The curative properties of clove and its oil are legendary. Not only does it have the highest antioxidant value of any spice, its multiple range of uses are exemplary. Clove contains significant antioxidants which have been proven in studies to prevent toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride, digestive tract cancers, and joint inflammation.
This unopened flower bud of a tropical tree, native of Indonesia, is also offered to local deities. When fresh, the clove is pink and turns rust-brown when dried. Clove oil, applied to a cavity in a decayed tooth, relieves toothache. The oil is used to treat skin disorders such as acne, pimples, and severe burns.
Clove contains significant amounts of an active component called eugenol. It has often been used in dentistry in conjunction with root canal therapy, temporary fillings, and general gum pain, since eugenol and other components of clove (including beta-caryophyllene) combine to make clove a mild anaesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent. For these beneficial effects, you'll also find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.
On the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale used by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to assess the antioxidant value of foods, clove has the highest ORAC score.
A Nutrient-Dense Spice
Eugenol, the primary component of clove's volatile oils, functions as an anti-inflammatory substance. In animal studies, the addition of clove extract to diets already high in anti-inflammatory components (like cod liver oil, with its high omega-3 fatty acid content) brings significant added benefits, and in some studies, further reduces inflammatory symptoms by another 15-30%. Clove also contains a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also contribute to clove's anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) properties.
Like its fellow spices, clove's unique phytonutrient components are accompanied by an incredible variety of traditionally-recognized nutrients. Using our nutrient ranking system, we determined cloves to be an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin K and dietary fiber, and a good source of iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Since cloves have a very intense flavor, especially those that have been ground, care should be taken when deciding how much to use in a recipe so as to not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.
The easiest way to grind whole cloves into a powder is to use a coffee grinder.
Clove-infused water is used to treat stomach upsets, nausea and diarrhoea. Folklore says that sucking two whole cloves without chewing or swallowing them helps to curb the desire for alcohol.
Cloves were traded by Arabs in the Middle Ages as part of their buying and selling on the profitable Indian Ocean trade route. That's how it happened to reach Europe and beyond.
Cloves, along with nutmeg and pepper, were highly prized in Roman times, and Pliny the Elder once famously complained that "there is no year in which India does not drain the Roman Empire of fifty million sesterces."
At Christmas time, cloves can be pressed into an apple or the peel of an orange and used as a warm-smelling adornment in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house. Clove oil warmed in oil burners gives an aromatic holiday scent to any room.
Clove, as a herb or an essential oil, is also used to treat magic spells and matters related to Jupiter -- growth, legal matters, meditation, money, prosperity, settling legal matters, and spirituality.
Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.