red clover fertility

Red Clover: Is It Safe and Effective For Fertility?

red clover

By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.

Red clover is a botanical traditionally used among midwives to support fertility and reproductive health. It’s also well-known among many menopausal women as a means to support overall health and well-being.1

Red clover contains plant-based estrogens known as phytoestrogens. These phytoestrogens—or isoflavones as they’re sometimes called—can behave similarly to natural estrogens. Only phytoestrogens are a much weaker form of estrogen.1

This mild estrogenic effect of red clover is thought to assist in fertility and create a more regular menstrual cycle. That’s because a rise in estrogen levels causes follicles to prepare for ovulation. Red Clover also has a lot of other benefits in relation to reproductive health.

Nutrients Important for Conception

Nourishing your body so that it can provide a healthy home for your unborn child is crucial both prior to and after conception. Red clover contains a comprehensive array of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, chromium, magnesium, thiamine, and niacin that are necessary for preparing the body for a healthy pregnancy. Prior to conception, these high levels of calcium and magnesium are thought to be part of the reason herbalists have observed that menstrual cramps are reduced in women taking red clover.

Influencing an Important Fertility-Related Problem

Metabolic syndrome is common in women concerned about fertility and healthy ovaries.2 This syndrome includes imbalanced insulin, cholesterol, and blood pressure along with weight gain in the abdominal area. When a mother has metabolic syndrome, it also increases the risk that her baby while in the womb will be programmed to develop this problem later in life.3

Phytoestrogens like red clover support the health of women with metabolic concerns. Together with healthy lifestyle changes like increased exercise, red clover can stop these metabolic concerns in their tracks by stopping processes that lead to these problems in the first place. For example, red clover blocks the action of inflammatory proteins called cytokines.3 It also increases insulin sensitivity.3 What’s more, red clover can play a role in keeping fat from building up in the belly and some of the internal problems associated with that extra abdominal weight.3

It’s Involved in Male Health, Too

The prostate manufactures semen-containing fluid. Keeping the prostate healthy is therefore important for male fertility. A number of cell culture, animal, and human studies have shown that red clover may play a role in prostate health, especially in older men.4-7 Studies indicate that the higher consumption of phytoestrogens among Asian men is a reason why this group of males often have healthier prostates.7

Is Red Clover Safe Before, During, and After Pregnancy?

Most of the studies on the safety of red clover have investigated whether it’s safe in women with a history of gynecological problems. One randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of 401 women aged 35 to 70 with a family history of breast cancer found that red clover consumed for three years was safe and well-tolerated.8 I share this study not to propose its use for cancer, rather as part of the research on safety that has been conducted.

A cell culture study reached a similar conclusion. It exposed 11 human cell lines—colon, prostate, breast, cervix, liver, pancreas, stomach, and ovaries—and found that red clover had only beneficial effects.9

Natural physicians, herbalists, and midwives have overseen the use of red clover in patients trying to conceive, pregnant women, and in mothers after birth when they are breastfeeding. In these patients, it was safe and effective. A few studies in cows and lambs have indicated that red clover decreased fertility but after decades of use in clinical practice in humans, naturopathic doctors and midwives have observed only beneficial effects.

The key is to make sure you’re taking the directed dose and not to exceed that amount. Plus, it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor before taking any supplement during pregnancy.

Dr. Chris Meletis

Dr. Chris MeletisDr. Chris Meletis is an educator, international author and lecturer. His personal mission is “Changing World’s Health One Person at a Time.” Dr Meletis has authored 18 books and over 200 national scientific articles in journals including Natural Health, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Life Extension, Natural Pharmacy, and articles.

Dr. Meletis served as Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for 7 years for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (now the National University of Natural Medicine). He was awarded the 2003 Physician of the Year by the American Association of Naturopathic Physician of the Year by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. He has a deep passion for helping the underprivileged and spearheaded the creation of 16 free natural medicine healthcare clinics in the Portland metropolitan area of Oregon.


1. Thorup AC, Lambert MN, Kahr HS, et al. Intake of Novel Red Clover Supplementation for 12 Weeks Improves Bone Status in Healthy Menopausal Women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Epub 2015 Jul 21;2015;2015:689138.
2. Bajuk Studen K, Pfeifer M. Cardiometabolic risk in polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocr Connect. 2018 Jul;7(7):R238-51.
3. Jungbauer A, Medjakovic S. Phytoestrogens and the metabolic syndrome. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Jan;139:277-89.
4. Chen MY, Yan SC, Yin CP, et al. Red clover isoflavones inhibit the proliferation and promote the apoptosis of benign prostatic hyperplasia stromal cells. [Article in Chinese, Abstract in English.] Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2010 Jan;16(1):34-9.
5. Engelhardt PF, Riedl CR. Effects of one-year treatment with isoflavone extract from red clover on prostate, liver function, sexual function, and quality of life in men with elevated PSA levels and negative prostate biopsy findings. Urology. 2008 Feb;71(2):185-90.
6. Jarred RA, McPherson SJ, Jones ME, et al. Anti-androgenic action by red clover-derived dietary isoflavones reduces non-malignant prostateenlargement in aromatase knockout (ArKo) mice. Prostate. 2003 Jun 15;56(1):54-64.
7. Katz AE. Flavonoid and botanical approaches to prostate health. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Dec;8(6):813-21.
8. Powles TJ, Howell A, Evans DG, et al. Red clover isoflavones are safe and well tolerated in women with a family history of breast cancer. Menopause Int. 2008 Mar;14(1):6-12.
9. Reiter E, Gerster P, Jungbauer A. Red clover and soy isoflavones--an in vitro safety assessment. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2011 Dec;27(12):1037-42.

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