Cloves: Health Benefits, Uses, Nutrition, And Side Effects

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Personal Trainer Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
by Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Cloves are dried flower buds that come from the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum). They have a spicy and pungent taste and are known for their medicinal properties. They have been in use for a long time for treating inflammation and aiding diabetes treatment.

Some of the important nutrients they contain include manganese, fiber, and vitamins C and K. These nutrients help boost brain function and promote immunity.

In this article, we talk about the potential health benefits of cloves and their nutritional profile. We also have discussed the possible side effects of cloves you need to be wary of. Scroll down for more information.

What Are The Benefits Of Cloves?

1. May Fight Inflammation

Studies have shown that the eugenol in cloves works as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. This also holds true for clove essential oil, one form of clove that is widely available (1).

Clove also fights inflammation of the mouth and throat. In a study, clove oil could help ease the inflammation associated with plaque and gingivitis (2).

The eugenol in cloves lowered pro-inflammatory cytokines in animal studies. Hence, it could help treat inflammation associated with arthritis in humans (3).

2. May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

A study showed that clove extract could prevent tumor growth and induce cancer cell death (4). The anti-cancer properties of clove can be attributed to eugenol, which also reduced the risk of esophageal cancer (5).

Cloves are also good sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight inflammation and protect us against cancer (6). Clove extract was also found to be lethal to breast cancer cells in another study (7).

3. May Improve Oral Health

The eugenol in clove is believed to provide relief from tooth pain. The substance is an anesthetic and has antibacterial properties, and this may help you deal with the pain (8).

One simple way to get rid of a toothache is to place a few whole cloves in your mouth and moisten them with your saliva. You can crush the cloves with your teeth. The oil that is released fights the pain. You can use a whole clove for 30 minutes before discarding it and repeating the process with a new one.

If you have severe toothache and grinding cloves with your teeth is difficult, you can use crushed cloves. Crush the whole cloves and place the powder on the affected tooth.

An Iranian study states the analgesic effects of clove, which can help relieve toothache (9). Cloves may also combat bad breath.

4. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Volunteers in a study reported lower glucose levels before and after meals after consuming clove extracts (10). Another animal study showed that cloves could moderate blood sugar spikes in diabetic mice (11).

Cloves contain another compound called nigericin, which was found to improve insulin secretion and the health of cells that produce insulin (12). This means that cloves may keep your blood sugar levels in check when taken as a part of a balanced diet.

5. May Improve Liver Health

Eugenol, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound in cloves, can improve liver health. According to one study, the ascorbic acid and beta-sitosterol compounds are cloves that can inhibit hepatic cell proliferation (13).

The eugenol-rich fraction (ERF) in cloves also decreases oxidative stress and acts against liver cirrhosis (13).

6. May Promote Bone Health

The hydroalcoholic extract of dried cloves is rich in polyphenols, such as eugenols and eugenol extractives, and can promote bone density (14).

As per some animal studies, the manganese in cloves may help improve bone mineral density and metabolism (15).

7. May Promote Digestive Health

Certain compounds in cloves may help reduce stomach ulcers. The oil from cloves can increase the thickness of gastric mucus, and this protects the stomach lining and prevents peptic ulcers (16).

Cloves also contain some fiber (17). This fiber may aid digestion and prevent constipation. However, the effectiveness of clove fiber to achieve the same is yet to be studied.

8. May Aid Weight Loss

Cloves contain natural fatty acid synthesis inhibitors which can reduce body mass. In animal studies, alcohol extracts of clove (AEC) were found to lower lipid accumulation in the liver, abdominal adipose tissue weight, and body weight (18).

However, more studies are required to understand the function of AEC in reducing body weight in humans.

9. May Improve Respiratory Health

This property is especially true for clove oil. The oil can be used for treating asthma (19). The oil soothes the respiratory tract and also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Supplementation with clove oil was found to prevent bacteria from forming colonies in the lungs (20).

You can massage the oil into your chest, sinuses, and the bridge of the nose. As per anecdotal evidence, this may open the breathing passages and provide relief. You can also add the oil (or steep a few cloves) to a glass of warm water and take it as tea. Chewing on a clove bud is also suggested to ease a sore throat.

10. May Relieve Stress

The alcoholic extracts of clove were found to possess anti-stress properties. It is thought the antioxidant effects of clove could be responsible for this (21). However, more research is warranted in this aspect.

11. May Fight Headache

Clove oil is extensively used in aromatherapy to treat headaches. This could be attributed to the eugenol in clove, which has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties (22).

Crush a few cloves and put them in a clean handkerchief. Inhale the smell whenever you have a headache. Alternatively, you can also add two drops of clove oil to a tablespoon of coconut oil and gently massage over your forehead and temples.

However, these methods are based on anecdotal evidence. If you are unsure about how to use clove to treat headache, consult your health care provider.

