- Family Myrtaceae
- Eugenia carophyllata syn. Syzygium aromaticum
- None listed.
- External use can cause dermatitis.
- Do not take essential oil internally unless under direct professional supervision.
Originally from the Molucca Islands (Indonesia) and the southern Philippines, cloves are now grown extensively in Tanzania and Madagascar and, to a lesser extent, in the West Indies and Brazil. Strongly aromatic, it is an evergreen pyramid-shaped tree, growing to fifty feet. Twice a year, the unopened flower buds, called cloves, are picked and then sun-dried. Although it is the flower buds that contain the best essential oil, the stems and leaves can also be distilled for their oil. (see more in Foods section)
Cloves was one of the first spices to be traded. It was imported into Alexandria in 176 CE.
Used in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, it was regarded as a panacea for almost all ills.
It is recorded that Chinese officials in 266 BCE, would chew on cloves to sweeten their breath before audiences with the emperor.
- prevents vomiting
- volatile oil containing up to 85% eugenol and acetyl eugenol, methyl salicylate, pinene, and vanillin
Lower buds, leaves
Argentinian research in 1994 showed the volatile oil to be strongly antibacterial.
In the test tube, scientists have proven that eugenol kills certain bacteria that cause skin infections; as well as fungi, viruses, larvae, and parasites. It is also strongly antispasmodic.
Scientists also note its effectiveness in blocking sensory receptors that are instrumental in perceiving pain.
Still underrated in Western herbal medicine, cloves are still used only in mouthwashes and to relieve toothache; but it has a major use as a local anesthetic for dental fillings. At one time, dentists routinely used cotton swabs saturated with clove oil to relieve the pain of a tooth. Today, they use it to prepare dental cements, fillings, and to treat dry sockets.
The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation and has numerous uses, including as a preservative on microscope slides, a topical anesthetic, a flavouring in gargles and mouthwashs, and as a mild germicidal in toothpastes, perfumes, and aftershaves.
In tropical Asia, cloves are used to treat many microbial conditions, including malaria, cholera, scabies, and tuberculosis.
As a digestive aid, it eases the discomfort of gas and abdominal bloating.
Clove tea is widely regarded as being effective in relieving nausea. The tea is made with just a few drops of clove oil. It is also a time-honoured remedy for travelers diarrhea.
Its antispasmodic action eases coughs and, when applied topically, relieves muscle spasms.
It is believed to be a good stimulant for the mind, improving memory.
It is used to prepare for childbirth by stimulating and strengthening uterine contractions during labour.
It is also used to treat acne, skin ulcers, sores, and styes.
Cloves make a potent mosquito and moth repellent. Oranges studded with cloves were used in the Moluccas as insect repellents.
Sucking on cloves is said to reduce temporarily the craving for alcohol, and,likewise, smoking them is thought to help kick the tobacco habit. However, this can be a risky practice. The American Lung Association states that the smoke from cloves contains more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke, but fewer than commercial cigarettes. It also numbs the smokers throats, causing them to inhale more deeply than they would if just smoking ordinary cigarettes. Such toxic lung reactions as coughing up blood have been reported by those who smoked clove cigarettes.
E. chequeri from Chile and E. gerrodi from South Africa are used to treat coughs and congestion; E. uniflora from Brazil, is used to help repel mosquitoes and other insects.