Red Clover May Relieve Depression in Older Women


Depression and anxiety are common among older women, and those who want to avoid drugs as treatment may want to consider red clover. A new study from Austria found that symptoms of depression were reduced by about 80 percent after older women took the supplement for 90 days.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial enrolled 109 post-menopausal women older than age 40 who received either a red clover supplement (80 mg of red clover isoflavones) or a placebo. The supplement used in the study contained isoflavones in their aglycone form, and specifically the compounds biochanin A, formononetin, genistein, and daidzein.

Among the women who took red clover, anxiety was reduced by 76 percent and depression by 78 to 80 percent. Women in the placebo group experienced a decrease in anxiety and depression of about 21 percent.


Whenever the topic of treatment with red clover is raised, some people voice concern about the possible risk of breast cancer, as red clover contains phytoestrogens. Based on data gathered during a recent (2009) European Food Safety Authority working group that investigated isoflavones, the experts concluded that red clover-derived isoflavones do not increase the risk of breast cancer and in fact provide real relief for post-menopausal women.

Red clover has been the subject of much scientific investigation. Some research has suggested that the herb may help protect against heart disease, with red clover isoflavones showing an ability to increase “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in pre- and post-menopausal women.

Other studies have suggested that red clover isoflavones may slow bone loss in pre- and post-menopausal women, but this has not been definitively determined. Red clover is also being investigated for its possible use in preventing cancer. Traditionally, red clover ointments have been used to treat eczema, psoriasis, and other skin problems.

Results of this new study may be good news for older women who suffer with depression and who want to avoid treatment with a prescription drug. Women who are interested in red clover to treat depression should talk to a knowledgeable professional. It is important to remember that extracts of red clover isoflavones are not the same as the whole herb. In fact, extracts of red clover isoflavones are only a small, highly concentrated part of the entire herb.

Lipovac M et al. Maturitas 2010 Mar; 65(3): 258-61
University of Maryland Medical Center website


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