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What Are Cloves and Clove Oil?

Biological Name: Caryophyllus aromaticus, Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata Myrtaceae)

Other Names: Clove, clovos, caryophyllus

Active Compounds: Clove oil is 60 to 90% eugenol, which is the source of its antifungal, anesthetic and antiseptic properties. Laboratory test have shown that eugenol exhibited marked antifungal activity. They also confirmed cloves’ effectiveness in inhibiting food-borne pathogens as well as other bacteria. Eugenol is also found in cinnamon, sage and oregano. Capsaicin is also present in cloves, which is the active ingredient in cayenne pepper.

Primary Nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Vitamins A, Vitamin B-complex and Vitamin C.

Preparation: The oil of clove is prepared by steam distillation.

The clove is an evergreen tree, called Eugenia arena, reaching a height of 15 to 30 feet tall. It is native to the Spice Islands and the Philippines but also grown in India, Sumatra, Jamaica, the West Indies, Brazil, and other tropical areas. The bark is pale yellowish gray in color and smooth. It has opposite ovate (egg-shaped) leaves 3-6 inches long. Its flowers, are red and white, bell-shaped, and grow in clusters. The flowers when gathered are at first of a reddish color, but on drying they assume a deep brown cast. The familiar clove used in the kitchen is the dried flower bud.

History of Clove Oil Uses

During the Han dynasty (207 B. C. to 220 A. D.) those who addressed the Chinese emperor were required to hold cloves in their mouths to mask bad breath. Traditional Chinese physicians have long used the herb to treat indigestion, diarrhea, hernia, and ringworm, as well as athlete’s foot and other fungal infections and as a stimulant for the nerves. European doctors once breathed through clove-filled leather beaks to ward off the plague.

India’s traditional Ayurvedic healers have used clove since ancient times to treat respiratory and digestive ailments. In tropical Asia cloves have been given to treat such diverse infections as malaria, cholera and tuberculosis, as well as scabies.

Clove first arrived in Europe around the 4th century A.D. as a highly coveted luxury. The medieval German herbalists used cloves as part of anti-gout mixture. Once clove became easily available in Europe, it was prized as a treatment for indigestion, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It was also used to treat cough, infertility, warts, worms, wounds, and toothache. European hospitals use clove to treat viral hepatitis, bacterial colitis, hypertension, thyroid dysfunction, and fatigue.

Early American Eclectic physicians used clove to treat digestive complaints and added it to bitter herb-medicine preparations to make them more palatable. They were also the first to extract clove oil from the herbal buds. They used it on the gums to relieve toothache.

Traditional uses in America include treating worms, viruses, candida, and various bacterial and protozoan infections. Clove is also used for toothaches, bad breath, dizziness, cough, earache, colitis, epilepsy, palsy, and digestive upsets, as a sleep-inducer, anti-inflammatory, blood-thinner, mental stimulant, etc.

Treatment Applications

To lift the spirits, blend clove oil with cinnamon, orange, nutmeg or vanilla oils. Using this warming blend in an evaporator will soon fill the room and relieve winter blues.

Athletics foot, nail fungus, & skin problems: Clove oil is just as effective as oil of oregano in treating these conditions. It can be applied directly to the skin or nails, but if skin is sensitive or broken it must be diluted with extra virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil.

Antiseptic Uses: Clove oil is the active ingredient in several mouthwashes and a number of over-the-counter toothache pain-relief preparations.

Cold Extremities (hands, fingers, feet and toes): Clove oil stimulates circulation, and blood flow to the skin, making it very useful for people who have cold extremities.

Colds, Flu, Bronchitis, Fever & Whooping Cough: Cloves encourages the loosening of phlegm (mucus) from the respiratory system. It also promotes sweating with fevers, colds, and flu, which is very healing. It is often used in remedies for coughs.

Depression: This powerful herb also has the ability to relieve depression.

Digestive Aid: Like many culinary spices, clove may help relax the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract. A few drops of the oil in water will stop vomiting, and clove tea will relieve diarrhea, gas, bloating, intestinal spasms and nausea.

Fatigue & Drowsiness: Researchers found that sniffing the spicy aroma of cloves reduces drowsiness, irritability, and headaches. It stimulates the mind, increases memory recall, and relieves mental fatigue.

Headache: One drop of clove oil applied to the roof of the mouth can relieve headaches.

Insect Repellent: Clove, when used with citrus oils, is an effective insect repellent!

Pain: Long used in aromatherapy to relieve pain, it is also uplifting oil with a delightful scent. For general pain relief, add 3 drops of clove oil to 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. It is also used topically to relieve general aches and pains.

Toothache, oral hygiene: Dentists use clove oil as an oral anesthetic. They also use it to disinfect root canals. Clove oil will stop the pain of a toothache when dropped into a cavity. For temporary relief of toothache, dip a cotton swab in clove oil and apply it to the affected tooth and surrounding gum.

Adding a clove or two to a mug of tea can work miracles on a toothache, or a headache which can be caused by teeth problems (which includes stubborn wisdom teeth). According to a study at the University of Iowa, compounds in clove oil have shown “strong activity” against bacteria associated with plaque formation and gum disease and it treats mouth sores and ulcers, and sore gums.

Warts: A few drops of clove oil soaked into a band aid and applied to warts has been known to dissolve them — it should be freshly applied every day. It may take up to a month to totally dissolve a wart.


  • Those who are taking blood-thinner medications should not take clove oil because it, too, is a powerful blood-thinner.
  • Medicinal amounts of clove should not be given to children under age 2.
  • For older children and people over 65, start with low-strength preparations and increase strength if necessary.
  • 100% Clove oil should be diluted with extra virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil.
  • Those who are taking blood-thinner medications should not take clove oil because it, too, is a powerful blood-thinner.
  • Doses above those recommended may cause stomach upset.
  • References

    1. Clove Bud Essential Oil
    2. Clove Herb Information
    3. Young Living Essential Oils
    4. Antimicrobial Effects of Spices and Herbs
    5. Cloves
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