The sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) is a plant of the Leguminosae family used since the times of Galen for its many healing virtues. Its name derives from the Greek and means "clover honey". It was also used in the feeding of cattle to give the milk a sweeter and softer flavor. In past centuries, especially in Germany and France it was customary to administer it to children with insomnia problems or who had cough or toothache. According to research conducted by the National Instute of Health (NIH), the sweet clover has strong beneficial effects in the event of acute inflammations thanks to its anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties and is also used as an antineuralgic. This property has even been known since the days of Pliny the Elder.
The leaves and the flowering tops of the sweet clover contain numerous substances which are particularly interesting from a medical point of view: flavonoids, tannins and coumarin glucosides which, through an enzymatic hydrolysis mechanism, release coumarins. Among these, the most represented is melilotoside, which then turns into a real coumarin whose main effect is that on the circulatory system.
WHAT IT IS USED FOR
As mentioned then, the sweet clover is a plant with interesting pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-edema and anti-exudative properties.
Melilotus officinalis extract is used in the treatment of venous and lymphatic circulation disorders, with particular action on hemorrhoidal plexus and on varicose veins.
The sweet clover is also capable of promote venous reflux and improve the lymphatic kinetics.
Thanks to these peculiar properties, this plant can represent a valid aid in case of venous and lymphatic insufficiency, in case of water retention and in case of edemas of both inflammatory and congestive nature.
These activities ascribed to the sweet clover, we remember it, are mainly attributable to the coumarins contained within the same plant. From a study conducted on animals, it was found that the sweet clover is also endowed with healing activity, therefore it is able to accelerate the healing of wounds.
The sweet clover performs a vasoprotective action on the walls of the veins, increasing their permeability, acting in a very similar way to escin. Consequently, the fields of application are very similar, mainly in diseases of the veins and in the disorders caused by varicose veins, including hemorrhoids. In this action flavonoids have a complementary and synergistic role. The sweet clover therefore finds indications in the treatment of venous and lymphatic insufficiency, water retention, edemas and swelling in the lower limbs, heavy legs, varicose veins, phlebitis, hemorrhoids and cellulite.
HOW IT WORKS
Several mechanisms of action can be described:
- lymphokinetic action on the flow of the thoracic duct (lymphatic drainage action);
- increased drainage of lymphatic fluids through a direct stimulation effect of the lymphatic vessels;
- stimulation of macrophages, increasing their phagocytic and proteolysis activity;
- improvement of the quality and speed of the venous return;
- capillary protection action.
Coumarin also acts on catecholamines, in particular by amplifying the function of vascular adrenaline, reducing its degradation, with consequent improvement of the contractile capacity of the blood vessels. Catecholamines are in fact among the main vasoconstrictors present in the mammalian organism.
As we have seen, the sweet clover is characterized by the significant presence of coumarins: the phytotherapeutic importance of this plant was observed casually by studying cases of hemorrhagic syndrome in grazing animals. It was observed that cattle, after ingesting large quantities of sweet clover deterioratedhad severe bleeding and various other serious symptoms. The hemorrhagic syndrome was a consequence of the drop in prothrombin levels in the plasma, linked to the presence of coumarin derivatives in the melilot plants ingested by the beasts. Following these observations in 1941, Dr. Link of the University of Wisconsin, first synthesized dicumarol, which we now know by the name Warfarin.
the sweet clover does not act directly on blood coagulation, but performs its action at the level of the venous walls, increasing its tone and reducing capillary permeability (aescin-like action). Only after its deterioration does it become Dicumarolo, which has anticoagulant properties.
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