13 Surprising Benefits Of Cloves

Cloves offer many health benefits, some of which include aiding in digestion, fighting against cancer, protecting the liver, boosting the immune system, controlling diabetes, and preserving bone quality. They also contain anti-mutagenic and anti-microbial properties, along with fighting against oral diseases and headaches, while also displaying aphrodisiac properties.

What are Cloves?

Cloves are one of the spices indigenous to Asian countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and even areas of East Africa. It is native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia. They are a popular flavoring agent used in a variety of ways across the world, particularly in Asia and cloves form a culinary base in a number of different Asian cuisines.

Clove, just like many other spices originating in Asia, has a great history behind it. During the 13th and 14th centuries, cloves were transported all the way from Indonesia to China, India, Persia, Africa, and Europe. During this time, cloves had a very high price, and thus wars for monopoly over clove production and distribution began. Many wars were waged in order to control the islands of Maluku during both the medieval and modern periods. The Dutch emerged victoriously and held the Maluku islands for a very long time. Today, clove is a very important commercial crop all around the world.

Scientific Facts About Clove

Clove is the dried bud of the flower from the tree Syzygium aromaticum. It belongs to the plant family named Myrtaceae. The plant is an evergreen plant growing in tropical and subtropical conditions. Clove is an herb and people use various parts of the plant, including the dried bud, stems, and leaves to make medicine.  Clove oil is also famous for its medicinal properties.

Clove Uses

Clove has been used for thousands of years in India and China not only as a spice and condiment but also as a medicine for many ailments. 

  • Ayurvedic medicine used cloves for tooth decay, halitosis, and bad breath.
  • In Chinese medicine, clove was considered to possess aphrodisiac properties.
  • Ground cloves are traditionally applied to minor cuts for healing purposes.
  • Clove tea is a popular warm beverage to relieve congestion.
  • Clove oil helps relieve headaches, flatulence, as well as reduce stretch marks.
  • It is also popularly used as a bug and insect repellant. Just add a few drops to water and see them vanish!

Cloves Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, the nutrients found in cloves include carbohydrates, protein, energy, and dietary fiber. Minerals in cloves include potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. The vitamins found in them include vitamin E, folate, and niacin. They also contain phosphorus, iron, zinc, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin A and K.

Bioactive Substances in Cloves

According to research conducted by Professor Tom Mabry et al. from the University of Texas at Austin, certain bioactive compounds isolated from clove extracts include flavonoids, hexane, methylene chloride, ethanol, thymol, eugenol, and benzene.  These biochemicals have been reported to possess various properties, including antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Health Benefits of Cloves

Health benefits of cloves include:

Better Digestion

Cloves improve digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes. Cloves are also good for reducing flatulence, gastric irritability, dyspepsia, and nausea. They can be roasted, powdered, or taken with honey for relief in digestive disorders. The award-winning expert on naturopathy Dr. H.K. Bakhru in his book [3] Herbs that Heal: Natural Remedies for Good Health says, “This herb is also an effective remedy for chronic diarrhea and dysentery.”

Antibacterial Properties

Cloves have been tested for their antibacterial properties against a number of human pathogens. The extracts of cloves were potent enough to kill those pathogens. Clove extracts are also effective against the specific bacteria that spread cholera.

Chemo-preventive Properties

Cloves are of interest to the medical community due to their chemo-preventive or anti-carcinogenic properties. A study published in the Oxford Journal: Carcinogenesis has shown that they are helpful in controlling lung cancer at its early stages. Research suggests that oleanolic acid present in cloves causes antitumor activity and another study showed that eugenol found in cloves has anticancer potential against cervical cancer.

Liver Protection

Cloves contain high amounts of antioxidants, which are ideal for protecting the organs from the effects of free radicals, especially the liver. Metabolism, in the long run, increases free radical production and lipid profile, while decreasing the antioxidants in the liver. Clove extracts are helpful in counteracting these effects with its hepatoprotective properties.

Diabetes Control

Cloves have been used in many traditional remedies for a number of diseases. One such disease is diabetes. In patients suffering from diabetes, the amount of insulin produced by the body is either insufficient, or it is not produced at all. Extracts from cloves imitate insulin in certain ways and help in controlling blood sugar levels. This is confirmed in a study by Dr. Ratna Chakraborty Prasad et al., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville.

