Those of us of a certain generation will no doubt remember clove oil being a thing for dabbing on toothache! You will remember the vile bitter taste and how is made your mouth water, but you will also remember how it numbed your gum and eased the pain…but what else can this amazing spice do? By Juanita Shield-Laignel

Cloves grow prolifically in India and Madagascar and have been used traditionally in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. These tiny, but oh so potent, dark brown bulbs have a warming, stimulating and cleansing effect on the body, and they can be used in cooking, as an extract, in herbal tea or as an essential oil.

We are familiar with clove as a cooking ingredient – very popular as an autumn spice…gingerbread, cookies, cakes and pies – pumpkin, apple or otherwise, are all the better for a pinch or two of this little marvel of nature. And being a key component of mulled wine and spiced cabbage, clove comes into its own at the end of year. 

But did you know it also has some other amazing medicinal qualities; numbing pain is not the only one?

Cloves are rich in antioxidants and very high on the O.R.A.C. scale (the antioxidant rating scale), as they contain the antioxidant called eugenol, shown to fight free radical damage. This compound can be found in concentrations as high as 80%–90% in clove bud oil! Eugenol is mooted as helping defend against the development of chronic diseases and as being an important component in anti-aging.

Maybe it’s traditionally used at this time year as it can also help with Supporting Immune Function and Fighting Infections – as well as reducing inflammation and acting as an antioxidant, eugenol also has antimicrobial and antiviral properties giving it a similar action to raw garlic.

Given clove’s antimicrobial properties it can also help promote good digestive health.  Clove contains compounds that have been shown in studies to increase the production of gastric mucus, thus possibly helpful in the prevention of stomach ulcers. It can also help ease bloating and water retention.

In extract form, clove can also contribute to healthy liver function by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress and there have also been studies to show that clove extract, is rich in polyphenolic compounds that support metabolic health, which may in turn help adults maintain normal glucose levels.

As mentioned above clove oil, has long been used in dental care due to its natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its antiseptic and antibacterial and antimicrobial effects, so it can help dull aches, reduce swelling and provide relief from discomfort from toothaches, skin breakouts, headaches and other painful conditions. It can also help prevent plaque from forming on teeth, which may cause painful cavities hence being an ingredient in Thieves Mouthwash…

Clove Tea

Steeping a few tiny clove bulbs in hot water and drinking the resultant tea will give you many of the same health benefits as using extract or oil – so the same anti-inflammatory compounds may help reduce sore throats, cold and cough symptoms, and potentially digestive issues, when drunk regularly.

Word of caution…

Consumed in small amounts clove is generally safe for most people (those with allergies to spices will know already), however, clove oil should be handled with caution, especially if using it internally and should only be ingested in very small amounts and under the direction of an essential oil practitioner.  When applied topically it can cause skin rashes, burning and tingling, so use with caution and mix with a carrier oil.