Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) has been used for centuries. The NCI researched the herb and found four anti-tumor compounds in it. Red clover has been cultivated since ancient times, primarily to provide a favorite grazing food for animals. But, like many other herbs, red clover was also a valued medicine. Although it has been used for many purposes worldwide, the one condition most consistently associated with red clover is cancer.
Chinese physicians and Russian folk healers also used it to treat respiratory problems. In the nineteenth century, red clover became popular among herbalists as an “alterative” or “blood purifier.” Cancer, eczema, and the eruptions of venereal disease were all seen as manifestations of toxic buildup. Red clover was considered one of the best herbs to “purify” the blood. For this reason, it is included in many of the famous treatments for cancer, including the Hoxsey cancer cure and Jason Winter’s cancer-cure tea.
Recently, special red clover extracts high in substances called isoflavones have arrived on the market. These isoflavones produce effects in the body somewhat similar to those of estrogen, and for this reason they are called phytoestrogens (phyto indicates a plant source). The major isoflavones in red clover include genistein and daidzein, also found in soy, as well as formononetin and biochanin.
“The isoflavones isolated from red clover have been studied for their effectiveness in treating some forms of cancer. It is thought that the isoflavones prevent the proliferation of cancer cells and that they may even destroy cancer cells. Laboratory and animal studies have found that red clover isoflavones may protect against the growth of breast cancer cells. This is surprising because estrogens (and isoflavones have estrogenic properties) have generally been thought to stimulate the growth of breast cancer in women.”
Red clover may be useful in treating prostate cancer: “A 66-year-old physician with prostate cancer took a concentrated phyto-estrogen based on red clover for just one week and thereby caused his tumour to regress. The patient had been diagnosed with a high PSA level (13.1 micrograms/liter) in March 1996 and a subsequent needle biopsy had confirmed the presence of a low grade adenocarcinoma. He was scheduled for a radical (suprapubic) prostatectomy and, on his own initiative, decided to take a daily dose of 160 mg of a phyto-estrogen product based on red clover for the seven days preceding his operation. After the operation the biopsy tissue and the tumour tissue were compared. It was clear that the tumour tissue showed a high degree of apoptosis (cell death) resembling the effect of high-dose estrogen therapy and consistent with tumour regression. Professor Stephens concluded that this case history provides further evidence that phyto-estrogens helps prevent prostate cancer with no adverse effects of the phyto-estrogen treatment.”