What Are The Health Benefits And Uses Of Clove Oil?

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
by Sindhu Koganti

Clove oil is extracted from the clove tree. It is steam distilled from clove buds that have a sharp pungent smell. It is native to Southeast Asia and has been used to treat pain associated with dental problems for centuries.

Clove oil is said to possess antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiinflammatory, and anesthetic properties (1), (2). It may also help treat skin ailments, aid digestion, and boost the immune system. This article discusses the potential health benefits, uses, and side effects of clove oil. Read on to know more.

12 Uses And Benefits Of Clove Oil

1. May Relieve Toothache

Clove essential oil may help prevent cavities and relieve oral pain. Traditionally, it is used to relieve toothache. It is also used for dental emergencies like mouth or throat inflammation. Clove oil has also been reported to be used in the preparation of certain toothpaste and mouthwashes (3). Eugenol, an aromatic oily liquid extracted from clove oil, is used as a sedative in dental procedures (4). Clove also has anti-plaque properties. It may inhibit the growth of the oral bacteria that may cause dental plaque (5).

Clove essential oil was also found to exhibit anticariogenic and cytotoxic activity against a large number of oral pathogens (6). Eugenol and eugenyl acetate are the two active components in clove essential oil that help prevent decalcification or dental erosion (7). Clove oil is most effective against microorganisms that cause dental caries (8).

2. May Help Treat Skin Diseases And Acne

Clove oil is said to act against Propionibacterium acnes, bacteria that cause acne  (9). However, more studies in this line are needed to reach further conclusions.

A study conducted by the Department of Dermatology, Cairo, Egypt found that clove oil was effective in the topical treatment of chronic pruritus (10).

Another study conducted by the Mansoura University Hospital, Egypt, found that topical application of clove oil cream might help in the treatment of chronic anal fissures (11).

3. May Have Analgesic Properties

Clove oil massage was found to effectively reduce back pain in postnatal mothers (12). Clove oil is said to possess analgesic properties that reduce toothache and joint pain by activating the calcium and chloride channels in the lymph nodes (13). The eugenol in clove has also been studied for its analgesic effects (14). Clove oil could also relieve pain in mice (15).

Another study conducted by Kuwait University found that clove gel might possess the potential to replace benzocaine as a topical anesthetic (16).

4. May Aid Digestion

Clove oil may help relieve nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness, thanks to its antiirritant and soothing properties (17). The eugenol in clove essential oil has the ability to stimulate the synthesis of mucus, an important gastroprotective factor (18). However, further research is required to understand its use in the treatment of gastric ulcers.

5. May Boost The Immune System

The eugenol in cloves protects the cell membranes from free radical damage and oxidative stress (19). In one animal study, the oil could also exert a protective role against radiation-induced oxidative stress (20). Clove oil is said to possess antiinflammatory effects. A study showed clove oil having a dose-dependent antiinflammatory effect on Wistar rats (21). Also, the oil was found to have antinociceptive and antipyretic effects in mice (22).

6. May Have Antimicrobial Properties

Clove essential oil is a potent source of antimicrobial compounds that especially act against bacterial pathogens (23). The oil can be effective in stopping the growth of several types of bacteria and also act against respiratory tract pathogens (24). Clove oil was also found to act against the clinical strains of Escherichia coil, a specific bacteria that are highly resistant to several antibiotics (25). A study conducted by the Seafood Microbiology and Technology Section, Spain, found that clove essential oil efficiently killed Staphylococcus aureus biofilms (26).

In addition, clove oil acts against Candida albicans that causes oral thrush, athlete’s foot, and vaginal yeast infections. The eugenol in clove oil could exert an anticandidal effect (27). A study conducted by the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University found that a combination of acyclovir A study conducted by the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University found that a combination of acyclovir (an antiviral drug) and clove in mice could treat the herpes simplex viral infection (28). An essential oil blend with clove oil could significantly attenuate the influenza virus. The viruses treated with the oil blend had minimal expression of viral proteins. This means clove oil could have the ability to fight certain viruses that cause infections (29).

7. May Act As An Insect Repellent

Clove oil may act as an insect repellent and prevent vector-borne diseases (caused in humans by a parasite) (30). A study found that the components of clove essential oil could potentially be useful in the production of body lice repellents (31). Clove oil could also show repellent activity against Japanese termites (32).

A study conducted by the Mahidol University, Thailand, found that clove essentialoil could repel Leptotrombidium chiggers, which are a species of larvae. The oil could also be a safer and cheaper alternative to synthetic repellents that may cause side effects (33). Clove essential oil also showed repellency against Leptotrombidium deliense, another species of larvae (34). Also, a formulation containing clove essential oil was found to be effective against the Aedes aegypti mosquito (35).

The eugenol in clove oil could also work as a promising alternative to common insecticides (36). Eugenol, eugenol acetate, and beta-caryophyllene, the bioactive chemicals in clove, were found to have the ability to repel red fire ants (37).

