If you’re familiar with my work as an herbalist, you’ll know that I love to create ‘grab & go’ tincture formulas. At our apothecary, Grateful Desert, we have a wide range of them to address a litany of ailments and imbalances. People seem to love them, including my family! They’re convenient tools to have on hand. For instance, Sleep Deep contains a variety of sedative and anti-anxiety herbs, approaching insomnia from many angles, and so addressing a wide scope of sleep issues.
I also believe in the power of creating customized formulas for folks going through specific issues. I usually do this after an in-depth private consultation with a client or customer. This in-depth investigation is especially effective if one is experiencing chronic health problems, coming off pharmaceuticals, or has chosen a holistic route to address serious illness.
In addition, I also deeply believe in empowering people to forge relationships with individual herbs. This can be done by gradually building up a home apothecary with single herbs to work with, exploring how each herb interacts with your own unique physical and energetic constitution. In time, you’ll know which herb to grab off the shelf to address the day’s therapeutic needs. You can get to know your own systems and plant allies intimately, creating an empowering and collaborative relationship with these herbal teachers.
At Grateful Desert, we also have a large selection of single herb tinctures. I encourage and seek to empower our customers to start their own home apothecaries by getting to know single herbs. To facilitate, we are publishing an ‘Herb of the Week’ letter to whet your appetite for our wonderful family of single herb tinctures. They are by no means complete herbal monographs, so if any of these pique your curiosity, please explore further and do your research, particularly if you have any health conditions, are on any pharmaceuticals, or are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive. And of course, we are always here to use as a resource if you have any questions, so please feel free to reach out.
The beautiful Red Clover is native to parts of Europe, the western regions of Asia and north Africa, but due to her adaptable nature, she has been propagated and naturalized in many other parts of the world, including North America.
Actions of Red Clover are: alterative, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, she’s high in isoflavones, - which means that taking this herb has estrogenic/phyto-estrogenic effects on the body. As such, it’s important to be aware that over long term use, anyone who has breast cancer or is susceptible to it might want to steer away from Red Clover.
As well as isoflavones, this herb is rich in calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.
Studies have been done about Red Clover & prostate cancer, in particular her ability to lower the PSA. However, to date these studies are not conclusive. In fact, many studies have been done on Red Clover, and nothing is quite conclusive as yet.
That being said, there’s a long and rich history of traditional therapeutic uses of Red Clover. I personally love to use her for skin conditions because of her 'blood cleansing' effects- referring to her actions as an alterative. The term ‘blood cleansing’ can sometimes be vague. Our blood is constantly moving nutrients around, and eliminating waste from the body - so saying that something is ‘blood cleansing’ can be confusing.
Specifically, what Red Clover does is help white blood cell macrophages – usually found in the liver, spleen and connective tissues - eat up dead or mutated cells in the body, as well as infectious foreign microorganisms, thus bringing support to the immune system.
I’ve had considerable success using her to clear up skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. As we all know, our skin is our largest organ, and this is where signs of imbalance often manifest.
For instance, when we do a cleanse by supporting the liver, we can release drugs, pharmaceuticals, or chemicals we’ve taken in from food or the environment. It is usually in the liver that chemical and toxic buildups accumulate, and through which they are released – the waste material will exit your liver and into your bloodstream. We often see symptoms of cleansing, which appear in different ways, through skin issues. When Red Clover is taken in these situations, the white blood cell macrophages are deeply supported in their job of literally eating up and eliminating that which is being released.
To note, some other symptoms that may show up when your body is going through a cleanse are joint pain, cold & flu symptoms, coughs, headaches, even fever. Skin issues however, seem to be the most common manifestation of cleansing.
Suffice it to say then, that Red Clover is hugely beneficial for skin inflammation, particularly for stubborn and chronic conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It’s also safe for children to take in cases of childhood eczema and psoriasis.
I love to use Red Clover with Nettles, Avena, Chamomile, and Yellow Dock. Nettles and Avena are high in mineral content, Chamomile is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and Yellow Dock helps to initiate colon elimination.
Many of my clients deal with general dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis, so I frequently make skin formulas with Red Clover as a primary ingredient. Often people want to put a corticosteroid cream on it, and while I support helping with the symptomatic discomfort of skin conditions, one really wants to work on what’s going on internally. (Externally for symptomatic relief, I often give an essential oil blend of sage, lavender and geranium in a gentle lotion base.)
But equally, to use Red Clover as a panacea for skin conditions is not the way. You really have to become an investigator and look at what is triggering the inflammatory response. Much of the time, they’re preceded with extreme stress or nervous tension. If someone does have eczema for instance, often I’ll ask if they see a pattern; if when they’re anxious or having a stressful time, they have exacerbated symptoms. 90% of the time, it’s a yes. In this case, I like to add nervines like Skullcap, Avena or Lemon Balm to their formula.
Occasionally, it’s a no, and then you want to dig deeper, and look at things like excessive alcohol consumption, or any other kinds of substances they might be taking, including pharmaceutical and prescription drugs. I will ask about frequency of bowel movements, and how much water they drink. It is crucial to take elimination into account – and to find out if the kidneys and liver are functioning well. In this case, I like to add Yellow Dock, Burdock, Dandelion root and leaf or Corn Silk.
Equally, even if they do feel healthy, I will ask if they have ever worked with their liver. Because we all live in this world, and our daily realities have to contend with pretty poor air quality and all kinds of chemicals that we unknowingly consume, even if we are eating organically.
If we have never supported our liver through some sort of ‘cleanse’, then often we will find that when we do work with the liver, we can have many healing crisis-type symptoms like the ones mentioned above.
Because she is high in isoflavones (phyto-estrogenic), Red Clover is used in women’s formulas for peri-menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and menopause-related osteoporosis. It is also useful for breast pain or tenderness (mastalgia) and PMS-related symptoms.
That being said, no studies have been conclusive on these therapeutic effects of Red Clover. And to reiterate, because of this high isoflavone content, avoid Red Clover if there’s any breast cancer in your family, or if you’ve suffered from or are sensitive to estrogen-related cancers.
Traditionally, Red Clover has also been used for coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough and pleurisy. As an expectorant and an anti-spasmodic, it is a beautiful herb for all kinds of respiratory issues.
How pertinent for this particular moment when we find ourselves in a global pandemic facing a virus that attacks the upper respiratory system!
With Red Clover, I tend to only tincture the blossoms while some herbalists use the whole plant. I like to focus on the blossoms as they’re really rich in medicinal chemical constituents. And of course, they’re so beautiful! They have a vibrant energy, very light and bright. When they’re alive, they have a gentle-hearted sassiness to them.
Red Clover carries a strong Venusian energy. In folk traditions, she’s been used in charm bags and ritual baths to bring about fulfilling romantic relationships and financial good fortune. Red Clover is often blended with other herbs such as Rose, Damiana and Lovage to experience this Venusian energy. She’s also traditionally been used as an ingredient for wine in European folk traditions – and she’s the national flower of Ireland!
As always, please connect with us if you have any questions about Red Clover, or any of the herbs we've explored so far.
And as she's our Herb of the Week, we're offering a 10% discount on Red Clover until June 20, 2020.