Oestrogenic Activity

The pharmacological investigation of red clover has mainly centred around the activity of the isoflavone constituents, especially their oestrogenic activity (Miksicek 1994). The isoflavones biochanin A, genistein and daidzein have varying levels of subtle oestrogenic activity, biochanin A having the strongest effect. Formononetin, however, has very little or no oestrogenic activity (Wong & Flux 1962). Red clover isoflavones have been shown to have an affinity for oestrogen alpha- and beta-receptors and may act as both agonists and antagonists, depending on the level of endogenous oestrogens (Nelson et al 2002, Zava et al 1998). Red clover extract, standardised to contain 15% isoflavones, produced a dose-dependent increase in uterine weight and differentiated vaginal cells, but did not stimulate cell proliferation in mammary glands in an ovariectomised rat model. The extract did not produce any anti-oestrogenic or additive oestrogenic effects when combined with 17-beta-oestradiol. These data suggest that red clover extract is weakly oestrogenic in the ovariectomised rat model (Burdette et al 2002).

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