For two millennia, clove has been used for fragrance and spice, making international interest a couple hundred years after the Chinese first documented use. Particularly because of its eugenol properties, clove essential oil in particular has found much use in alternative wellness remedies.
Clove – The Spice
Just as its parent plant is evergreen, thriving in every season, clove essential oil is strong and adaptable. Clove's first form is the handpicked flower buds of the Eugenia caryophyllata of the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Each bud is picked by hand, then dried until the pink blossoms have turned brown. From there, the dried cloves are ground and used in cooking or distilled for their essential oil content.
Clove's nutritional profile is impressive, as well. They are a good source of vitamin K, fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Most impressively, two teaspoons of clove boast over 120% of our daily need for manganese, a mineral that is implicated in the prevention of osteoporosis, anemia, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (1)
More and more, researchers are discovering just how powerful antioxidants are and how important they are for health. The National Institute on Aging developed a way for us to quantify antioxidant capability in the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) system of measurement. Within the ORAC system, cloves come in as one of the highest valued antioxidants, towering over sorghum, the next on the list, by a difference of more than 50,000. (2) This means that clove is a key ingredient for anyone who wants to detox and rid their body of harmful toxins. As a concentrated essential oil, there is simply no comparison. However, some sources claim the following:
A Note about ORAC Values
While the ins and outs of free radicals and antioxidants aren't necessary to commit to memory, it's important to acknowledge the healing power that antioxidants carry and to become familiar with antioxidant levels in foods and substances. The stronger the antioxidant level, the more you want to utilize that food, spice, or essential oil.
To break antioxidants down to a basic level, they are, on a molecular level, able to target and eliminate free radicals, then reverse the damage that has been done. Free radicals are also molecules, but they set in motion a cascade of cellular problems that can lead to cell death and even cancer. The cellular-level repair that antioxidants are able to accomplish is well-studied, with research connecting it to slowed aging and inhibited disease processes.
In short, antioxidants are a wellspring of healing, and clove essential oil is the tap!
3 Common Uses
With all of that antioxidant healing power, you probably already have a feel for the potential that clove essential oil (CEO) carries. With great power comes great responsibility, though, and CEO carries as much potential for damage as it does for healing.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Immunotoxicology, demonstrates this balance between effectiveness and caution. After investigating the effects of eugenol – CEO's most prominent property – on the liver, they discovered two sides of one coin. Eugenol in low doses protected the liver, not only against at least one cause of liver disease but also against inflammation and cell death. On the other hand, “a larger dose amplifies the liver injury via oxidant and inflammatory effects.” (3)
This is both good news and a warning, that:
1. CEO is a powerful substance.
2. Powerful substances should be handled carefully, under the guidance of knowledge, wisdom, and common sense.
With this caution in mind, we can explore the benefits of CEO when used safely and appropriately – and there are many benefits!
We've already seen its anti-inflammatory capability, and with inflammatory illness so heavily plaguing our society, you can imagine the implications that has. There are other effects of eugenol that make CEO beneficial for disease prevention and oral health. Let's explore just a few of these properties in light of current research.
1. Antibacterial – Clove essential oil is widely understood to be generally antibacterial, but the University of Buenos Aires took the time to pinpoint bacteria that clove was especially able to target. They found that E. coli was particularly susceptible to CEO, followed by Staph aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. With all of these connected to significant illness, skin infections, and pneumonia, CEO is a valuable tool for disease prevention. (4)
2. Antifungal – Candida is a devastating, pervasive problem in our culture, and one that remains a personal soapbox of mine. Our diets high in sugar and acidification kill beneficial gut microbes and colonize Candida. In mainstream medicine, nystatin is used to manage yeast infections, though it never addresses the root causes and can bring side effects of its own. Published in the journal Oral Microbiology & Immunology, researchers weighed the effects of clove essential oil against nystatin, finding it just as effective, but as a natural substance rather than chemical concoction. (5)
3. Analgesic and Antiseptic – Clove essential oil is a longtime dental remedy, dating back to 1640 in French documentation “Practice of Physic,” and beyond in Chinese tradition. To this day, clove remains a go-to for dental needs.
The Journal of Dentistry published a comparison between CEO in a gel and benzocaine, the topical numbing agent the precedes needles in dentistry. In over seventy participants, no difference was recorded between benzocaine and CEO gel, indicating the same numbing effects. (6)
Aside from pain relief and numbing, CEO's dental benefits extend to slowed decay and remineralization. Underscoring this point, the Indian Department of Public Health Dentistry conducted a controlled study to evaluate clove essential oil, its lead molecules, and fluoride against decay caused by apple juice. CEO emerged as a promising mineralization tool, “significantly” decreasing decalcification, and actually remineralizing teeth. (7)
As a side note, I find it interesting that fluoride is so heavily used and recommended when there are clear, natural alternatives. It's one more reason to immerse ourselves in the ancient wisdom of natural health and remedies!
Clove oil works well when blended with other oils. Personally, I enjoy an immunity blend of equal parts cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, rosemary, orange and lemon essential oils. When using clove, be sure to always dilute! It will burn your skin if you don't and should always be used with much caution. With that said, don't be afraid of using it as clove is a highly versatile oil. Here are some easy applications:
- Oil Pulling
- DIY Toothpaste
- DIY Mouthwash
- For antioxidant and immune support during seasonal threats, make my Immunity Boosting Shot!
- Mix together in a glass bowl and enjoy twice daily at the onset of a cold for up to two weeks at a time.
- Wash down with pure, filtered water.
- Be sure to not use for more than two weeks at a time.