Bone Preservation

The hydro-alcoholic extracts of cloves include phenolic compounds such as eugenol and its derivatives, such as flavones, isoflavones, and flavonoids. These extracts have been particularly helpful in preserving bone density and the mineral content of bone, as well as increasing tensile strength of bones in case of osteoporosis.

Anti-mutagenic Properties

Mutagens are those chemicals that change the genetic makeup of the DNA by causing mutations. Biochemical compounds found in cloves, like phenylpropanoids, possess anti-mutagenic properties, says a study cited in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.  These were administered to cells treated with mutagens and they were able to control the mutagenic effects to a significant rate.

Immunity Booster

Ayurveda describes certain plants to be effective in developing and protecting the immune system. One such plant is clove. The dried flower bud of clove contains compounds that help in improving the immune system by increasing the white blood cell count, thereby, improving delayed-type hypersensitivity. 

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Cloves possess anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties. Studies on clove extracts administered to lab rats suggest that the presence of eugenol reduced the inflammation caused by edema.  It was also confirmed that eugenol has the ability to reduce pain by stimulating pain receptors.

 Cures Oral Diseases

Cloves can be taken for gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. Clove bud extracts significantly control the growth of oral pathogens, which are responsible for various oral diseases, as per a study conducted at Dows Institute for Dental Research and Periodontics Department, University of Iowa, US. They can also be used for toothaches due to their pain-killing properties. 

Aphrodisiac Properties

Spices such as clove and nutmeg have been said to possess aphrodisiac properties, according to Unani medicine.  Experiments on clove and nutmeg extracts were tested against standard drugs administered for that reason, and both clove and nutmeg showed positive results.

Cure for Headaches

Headaches can be reduced by using cloves.  Make a paste of a few spice buds and mix it with a dash of rock salt. Add this to a glass of milk. This mixture reduces headaches quickly and effectively.

by Meenakshi Nagdeve


Uses and Trade

The present trading channels of benzoin still have to be accurately researched. According to official regional figures, present production in North Sumatra would be of about 5,000 T/ year, of which 1,000 T are exported9. We do not know whether it includes only exports from Sumatra or also from Java and if they are reliable. Another official source gives similar figures (800-1,100 T) for benzoin exports from Indonesia to Singapore (about 90%), Malaysia, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Japan, Saudi Arabia (Silitonga, 1994, quoted by Coppen, 1995). In 1920, the district of Tapanuli alone was producing 2,000 T/ year (Schnepper, 1923). In 1931, 2,500 T/ year were exported, to Singapore, India, Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Europe and America (Koppel, 1932). It is very
difficult to trace benzoin exports to other countries, as their figures are not large enough to warrant a separate category; they are included in the “gums and resins” category. We have not checked the current figures, but our estimates, based on two field trips, indicate that the North Sumatran production falls within an order of magnitude of thousands of tonnes. If it really is 5,000 T, we wonder how 4,000 T are consumed by the national population of Indonesia, even though there are 200 million inhabitants. The use of benzoin has a long history in Sumatra, since it was already exported from there in the 8th century. Its oldest uses may be associated with shamanistic rituals. Even today, shamans in the Batak highlands, as well as in all Sumatra and Java, burn benzoin incense when they enter a possession trance in curing rituals. It is widely used in both islands in different types of traditional rituals : protection from bad spirits, rice-reaping ceremonies, rain rituals, offerings to the dead, to the house spirits, etc. Benzoin is also taken as a medicine and smoked in cigarettes, sometimes also used in rituals. The habit of smoking benzoin cigarettes is very much ingrained in Central Java, where rituals involving the use of benzoin incense are more common and frequent than anywhere else in Indonesia. We estimated the sales of a small retailing stand in the central market of a main city in Central Java to be;a minimum figure of 5 T/ year. The enquiry needs to go further to estimate the local consumption in that region. Some small local industries still make benzoin cigarettes, but these cigarettes, whether industrial or home made, are now smoked only by older people of Javanese peasant background. Industrialists expect it to die with the passing of this generation (Tarmidi, 1996).



In traditional Chinese medicine, frankincense is used to treat skin and digestive problems. While in India, frankincense is used to treat arthritis. The research laboratories in the United States have support the efficacy of frankincense as the arthritis drug.
One study that published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, found that the researchers gave frankincense albino rodents and found that bad cholesterol was down and good cholesterol levels increased.