Trifolium repens, a plant commonly known as white clover, is sometimes used as an herbal medicine. All parts of Trifolium repens are edible, and flowers, leaves, or roots may be prepared separately or together for different medical treatments. In Europe, where this plant is native, this type of clover has been used for hundreds of years in the treatment of arthritis. Once the plant was introduced to North America, it was adopted as an herbal treatment by a number of different Native American tribes.
Though Trifolium repens has been used medicinally for a number of centuries, it is rarely used as an herbal treatment today. In the amounts that would be used medicinally, the plant is non-toxic in humans but is not considered a particularly strong treatment. Not much scientific study has been done on the efficacy of this plant for the treatment of any of the disorders it has historically been used to treat.
The main use for Trifolium repens in European medicine was in the treatment of arthritis. Both gout and rheumatoid arthritis were treated with this herb, though each of these types of arthritis is caused by very different internal problems. In order to relieve pain from these types of arthritis, patients were given a tea made from the blossoms of the Trifolium repens.
After the plant was introduced to North America, it was used medicinally for a number of different purposes. The flowers or leaves can be made into a tincture and applied to the skin as a treatment for minor injuries. Boils, abrasions, and small cuts may be treated with this tincture in order to promote healing and prevent infection. A tincture made with Trifolium repens is not strong, though the alcohol in this preparation makes it effective against minor skin infections.
Native American folk medicine also treated upper respiratory conditions, including coughs and colds, with a tea made from Trifolium repens blossoms. This tea was also taken to reduce fever. When cooled, the tea could be splashed into the eyes to clean them out. Native Americans used this treatment to cure minor irritations of the eyes.
Aside from its medicinal uses, the flowers and leaves of the Trifolium repens may also be eaten. These parts of the plant can be put into salads raw or dried and added to various dishes. The blossoms have a delicate, floral flavor, while the leaves have a mild flavor that is reminiscent of vanilla. The roots of the plant can also be eaten but only if they are cooked.