Cloves are enjoyed in many different type of cuisines from a South Asian rice pulao to a holiday ham in the West. The versatility of cloves shows in their adaption to baked goods as well as cold drinks like a sangria. Growing as flower buds on the tree, cloves are a multipurpose cooking spice used to excite numerous dishes and beverages. Known for their fresh yet sweet flavour cloves have made their way into many cultural dishes and remedies. Besides their exotic profile, cloves contain potent phytonutrients which have been extensively used as natural medicines by many generations. In this article, we’ll discuss this special ingredient and its abilities to improve all types of cooking creations as well as health.

cloves and malt wine tea

What are Cloves?

Cloves are small flower buds of a tree that have a unique aroma and taste, making it one of the versatile spices used around the globe.

The clove tree is indigenous to several Asian and East African countries. The product seen in grocery stores are the dried flower buds of the clove tree known as Syzygium aromaticum, which originated from Maluku Islands in Indonesia. It belongs to the plant family named Myrtaceae. [1] This evergreen tree grows in tropical climates year round. Clove tree has been used for thousands of years in folk medicine preparing remedies out of various parts of the plant including flower buds (cloves), stems and leaves. 

Ancient Indian and Chinese medicines utilized cloves to treat various health conditions including tooth aches, infections, indigestion, muscle and joint pain. Popularity of cloves continued to grow with each generation, finding new medicinal application as a stand alone or as a spice tonic. 

Cloves are excellent source of antioxidants ranking at the top of the list. Chemical makeup of cloves have identified 36 different active ingredients. Eugenol is cloves’ most active compound residing within its essential oil and is a big reason for its aroma and flavour. This active compound is also found in other spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. However, clove flower buds and leaves contain highest levels of eugenol. Eugenol’s spicy yet sweet fragrance makes it a common ingredient of many perfumes, flavourings and aromatherapy essential oils. Due to its chemical properties, eugenol is also commonly used in dentistry. [2] 

A natural phenolic molecule, eugenol is an antioxidant monster capable of directly scavenging and attacking free radicals; while protecting tissue from oxidative damage. It can also be used to produce or reconstruct other active compounds which all possess their own health benefits. [3] 

Cloves also contain a variety of flavonoids which further enhance this spice’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These flavonoids are often captured within clove essential oil, which has been extensively used in rejuvenating skin, relieving stress and congestion, blood pressure, diabetes and have been noted to fight mutations and cancers.

The History of Cloves

As with many other spices around the world, cloves originated in Asia and date back centuries.  Native to Moluccas, the islands of Indonesia, the clove tree can grow up to ten meters tall, producing flower buds with an oily interior and sweet fragrance and taste. Due to its sense elevating abilities, clove flower buds quickly gained popularity with traders. Cloves have a long history with ancient Chinese as well as:

  • Romans, who used them as fragrance and spice over 2000 years ago.
  • Cloves were found in ceramic pots during archeological excavations in Syria which date back to 1721 BCE.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine regards cloves for its strong ability to fight fungi and bacterial infections.
  • From ancient India, Ayurvedic healers used cloves to treat various digestive problems, fever, physical aches and respiratory issues.
  • Ancient Persians believed that cloves possessed libido properties and used clove oil as a love potion.

Arab traders introduced cloves to Europe around 4th century. As with many spices, cloves’ stock drastically rose in popularity by the middle ages, where they were used as food spice, aroma infuser and medical remedy. During the 13th and 14th centuries, cloves were transported all the way from Indonesia to China, India, Persia, Africa, and Europe. As with all the spices, single source production and long sea transport resulted in very high clove prices, creating a strong desire for many European nations to get in and control this lucrative trade. By 16th and 17th century, numerous expeditions and conflicts were waged in order to gain control over clove and nutmeg industry. 

The Dutch eventually emerged victorious taking hold of the Maluku Islands and maintaining it for a long time. Maintaining the clove monopoly, the Dutch eliminated competition by destroying clove trees outside their control territory. Such extermination practices caused an uprising within the native inhabitants who believed in special connection between themselves and the clove trees. In Moluccas tradition, a spiritual connection between people and nature was symbolized with planting a clove tree with the birth of each child. The health and wellbeing of a clove tree foreshadowed the same prosperity to each associated native islander.

