Composition and Benefits of Cloves

selective focus photography of star anise

A Spice with Medicinal Properties and Other Uses

The clove is the small, nail-shaped dried flower bud of an aromatic tree. It was popular as an item of food and medicine in ancient times and remains so even today. During the era of the Han Dynasty in China, over two thousand years ago, courtiers were ordered to keep cloves in their mouths while talking to the king, to ensure that the breath was odorless. Due to its medicinal properties, the clove has been used in many home remedies through the ages.

Contents of Cloves

Chemical analysis shows that cloves have 36 different ingredients, the most important being eugenol. This essential oil in cloves is both a germicide and fungicide. The clove is also an excellent source of manganese, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, niacin, omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.

Medicinal Properties of Cloves

Apart from adding flavor to any food, cloves have a number of health benefits and medicinal uses.

  • Cloves have digestive properties, and are therefore useful in conditions like stomach ulcers, flatulence and dyspepsia. They stimulate the enzymes and boost digestion.
  • Moreover, they have an anesthetic action and numb the gullet and stomach.
  • Cloves help to control nausea and vomiting. A home remedy for nausea is to consume fried powdered cloves in honey.
  • Due to the antiseptic and germicidal properties, cloves help to fight infections like cold, flu, bronchitis, arthritic pain and athlete’s foot.
  • The aroma of cloves reduces irritability, headaches and drowsiness.
  • Cloves also boost memory and blood circulation.
  • When used as a tea, cloves help to induce sleep and alleviate constipation. The Dutch were great admirers of this tea, so in Holland it was used to help heartburn patients get better sleep. Since the days of trading caravans, cloves were reputed to lift the spirits, and thus added to herbal teas.

Cloves for Dental Care

Cloves have been traditionally used to alleviate dental problems like gum inflammation and loose teeth, as they have antiseptic properties which fight infections. African tribes like the Zulu used cloves for treating toothache, and this is a popular home remedy even today. The eugenol deadens the pain of toothache and decay. Clove extract also prevents dental plaque which leads to cavities. Apart from creating a localized numbing effect, cloves are also anti-bacterial, so keeping them in the mouth reduces a toothache quickly. In fact, the eugenol starts acting within two to seven minutes. A study by dentists in Kuwait in 2006 proved that clove oil is as effective as the local anesthesia benzocain. Moreover, it is reasonably priced and easily available.

However, when clove oil is applied inside the mouth, there could be a slight burning sensation and irritability of the sensitive mucous membrane of the mouth. Therefore, though application of clove oil is good as a first aid measure, a dentist should be consulted as soon as possible.

Cloves have multiple uses, from acting as breath fresheners to treating conditions like nausea, colic and dental problems. They are also good for the heart, liver and stomach. No wonder then that cloves were considered an important item of trade by Asian merchants.

Tips for Choosing and Storing Cloves: Good quality cloves should float vertically in a cup of water, while stale cloves will sink or float horizontally. Cloves should be stored in airtight containers away from direct sunlight.


The Secret benefits of spices and condiments—Vijaya Kumar

The—Medical properties of cloves

Herbs2000com–Uses of cloves