Health Benefits of Cloves

The health benefits of cloves include reducing tooth pain and blood sugar levels. Cloves are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

Cloves come from an evergreen tree (Syzygium aromaticum) native to Indonesia. This tree also grows in other parts of the world, such as South America. Cloves are used as a spice to add flavor to savory dishes, desserts, and drinks. They are also added to mouthwashes, creams, gels, and oils.

This article explores the research to support cloves and clove oil for different medical uses. It also discusses potential side effects and warnings associated with cloves.

Close-Up Of Cloves In Spoon On Table

Cloves Benefits

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Cloves are commonly recognized as a spice used in cooking, but they have also been used for centuries to treat various health concerns. Cloves are thought to have some anti-inflammatory properties and have been promoted to help with toothache, dental pain, plaque buildup, hangovers, indigestion, and more. However, there is very little evidence to support taking more cloves than what someone would normally consume with their food.

Preliminary research has examined cloves' use in easing dental pain or toothaches and lowering blood sugar levels. Some laboratory research has also looked at its effects on cancer cells, though these studies were not done in humans.

Dental Pain

Clove oil is perhaps best known as a remedy for toothache and dental pain. In one older 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.

Other research has indicated that the clove's antibacterial properties may help reduce oral bacteria that can lead to the development of plague, gingivitis, and cavities.

Blood Sugar Effects

Some preliminary evidence suggests that eugenol, a compound found in cloves, may have a lowering effect on blood sugar levels. However, most of the research has been in animal models, so it is too early to recommend specific doses to help manage blood sugar in humans.

One human study on healthy volunteers found that 12 days of clove extract use lowered blood sugar levels more than a placebo. But the difference was only 3 milligrams per deciliter, which is of questionable clinical significance. Further well-designed research is needed.


While some laboratory studies have looked at the effect of cloves on cancer cells, this research was not done in humans and is not solid evidence of cloves' role in treating or preventing cancer.

One review on eugenol suggests that it may be an effective cancer therapy alone or combined with chemotherapy.

However, it is important to know that supplements and herbal remedies can not treat, cure, or prevent disease. Forgoing traditional chemotherapeutics and relying on alternative therapies can worsen outcomes. Talk to your cancer care team before starting any new supplement or herbal product.

Itchy Skin

It's possible that applying clove oil to the skin can help ease itching. In one study, using clove oil relieved itching in 25 people diagnosed with chronic pruritus, or itchy skin, compared to a group of 25 people with chronic pruritus who used petroleum oil.

While these results are promising, more research is needed to understand how clove oil impacts itchy skin.

High in Antioxidants

Cloves are high in antioxidants, which are compounds that may interfere with the production of cell-damaging free radicals.

One test tube study found that cloves had the strongest antioxidant properties compared to other spices used in a Mediterranean diet—oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage.

Another study found that eugenol inhibited free radicals five times more effectively than vitamin E, another antioxidant.

Risks and Side Effects of Cloves

Small amounts of clove oil appear to cause few side effects but can result in local irritation, rare allergic reactions, and contact dermatitis. However, consuming large amounts can cause severe side effects, such as liver and kidney damage, seizures, and coma.

Caution for Children

Clove oils can be toxic to children. Store products that contain clove oil away and out of reach of children in your household.

There is insufficient safety data on cloves or clove oil in pregnant and breastfeeding people. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid supplementing with it if you are in this group.

Clove oil should not be used for children. Even small amounts of clove oil have been reported to cause severe side effects such as seizures and liver damage.

One case report detailed a child who ingested clove oil and experienced disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a rare but serious blood clotting condition, and hepatocellular necrosis (death of hepatocytes, which are liver cells).

Other precautions to keep in mind include the following:

  • Avoid taking clove oil if you have a bleeding disorder.
  • Stop using cloves at least two weeks before planned surgery, as it could lead to increased bleeding.
  • Cloves also come in cigarette form for inhalation. Smoking clove cigarettes is likely unsafe and can lead to poor health.


Before using any supplement product, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about potential drug or food interactions. Share any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements you are currently taking.

Cloves may have a lowering effect on blood sugars. Adding them to a regimen that already includes diabetes medications could increase the risk of developing hypoglycemia.

Adding cloves when already on blood thinners or anticoagulants could lead to a greater risk of bruising and bleeding.

How to Use Cloves

Clove oil is available at most health food stores and supermarkets.

According to the review on cloves in the Commission E Monographs, detailing the German authority's approved preparations of clove oil, 1% to 5% essential oil solutions are recommended for mouthwashes, and undiluted oil is recommended for official dental use.

As with any supplements, look for one with a USP, ConsumberLabs, or NSF label. This indicates that the product has been third-party tested and it contains the amount of ingredients listed on the supplement bottle.


Cloves are a spice commonly used in cooking. They are also available in gels, creams, and mouthwashes.

Cloves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. They've been studied for lowering blood sugar and dental pain or toothache relief. However, there is little evidence of the benefits of taking cloves in amounts greater than what you would get from your regular diet.

Be sure to discuss any supplements you plan to take with your healthcare provider.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, CNSC, FAND
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N-AP, CNSC, FAND is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and writer with over 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition. Her experience ranges from counseling cardiac rehabilitation clients to managing the nutrition needs of complex surgical patients.

Originally written by Cathy Wong