cancer or arrest tumors. A poultice of the plant can be used for athlete’s foot and other skin problems. The flowers were formerly smoked in anti-asthma cigarettes.

The flowers were a popular anti-cancer remedy as late as the 1930s especially for cancer of the breasts and ovaries and this is a cancer cure from the hills of Tennessee: "Place two to three teaspoons of red clover blossom in one cup of boiling water, steep mixture until a tea is formed. Drink one cup a day."

Considered also an excellent remedy for children with skin problems, it was also thought to be of particular benefit for children with eczema and asthma. It is also held to be of value in other chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis.

The expectorant and antispasmodic actions of Red Clover made it a traditional treatment of coughs and bronchitis and particularly in whooping cough, while a syrup made from the infusion of Red Clover was used to relieve stubborn, dry coughs.

The fresh, crushed flowers can be applied to bites and stings. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, the white crescent markings on the leaflets of red clover were seen as a sign that the plant could be of benefit in the treatment of cataracts while a tincture of Red Clover in water may be used as an eyewash for conjunctivitis.

Clovers are rich in nutrients and vitamins and the leaves and flowers can be added to salads or used as garnish. Use the new green leaves when eating them raw, but you can also add the tougher older leaves to sautéed or steamed greens like spinach and kale. You can even add the leaves into stir fries, soups, and pasta sauces, but add them last and just cook until wilted to retain the nutrients. Even the roots can be eaten when cooked. You can batter and fry Clover flowers just like Elder flowers. The flowers of both types of clover can be used to make homemade wines. Red Clover flowers are steeped to make a popular tea which, although drunk for pleasure, can be used to treat liver and gallbladder issues, stomach and digestive issues, as well as for women’s menstrual and fertility issues. A popular jelly was made from the red blooms.

In the catalogue “Health From Field and Forest” (1917), Clover is listed as one of the best blood purifiers, especially in the case of cancer. The catalogue states:

“Medical scientists have long recognized the value of red clover blossoms as a purifying agent for the blood, particularly in cases of cancerous humors, tumors, carbuncles, and the like, and not only recommend but use them. Knowing this, we have chosen German red-clover, carefully picked and cured in a way to retain its full strength, as a base for our "Red Clover Compound," adding in smaller proportions herbs with qualities like to itself, each serving to bring out and emphasize the remedial virtues of the others. Taken freely, as a tea, it purifies the blood and tones up the entire system; and thus by removing the cause, it reaches the very root of the trouble, curing cancers, abscesses, tumors, and other diseases which would never gain a foothold but for an impure condition of the blood.”

Red clover was and continues to be very popular as a healing plant in Germany. And the Mennonites who came to North and South America to escape religious persecution in that country brought the knowledge of Red Clover with them. To this day in the American communities, they use red clover, known as “rhoda glae blumma”, to treat whooping cough, croup and cancer of the stomach and its roots to treat diphtheria.

The Chinese also revere clover, “hsun tsao”, as a tonic, and they draw the sap to treat colds and influenza. At one time in Chinese history, the dried plant was burned at altars as an incense and as an invocation to the Gods. It was also worn in the girdle to expel evil spirits. Contemporary Chinese researchers have proven that Red Clover kills certain viral and fungal infections, has estrogen-like functions, and is an antispasmodic and expectorant.

Additional Comments and Folklore: Four Leaf Clover It is strange that anyone around the World if asked about four-leafed Clover will say it is good luck and considered a wonderful find. There is a wide range of magical powers attributed to Clover which is perhaps due to the undeniable healing powers they exhibit. The conviction that red clover is a tonic to the whole body, strengthening and giving power to the person who drinks it is as universal as the belief that a four-leafed clover is good luck if you place it in your hat or under your pillow and bad luck if you find one and leave it unpicked. It is also widely believed that someone who tries to pick a four-leafed clover in the moonlight will go insane because the good luck of the clover reverses itself.

Although modern folklore has this three-leaved plant being associated with the Christian Holy Trinity, the association of plants with three leaves goes much further back into Pagan times. The ancient Greeks and Romans associated it with their triple Goddesses and the Celts considered it a sacred symbol of the Sun. It is the national flower of Ireland, but the association with St. Patrick is actually more modern and some authorities now consider it was the Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) that he planted in Ireland.

In folk magic Red Clover is used in a ritual bath to attract money and prosperity to the bather and is also used as a floor wash to chase out evil and unwanted ghosts. The four-leaf clover is believed to protect from evil spirits, witches, disease and the evil eye. This familiar childhood rhyme for a four-leaf clover actually originates from the Middle Ages:

One leaf for fame, one leaf for wealth,
One for a faithful lover,
And one leaf to bring glorious health,
Are all in a four-leaf clover

The four-leaf clover was said to enable its wearer to ward off evil and witches, to see fairies and various spirits, to heal illnesses, to have good fortune, and to escape military service. The five-leaf clover was said to be unlucky and the two-leaf clover was to enable a maid to see her future lover. With its three leaves, Clover is a very shamanic plant allowing one to see into and interact with the Otherworld. It is a good talisman for protection and power for travelling out of body and walking between worlds.

Washing the face in Red Clover in the morning dew is said to prevent freckles.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 13:32  



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