Cloves – Properties and Medicinal uses

Cloves or Syzygium aromaticum are the flower buds of tree in the family Myrtaceae, which offers many health benefits ranging from fighting cancer, aiding digestion, regulating blood sugar, to boosting immunity.

Scientific name – Syzygium aromaticum

Family – Myrtaceae

Other names

Caryophyllum, Caryophyllus aromaticus, Eugenia aromatica,  Clavo de Olor, Clove oil, Clove flowerbud, Clove leaf, Gewurznelken Nagelein (German), Kanunfari (Hausa), Clavos de olor, Kryddernellike (Danish), clous de girofle (French), lang (Hindi),


Cloves are said to have originated from Indonesia, where they are commonly used as a spice. They are also an integral part of cuisines all over the world particularly in the Asian, African, and Middle East regions. They add flavor to curries, meats, fruits, and local beverages.


The clove tree is an evergreen one that grows up to 12 meters in height. It has large leaves and crimson colored flowers grouped into terminal clusters. The flower buds initially green, turns to a bright red color when ready for harvest.

Use in Traditional medicine

Clove is one spice that has been used medicinally to treat many diseases and conditions since ancient past. Cloves constitute an integral part of the famous Indian Ayurvedic medicine. They are also used in both Western herbalism and Chinese medicine. The Chinese use clove to treat hiccups, diarrhea, improve kidney health, and stop vomiting.

In traditional Western medicine, essential oil in cloves has been used as a painkiller in cases of dental emergencies. Cloves are also used as natural antihelmintics to expel intestinal worms, or as carminatives to combat intestinal flatulence.

Nutritional value per 100 g (USDA)

  • 274 Calories
  • 13 g Total fat
  • 6 g Protein
  • 277 mg Sodium
  • 1020 mg Potassium
  • 66 g Carbohydrate (34 g dietary fiber)

Clove are rich in dietary fiber, and also rich in mineral potassium, iron, and magnesium. Of the 13 g total fat present, 4 g are saturated fat, 7 g polyunsaturated fat, 1.4 g monounsaturated fat, and 0.3 g trans fat. It lacks cholesterol. The dietary fiber present in cloves is about 136% of the recommended daily intake for an average adult.

Cloves also contain a non-nutritive component composed of some bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, ethanol, methylene chloride, thymol, benzene, and eugenol. The compounds are responsible for most of cloves properties such as being anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and more.


Medicinal uses of Cloves

  • Controls Diabetes

Cloves may be used to lower or regulate the level of sugar in the blood. And this has been fortified by a research which showed how extracts from clove can act as a mimetic of insulin, thus, regulating blood sugar level (1).

I recently wrote an article on the medicinal uses of cinnamon, which showed similar action against diabetes. It also contained compounds that were able to mimic insulin and help regulate blood sugar level.

  • Improves Digestion

A popular home remedy to aid digestion is by taking a small amount of powdered clove along with honey. This combination is said to improve digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes. Cloves are said to be good for flatulence, an age-long traditional medicine practice in the Western world. They are also good for dyspepsia, and gastric irritability.

  • Protects the Liver

The liver is one of the most important organ in the body, and its singular nature gives you every reason to make sure you keep it safe. Cloves gives you that chance to protect your liver. Its active compound eugenol is said to beneficial for the liver.

A scientific research carried out using clove oil and eugenol extract, although on laboratory rats, improved liver function, and reduce inflammation (2).

Scientific research on the effects on eugenol extract on human liver is still very limited, with most research carried out animals. This makes the scientific claims weak, but not invalid. It is important to note that eugenol in high amounts can be toxic to the body, can cause liver damage.

So, regulation is key. Moreover, be sure you consult your healthcare professional before adding any kind of food to your diet for medicinal purposes.

  • Prevents Cancer

By now, you must be aware that cancer is one of the most deadliest diseases that humans have ever known. It is characterized by an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that destroys body tissues.

Some researches have shown that some compounds present in clove have the potential to protect against certain types of cancers.

A research demonstrated how clove may have a potential future as a therapeutic herb in the treatment of colorectal cancer, with oleanolic acid one of the main bioactive compounds responsible for its anti-tumor activity (3).

  • Great Antimicrobial

Many folk healers have long used clove to flush out intestinal worms. Some studies have shown its essential oil to be effective against many bacteria such as Steptococcus, Pnemococcus, and Staphylococcus.

As a great anti-fungal, clove essential oil is combined with others, like tea tree oil, to combat fungal infections such as ringworm, where it is used topically.

  • Boost the Immune system

Clove oil has been proven to some extent by scientific researches to boost immunity against diseases. Its essential oil was found to increase the total white blood cell count and enhanced the delayed-type hypersensitivity response in a laboratory animal (4).

  • Fights Oral diseases

History has shown how clove was actively involved in dental care of the Western world. It was used to improve dental health and fight oral diseases. It was also used as a painkiller for toothaches.

Some extracts from clove were evaluated in a research for their inhibitory effect against some important oral pathogens including those responsible for gingivitis. The results from the experiment showed great inhibitory effect on these pathogens, and thus, suggest its potent use in dental care.

By Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!