Red clover is a perennial herb that grows wild in Europe and Asia and which has been naturalized to grow in North America. Alternative names for the herb include beebread, cow grass, meadow clover, cow clover and purple clover. Uses for red clover include being a nutritional food source for cattle and other animals as well as a variety of medicinal applications for humans.
Red clover has long been used as a natural food source for cattle and other livestock; both live in the meadow and bundled as hay. The best seeding time for red clover is in late summer and early fall for optimum lifetime yields. Red clover that is seeded in the winter or early spring provides grazing material during the first year in August, but grazing after September will affect the root reserves and the plant's ability to develop winter hardiness and to fight disease.
Uses for red clover extend well beyond the meadow into medical laboratories and treatment centers. Red clover contains nutrients including potassium, vitamin C, calcium, chromium, magnesium and phosphorus. The herb is also rich in isoflavones, plant chemicals that act like estrogen. Ongoing research is exploring the benefits of red clover in regard to heart disease, cancer and menopause.
Red clover ointments applied directly to the skin are used to treat eczema, psoriasis and other rashes. In addition, red clover has also been used as a short-term cough remedy for children made with isolated isoflavones as opposed to using the whole herb. Children should be treated with red clover only under the guidance of a physician.
Red clover may be prepared as a tea or as liquid extract, tablets and capsules in addition to the topical ointment.