The purpose of this study I am reporting on here was to evaluate the effect of a red clover extract in postmenopausal women with depressive and anxiety symptoms.
One hundred and nine postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to take either 2 capsules daily of a red clover extract totaling 80 mg of isoflavones, or a placebo, for 3 months. At the end of the 90 days, there was a one week break, and the two groups switched to take the opposite pills for another 3 months. Their anxiety and depressive symptoms were measured using two common research methods, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale(HADS) and the Zung’s Self Rating Depression Scale (SDS). These measurements were taken prior to the start of the red clover or placebo, then again at 90 days and 187 days.
After taking the red clover extract, women had a significant reduction (improvement) in the scores in both of the rating scales, with a 75% reduction for anxiety and 78.3% reduction for depression using the HADS tool, and an 80.6% reduction in the total SDS score. After taking the placebo pills, the HADS and SDS scores were only reduced by an average of 21.7%.
Depression and anxiety are two of those common conditions experienced by women, with an increase in occurrence during perimenopause/early menopause. It is thought that this increase in incidence is due to changing hormones and essentially less estrogen within the brain and therefore less estrogen interactions with neurotransmitters that affect mood and cognitive function. In addition, these women may also experiencing sleep disruption, aches and pains, hot flashes and more, that can easily impact mood and quality of life. Phytoestrogens, i.e. isoflavones such as those found in red clover extracts, can influence menopause symptoms through their ability to bind to specific estrogen receptors and through this mechanism, may be helpful in menopause symptoms, including depression and anxiety. Until this study, red clover has not been specifically studied for its specific effect using depression/anxiety scales, on depression and anxiety in menopausal women. Many herbs, including some plants with isoflavones have been studied in menopausal women for an array of symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, mood, sleep, vitality, etc. Red clover has been previously researched for its effects on hot flashes and night sweats, with mixed results.
The current study re-vitalizes my interest in red clover for the management of perimenopause/menopause symptoms, and depression/anxiety in particular.
Lipovac M, Chedraui P, Gruenhut C, et al. Improvement of postmenopausal depressive and anxiety symptoms after treatment with isoflavones derived from red clover extracts. Maturitas 2010;65:258-261