Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is a flowering plant that is native to Europe, Western Asia and Northwest Africa. It is now naturalized worldwide. Red Clover is a common agricultural cover crop because it fixes nitrogen in the soil and is a rich source of pollen and nectar for bees.
Red Clover is widely used in Naturopathic Medicine to treat a variety of ailments. In Naturopathic Medicine, dried Red Clover is occasionally used as an oral herbal supplement or mixed with topical formulations for the treatment of acne.
Red Clover and Acne
There are some people who have reported that both oral and topical Red Clover formulations were helpful treatments for their acne. The effect of Red Clover on acne may be related to the presence of Phyto-Estrogens. Estrogens can inhibit the activity of Androgens (male sex hormones). Elevated levels of Androgens are known to trigger acne symptoms in some individuals.
Unfortunately there are no rigorous scientific studies on the effectiveness of Red Clover for the treatment of acne. Nonetheless, Red Clover is one of the few herbal supplements that may actually be useful as an acne treatment, and this application deserves further investigation.
How Does Red Clover Work?
Red Clover is purported to have anti-inflammatory, expectorant and sedative properties. Red Clover is commonly used as a Naturopathic treatment for menopausal hot-flashes. Red Clover contains several isoflavone compounds which are similar in structure estrogen (a female sex hormone). These Estrogen-like compounds are called Phyto-Estrogens. Consumption of large amounts of Red Clover extract can trigger estrogen-dependent effects in the body.
Phytoestrogens derived from red clover: an alternative to estrogen replacement therapy? Beck, et al. 2005.
Therapeutic agents and herbs in topical application for acne treatment. Kanlayavattanakul, et al. 2011.
Estrogenic activity of two standardized red clover extracts (Menoflavon) intended for large scale use in hormone replacement therapy. Dornstauder, et al. 2001.
Clinical studies of red clover (Trifolium pratense) dietary supplements in menopause: a literature review. Booth, et al. 2006.
Isoflavones, phytohormones and phytosterols. Dweck. 2006.
Determination of isoflavones in red clover and related species by high-performance liquid chromatography combined with ultraviolet and mass spectrometric detection. Wu, et al. 2003.
Inhibition of angiogenesis and inflammation by an extract of red clover (Trifolium pratense L.). Krenn, et al. 2009.