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What is Yellow Sweet Clover?

By N. Phipps
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis), or yellow melilot, is a plant with clusters of yellow, mildly fragrant flowers and sweet hay-scented foliage. It is commonly found growing in fields. A substance called coumarin, which is produced by the plant and contains blood-thinning properties, is thought to be responsible for its hay-like aroma. In some areas, yellow melilot may also be known as King’s clover, as it was thought to be used by Henry VIII. In addition, its yellow blooms resemble a crown.

Throughout this clover's extensive history, it has been used as food. The flowers, raw or cooked, are edible. The roots, leaves, and seedpods of yellow sweet clover are edible as well. These are usually cooked as vegetables and eaten. Likewise, the young leaves are often consumed in salads.

In addition, the flowers and seeds of yellow melilot can be used as flavoring. For instance, the French have used it as flavoring for rabbit stuffing for centuries. Additionally, the flowers and seeds of yellow sweet clover have been used to flavor many types of cheeses. Throughout Europe and other regions, the leaves and flowers have been used for flavoring soups, stews, and marinades.

Yellow sweet clover has considerable medicinal qualities as well. For instance, it has been used as an anticoagulant, diuretic, laxative, stimulant, and tonic. The plant can be smoked or made into tea and taken internally, or prepared as a poultice for external use. Its most notable remedies are for the treatment of hemorrhoids, varicose veins, flatulence and other gastrointestinal disorders. Yellow melilot also helps reduce the risk of thrombosis, or blot clots.

Headaches, painful urination, heart palpitations, menstruation, and aching muscles can all be alleviated with remedies of yellow sweet clover. It has also been known to soften and soothe the skin in some people. Since the plant acts as a mild sedative, in tea form it can help relieve sleeplessness and nervous tension. As a poultice, it can be ideal for eye inflammations, ulcers, swollen joints, bruising, boils, minor wounds, and rheumatism.

The leaves of yellow sweet clover can be dried and used as an insect repellent, and is thought to be especially good for repelling moths. These leaves were once used to stuff pillows and mattresses as well, though this is rarely, if ever, practiced today. Generally, the plant is harvested in the summer and then dried for later use.

If not dried correctly, the leaves of yellow sweet clover can spoil, producing a toxic anticoagulant substance. The toxin, called dicoumarol, is actually converted from coumarin and prevents blood from clotting. Dicoumarol is so potent that it is oftentimes an ingredient found in many types of rat poison. In addition to the plant’s potential to produce this harmful substance, it is recommended that remedies containing yellow melilot not be prescribed to people with a history of poor blood clotting.

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