10 Surprising Health Benefits of Cloves

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Cloves, the aromatic flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, are more than just a staple in Asian cuisines. This versatile spice, with a history that traces back to the 13th century, has been a symbol of luxury and conflict, once igniting wars for its monopoly. Beyond its culinary uses, cloves are revered in traditional medicine across cultures for their potent medicinal properties. From aiding in digestion to acting as a natural remedy for various ailments, cloves have stood the test of time. This blog explores the multifaceted world of cloves, shedding light on their rich history, nutritional makeup, myriad health benefits, and their role in contemporary wellness practices.

What are Cloves?

Clove is a popular spice used in a variety of ways across the world, particularly in Asia. It forms a culinary base in a number of different Asian cuisines.

Cloves are dried buds of the flowers from the tree Syzygium aromaticum. It belongs to the plant family named Myrtaceae. It is an evergreen plant growing in tropical and subtropical conditions. [1]

Clove is an herb in which people use various parts of the plant, including the dried buds, stems, and leaves to make medicine. Clove oil is famous for its ancient medicinal properties.

Just like many other spices originating in Asia, clove has a great history behind it. During the 13th and 14th centuries, they 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 to control the islands of Maluku during both the medieval and modern periods as the archipelago was known as the Spice Island popular for nutmeg, mace and cloves. 

The Dutch colonized the Maluku islands for a very long time. Today, clove is a very important commercial crop all around the world.

Watch Video: 8 Interesting Benefits Of Cloves

8 Interesting Benefits And Uses Of Cloves | Organic Facts

Clove Uses

Clove has been used for thousands of years in India and China not only as a spice but also as a medicine for many ailments. [3]

Nutrition Facts

Spices, cloves, ground
Serving Size :
Water [g]9.87
Energy 274
Energy [kJ]1145
Protein [g]5.97
Total lipid (fat) [g]13
Ash [g]5.63
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]65.53
Fiber, total dietary [g]33.9
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]2.38
Sucrose [g]0.02
Glucose (dextrose) [g]1.14
Fructose [g]1.07
Galactose [g]0.15
Calcium, Ca [mg]632
Iron, Fe [mg]11.83
Magnesium, Mg [mg]259
Phosphorus, P [mg]104
Potassium, K [mg]1020
Sodium, Na [mg]277
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.32
Copper, Cu [mg]0.37
Manganese, Mn [mg]60.13
Selenium, Se [µg]7.2
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0.2
Thiamin [mg]0.16
Riboflavin [mg]0.22
Niacin [mg]1.56
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.51
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.39
Folate, total [µg]25
Folate, food [µg]25
Folate, DFE [µg]25
Choline, total [mg]37.4
Betaine [mg]1.4
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]8
Carotene, beta [µg]45
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]103
Vitamin A, IU [IU]160
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]8.82
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]141.8
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]3.95
6:0 [g]0.01
8:0 [g]0.03
10:0 [g]0.13
12:0 [g]0.04
14:0 [g]0.26
15:0 [g]0.02
16:0 [g]1.86
17:0 [g]0.04
18:0 [g]0.68
20:0 [g]0.19
22:0 [g]0.18
24:0 [g]0.49
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.39
16:1 [g]0.03
16:1 c [g]0.03
18:1 [g]0.99
18:1 c [g]0.78
20:1 [g]0.36
22:1 [g]0.02
22:1 c [g]0.02
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]3.61
18:2 [g]2.66
18:2 n-6 c,c [g]2.56
18:2 CLAs [g]0.06
18:3 [g]0.59
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.59
20:2 n-6 c,c [g]0.02
20:3 [g]0.01
20:3 n-6 [g]0.01
20:4 [g]0.1
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.01
22:4 [g]0.06
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.18
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.25
Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoic [g]0.21
18:1 t [g]0.21
18:2 t not further defined [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total trans-polyenoic [g]0.04
Phytosterols [mg]256
Tryptophan [g]0.03
Threonine [g]0.18
Isoleucine [g]0.24
Leucine [g]0.4
Lysine [g]0.37
Methionine [g]0.08
Cystine [g]0.07
Phenylalanine [g]0.23
Tyrosine [g]0.19
Valine [g]0.34
Arginine [g]0.32
Histidine [g]0.13
Alanine [g]0.29
Aspartic acid [g]0.6
Glutamic acid [g]0.56
Glycine [g]0.28
Proline [g]0.39
Serine [g]0.24
Sources include : USDA [4]

Cloves Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA FoodData Central [5], 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 vitamins A and K. Given the small number of this spice used in many dishes, while they contain many nutrients, one would likely not obtain them in large amounts.

Bioactive Substances in Cloves

According to a University of Texas at Austin research study, certain bioactive compounds isolated from clove extracts include flavonoids, hexane, methylene chloride, ethanol, thymol, eugenol, and benzene. These biochemicals have been reported to possess antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties. [6]

Health Benefits of Cloves

Packed with nutrients and bioactive compounds, it is no wonder that even a small amount of cloves have some interesting health benefits to offer. Let’s take a look at their health benefits.

