Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eat Your Weeds-Edible and Medicinal Uses for Clover

Hop Clover
A little late on this post!  Intended to post yesterday for St. Patty's Day, but with two kids and a husband down with bronchitis it's been an interesting weekend....Every month the kids and I have a "Herb of the Month" as part of our homeschool explorations.  This month clover was the obvious choice!  Not only do we see images and construction paper cut outs of these three-leaved beauties all over town during the month of March but they also happen to be springing up and blooming all over the place where we live at this time of year.  So far we have found and identified three clover species in our local area and two clover impostors.  We have collected White Clover, Red Clover, Hop Clover, Wood Sorrel and Black Medic.  Be careful with Black Medic, it looks almost identical to Hop Clover but has different medicinal properties and potential side effects.  Wood Sorrel, another great edible weed, is often mistaken as clover but has heart-shaped leaves. These cuttings have been dried and pressed onto watercolor paper and the kids have labeled them and we will be laminating them (with my brand new laminator) in order to start compiling our very own field guides of edible and medicinal wild plants in our community.

Black Medic-looks similar to Hop Clover
or White Clover (when not flowering) 
Clover...beloved by leprechauns and honeybees alike.  Clover is a member of the pea family and all species of clover are edible.  The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw, the flowers can also be eaten in salads or dried and ground into a flour.  Clover leaves and flowers can also be brewed into a nourishing and healing tea.  Clover is considered a purifying herb and can be used to treat wounds.  It is also used to treat colds and coughs.  The most common types of clover used (and studied) for medicinal and edible purposes are white and red clover.  Red clover has been used to treat a number of ailments "traditionally, these have included cancer, whooping cough, respiratory problems, and skin inflammations, such as psoriasis and eczema. Red clover was thought to "purify" the blood by acting as a diuretic (helping the body get rid of excess fluid) and expectorant (helping clear lungs of mucous), improving circulation, and helping cleanse the liver" (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2012).  More recently, red clover has been discovered to have estrogen-like effects in the body that can ease some of the symptoms of menopause. "Red clover is a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C" (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011). 
Wood Sorrel-often mistaken as a clover
but has heart-shaped leaves
Despite the possible estrogen-like properties red clover is believed to be safe and nourishing during pregnancy and lactation (I drank tea that included red clover throughout all of my pregnancies).  Aviva Jill Romm has a wonderful recipe for Nourishment Tea in her book The Natural Pregnancy Book, which includes red clover.

How to make clover tea:

  • Gather 1/4 cup fresh or 2 tsp. dried red or white clover flowers
  • Steep in 1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes
  • Strain and enjoy!

Optionally add mint and honey to taste or combine with other nourishing herbs such as red raspberry, nettles, and alfalfa.


Here's a short video the kids and I watched about clover:

*The contents of this post are purely educational and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. This information is not a substitute for seeing your physician. Please exercise caution when identifying, harvesting, preparing and using wild, edible herbs and plants.

1 comment:

Adrenalin1 said...

What is the difference between hops clover and black medic if you're trying to identify it?