However, the Dutch eventually lost their control over clove trade. In late 1700s, the French smuggled cloves from the East Indies to the Indian Ocean Islands and the New World. By the 18th century cloves were cultivated in many countries of similar climate to Muluccas including Zanzibar (island of Tanzania), Madagascar, Brazil, Mauritius, and Tanzania. With greater availability, the price of cloves gradually decreased, becoming readily available for many social classes and cuisines all over the world.

Today, Indonesia is still the biggest clove producing region, however other countries such as Madagascar, Tanzania, Comoros, Kenya, Sri Lanka and West Indies have also been commercially growing this spice. [4]

Cloves’ Powerful Benefits

Cloves are an exiting and exotic spice enriching the senses and flavour profiles of foods while improving physical and psychological abilities. The native Moluccans believed in special connection to this symbolic tree and for good reasons. Today’s science has identified numerous active compounds within clove oil possessing abundant health benefits. Lets take a closer look, into the power of this aromatic flower.

Antioxidant Benefits

What are free radicals?

The body is an amazingly complex machine which creates, transforms, stores and uses energy through an overall process called metabolism. Metabolism consists of numerous biochemical pathways that converts energy from food (we eat), and oxygen (we breathe), to versions which the body can use (ATP) and store (triglycerides and glycogen). As the result of myriad metabolic reactions, the body also creates unstable oxygen containing particles called reactive oxygen species (ROS)—free radicals.

Having some free radicals is not a bad thing, as our immune system keeps a balanced radical/antioxidant reservoir for protection against foreign invaders. Whenever ROS levels rise, they react not only with antioxidant reserves but with all types molecules, by stealing electrons and destabilizing structural integrity of many DNA and cellular components. The body responds with inflammation in order to stop and repair the free radical damage. The imbalance of free radicals in the body is often referred to as oxidative stress. [5]

Why are antioxidants important?

Number of environmental factors such as diet, smoking, poor air quality, emotional stress or extreme physical exercise further contribute to free-radical production and oxidative stress. This produces continuous or chronic inflammation which has been identified as a common link in causation of various illnesses. From seasonal allergies to life threatening diseases such as dementia, metabolic syndrome and cancers have attributed to elevated oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. This is where antioxidants play a vital role by seeking out free radicals, neutralizing their harmful effects and protecting our tissues and systems.

Antioxidant Power of Cloves

Cloves are full of powerful compounds and ranks #6 on the ORAC Scale for antioxidant value among all of the foods and beverages across the world. [6] The top four items on the scale are not common, and cloves ORAC value of 290,283 is simply incredible. Compared to other superfoods: cloves are 3 times more potent than acai berry pulp (102,700), more than 5 times stronger than unsweetened cocoa (55,653), and 30 times more concentrated than blueberries (9,621) in antioxidants.

The powerful antioxidants within cloves are located predominantly within its oily interior. These compounds include vitamins (such as Vitamin A and C), minerals and other active compounds.  Vitamin C has been extensively shown to react with free radicals, decreasing overall oxidative stress. [7] Cloves contain other well researched antioxidants like anthocyanin, quercetin and eugenol. Eugenol has been a focus of numerous studies showing strong antioxidant properties.  In fact, tests found eugenol is 5 times more effective in combating free radicals than vitamin E (another potent antioxidant). [8]  An antioxidant research study compared 26 various spices and showed cloves to be one of the highest concentrations among other powerful superfoods such as garlic, thyme, rosemary and oregano. [9]

Eugenol was also found to increase activity of antioxidant enzymes activity which like— superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), gluthatione-S-transferase (GST) and polyphenol oxidase (PPO)—further protect cell structures while decreasing the oxidative stress. [10]

Digestive Aid and Protection

Adding cloves to your recipes will not only elevate flavour of food, it will improve the overall digestive process. Cloves are loaded with potent phytonutrients which stimulate secretion of digestive enzymes. Used for centuries by traditional medicines, cloves reduce stomach issues such as bloating, flatulence, gastric irritability, and dyspepsia. Also, folk remedies often applied clove oil to relieve motion or morning sickness causing nausea and vomiting. The active ingredients within clove oil have been shown to relax the smooth lining of the GI tract which eases the indigestion symptoms.