8. May Reduce Stomach Pain

The eugenol in clove oil has been proposed to be beneficial for gastrointestinal complaints, such as abdominal pain. It is also used for treating cough, phlegm, and chest congestion (38). Clove may be used to reduce stomach pain. However, limited data is available to support this claim.

9. May Boost Cardiovascular Health

Clove oil may help boost cardiovascular health. Traditionally, it is known to improve blood circulation. A rat study showed that the eugenol in the oil dilated cerebral arteries. This, in humans, may mean a reduced risk of stroke (39). In rats, treatment with eugenol could lower blood pressure levels and even slow down the heart rate (40). In another study, high-fructose-fed rats, when given clove essential oil, showed an improvement in fatty liver. The oil could also regulate cholesterol levels in the rats. The study suggests the possible cardioprotective properties of clove oil (41).

In diabetic rats, clove oil could also show cardioprotective effects. This could be because of the oil’s antioxidant properties (42). Another study concludes that eugenol could be therapeutically useful as an antihypertensive agent (43).

10. May Promote Hair Growth

Eugenol is known to stimulate the hair roots. A formulation containing clove oil was found to condition hair and enhance its growth. It could repair the hair shaft (44). However, more studies in this line are needed to reach further conclusions.

11. May Have Anticancer Properties

Eugenol was identified as one of the agents that could have anticancer properties. It may also prevent the proliferation of cancer cells and can help with cancer cell death (apoptosis) (45).  

In another study, eugenol could suppress the growth of melanoma or skin cancer. Eugenol treatment could reduce tumor size by 40% and also delayed the growth of tumors (46). The National Toxicology Program based on several long term carcinogenicity studies concluded that eugenol was not carcinogenic to rats (47). Similar observations could be expected in humans as well.

In another study, clove extract was found to inhibit tumor growth. It could be a novel treatment for colorectal cancer (48).

However, it is important to practice caution, as eugenol may also have certain prooxidant properties. The compound may cause allergies and other inflammatory reactions (49).

12. May Act As An Aphrodisiac

In studies on male mice, extracts of clove (along with nutmeg) could enhance sexual behavior (50). In another study, 50% ethanolic extract of clove produced a significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of normal male rats. The extract also caused no adverse effects (51). However, more studies are warranted in this regard.

These are the major benefits of clove oil. The oil also has other important uses, which we will explore in the following section.

Other Uses of Clove Oil

  • Clove oil blended with cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, or vanilla oils can lift one’s spirits. Using this warming blend in a diffuser will soon fill the room and may also relieve stress.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that sniffing the spicy aroma of cloves reduces drowsiness and fatigue, irritability, and headaches. It may stimulate the mind and also increase memory recall.
  • Cloves encourage the loosening of phlegm from the respiratory system. They also promote sweating during fevers, colds, and flu, which can be very healing. Clove oil is often used in remedies for coughs.
  • Like many culinary spices, clove may help relax the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract. A few drops of the oil in water can relieve nausea. Clove tea may help treat diarrhea, gas, bloating, and intestinal spasms.
  • Clove oil stimulates circulation and blood flow to the skin. This may help those with cold extremities.
  • Clove oil is as effective as oil of oregano in treating athlete’s foot, nail fungus, and other skin problems. It can be applied directly to the skin or nails (unless the skin is sensitive or broken, wherein it must be diluted with extra virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil).
  • One drop of clove oil applied to the roof of the mouth may relieve headaches. However, more research is warranted in this regard.
  • Clove oil is long used in aromatherapy to relieve pain. For general pain relief, add 3 drops of clove oil to 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. Apply it to the pain areas.
  • A band-aid soaked in a few drops of clove oil can help treat warts. Applying the band-aid to warts may help dissolve them if done regularly for a few weeks.

Clove oil is popularly known as a remedy for toothache. Using oil to relieve tooth pain is simple. Check the following section

How To Use Clove Oil To Treat A Toothache?

Dentists use clove oil as an oral anesthetic and also to disinfect root canals. The oil stops the toothache when dropped into the oral cavity. For temporary relief, dip a cotton swab in clove oil and apply it to the affected tooth. Adding a clove or two to a cup of tea can work miracles on a toothache.

Here is how you can use clove oil to relieve your toothache:

  • Dilute a few drops of clove oil in an edible carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oils.
  • Dab a clean cotton ball into the solution, and allow it to soak in it.
  • Avoiding contact with your gums, apply the cotton ball to the sore tooth. It may take a few minutes of application for you to feel the relief.
  • Apply every 2 hours or as necessary.

You can use clove oil in various other ways to achieve its benefits. In the following section we have discussed its most popular uses.

How To Use Clove Oil?

Spray

Using the clove oil as a spray is an easy way to add the clove scent to your room. Clove oil possesses antimicrobial properties, and you can also use it as a mild disinfectant.

To make a clove spray:

  • Add several drops of clove oil to water. You would need 10 to 15 drops of clove oil per ounce of water to prepare the spray.
  • Add it to a spray bottle. Be sure to shake the bottle well before spraying.

