In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day, I thought it could be fun to talk about the lovely clover plant family and all its variations and folklore. It’s Herb Talk Tuesday, do you have a cup of tea or coffee? Good. Then let’s chat…
The Trifolium plant family
Trifolium is the scientific name that over 300 individual plants belong to. The name suggests the nature of the plants, that they have three (tri) leaves (folium/foliage). There is no single species that produces 4 leaves to a stem, making these rare occurrences when one grows with 4 leaflets special indeed.
Today, we are not going to look at all 300 species (unfortunatly, my mug of coffee isn’t large enough for that). But I do want to talk about some of the most common, share about how they are used (or not), and share some of the traditional lore surrounding St. Patrick and this common little clover.
Most Common Clover Types
Did you know? Trifolium plants are in the legume/pea family.
Trifolium repens – White Clover – is the most commonly cultivated clover. White clover is native to Europe and Asia, and has naturalized in many other regions, including North America. This clover is often found in lawns and disturbed areas and is a favorite of bees in the spring and summer due to its prolific blooming.
Trifolium pratense – Red Clover – is another very common clover. Again, this clover was a native of Europe, but now naturalized in many parts of the world. This is the most commonly used variety in herbal preparations.
Trifolium alexandrinum – Egyptian clover or berseem clover – This variety is an important cultivated plant in sub-tropical regions like the Egypt and Mediterranean areas for agriculture. It is utilized as a fodder for cattle and milk buffalo. It looks similar to white clover but has more lance-shaped leaves.
Trifolium dubium – Lesser trefoil – This clover is another native of Europe, naturalized in many parts of the world. It is a more delicate variety with trailing branches full of clustered leaves and tiny, darling, yellow blossoms. This is generally regarded as the primary variety to represent the traditional Irish Shamrock.
Clover Traditions and Lore
The four leaf clover is most popularly associated with ‘good luck’. You see this symbol more than any other during the St. Patrick day holiday.
But the Irish typically hold the three leaf clover with much more regard as a representation of the Holy Trinity. The three leaves stand each stand for one member of the trinity; The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
We can’t talk about clover and Irish shamrocks and not talk about St. Patrick! Who was St. Patrick? Did you know that he wasn’t even Irish?
Patrick was an atheist Roman who was living in Britain when he was kidnapped as a youth, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. He endured years of torturous conditions in forced labor and it was there in his darkest times that he found God. He was given supernatural peace and hope and one day was able to escape his captors and return to his well off family in Britain.
But once he returned to his life of leisure that he had longed for for so long, he felt God calling him back to Ireland. Patrick ultimately returned to Ireland, with forgiveness in his heart for his captors, and compassion and empathy for the remaining captives. He shared the love of Jesus with them and worked to abolish slavery and restore slaves to their homes. Even in the face of extreme opposition, violent threats and abuse; Patrick continued to share the love and hope to the Irish people. (read more here)
Herbal uses of Red Clover
Since Red Clover (Or trifolium pratense) is the most common variety of clover used by us herbalists, I must include some more info on that here today!
Red clover contains isoflavones which, like most legumes, are a type of phytoestrogen. It also contains beneficial constituents like; silica, choline, lecithin, calcium, phenolic glycosides, salicylates, cyanogenic glycosides, and coumarins.
Traditionally suggested for supporting all aspects of the female reproductive system, through all seasons of life. It is considered soothing and cleansing, commonly called ‘the Best Spring Tonic’. After a long winter of hibernation, red clover helps to cleanse, rejuvenate the blood, and clear stagnation
Some recommend it as ‘a tea to promote health and peace of mind, can be taken daily without harm’. Externally, ointments containing red clover and baths of red clover tea support normal, healthy, clear skin.
Red clover is very versatile and is utilized in many of Shawnee Moon’s herbal formulas. From Amber Smoothing Oil, to Sun Dance ointment, from Daily Supplement to Tamsah Mide and more! Check them all out here!
Join the conversation
How do you use Red Clover? Did you know the real story behind the legend of St. Patrick? Did you learn any new ways that you might utilize the many benefits of red clover? Let us know in the comments below! Or join our FB community group page here.