The last harvest of 2015

As days get shorter and nights get colder, I start to inventory all the lovely herbs I have collected since spring. Then I wander the land to see if there is anything else that can be harvested while still capturing their magical medicinal powers. Next, I check the weather forecast to see if a hard frost is coming. Roots are best to harvest after a hard frost, but not so much for blossoms.

Recently, a hard frost was forecast so I decided it was time to harvest some more Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) blossoms. Since, Red Clover blooms from early summer to early fall, and I already harvested the early blossoms, it was the perfect time to collect some more just to make sure I had enough until next spring. Luckily for me, we are surrounded by farmers that use it as a cover crop. Better yet, they don’t spray and welcome me to harvest as much as I would like. The benefits to farmers using Red Clover as a cover crop are numerous: it fixes nitrogen (N) to meet needs of the following crop; it protects soil from erosion, improves soil tilth (soil’s general suitability to support plant growth), out competes weeds, and provides an abundant supply of blossoms for foragers (wild critters and me). As a bonus, there is little management required and it attracts more beneficial insects than white clover. Sounds like an ideal cover crop to me.

red clover basketI like to have an ample supply of dried Red Clover blossoms in my apothecary all year long.  It is an excellent and tasty herb to add to all my teas. For starters, as Richo Cech notes, “it helps the body efficiently remove metabolic waste products and prohibits the attachment and metastasis of abnormal cells…one of the best single supplements for the prevention and treatment of cancer.”  The National Cancer Institute found anti-tumor properties in Red Clover. For thousands of years, Burdock (Arctium lappa) has been paired with Red Clover creating a dynamic duo known to slow or eradicate tumors.  Perhaps this is why Red Clover has been called “God-given” and a “prized-herb.”

In addition, Red Clover is nourishing, high in antioxidants, vitamin and mineral rich, especially vitamin E.  It is rich in phytosterols, which lowers LDL cholesterol and may prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  It is an unmatched tonic for menopausal women, because it nourishes hormones, helps with hot flashes/flushes, PMS, and breast health while lowering cholesterol, and improving circulation of the blood, it helps prevent osteoporosis, reduces the possibility of blood clots and arterial plaques. It has 10 times more phytoestrogens (chemicals found in plants that can act like the hormone estrogen) than soy.

It’s antispasmodic and expectorant properties are great for coughs. When Red Clover infusions are drunk liberally, it relieves congestion and soothes dry, irritable coughs such as those from whooping cough and tuberculosis.

An infusion can also be used externally (as well as internally) to nourish the skin, eliminating eczema and psoriasis.

Although, there are many reasons to add Red Clover to teas and infusions, it is important to note that it also can thin blood so it is a poor choice during pregnancy and for those on blood thinners. Regular use of this plant should be stopped before surgery. Of course, with cancer there are no silver bullets. There are so many different types of cancers that Red Clover simply cannot reduce them all. Memorial Sloan Kettering found that Red clover extract could stimulate the production of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells (remember it is high in phytoestrogens); therefore, it may not be helpful for women with estrogen-sensitive cancers. They also found it stopped the growth of normal prostate cells and increased resistance of prostate cancer cells to high-dose radiation in lab experiments. Therefore, patients should avoid the use of red clover during radiotherapy for prostate cancer, or if you have estrogen receptor-positive cancers.

After a glorious day of collecting Red Clover blossoms, I believe I have an ample supply to get us to spring next year and to clover drying

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.