Clove oils have also been shown to treat stomach ulcers. These painful sores (also known as peptic ulcers) develop on the inside lining of the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine. Bacterium Helicobacter pulori (H. pulori) is often the cause for peptic ulcers which is often treated by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (advil) and acetaminophen (tylenol). Combination of NSAIDs and bacteria cause thinning of the stomach’s inner lining, exposing delicate tissue which gets inflamed, resulting in sensitivity, discomfort and pain. Despite popular belief, stress and spicy foods do not cause peptic ulcers, but may only aggravate already existing symptoms. [11] 

Scientific research shows that phytochemicals within clove oil help ulcer treatment by increasing production of mucus in the stomach.[12] The gastric mucus acts as a protective barrier preventing the thin stomach lining being exposed to strong digestive (bile and gastric) acids. [13]  Some animal models showed clove extracts produce similar effects as anti-ulcer medications during treatment. [14]

Treats All Inflammation

Cloves possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This is due to many active chemicals often referred to phytochemicals or polyphenols. These two names are interchangeably used throughout many texts, but what do they mean exactly.  Well, lets have a quick recap of what polyphenols are and why are they important.

Polyphenols vs. Phytochemicals—detailed explanation

Phytochemicals are natural occurring compounds found primarily in plants, many of which possess antioxidant properties. So far, scientists have identified 10,000+ phytochemicals, and many more still to come. [15] Phytochemicals is an umbrella term for any biological compound in plants that can effect something (be it another molecule, organelle, cell, organ, system or an organism (like bacteria)). Some of these compounds can act in many places, where’s others are very selective (specific key for a particular door). [16,17] 

Generally phytochemicals can:

  • act as antioxidants (as discussed within this article, and elsewhere on our site),
  • imitate hormone response (by looking very similar (structure wise) to some specific hormones, reacting and influencing certain endocrine pathways),
  • increasing enzyme activity (as seen in the liver, some compounds can and do increase enzymatic activity within various organs),
  • disrupting DNA replication (this was also mentioned during cancer topics, of how some active compounds interfere with replication of DNA in tumor cells and decreasing metastasis: eg: piperine in black pepper).
  • anti-bacterial response (disrupting bacteria’s growth),
  • anti-pathogen response (some phytochemicals bind physically to cell walls and act as a barrier preventing other microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses from binding to human cells).

Now, lets focus on the “antioxidant component” which are phytochemicals that protect the body against free radicals (aka ROS). There are 3 main categories:

  1. Carotenoids – are compounds which give pigments of bright red, yellow and orange to many fruits and vegetables. [18] If you ever heard a nutritionist or dietitian saying to “eating the rainbow” they refer to consuming variety coloured foods, therefore increasing various types of carotenoids.
  2. Allyl Sulfides – common to the onion family, these fight cancer progression by targeting certain enzymes and reducing or stopping their actions.
  3. Polyphenols – (here we are) also known as phenolics.

Think of phytochemicals as a large oak, dragon’s blood or baobab tree. The massive trunk contains all the components which begin to span upwards and downwards into big branches and roots. These big branches then spread out into smaller branches which diversify into  organs with specific abilities. Some of these organs such as leaves convert sunlight into energy or implant genetic material in seeds of fruits, flowers and pollen. While other organs in roots absorb water and nutrients from soil. Each of these organs has a purpose and all interact in a relationship for overall tree development. This tree example visualizes phytochemicals and various categories which “branch out” into specific groups such as polyphenols.  

