Hormone balance is crucial to overall health. A well-functioning endocrine system not only affects reproductive health, but also blood sugar levels, assimilation of nutrients, immune response, and resilience to stress. Hormones are little chemical messengers that give our cells instructions on how to behave, so their disruption impacts a broad range of bodily functions. Luckily, there are plants that benefit hormone balancing. Some examples are white peony, chaste berry, maca, dandelion, and red clover.
Red clover is one of my favorite gentle go-to daily infusions to support my hormonal health. Rich in antioxidant isoflavones, also called phytoestrogens, red clover helps to move excess hormones and other waste products out of the body. It is nutrient-dense too – full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Nutrient deficiencies are a common cause of hormone dysregulation.
Environmental endocrine disruptors are unfortunately part of everyone’s daily lives in the modern world. Specifically, chemicals called xenoestrogens may play a huge role in upsetting hormone balance. They are found in plastics, pesticides, cleaning products, canned foods, cosmetics, and tap water. They are very difficult to avoid!
Xenoestrogens are substances so similar in structure to estrogen that they can actually bind to our own estrogen receptors, thereby replacing a hormone we were physiologically designed to handle with something much stronger and more dangerous. This can cause symptoms such as
PMS, headaches, cyclic weight gain, bloating, mood swings, fibroids, endometriosis, clot formation, tumor growth, fatigue, and depression. When estrogen levels are naturally low, such as during the menopausal stage of life, we are even more susceptible to xenoestrogens binding to available receptors. But plants and foods that contain phytoestrogens, like red clover, may offer us much-needed protection against the harmful effects of xenoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens can bind to open estrogen receptors just like xenoestrogens, but they don’t cause the same havoc. Instead, they seem to impart benefits both in the case of low and high estrogen patterns. Studies show that red clover extracts can help mitigate a variety of menopausal symptoms, reduce the risk of certain cancers including prostate and ovarian, relieve cystic breast pain, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and slow the rate of bone loss. Traditionally, red clover is used as a fertility tonic, and its moistening and soothing qualities can be helpful for conditions like vaginal dryness, dry cough, eczema, and rashes.
There are no harmful alkaloids or known toxins in red clover and most herbalists consider it safe to use in moderate doses during pregnancy and lactation.