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.