Clove is a popular spice. It adds a sweet and aromatic taste to pumpkin pie, muffins, cookies, and breads. Cloves are also added to many entrees. Cloves are actually the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand and then dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch in diameter and look, in fact, a lot like tiny nails. Their English name is actually derived from the Latin word “clavus,” which means nail. Although cloves have a hard outer casing, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional benefits and unique taste.
Clove contains significant amounts of an active ingredient called “eugenol.” This ingredient has been the subject of numerous health studies, including studies on digestive tract cancers, joint inflammation, and the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride.
In the U.S., eugenol extracts from clove have been used in dentistry. Clove is a mild anesthetic, as well as being antibacterial. These two properties have helped patients who have had root canal therapy, temporary fillings, and/or have experienced general gum pain. You can often find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouthwashes.
Eugenol, the primary component of clove’s volatile oils, works as an anti-inflammatory. Researchers have discovered that the addition of clove extract to diets already high in anti-inflammatory foods like cod liver oil brings significant added benefits and can further reduce inflammatory symptoms by another 15%-30%. Clove also contains flavonoids, which contribute to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
In one clinical trial, researchers tested eight spices to find out if any were able to protect cells from being damaged. Peroxynitrite is a substance in your body that can cause molecular damage to proteins, lipids and DNA. It is this damage, in turn, that can lead to disease. The research team used cardamom, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, and rosemary in the trial. They found that all the spices exerted a protective effect against peroxynitrite. However, clove in particular was singled out for its “outstanding protectiveness” against molecular damage.
Cloves are an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of calcium and magnesium.
Cloves can also act as a digestive aid. When using clove oil, keep in mind that the oil is very strong and can cause irritation if used in its pure form. Dilute clove oil in olive oil or distilled water before applying topically. Remember that it is not recommended that you take clove oil internally.