Diffuser

You can also use the oil in a diffuser. While diffusing clove oil, carefully follow the instructions that come with the diffuser. Make sure the room is well-ventilated when you diffuse the clove oil.

Topically

You can apply clove oil to your skin to achieve different benefits.

Massage oils

Use 15 drops of clove oil per ounce of carrier oil to create a 2.5 percent solution of massage oil. This solution can be used as a massage oil for pain relief.

Creams, scrubs, or lotions

For use on normal skin, you need 1 to 2.5 percent dilution of clove oil. For sensitive skin, you need 0.5 to 1 percent dilution of the oil. This diluted solution has no aroma and can be used in the preparation of several scrubs, lotions, or creams.

How Do You Use Clove Oil For Hair Growth?

There is not enough information in this regard. But anecdotal evidence suggests that clove oil acts as a natural remedy to promote hair growth as it contains a number of vital vitamins and minerals. Massaging diluted clove oil into your scalp may boost blood circulation. This could ensure more nutrients and oxygen are supplied to your scalp and hair follicles. To experience the benefits of clove essential oil for hair growth, you can indulge in a hot oil treatment or apply a DIY hair mask prepared with clove oil.

Though clove oil is well studied for its benefits, it may not be suitable for all. The oil may cause side effects in some.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Using Clove Oil?

Clove oil may cause local irritation, rare allergic reactions, and contact dermatitis in some individuals. More severe effects include tissue injury and acute onset of seizures, coma, and damage to the liver and kidneys (52). Clove essential oil is generally recognized as a safe substance when consumed in concentrations lower than 1500 mg/kg. The World Health Organization (WHO) established that the daily quantity acceptable of clove per day is 2.5 mg for every kg of body weight in humans (53).

Hepatotoxicity

High doses of eugenol may harm the liver and kidneys, as per some rat studies. Several instances of severe acute liver and kidney injury have been reported after an accidental overdose of eugenol containing herbal products, largely in infants (54), (55).

May Cause Skin irritation

Excess usage of clove oil can cause skin irritation in some people. Eugenol is an effective substance that is incorporated into many dental products. Contact dermatitis due to this chemical is not unusual. However, true serious allergic reactions are extremely rare (56).

As a primary irritant and sensitizer, eugenol is known to cause contact urticaria as well as chronic urticaria (rashes with dangerous swelling) (57). If you are concerned about your sensitivity to this essential oil, do a patch test before using it. Apply a small amount of diluted clove oil to the inside of your elbow. If you notice signs of skin irritation, like redness, itching, or swelling, don’t use clove oil topically.

May Cause Allergies

It is very rare to have an allergic reaction due to clove oil. The eugenol in the oil may cause oral irritation and heat sensation on the tongue (58).

Drug Interactions

Medications that slow blood clotting (anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs) interact with clove. Hence, avoid using clove oil if you are taking any anticoagulants. Acetyl eugenol, a component of clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum L.), inhibits platelet aggregation in humans. This could lead to bleeding (59), (60).

Avoid using clove oil if you have had a recent major surgery, peptic ulcers, or bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia.

You can buy clove oil from your nearest health store. But before you make a purchase, you need to keep a few things in mind.

What To Look For When Buying Clove Oil

Look for a purity statement on the label

Try to buy 100 percent clove essential oil and look for other ingredients listed (if any).

Don’t go by the marketing hype

Generally, essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way as drugs. Hence, you should be more cautious of any oil that claims to cure a specific condition.

Make sure the clove oil is in a dark glass bottle

Light has the potential to damage essential oils. Dark glass helps keep the light out. Always ensure your product comes packaged in a dark glass bottle.

If you can, smell it before buying it

Clove essential oil has a unique fragrance. Smell it before buying. If it does not smell natural, avoid purchasing it.

Conclusion

Clove oil possesses many therapeutic properties and has several health benefits. From dealing with dental problems to treating cardiovascular issues, this essential oil can improve human health in various ways. However, excess usage may cause several side effects. Hence, limit its use and consult your doctor if you experience any adverse effects.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Can you drink clove oil?

Ingestion of clove oil can be dangerous. Clove oil ingestion may result in coma, fits, and acute liver damage (61).

Can clove oil damage teeth?

Clove oil is generally considered safe for teeth.

How often can I use clove oil on my tooth?

If you are suffering from toothache, you can use it every 3-5 hours for relief. If you have multiple pain points in your mouth after a dental procedure, you can add a few drops of clove oil to coconut oil and swirl it in your mouth.

Does clove oil help you sleep?

The oil contains eugenol that is a mild anesthetic. It may aid in sleeping. Apply a few drops of warm clove oil with some carrier oil on your forehead for better sleep.

Can you apply clove oil directly to the skin?

First, do a patch test after diluting the oil with a carrier oil. If there is no reaction, you can apply clove oil to your skin.

How long does clove oil take to work?

Clove oil may soothe a toothache and relieve pain within minutes. It generally takes 5-10 minutes to work.

61 sources

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Sindhu Koganti

Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.
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