Looking for something to spice up both your food and health? Check out these health benefits of cloves backed by scientific research.
Cloves are a treasured spice among people. They are the dried aromatic flower buds of a tree and have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes throughout generations.
Cloves also go by the name Syzygium aromaticum. This plant is native to Indonesia, particularly the small islands of Maluku that is located in Eastern Indonesia commonly dubbed the ‘spice islands.
The plant has a place in the Myrtaceae family, the biggest class of the species which comprises approximately 1200 to 1800 blooming plants.
Cloves contain a rich compound called Eugenol, which has many uses in different industries such as cosmetic, food, agriculture, and pharmaceutical industries.
Different people in several countries have different names for cloves. These are:
- Ding Xiang in Chinese;
- Kruidnagel in Danish;
- Garifalo in Greek;
- Mikhaki in Georgian;
- Nelke in German;
- Szegfu in Hungarian;
- Cengkeh in Indonesian;
- Choji in Japenese;
- Jeonghyang in Korean;
- Lwaan in Nepalese;
- Carvo de India in Portuguese;
- Mikhak in Persian;
- Kala in Pashto;
- Gvosdika in Russian;
- Clavo in Spanish.
The major producers of cloves are Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka but greater quantities are produced in the West Indies, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, mainly Zanzibar.
The Origins Of Cloves
Many believe that cloves have existed before Christ, in the first century. The first sign of cloves was given in ancient china. A Chinese Physician had written to the court visitors that were to visit the Emperor expressing the need to always place a clove in their mouth to prevent the emperor from experiencing bad breath.
In the 4th century A.D, the Arabs traded cloves to the Europeans and in the 16th century, the origins of cloves stopped remaining a mystery because of the discovery of Indonesia by the Portuguese.
In the 17th century, A.D cloves were introduced to Sri Lanka and established in India by the East India Company in the 18th Century A.D.
A common tradition that is predominant in Europe, is for its natives to make ‘pomanders’ that undergo the process of piercing oranges with clove buds and hanging them around their houses during Christmas for decorative and fragrance purposes.
The General Uses Of Cloves
For more than 2,000 years in ancient china, cloves have been used as a spice and fragrance while Its oil has also been used In Chinese traditions as an antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antispasmodic (an agent used to relieve muscle spasms) while the buds are used to treat diarrhea and chronic/acute gastritis.
A mixture of clove and tobacco is used to make a special cigarette called Kretek that is common in Indonesia.
A mixture of ground cloves and honey is used as a remedy to cure skin conditions. The antibacterial properties found in them are used in a range of mouthwashes and some toothpaste to kill pathogens.
Due to the presence of Flavonoids, Cloves has anti-inflammatory properties and also improves the immune system.
In holistic treatments, pure clove oil is used in aromatherapy for arthritis and rheumatism. They are also good for patients with diabetes because they control blood sugar levels.
Cloves have also been used to treat common digestive conditions such as dyspepsia, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea.
Inhalation of clove oil has been proven to help people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, common cold and also reduce lethargy, restlessness, and headaches.
A compound found in cloves called Eugenol has been shown to prevent the formation of blood clots.
Evidence-Based Benefits Of Cloves
Now that we have broken down the basics surrounding cloves, what does science say?
1. Antimicrobial Properties
An antimicrobial is an agent that kills microorganisms or stops their growth. Cloves have been shown to contain antimicrobial properties.
Studies carried out to assess the antiseptic potential of cloves revealed that clove oil had a greater antimicrobial effect, compared to a clove extract that included ethanol and a known preservative called sodium propionate.
Cloves have also been shown to aid with oral health due to its antimicrobial properties. According to a test-tube study, compounds that were extracted from cloves were found to stop the two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease.
With a combination of regular brushing and maintaining proper oral hygiene, cloves can also benefit oral health.
2. Rich In Antioxidants
Cloves contain rich compounds that are beneficial for the human body. Antioxidants are one of them and they are predominately found in the oily interior of the cloves.
Some of the antioxidant compounds are Vitamins (A and C), Eugenol, minerals, flavonoids, and phenolic acid.
Vitamin C is responsible for protecting the body against oxidative stress and fight off free radicals.
Eugenol is 5 times more effective in combating free radicals than Vitamin E (another potent antioxidant.)
An antioxidant research study was conducted to compare 6 various spices and cloves were shown to have maximum antioxidant potential more than garlic, ginger, and mint.
3. Improve Liver Health
The liver has many functions, one being the main detoxification organ that uses several enzymes to process, filter, and remove the body’s toxins.
Because of the high functionality that the liver performs, it is subjected to high levels of stress that leads to the build-up of free radicals.
This often leads to either chronic or oxidative stress that causes metabolic imbalances in the body.
The compounds that are found in cloves, mainly Eugenol has been proven to be beneficial to the liver.
Studies have also shown that both clove oil and eugenol were found to improve liver function and reduce inflammation among rats that had liver disease.
Apart from being anti-inflammatory, Eugenol can also improve damaged tissue and reverse signs of liver cirrhosis.
4. Helps With Digestion
Phytonutrients are natural compounds that provide essential nutrients for the human body. Cloves contain phytonutrients that help stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes that help with the reduction of stomach problems such as bloating, flatulence, gastric irritability, and dyspepsia.
It has also been proven that clove oil can treat stomach ulcers because the phytochemicals that are found in the clove oil increase the production of mucus in the stomach.
Gastric mucus acts as a protective barrier preventing the thin stomach lining from being exposed to strong digestive acids (bile and gastric)
In old traditions, people would apply clove oil to help relieve morning sickness and ease symptoms of indigestion.
5. Boosts Immune System
The human body needs to have a strong immune system. Cloves have the highest antioxidant potential in comparison to other superfoods.
Clove oil extracts contain antibacterial and antiviral properties that boost immunity that helps fight off bacterial and viral infections.
This is because clove oil contains polyphenols that increase white blood cell count, resulting in a stronger immune response against bacterial and viral infections.
Finding a way to implement cloves into your diet can benefit you tremendously. Ground cloves can be used in similar ways like cinnamon and ginger to flavor soups, meat, and even baked goods.
Cloves have been used for centuries and are considered safe, but too much of something is harmful to one’s health. This is because Cloves contain a high concentration of Eugenol that can cause liver damage when taken in high doses.
Clove oils are often diluted with other oils such as coconut to reduce the effects. And they are not recommended for children under the age of two.
Hopefully, these amazing health benefits of cloves changed your mind about them and made you consider adding them to your next recipe.