So, polyphenol is a type of antioxidant, which is a type of phytochemical. Polyphenols are the largest group of phytochemicals with over 8000 identified compounds thus far. Just as the name suggests, all of these compounds have similar chemical structure made from multiple phenol groups (which is hydroxyl [OH-] groups attached to aromatic benzene [also called phenyl] rings in different ways). [15,19] Just like “the tree branching out” example, polyphenols can be further broken down into four types. These types are based on structural size (number of phenol rings that contain a structural elements which bind to them), which are:

  1. Flavonoids: the largest group of polyphenols with over 4,000 identified compounds.  Flavonoids possess powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities and are found in many fruits, vegetables, legumes, red wine and teas. Some of the well known flavonoids include: flavones, flavonols, flavanones, isoflavones, anthocyanidins, chalcones, catechins. [15, 20, 21] 
  2. Stilbenes: found in red wine (grape’s skin), berries (raspberries, blueberries, mulberries), peanuts and pomegranate. Stilbenes are strong antioxidants possessing anti-carcinogenic properties. Most famous stilbene is resveratrol which has been extensively studied in various chronic inflammation conditions, including various forms of cancers, metabolic syndrome and neurodegenerative illnesses. [22, 23]
  3. Lignans: found in many seeds (flax, sesame), legumes, whole grains (rye, wheat, oat and barley), some fruits (apricots, strawberries) and vegetables (broccoli, cabbage). Common lignans are enterolignant, enterodiol and enterolactone. [23][24] These antioxidants have been the focus of many cancer studies, especially in suppression and prevention of breast tumors. [23, 25, 26, 27]
  4. Phenolic acids: include hydroxybenzoic acids (found in tea) and hydroxycinnamic acids (common antioxidant in cinnamon, coffee, blueberries, kiwi, apples, citrus fruits, cherries, plums and onions to name a few). [28] In plants these acids have been linked to many important jobs, from nutrient uptake to energy production. For our purposes, studies show phenolic acids as potent antioxidants which directly engage free radicals, and protection against oxidative stress diseases such as coronary heat disease, stroke, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and several types of cancers. [29]

Polyphenols in Cloves

As we see, polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that include compounds like curcumin (found in turmeric and ginger), eugenol, resveratrol, terpenoids (found in cloves, cinnamon, ginger), epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) (found in green, white and black teas). These micronutrients play an important roles in fighting chronic inflammation by directly reacting with ROS, increasing antioxidant enzyme activity and influencing several important messaging pathways, which treat digestive issues, diabetes, brain and cardiovascular related diseases. [30]

2010 research study compared 100 foods rich in polyphenols, and cloves had the most amount.  Cloves contained a monstrous 15,188 mg of polyphenols per 100 g. Peppermint came a far second (with 11,960 mg) and star anise settled for third (with 5,460 mg) for polyphenol content respectively. [31] These micronutrient concentrations are simply colossal when compared to other top berry, non-berry fruits and vegetables. For example, cloves have over 27 times more polyphenols than blueberries (560 mg), over 30 times more than pecans (493 mg), 40 times more than plums (377 mg), 112 times more than apples (136 mg) and 257 times more than black beans (59 mg). [31, 32, 33]

Boosts Immune System

Cloves contain the highest antioxidant ingredients compared to other superfoods. [31] The active ingredients found in clove oil extracts contain antibacterial and antiviral properties that boost the immune system and help reduce and/or prevent microbe infections. Cloves are often used as essential oil treatments against common cold and flue. [34]

Ayurvedic medicine uses cloves extensively to boost immune system. The oil within this “nail shaped” flower bud contains polyphenols that can increase white blood cell count, resulting in stronger immune response against bacterial and viral infections. [35]

Cures Toothache and Decay

One of the most well established and popular remedies for toothaches uses cloves. Cloves remedy has been used by the ancient Chinese medicine some 2000 years ago as homeopathic treatment against tooth pain and decay. In the West, it was first documented in 1640 in French text “Practice of Physic”. [36] 

Cloves studies showed improvement in dental hygiene and health. Today, cloves are accepted as a reliable treatment in relieving discomfort and pain within several dental disorders. Research into clove essential oils shown to treat gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. [37] Clove oil can also produce same numbing effect as other topical ointments (such as benzocaine) which are used for dental procedures. [38]

Eugenol is the main active compound within clove oil, and (along with its chemical cousin eugenyl acetate) produce antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and restorative properties. When mixed with other materials such as zinc oxide, eugenol has been extensively used in dental and prosthodontics materials. Also, eugenol is shown to decrease decalcification and erosion of teeth. This particular study noted that eugenol reversed some of the damage commonly seen with fluoride use, by remineralizing teeth. [39]