12. May Boost Testosterone Levels

Mice studies have shown that the oral ingestion of cloves can enhance testicular function and ultimately boost testosterone levels (23).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cloves may enhance fertility. However, certain research states that excess intake of cloves may, in fact, impair fertility. Such effects were observed in animals (24). Hence, it is important to consult a doctor before consuming cloves for this purpose.

13. May Treat Acne

The antibacterial and antifungal properties of cloves could play a role here. Clove oil works well in treating acne and improving skin health. The oil is also recommended in the aromatherapeutic literature for treating acne (25).

The eugenol in the oil has antibacterial properties. The oil can kill infection and fight inflammation, thereby effectively treating acne (25).

15. May Improve Hair Health

Some believe clove oil could be used in scalp and hair treatments. The oil is also touted to increase blood circulation and promote hair growth. However, these effects are not backed by research.

Cloves are generally healthy and most of the research supports the evidence, more studies are warranted to understand their function. But including cloves in your regular diet is a good idea. In the following section, we have discussed the different ways you can use cloves.

How To Use Cloves

Cloves can be used to make tea and as flavor agents in different recipes, cookies, and gingerbread preparations. Also, cloves can be used to kill fleas.

For Cooking

  • You can add cloves to cakes by grinding them. This gives your baked goods an extra kick. Cloves go well with nutmeg and cinnamon.
  • You can also add a couple of cloves to your morning tea.
  • You can add cloves to your rice preparations. Using them as a garnish is a good idea.

For Killing Fleas

As clove oil is an aromatic essential oil, it can work as an excellent insecticide. After bathing your pet in warm water, rinse it off with water with a couple of drops of clove oil. You can also add a drop of the oil to its collar; this will keep the fleas away.

Clove oil can also be used as a mosquito repellent (26).

In the following section, we will look into the nutritional profile of cloves.

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Cloves?

Cloves are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon of cloves contains (17):

  • 17.8 calories of energy
  • 2.2 g of fiber
  • 0.388 g of protein
  • 4.26 g of carbohydrates

Cloves are also packed with vitamins C and K and minerals, such as manganese and calcium.

PrincipleNutrient ValuePercentage of RDA
Energy47 Kcal2%
Carbohydrates10.51 g8%
Protein3.27 g6%
Total Fat0.15 g0.5%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Dietary Fiber5.4 g14%
Vitamins
Folates68 µg17%
Niacin1.046 mg6.5%
Pantothenic acid0.338 mg7%
Pyridoxine0.116 mg9%
Riboflavin0.066 mg5%
Thiamin0.072 mg6%
Vitamin A13 IU0.5%
Vitamin C11.7 mg20%
Vitamin E0.19 mg1%
Vitamin K14.8 µg12%
Electrolytes
Sodium94 mg6%
Potassium370 mg8%
Minerals
Calcium44 mg4%
Copper0.231 mg27%
Iron1.28 mg16%
Magnesium60 mg15%
Manganese0.256 mg11%
Phosphorus90 mg13%
Selenium7.2 µg13%
Zinc2.32 mg21%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-ß8 µg
Crypto-xanthin-ß0 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin464 µg

Eating cloves in excess could cause certain undesirable effects. Though research is ongoing, it is important to practice caution.

What Are The Side Effects Of Cloves?

Overconsumption of cloves may cause adverse effects, such as risk of bleeding, lowering of blood sugar levels, and allergies in some people (27), (28), (29).

Consuming 10 ml clove oil caused hepatic failure in a 15 month-old boy (30). There is lack of enough research on the safety of cloves for pregnant and lactating women. Hence, consult your doctor.

Conclusion

Cloves possess many medicinal properties and have several benefits. From fighting inflammatory diseases to helping treat acne, this spice can improve human health in various ways.

Including cloves in your diet is simple. They are most often added to enhance the flavor of dishes. However,
be wary of the adverse effects. If you are on medications or are pregnant or lactating, consult your doctor before taking cloves.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How many cloves can we take in a day?

Taking 2 to 3 cloves per day should be fine. But this dosage may not be suitable for all. Hence, consult your doctor.

What is a good substitute for cloves?

You can use allspice or nutmeg in this case. They are good substitutes for cloves.

Is clove oil toxic to humans?

Topical application is fine. But there is limited research on its effects with repeated oral intake or its application to the gums or teeth. Hence, consult a doctor before using it.

What are the other names for cloves?

A few other names of cloves include laung (Hindi), ding xiang (Chinese), cengkeh (Indonesia), and clavo (Spanish)

Do cloves stimulate blood circulation?

There is limited research available. It may reduce body temperature and enhance circulation. The antioxidant properties of cloves are thought to purify the blood. However, more scientific research is warranted.

Do cloves make your lungs bleed?

Clove-flavored cigarettes may lead to lung bleeding, though this is not supported by research. It is believed the eugenol in cloves makes smoker’s lungs numb.

30 sources

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a Senior Content Writer who specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the field for well over 4 years now. His work involves extensive research on how one can maintain better health through natural foods and organic supplements. Ravi has written over 250 articles and is also a published author. Reading and theater are his other interests.
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