Red Clover – Trifolium Pratense: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Honey of Wild Plants

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In Ojibwe, nisoobag+oon ezhi-wadong+in, red clover is honeylicious and this edible and medicinal plant is not just for honey bees!

My favorite folk name for red clover is honey/honey-stalks, but it isn’t just honey bees that like this honey. Mammals like the opossum, snowshoe hare, eastern chipmunk, raccoon, striped skunk, and white-tailed deer are buzzing about it. And birds like ruffed grouse and wild turkeys.

Red Clover and Daisies

A striped skunk has been living under my cabin some nights, and I’m hoping he’ll pose with clover later this year for a photo-op.

Edible Uses of Red Clover

The fresh spring leaves can be used like spinach, and the flowers are edible too. I like to use its flowers in tea occasionally. And the flowers can be substituted for dandelions in this recipe for wild wine. I’ve been told the whole plant is edible, though not entirely easy to digest.

I’ve also been told not to eat it in autumn. I’m not sure if this has to do with a fungus or some chemical change, but I’ll avoid it come autumn anyway.

Using the seeds you can grow nutritious microgreens and sprouts. To prepare sprouts – rinse and then soak the seeds for 4-8 hrs, then rinse them twice a day for 5 days while they sprout, and they should be ready to eat! I use a Now Foods Sprouting Jar, which has a screened lid, for this, but I have to be extra careful because these seeds are tiny.

Sprouts (Taste like umm... sprouts.)
Sprouts (Taste like um… sprouts.)

Rich in minerals.

Medicinal Uses of Red Clover

Red clover is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Digestive
  • Endocrine
  • Integumentary
  • Lymphatic
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Alterative, Antimicrobial, Antispasmodic, Astringent, Cool and Neutral, Circulatory, Diuretic, Expectorant, Laxative, Lymphatic, Nervine, and Vulnerary. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes parts in a tonic for menopause support (as red clover contains 4 phytoestrogenic isoflavonoids). Its parts are also often used in skin salve recipes.

Alternative Uses of “Honey-Stalks”

This herb is a soil fixer, like dandelion, and is often used as a cover crop.

Growing Trifolium Pratense

It’s easy to grow! And it’s tolerant of shade. You’ll likely find the seeds at your local Home Hardware or TCS. Learn more about growing clover or better yet, native plant alternatives in our newer piece on white clover. There are native plants the bees will love more than clover!


It’s a diuretic.

It’s oestrogenic.

It contains a blood thinner related to coumarin.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn’s Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham’s Encyclopedia Series)

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

Stalking The Wild Asparagus (Field Guide Edition).

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Forest Plants of Central Ontario

Ontario Wildflowers: 101 Wayside Flowers

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