Helps Fight Bacterial Infections

As seen with toothaches, cloves have been used for thousands of years for their antibacterial properties to treat many oral related conditions. A mouthwash study tested herbal remedies containing cloves, tea tree oil and basil for 21 days, showing improved gum health as well as decreased plaque build up and mouth bacteria. [40]

Cloves contain high levels of antibacterial and antimicrobial phytonutrients preventing the spread of various human infections. [41] Test tube studies also demonstrated clove oil ability to fight common bacteria including Escherichia coli (E. coli) strain which can cause digestive discomfort, cramps, diarrhea and fatigue. [42] Cloves’ antibacterial properties extend to all types of bacteria, including the strains which are resistant to antibiotics. These strains included Staphylococcus aureus (causes skin acne) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (causes pneumonia). [42]

Candida is a yeast fungus inside our body which helps with nutrient digestion and absorption.  Often candida lives inside the skin and mucous membranes of genital and intestinal tracts without causing any harm. Candida albicans (C. albicans) being the most common yeast strain responsible for human infections. Overgrowth of C. albicans can cause wide range of health problems. Animal studies showed that clove oil is a potent anti-fungal treatment against C. albicans overgrowth, and as effective as some commonly prescribed anti-yeast drugs, like nystatin. The only difference is that drugs like nystatin come with variety of unpleasant side effects (such as: diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, rash, skin irritation, slow heart rate, muscle pain and facial swelling to name a few)—none of which are generated by clove use. [43] Besides eliminating candida yeast, eugenol within clove oil was proven to be an effective killing machine against intestinal parasites like Leishmania donovani (L. donovani). Eugenol based extracts cause internal cell death (apoptosis) within such this bacteria and other parasitic strains. [44]

Strong Anti-Cancer Agent

As an ancient remedy in traditional medicines, cloves have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have shown to be effective anti-carcinogenic agents. As clove oil contains over 80 percent eugenol, it has been the focus of much research. Series of test tube and animal experiments identified eugenol’s effectiveness in slowing the growth of colon and lung cancer tumors by initiating internal cell death (apoptosis). [45]

Eugenol within cloves was also shown to protect against DNA damage from free radials. This includes preventing free radicals from attacking lipids imbedded in cell walls; while increasing activity of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione (GSH). The anticancer action of eugenol is also seen in several protein-protein messaging networks, decreasing several inflammation causing enzymes (COX-2), cytokines (IL1-beta), as well as B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family of regulator proteins. [46] Bcl-2 protein family regulate cell death, and initiate apoptosis with lower levels. [47] The eugenol/cancer cell interactions resulted in 80 percent of cell death rate within prostate, esophageal, breast and cancer cells. [48] Eugenol was also noted to decrease the spread (metastasis) of cervical tumors, and early stage lung cancer. [46, 49]

Anti-Inflammatory – prevents mutations

Mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that is able to effect or change the genetic material (usually DNA) of another organism, be it virus, bacterium, animal or human. As previously discussed, cloves are packed with powerful phytonutrients possessing various antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some of these nutrients called phenylpropanoids, also contain anti-mutagenic properties.

Phenylpropanoids are small compounds made by plants from two amino acids (phenylalanine and tyrosine). Phenylpropanoids contain phenyl group (benzene ring with hydroxyl group attachment) and are one of the middle steps in the process for plants to making polyphenols (variety of flavonoids, lignans and phenolic acids). [50] Test tube (in vitro) studies used phenylpropanoids against mutagenized treated bacterium (Salmonella typhimurium). Two phenylpropanoids (trans-confer aldehyde, and dehydrodieugenol) showed such ability suppressing up to 58 percent of mutation within Samonella t. [51]

Anti-Inflammatory – protects liver

Powerful antioxidants within clove oils and extracts have been used as natural detox agents. Liver is the main detoxification organ that uses many enzymes to process, filter and remove body’s byproducts and toxins. Because of such highly specific and complex function, liver is often subjected to various levels of stress, leading to greater production of free radicals. If not corrected, such stress becomes chronic or oxidative in nature, leading to several metabolic imbalances.

