Clove is an herb. People use the oils, dried flower buds, leaves, and stems to make medicine.

The baking spice we know as clove starts out as an undeveloped green flower bud on an Indonesian evergreen tree in the myrtle family. When the bud turns red, the spice is harvested by shaking the tree. The dried flower bud, which is actually a long calyx consisting of four unopened petals, looks a lot like a nail with a head at one end. In fact, the common name for the spice is taken from the French word clov, which means “nail.”

Clove contains several phenolic compounds, and is one of the most abundant sources of eugenol and gallic acid. The spice is also a rich source of the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, as well as caffeic, ferulic, elagic and salicylic acids. Due to the collective antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of these compounds, clove is widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The spice is also used as a flavor and preservative in the food industry.

BackgroundCloves originated from the Southern Phillipines and the Molluca Islands of Indonesia. Taken from the dried flowers of the clove.

While they are mainly known in the West as a spice, cloves have been used throughout Southeast Asia for thousands of years.

Clove has been used to make bitter herb preparations more palatable for centuries. It has also been a powerful aphrodisiac used in India.

During the reign of the Han dynasty, anyone who planned to address the Chinese Emperor was expected to put cloves in his or her mouth in order to improve bad breath.

While it has roots in Asia, the growth of cloves has extended to Brazil, the West Indies, Tanzania, and Madagascar.

Description: The clove tree is an evergreen tree that grows up to 50 feet. The clove tree is pyramid-shaped and strongly aromatic. Twice each year unopened flower buds can be picked and dried. The dried flower buds are called cloves. Leaves and stems can be used, but the flower buds contain the most essential oil.

Safety: Medicinal amounts of clove should not be used by anyone with a history of cancer because of the unclear affect of eugenol on cell growth. Medicinal amounts of clove should always be used under the supervision of a health care professional.

Powdered clove is considered nontoxic for otherwise healthy people. Stomach upset can be the result of high amounts of cloves. Clove used on the skin may also cause a rash.


Chances are, when you think of cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), you think of the many foods flavoured by this distinctive spice. But did you know there's a lot more to this simple seasoning than meets the eye? Clove isn't just another spice in your spice cabinet - it's also a powerful health supplement with a wide variety of uses and applications. This article will help you understand the secret life of cloves, from their ancient trip along the spice route to their modern-day use as a healing compound.


How are Cloves Grown

Many people are surprised to learn that clove is actually a flower bud. The scientific name for the plant is Syzygium aromaticum, however due to its popularity the name "clove" has become synonymous with both the spice and the plant itself.


The clove plant grows as a small, compact, evergreen bush, which thrives in warm, humid, climates. If allowed to flower, the plant produces a striking pink flower, which is then followed by purple berries.

Harvesting Cloves

The flower buds of the clove plant go through several stages, and must be picked at the right time in their development in order to be usable. The buds start out a pale, milky white color, which gradually shifts to green. Just before blooming, the flowers take on a deep red color - it is at this stage that they are ready to be picked.

The cloves are then harvested from the plant and dried. They are then ready for use.

Main Active Compounds in Cloves

The clove bud contains an unusual mix of compounds found in no other plant, giving the herb its unique medicinal properties. Cloves contain - among other compounds - gallotannins, triterpenes, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Oil derived from Cloves contains additional compounds including b-caryophyllene, eugenol, and eugenol acetate.

Medicinal Properties of Cloves

Dietary herbal use of cloves can aid in the relief of a wide variety of ailments, both internal and external. As a supplement, the spice can either be used in its whole form, ground form, or reduced to its essential oil.

  • Clove use can soothe and relax the inner lining of the intestines, aiding in digestion. It can also aid in quieting upset stomach.

  • Cloves can help the esophagus produce more phlegm and act as an expectorant, making coughs less severe and more productive.

  • Clove has been shown to have analgesic properties. This property is particularly effective for tooth pain. Whole clove can be applied directly to the gum in problem areas. The thin skinned membrane of the gums readily absorbs oil from the clove, providing topical relief from pain. Although less effective, clove can also be applied to outer skin to help with sun burn or poison ivy.

  • Clove can act as an antimicrobial agent, killing parasites and bacteria in the digestive tract. In appropriate dosage, it can help to relieve excessive gas bloating.

  • There is some evidence that certain compounds in clove act as antihistamines, keeping sinus passageways clear and open.

  • When the oil is applied topically, it can relieve pain from rheumatism, arthritis, or other inflammation-based pain.