The Health Benefits of Cloves

Close-Up Of Cloves In Spoon On Table

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Sourced from Syzygium aromaticum, an evergreen tree that grows in Asia and South America, cloves are a spice used in cooking, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Cloves have been used tonically in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion. Containing eugenol, a powerful germicide, as well as caryophyllene, which has antimicrobial properties, clove oil is also used to kill parasites and repel insects.

Health Benefits

Nutrition Facts

As a spice, clove confers significant nutritional benefits. According to nutrition data, one teaspoon of ground cloves contains 30 percent of the RDI of the mineral manganese, 4 percent of the RDI of vitamin K, 3 percent of the RDI of vitamin C, and trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E. It is also a good source of fiber. Vitamin C and eugenol are both antioxidants which can help slow the development of chronic disease. Manganese is important to bone health. According to a 2019 pilot study, significant reductions were found in the glucose levels of healthy volunteers who ingested a polyphenolic clove extract, building off of promising results in preclinical studies regarding the effect of clove on helping to regulate blood sugar.

Toothache and Dental Pain

Many of the health benefits of clove oil are thought to result from its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects. In Germany, a governmental regulatory agency known as the Commission E has approved clove for use as a topical antiseptic and anesthetic. Clove oil is perhaps best known as a remedy for toothache and dental pain. In a 2006 study of 73 adults, for instance, researchers found that clove-based gel was comparable to benzocaine (a local anesthetic) in its ability to ease pain resulting from injections in the mouth.

Acne

Although tea tree oil (an essential oil used in aromatherapy) is better known as a natural spot treatment for acne, clove oil is sometimes also used for pimples. According to a 2017 in vivo study, ethanolic clove extract containing eugenol suppressed P. acnes activity and reduced a related inflammatory response in a mouse model. This indicates utility in further research into whether clove oil can be an effective treatment for acne, by reducing the inflammatory responses associated with the P. acnes bacteria.

Food Poisoning

According to a 2018 review, clove oil, and specifically the constituent eugenol, shows advantages over potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and other chemical food preservatives in terms of antimicrobial activity, safety, and aroma, making it worthy of consideration as a substitute food preservative. Clove oil has been found to have an antibacterial effect on common food source Gram-negative bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella, E.coli, as well as Gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus, due to inhibition of bacterial adhesion, migration, biofilm formation, and expression of virulence factors. In lab tests published in 2009, scientists found that clove bud oil (as well as essential oils of cinnamon and allspice) also helped suppress the growth of listeria, another common bacteria known to cause food-borne illness, indicating clove oil may be helpful in protecting against food poisoning.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Clove oil is available at most health food stores and supermarkets. When preparing clove oil remedies for younger children, cutting the clove oil with almond oil or olive oil as a carrier oil is helpful to dilute the effects. According to the review on cloves in the Commission E Monographs, detailing the German authority's approved preparations of clove oil, 1 to 5 percent essential oil is recommended for mouthwashes, and undiluted oil is recommended for official dental use.

As a spice, clove has a history as a healing additive in Ayurvedic medicine, said to "balance the Kapha dosha". According to a 2011 study, clove buds that had been cleaned, ground to a fine powder, and stored in air-tight containers at room temperature indicated significant anti-microbial activity after being added to a meat emulsion at the level of 0.1 percent.

Possible Side Effects

While generally recognized as safe for topical use, clove oil has been found to impact the diversity of the intestinal microbiota when ingested due to the sensitivity of even some helpful bacteria in the gut biome to eugenol, as shown in a 2012 study. It is generally recommended not to swallow it in large amounts and to topically or as a wash instead. If swallowed, cloves may cause a burning sensation.

Pay special attention to prevent infants and children from swallowing clove oil. In 1992 there was a case report detailing a child who ingested clove oil and experienced disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and hepatocellular necrosis. Another case report from 1991 describes central nervous system depression in an infant who swallowed clove oil. While a direct link is not certain, it is better to be safe than sorry. Due to insufficient research regarding the effects on pregnancy and breast-feeding, it is best to avoid clove products during these periods.

Contraindications

Eugenol slows blood clotting and can lead to an increased risk of bleeding. It should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders, those scheduled for surgery, and people on anticoagulant medications.

Cloves have been shown to lead to lowered blood sugar levels and should be avoided by people who are hypoglycemic.

Common Questions

Can I grow my own clove spice?

Growing cloves requires a hot and humid climate. This evergreen tree would do the best in USDA Zones 9b through 12, however, clove trees can be grown in pots and taken indoors in temperate zones during the winter. Clove trees prefer partial shade and can be propagated from either seeds or cuttings, though it takes 15 to 20 years for them to reach their full flowering potential.

Are clove cigarettes safe?

Clove cigarettes, also known as kreteks, are popular in Indonesia and distributed worldwide. They typically contain 60 to 80 percent tobacco and 20 to 40 percent ground clove buds and clove oil, along with some other spices. The numbing action of the eugenol in clove cigarettes allows for longer and deeper inhaling. This may make the act of smoking tobacco less harsh in the moment, but does nothing to prevent the risks associated with inhaling nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. If anything, adding cloves to cigarettes makes it easier to consume these dangerous chemicals. In 2009, the FDA banned the sale of cigarettes containing any flavor other than menthol or tobacco with The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which included clove cigarettes, so you will not find them in the US sold over the counter as a complete product, though some people still roll their own, and they can be bought online from international sellers.

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