As previously noted, the free radical influx creates an immune response and release of several signalling proteins called cytokines. These cytokines such as transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) are important parts of the immune system but, in large quantities can lead to destruction of healthy tissue. In the liver, chronic overflow of these cytokines destroys tissues leading to several diseases. Researchers monitor levels of some of these cytokines as markers during studies to measure effectiveness of a testing compound.

Cloves anti-inflammation studies have shown improvement in liver’s health and function. As clove oil consists mostly out of eugenol, it appears to be the main driving force behind these benefits. Animal studies using fatty liver disease tested both clove oil and eugenol seeing improvement of many fatty liver markers (like TNF-alpha). Both mixtures reduced inflammation and oxidative stress while increasing detoxification enzyme activity and overall liver function. [52] 

Being a potent antioxidant, eugenol is shown to decrease anti-inflammation—restoring organ capacity and engaging liver conditions. Cloves active compounds combat roaming free radicals as well as production and deposit of fat inside liver tissues. This action reduces oxidative stress and improves chronic liver disease symptoms. [53] Eugenol is once again, the main antioxidant workhorse which positively effects damaged liver tissue. Animal study found eugenol to improve damaged tissue and reverse signs of liver cirrhosis (extensive scarring of the liver). [54]

Cloves have become a scientifically proven entity to treat various inflammatory conditions. The first ever published study using animal model into liver damage proving that eugenol within clove oil is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent. A study showed that small eugenol amounts can protect liver against disease. Eugenol reduced numerous cytokines (TNF-alpha) and transcription protein (hepatic NF-kB p65 and cascade-3) markers, often seen in chronic inflammation and hepatic tissue damage. The results of this study showed that eugenol was able to reverse inflammation and protect cellular integrity and function. However, some words of caution. Researches noted that large doses of eugenol may be harmful to the digestive lining, lowering some detox enzyme activity (like glutathione – GHS) and can irritate sensitive skin, if used as external ointment. As with all essential oils, clove oils are highly concentrated, so exercise caution when using such products. [55]

Lowers High-blood Pressure

Ayurvedic and other traditional medicines have been using cloves to increase blood circulation while lowering high blood pressure. This is due to clove’s phytonutrient profile with potent anti-inflammatory profiles which are capable of elevating heart health, blood flow and overall circulation of nutrients and gases throughout the body. As mighty antioxidant, eugenol has been shown to decrease overall blood pressure, heart rate and several other common markers of hypertension. Eugenol is able to enhance vasomodulation (neuronal regulation of blood flow) by interacting with Calcium (Ca2+) and Potassium (K+) ion channels and relaxing aorta walls of small animals. [56] 

Another cloves’ compound called acetyl eugenol has been identified with impressive circulatory benefits. A close chemical relative of eugenol, this acetyl (CH3CO) variety was found to decrease platelet aggregation (platelets clumping together in the blood). [57] Platelet aggregation is one of the conditions leading to thrombus or blood clots. Clove oil is known to act as a natural blood thinner and may be used as possible treatment for such conditions in the future.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Cloves have been used as traditional remedies to treat various conditions including diabetes.  Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the pancreas (one of the body glands) is either not producing hormone insulin or, the body cells are not responding property to insulin (insulin resistance). Insulin is the main switch in the body that shuttles sugars from blood into cells and is critical to healthy carbohydrate metabolism. 

Science is looking at all the angles in how to fight and prevent various diseases, including genetic activation of key pathways, processes and compounds. Research uncovered an important family group of protein receptors called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) which play a big role in activating the genes for various cellular development and metabolism. [58]  One particular version PPARγ (gamma) has been identified as a strong regulator of adipogenesis, and offers immense potential as it plays significant roles in improving insulin resistance, anti-inflammatory response and even decreasing cancer growth. Cloves research identified eight-forms of eugenol that interact with PPARγ which activates pathways to decrease blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). This study showed cloves’ potential as a powerful natural anti-diabetic ingredient. [59]

