Ah, red clover. A versatile plant that helps with so many things — amusing young children in an attempt to find 4 leaves; food for grazing animals; medicine; and fixing nitrogen into the soil, to name a few.
Here in the Midwest, I’ve noticed that some patches are starting to go over, but there are still some thriving stands just waiting for us to discover them.
You’ll recognize red clover (Trifolium pratense) most quickly by it’s dark pink/purple color (I don’t think I would call it red), and then by the white “V” marking (chevron) on its leaves. Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) might have a similarly colored flower, but will lack the “V”.
Despite the fact that some may consider this plant a weed, it has long been used for its medicinal benefit. The Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs has quite an impressive paragraph on the plant’s uses, part of which explains that:
Historically, flower tea has been used as an antispasmodic, expectorant, mild sedative, “blood purifier”; for asthma, bronchitis, spasmodic coughs; externally, a wash has been used as an anti-cancer remedy, including the famous Hoxsey treatment, and for athlete’s foot, burns, sores, and ulcers.
Although we lack formal scientific evaluation of many of these claims, we do have scientific evidence that several of the compounds in red clover, such as biochanin A, may inhibit the activation of cancer. Red clover is also well known for containing phytoestrogens.
First Ways blog discusses red clover further as a detox plant, and Susun Weed often mentions red clover for use in enhancing fertility and as a nourishing herbal infusion (which uses the same method as my post about nettle infusion).
After harvesting some, I went about making a tincture.
When I got home, I placed the buds out on a drying sheet overnight to make sure that any insects on the tops were able to get away (note: obviously avoid plants that are infested with insects, but it’s ok if there are a few!).
The next day, I put them in a mason jar and covered them with 100 proof vodka (meaning 50% alcohol and 50% water). I added about twice as much vodka as there were clover blossoms. I’ll let this sit for 6 weeks, strain off the blossoms, and what remains is the tincture.
Already today (the next day), I can tell that the menstruum (the alcohol in this case) is doing its job of extracting the medicinal properties from the plants — the vodka is no longer clear, but is turning darker and this is a good sign that this tincture will do its job!
Enjoy the clover!
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