It’s bad enough for a woman to get hormone dependent breast cancer, but to add to it, if you get menopause symptoms you are not allowed any kind of hormonal help, not HRT, not even plant hormone supplements. When women ask me if sprouting red clover can help (because it contains plant oestrogens) I’ve always had to say “no, sorry there is not enough evidence that it is safe”, (even though I secretly thought it might be – but who am I to start double guessing science on such an important issue.) So I’m thrilled to tell you that there is a new study that has pronounced that not only is sprouted red clover safe but it actively fights the cancer as well as menopause symptoms. How brilliant is that? Specifically it calms malignant cells down, it stops tumour cells growing and it stops cancer spreading.(1) That’s a good enough reason to grow them even if you aren’t menopausal!
What is extra exciting for me is that this study is on sprouted red clover, not red clover extracts, pills or compounds (of which there are many). The team tested the effect of red clover sprouts on malignant breast cancer cells in a petri dish and interestingly they fermented them first. This is really important because it mimics what happens when we eat them, and our gut bacteria turns what might be normal day to day compounds into a powerhouse of nutrients and plant hormones.(2) So many studies have tested plant hormones in a petri dish and pronounced that they do not work. Scientists have been baffled that they sometimes work in mice and humans but not in the dish and pronounce them to be not effective. It means all the older studies where they didn’t ferment the sprouts first are inaccurate.
The sad thing is that anyone anytime can quote these previous studies and say plant hormones might not work! Davina McCall did this recently in her telly programme, waving dismissively in the direction of some plant hormone supplements. Shame on the researchers for not looking up the most recent studies.
They are missing out on so much new information, because there are also some fantastic new studies where scientists combine red clover with other cancer treatments. Iranian scientists looked at taking red clover extracts combined with Tamoxifen, and concluded that together they were more toxic to breast cancer cells than alone. (3) Another study on mice, tested a combination of red clover and chemotherapy against brain and lung cancer cells, and just like above they worked better together than alone. (4)
The scientists in all these studies are calling for more research. I am joining that call but I would like the research to be on whole plants, rather than extracts. Not only because I’m a hippy writer who likes growing things, but because many plants have unknown compounds that we have yet to identify. A study from Romania has just proven that red clover has more oestrogenic activity than just the standard phytoestrogens.(5) They have names too, “medicarpin, liquiritigenin, and isoliquiritigenin “ So welcome new compounds and one day may you be as famous as isoflavones. And there’s even more good news, these compounds are in sprouted alfalfa too, which is available in many health food stores, so if you can’t grow your own you can get access to their rich bounty. So when companies extract what they think are the plant hormones they could be missing out on lots of previously unknown factors.
The reason scientists study phytoestrogens in the first place is because populations who eat a lot of them in their diets have less menopause symptoms, cancer and heart disease, dementia and osteoporosis.
But then they wonder why they can’t recreate that when they give women extracts of what they think is the important bit.
These new studies show that sprouted foods are now at the cutting edge of cancer care, they are not only nature’s HRT they could be nature’s cancer fighter too.
So can women who have had breast cancer now eat sprouted foods? I know that foods in their natural form do not have to get approval by the medical establishment. I have written to the researchers of the fermented red clover study and asked for their opinion but they haven’t replied and it’s over a week now. So all I can do is report their findings and hope that oncologists will look at these studies and be able to advise their clients accordingly. It seems to me that sprouted red clover is not only safe as a menopause treatment but may assist in stopping cancer from recurring.
(1) The Effects of Trifolium pratense L. Sprouts’ Phenolic Compounds on Cell Growth and Migration of MDA-MB-231, MCF-7 and HUVEC Cells. Małgorzata Zakłos-Szyda and Grażyna Budryn. Nutrients. 2020 Jan; 12(1): 257.
(2) Small-Seeded Legumes as a Novel Food Source. Variation of Nutritional, Mineral and Phytochemical Profiles in the Chain: Raw Seeds-Sprouted Seeds-Microgreens. Butkutė B, Taujenis L, Norkevičienė E. Molecules. 2018 Dec 31;24(1):133. doi: 10.3390/molecules24010133. PMID: 30602699; PMCID: PMC6337440.
(3) Budryn G, Grzelczyk J, Pérez-Sánchez H. Binding of Red Clover Isoflavones to Actin as A Potential Mechanism of Anti-Metastatic Activity Restricting the Migration of Cancer Cells. Molecules. 2018 Sep 26;23(10):2471. doi: 10.3390/molecules23102471. PMID: 30261641; PMCID: PMC6222305.
(4) Akbaribazm M, Khazaei MR, Khazaei F, Khazaei M. Doxorubicin and Trifolium pratense L. (Red clover) extract synergistically inhibits brain and lung metastases in 4T1 tumor-bearing BALB/c mice. Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Sep 1;8(10):5557-5570. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.1820. PMID: 33133558; PMCID: PMC7590334.
(5) Comparison of the Polyphenolic Profile of Medicago sativa L. and Trifolium pratense L. Sprouts in Different Germination Stages Using the UHPLC-Q Exactive Hybrid Quadrupole Orbitrap High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry Elena Roxana Chiriac,1,2 Carmen Lidia Chiţescu,2,* Daniela Borda,3 Mariana Lupoae,2 Cerasela Elena Gird,1 Elisabeta-Irina Geană,4 Giorgiana-Valentina Blaga,3 and Rica Boscencu1