Clove studies also showed its ability to regulate blood sugar levels by imitating insulin in the body and lowering activity of several glucose producing enzymes (such as phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase [PEPCK] and glucose 6-phosphatase [G6Pase]). [60] Eugenol is once again the main topic of research. In vivo (animal) studies showed eugenol’s ability to significantly decrease plasma sugar (glucose) while increasing insulin. Eugenol’s control of high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) has been linked to modifying activity of carbohydrate metabolism including number of enzymes which produce glucose, and the ones that brake it down for energy. [61]  Another active compound in cloves called nigricin has been identified to have anti-diabetic properties. Animal and test-tube studies showed that nigricin was able to increase the transport of sugar from bloodstream to muscle cells (human and small animal), and simultaneously improve pancreatic function and insulin secretion. [62]

Promotes Bone Health

Cloves have extensive antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties and have been used for centuries as remedies against different type of swelling, bruises and scrapes. But, cloves can also heal and improve functionality of various body tissue including bone. Though much of the research is predominantly done in test-tubes and animal models, the results are promising. Low bone mass is a condition that affects tens of millions of people in North America and can lead to greater risk of injury and development of bone diseases like osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where the body begins to lose bone mass, produces too little bone tissue or both. 

Research is looking at cloves’ active ingredients as treatment against low bone mass conditions.   Manganese (Mn) is a mineral involved in formation of bone tissue and is a critical component in overall bone health. Manganese supplements alone have been shown to improve bone mineral density and bone development in small animals. [63]  Cloves are rich in manganese, providing an astonishing 98 percent of the daily recommended intake, in just one tablespoon (6 grams) of ground cloves. [64] 

Besides manganese, cloves are packed with numerous phenolic type antioxidants which all appear to have positive impact on bone metabolism. Eugenol leads the way in protecting bone tissue and lowering several markers of osteoporosis while increasing bone density. Other polyphenols such as flavone, isoflavones and flavonoids also increase mineral content and density (strength) of the bones. [65]

Reduces Allergies and Congestion

Ayurveda and other traditional medicines have been using spiced teas to treat symptoms of colds and flu. Cloves are often used on their own by steeping or in combination of other spices, making a potent blend rich in phytonutrients. These clove based teas have been used to reduce or prevent respiratory type infections. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties found in cloves produce powerful tea elixirs which help cough up phlegm, while soothing the throat.  Such remedies have extensively been used for generations relieving respiratory infections and other type of inflammation including sinusitis and headaches. The fragrant aroma of clove based teas creates a calming effect and promotes hormonal release that regulates stress levels, improves cognition and mood while reducing anxiety. [66]

Allergies are hypersensitive response by immune system to typically harmless things (allergens) in the environment. An allergen can be many things including food, dust particles and plants among others often causing stuffy and runny nose, itchy skin, sneezing, watery eyes and sore throat and coughing. When your immune system overreact to an allergen, it produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (igE). There are different types of IgEs, and each one specific to a particular allergen. The IgEs travel to cells causing allergic reactions in the nose, lungs, throat or on the skin. [67]

Studies with hypersensitive and allergic tendency animals showed that using cloves extract can  decrease the allergic response (anaphylaxis). Active ingredients within cloves are shown to interfere with IgE signalling, causing reduction of overall histamine release. [68]

Promotes Healthy Skin

Cloves contain many powerful antioxidants which can also reduce the signs of aging. Skin is the largest organ in the body, made up of numerous structural and specialized cells and compounds. Free radicals react with skin cells causing damage and premature aging. Cloves’ influential antioxidants engage free radicals and decrease or stop the damage, keeping skin looking youthful.   

Some of the phytonutrients in cloves contain antibacterial properties. Due to these bacterial fighting abilities, clove essential oils are often found as one of the ingredients for ache as well as pimple treatment creams and ointments. As dirt and bacteria collect on the skin causing inflammation in and around the pores, staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is one of several bacterial strains identified to cause acne. [69] Clove oil has been shown to effectively destroy S. aureus bacteria in either free floating (planktonic cells) state, or in a structured community where numerous bacteria cells are attached to each other (sessile or biofilm). [70]

