Red Clover

(Trifolium pratense) The commonest of the red or purple clovers. The seed was largely imported from Holland when it was being grown as a fodder plant, not only as cattle fodder, it seems, for Henry Mundy (1680), speaking of the Irish, said they "nourish themselves with their shamrock (which is the purple clover), are swift of foot and of nimble strength" (Britten). To dream of clover is a happy sign, indicating health and prosperity (Gordon. 1985). Pliny said that the leaves stand upright at the approach of a storm (Gerard), but actually the leaves close and droop when rain is coming on (Pratt).

Herbalists use red clover to keep the blood flowing freely; this is due to the presence of an anticoagulant drug in the plant (V G Hatfield). It is mildly sedative, too, and the flowers have been traditionally used for headaches, neuralgia and gastric trouble (Conway), and a syrup made from the flowers once enjoyed a fine reputation in the treatment of whooping cough (Fernie). Actually, the plant is well-known as a cough cure, and a remedy for bronchial affections (V G Hatfield). Dried, it has been mixed with coltsfoot leaves to be smoked as a herbal tobacco (Savage). It is even believed in parts of America that red clover tea will cure tuberculosis (H M Hyatt). American domestic medicine claims that a tea made from the dried flowers are good for dropsy, while the same tea with alfalfa hay added is taken, a cupful a day, for hypertension (H M Hyatt).

Herbalists claim that the plant relieves gout and rheumatism, and it has even been recorded as giving relief in cases of cancer (V G Hatfield), a use that is known in American domestic medicine from Alabama - "for cancer of the breast three or more quarts of red-clover-blossom tea a day" (R B Browne).

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