In this country we possess about twenty species of the trefoil, or
Clover, which is a plant so well known in its general features by
its abundance in every field and on every grass plot, as not to need
any detailed description. The special variety endowed with
medicinal and curative virtues, is the Meadow Clover (Trifolium
pratense), or red clover, called by some, Cocksheads, and
familiar to children as Suckles, or Hon
y-suckles, because of the
abundant nectar in the long tubes of its corollae. Other names for it
are Bee-bread, and Smere. An extract of this red clover is now
confidently said to have the power of healing scrofulous sores, and
of curing cancer. The New York Tribune of September, 1884,
related a case of indisputable cancer of the breast of six years'
standing, with an open fetid sore, which had penetrated the
chest-wall between the ribs, and which was radically healed by a
prolonged internal use of the extract of red clover. Four years
afterwards, in September, 1888, the breast was found to be
restored to its normal condition, all but a small place the size of
half a dollar, which will in every probability become absorbed like
 the rest, so that the patient is considered by her physicians to
be absolutely cured.
The likelihood is that whatever virtue the red clover can boast for
counteracting a scrofulous disposition, and as antidotal to cancer,
resides in its highly-elaborated lime, silica, and other earthy salts.
Moreover, this experience is not new. Sir Spencer Wells, twenty
years ago, recorded some cases of confirmed cancer cured by
taking powdered and triturated oyster shells; whilst egg shells
similarly reduced to a fine dust have proved equally efficacious. It
is remarkable that if the moorlands in the North of England, and in
some parts of Ireland, are turned up for the first time, and strewed
with lime, white clover springs up there in abundance.
Again, a syrup is made from the flowers of the red clover, which
has a trustworthy reputation for curing whooping-cough, and of
which a teaspoonful may be taken three or four times in the day.
Also stress is laid on the healing of skin eruptions in children, by a
decoction of the purple and white meadow trefoils.
The word clover is a corruption of the Latin clava a club; and
the clubs on our playing cards are representations of clover
leaves; whilst in France the same black suit is called trefle.
A conventional trefoil is figured on our coins, both Irish and
English, this plant being the National Badge of Ireland. Its charm
has been ever supposed there as an unfailing protection against
evil influences, as is attested by the spray in the workman's cap,
and in the bosom of the cotter's wife.
The clover trefoil is in some measure a sensitive plant; its
leaves, said Pliny, do start up as if afraid of an assault when
tempestuous weather is at hand.
 The phrase, living in clover, alludes to cattle being put to
feed in rich pasturage.
A sworn foe to the purple clover cultivated by farmers, is the
Dodder (Cuscuta trifolii), a destructive vegetable parasite which
strangles the plants in a crafty fashion, and which goes by the
name of hellweed, or devil's guts. It lies in ambush like a
pigmy field octopus, with deadly suckers for draining the sap of its
victims. These it mats together in its wiry, sinuous coils, and
chokes relentlessly by the acre. Nevertheless, the petty garotter--
like a toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its
head. If boiled, says Hill, with a little ginger, the dodder in
decoction works briskly as a purge. Also, the thievish herb, when
bruised and applied externally to scrofulous tumours, is an
The word dodder signifies the plural of dodd, a bunch of
threads. The parasite is sometimes called Red tangle and Lady's
Its botanical name Cuscuta comes from the Greek Kassuo--to
sew together. If the piece of land infested with it is closely mown
(and the cut material carried away unshaken), being next covered
with deal saw-dust, on which a ten per cent. solution of sulphate of
iron is freely poured, then by combining with the tannin contained
in the stems of the Dodder, this will serve to kill the parasite
without doing any injury to the clover or lucerne. Although a
parasite the plant springs every year from seed. It is a remedy for
swooning or fainting fits.
The Sweet Clover (or yellow Melilot), when prepared as a tincture
(H.), with spirit of wine, and given as a medicine in material
doses, causes, in sensitive persons, a severe headache, sometimes
with a determination of  blood to the head, and bleeding from
the nose. When administered, on the principle of curative affinity,
in much smaller doses, it is singularly beneficial against nervous
headaches, with oppression of the brain, acting helpfully within
five minutes. Dr. Hughes (Brighton) writes: I value this medicine
much in nervous headaches, and I always carry it in my pocket-case--
as the mother tincture--which I generally administer by olfaction.
For epilepsy, it is said in the United States of America
to be the one grand master-remedy, by giving a drop of the
tincture every five minutes during the attack, and five drops five
times a day in water, for some weeks afterwards.
The Melilot (from mel, honey, and lotus, because much liked
by bees) is known as Plaster Clover from its use since Galen's time
in plasters for dispersing tumours. Continental physicians still
employ the same made of melilot, wax, resin, and olive oil. The
plant contains, Coumarin in common with the Sweet Woodruff,
and the Tonquin Bean. Other names for it are Harts' Clover,
because deer delight to feed on it and King's Clover or Corona
Regis, because the yellow flouers doe crown the top of the
stalkes as with a chaplet of gold. It is an herbaceous plant
common in waste places, and having light green leaves; when
dried it smells like Woodruff, or new hay.