Improves Sex Drive

Spices such as cloves are often referred to as “hot” foods, as they are said to posses aphrodisiac properties. Unami Medicine, also referred to as Greeco-Arab medicine is a traditional system of medicine practiced in Mughal India and in Muslim culture of South and Central Asia subcontinents. Since ancient times, Unami medicine used cloves to treat male sexual disorders. [71] Research shows that cloves can significantly improve libido and potency in small animals. Cloves are naturally aromatic which also helps with decreasing stress, and relaxing the mind and body. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but use of cloves appears to be safe. [71] When mixed with other “hot foods” such as nutmeg, the aphrodisiac results were even stronger in terms of increasing mating behaviour, sexual function and activity in tested animals. [72]

Micronutrient Profile

Cloves are a true superfood, packed with an expansive profile filled with powerful ingredients.  As with all spices, cloves carry little calories, but hold micronutrients which boost metabolism, internal health and immunity. Just one teaspoon (2 grams) of ground cloves contains:

  • about 6.5 Calories
  • 1.2 grams of Carbohydrates, most of which is Fiber (0.7 grams)
  • no sugar
  • 0.4 grams of fats, a big chunk of which are essential fats (omega-3 and omega-6)

Cloves are also an excellent source of [1 tbsp]: Manganese (30% of daily value (DV)), and good source of Vitamin K (4% of DV), and Vitamin C (3% of DV). [64]  As mentioned before, manganese is a key component of maintaining a healthy brain and strong bones. [73, 74]  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant playing numerous roles in improving immune response, and protecting the body against free radical damage. [75] Vitamin K is an important family group of compounds which are essential blood coagulators during immune response. [76]

Here’s a more complete list of macro-, micro- and phytonutrients [64]:

  • protein
  • carbohydrates
  • dietary fiber
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • omega-6 fatty acids
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • vitamin B9 (folate)
  • vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
  • vitamin E (alpha tocopherol)
  • vitamin K
  • choline
  • betaine
  • calcium
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium
  • manganese
  • zinc
  • selenium
  • phosphorus
  • iron
  • phytosterols

Besides vitamins and minerals, cloves extracts contain powerful antioxidants, including: falvonoids, hexane, methylene chloride, ethanol, thymol, eugenol and other benzene based compound. All of such compounds were shown to possess potent antioxidant, tissue-protective, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. [77]

Possible Drawbacks

Cloves have been used for centuries and deemed safe to consume. However, as with anything, a word of caution is warranted when using cloves and/or clove oil products.

Eugenol within cloves has shown some anticoagulant and anti-platelet properties which may counteract some of the blood clotting response. Clove oil contains high concentration of eugenol and people with such disorder or after surgical procedures should use caution. [57]

Pure clove oil is concentrated with eugenol, which may cause skin irritation if applied for topical use. Often, clove oils are diluted or mixed with other oils such as coconut in order to minimize the exposure. Also, clove oil is not generally recommended for children under age of two. [78]

Final Thoughts

Cloves are unique flower buds that carry a beautiful smell, delicious in taste while possessing many health benefits. Ancient medicinal practices used this spice to heal numerous conditions from toothaches to regulating blood pressure.

Clove essential oil is packed with its main active ingredient—eugenol. It prevents inflammation, oxidative stress and holds enormous potential in fighting many serious diseases like diabetes, cancers and other virus causing infections. Science has dubbed cloves as an anti-inflammatory natural ingredient, and showed it to have most amount of antioxidants compared to other superfoods. Such impressive polyphenols, vitamins and minerals within cloves, boost immune response, bone density and have been known to improve sex drive.

Cloves are delicious bringing warm and aromatic flavours to various dishes and teas. It’s a wonderful spice to have around, capable of enhancing all kitchen creations as well as internal health and wellness.

DUPIsCHAI blends

The philosophy of Dupi’s Chai, is to craft unique tea and spice blends with extensive health benefits. Our blends are inspired by past traditions, combined with modern science, producing  amazing chai that is smooth, fragrant, tasty and most importantly—healthy. We extensively researched and tested our blends, perfecting each formula. 

Cloves are one of the seven spices in the Arise Chai. This blend is packed with antioxidants and other ingredients scientifically proven to boost metabolism, improve memory and cognition, combat inflammation, fight infections, elevate organ health and function.

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