Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
Photo © Steven Foster
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) in the eucalyptus family (Myrtaceae) is a tall evergreen tree with leathery leaves, native to warm climates. 1 It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, and is now cultivated in tropical regions worldwide. 2 The "cloves" are the dried flower buds.1 The stem and leaves are used also, but the flower buds and the oil which is extracted from them are more desirable for some uses.2
History and Traditional Use
Traditionally, cloves have been used to calm the stomach and relieve nausea.2 In Chinese medicine, clove oil has been used to treat hernias, diarrhea, and bad breath.3 The oil has been used topically as a counterirritant and as an anesthetic in dentistry.2
Modern Medicinal Use
Cloves are approved by the German Commission E for inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat and for topical anesthesia in dentistry.4 Clove has been studied for use in the prevention of blood clotting and coagulation, and for its chemoprotective (protecting healthy tissue against anticancer drugs), and fever-reducing effects.1 In addition, ringworm, such as athlete's foot, can be effectively treated with a tincture of clove.1 Internally, clove oil is used to reduce gas and vomiting.5 The oil also inhibits spasms and the production of histamine (the cause of allergic reactions), and is beneficial in healing stomach ulcers.1 Clove bud oil is applied topically to relieve the symptoms of toothache.5
Modern Consumer Use
Cloves are widely used in cooking. Clove bud and stem oils are commonly used as a fragrance component in soaps, creams, lotions, detergents, and perfumes.2 In aromatherapy, clove is used for viral hepatitis, amoebic diarrhea or dysentery, tuberculosis, and loss of strength or energy; however the oil can be sensitizing, so it should only be used in a highly diluted solution.6 Asian herbal teas often contain powdered cloves for flavor.7 Clove is used commercially to flavor many foods, beverages (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic), and tobacco.7
1 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information. 3nd ed. St Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 2002.
2 Leung AY., Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1996.
3 Jiangsu Institute of Modern Medicine. Encyclopedia of Chinese Drugs. Vol 3. Shanghai: Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publications;1977.
4 Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. Klein S, Rister RS, translators. The Complete German Commission E Monographs3Ž4Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communication; 1998.
5 Barnes J, Anderson LA, and Phillipson DJ. Herbal Medicines: a Guide for Healthcare Professionals. 2nd ed. Chicago: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.
6 Schnaubelt K. Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy. Rochester, VT:Healing Arts Press 1998.
7 Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1985.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.