Red Clover: The Detox Weed

Image from Wikimedia

I bet you’ve seen red clover, Trifolium pratense, around wherever you live. It has those big round pinky-purple flowers with three-lobed leaves with white chevron markings on the foliage. Lots of people eat the sweet blossoms as kids, but did you know it’s used by herbalists as a blood purifier because it helps support the liver, the body’s detox organ? It is also reported to have possible anti-tumor properties.

The flowers are the part of the plant most recommended for medicinal use. You can pick and dry the flowers for tea (they will last one year), eat them raw in a salad, or make a tincture with alcohol (lasts indefinitely). I opted for the latter today. I was riding my bike when I spotted Red Clover in a big vacant lot across from a convenience store on the corner of NE 42nd and Prescott St. in Portland. I gathered the blossoms and made two different tincture solutions.

In the book “From Earth to Herbalist,” author Gregory Tilford writes that the United States Pharmacopeia recommends using one part herb to two parts alcohol-water solution that is at least 40% alcohol. So I used 1 cup clover flowers, 1 cup water, and 1 cup of 190-proof alcohol to make a 45% solution.

The second tincture solution ended up being 2 cups of herb and 3 cups of alcohol-water solution. It was two cups of 190 proof alcohol and one cup water, making approximately a 66% alcohol solution. This was the result of a counting screw-up on my end but I bottled it anyway so as not to waste the flowers or the Everclear. I’m letting the mixture sit in a dark closet for up to 6 weeks.

I’ll be using these tinctures as a tonic, putting ‘em in tea and perhaps coffee to aid my body’s detox efforts and to nourish my liver as it creates red blood cells.

From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Red Clover is good for clearing toxic heat from the blood and excess heat from liver qi stagnation, symptoms of which can include acne, feeling depressed, irritable, or angry, PMS, and more. The condition of liver qi stagnation can be caused by suppressed anger and resentment, staying up too late, use of caffeine and alcohol, and lack of creative expression, among other things.

Learn more wild plants in the Plant Gallery here.

23 thoughts on “Red Clover: The Detox Weed

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  3. One more thing about the alcohol, a small amount is OK (for most people). It is the over use or abuse that is the problem.

  4. What about Red Colver Jelly if you can not have alcohol? Jellies keep for a long time and I heard it taste great.

  5. im a newbe to all this ….im a bit confused red Clover is good for your liver but alcohol is no so how can putting red clover in alcohol be a good thing

  6. I have hepititus c, and alcohol is not recommended. Is gagging down red vinegar the only other tincture option? if so what is the mix? one part to two? or different? Thanks.

  7. I see lots of goodies in that bottom picture along with the red clover. I see plantain, and what looks like poor man’s pepper, but I’ve never seen poor man’s pepper grow taller than about four inches. Is this another mustard?

    • I think you’re referring to a mustard I know as Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris, which gets about a foot tall. What’s the Latin name for Poor Man’s Pepper?

  8. Love that you use the Scientifically Accurate version of Tincturing! Lots of people just stick some herb in some Everclear and leave it for six weeks or so (which does work but doesn’t get all the active constituents in the herb). I read a great mathematical formula for this method in “Making Plant Medicine” by Richo Cech, great guy and great books! (even though I hate Math;)

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  11. Hi Jed,

    Thanks for your comment. In this blog post above I do explain exactly what I did to make the tincture — just put the clover blossoms in a glass mason jar and fill it with an alcohol & water solution as described above. Then it gets put in a dark closet for several weeks to cure.

  12. Can you give a simple (if that’s possible) overview of your tincturing method? Do you use a specific method or follow a specific book or website. I’m just starting to become aware of herbs and their uses so anything would be helpful.

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this blog!

  13. As a heads up ranchers generally keep their livestock from eating red clover because it contains such high levels of phyto-estrogens that it can disturb the reproductive cycles of the animals. Since we are all mammals my guess is that it could have similar effects on humans. On the bright side it may be a great way to alleviate post-menopausal hot flashes but on the down side it may exacerbate some tumors like breast cancer that are simulated by estrogen. Just another perspective. :)

    Cheers and I look forward to your class this weekend! :)
    ~Logan.

    • As a farm boy from N.H., with all due respect Longan, that advice on red clover is about as funny as sand paper in a diarreaha ward.
      N.H. cattle eat it from the cradle to the grave, their winter hay, if it’s good hay, is also laced with red clover.
      I would be very interested to see where that came from, Logan. Thanks.

  14. “I’ll be using these tinctures as a tonic, putting ‘em in tea and perhaps coffee to aid my body’s detox efforts and to nourish my liver as it creates red blood cells.”

    Interesting. Let us know how it works out!

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