Can Help Boost Gastrointestinal Health

Cloves have a long history of use in traditional medicine, with documented benefits for gastrointestinal health. According to ‘Herbs that Heal: Natural Remedies for Good Health,’ cloves have been employed to improve digestion and alleviate gastrointestinal irritation. These aromatic spice buds are more than just flavor enhancers; they can potentially offer relief for common digestive issues. [7]

In addition to aiding digestion, cloves possess anesthetic properties that may help quell nausea and vomiting, as mentioned in a study. Cloves can also serve as an effective remedy against ulcers and even act as a purgative agent when needed. [8]

Recent research has provided further insight into cloves’ potential benefits for gastrointestinal well-being. An animal study found that essential oil derived from cloves increased the production of gastric mucus. Gastric mucus acts as a protective barrier, shielding the stomach lining from the corrosive effects of digestive acids. [9] [10]

Antibacterial Properties

Cloves are celebrated for their remarkable antibacterial properties, a hidden gem in the world of natural remedies. The extracts of cloves have demonstrated their potency in combating various human pathogens.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, cloves are proven to possess antimicrobial properties, effectively inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria.  [11]

In a promising test-tube experiment, clove essential oil was found to eliminate three common types of bacteria, including the notorious E. coli, known for its role in food poisoning. [12]

A close up of wooden spoon filled with dried cloves

Cloves are a common remedy for toothache. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Potentially Helps in Liver Protection

Cloves, packed with antioxidants, offer a shield for vital organs, particularly the liver, against the harmful effects of free radicals. As metabolism increases free radical production and alters lipid profiles over time, the liver can take a hit. In such instances, clove extracts come to the rescue with their hepatoprotective properties, primarily attributed to eugenol. [13]

In a small but promising study, eugenol supplements were found to decrease levels of glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs), enzymes linked to detoxification and often considered a marker of liver health. [14]

Additionally, cloves’ abundant antioxidants may assist in preventing liver disease by combating oxidative stress. [15]

A Possible Ally in Managing Diabetes

Cloves, with their remarkable properties, show promise in diabetes management. Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that incorporating cloves into a plant-based diet may have a positive impact on diabetes control. [16]

Furthermore, a study on rabbits conducted in 2018 revealed that clove supplementation exhibits anti-diabetic properties, potentially aiding in the management of hyperleptinaemia in type 2 diabetes. [17]

In an animal study, clove extract demonstrated its potential to help stabilize blood sugar levels in mice with diabetes. [18]

Can Help in Bone Preservation

The hydro-alcoholic extracts of this spice include phenolic compounds, such as eugenol, and its derivatives, such as flavones, isoflavones, and flavonoids. Studies have suggested that these extracts may be helpful in preserving bone density and the mineral content of bone, as well as increasing the tensile strength of bones in case of osteoporosis. More research is needed to confirm the efficacy of these findings. [19]

Can Work As An 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 can help in improving the immune system by increasing the white blood cell count, thereby, improving delayed-type hypersensitivity. [20]

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Solution

Cloves offer powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-relief properties. Research on lab rats, as per a study, revealed that eugenol, a key component in cloves, reduced inflammation and alleviated pain by targeting pain receptors. [21]

Moreover, another study showcased that clove essential oil displayed anti-inflammatory and tissue remodeling effects in human dermal fibroblasts, highlighting its potential as a natural anti-inflammatory solution. [22]

Might Help Restore Oral Health

Cloves offer a natural remedy for restoring oral health. According to the Journal of Natural Products, clove bud extracts exhibit significant potential in controlling the growth of oral pathogens, combatting issues like gingivitis and periodontitis. Their pain-killing properties also make them useful for alleviating toothaches. [23]

In a test-tube study, compounds from cloves effectively halted the growth of bacteria contributing to gum disease. [24]

Additionally, a comparison between an herbal mouth rinse, containing clove, basil, and tea tree oil, and a commercially available essential oil mouth rinse showed both to be effective against plaque and gingivitis. This suggests that incorporating clove-based oral care products may help reduce oral inflammation and bacteria. [25]

Health benefits of cloves infographic

Clove is an herb in which people use various parts of the plant, including the dried buds, stems, and leaves to make medicine.

Aphrodisiac Properties

Since ancient times, 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. [26]

Another study on mice conducted in 2013 suggested that lower doses of clove extract may have an androgenic effect, but further studies are needed to support this contention. [27]

Might Cure Headaches

Headaches may 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. [28]

Where to Buy Cloves?

You can buy good quality whole cloves online or at your local supermarket. They are best stored in tiny spice glasses or steel containers in a cool, dry place where they can be kept for months. Fresh cloves are potent in flavor, so make sure you use it sparingly.

Side Effects of Cloves

The components present in cloves can prove harmful if used in excess or undiluted. Here are some of the derivatives of cloves that should be used responsibly.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the humble clove, native to various Asian countries, unfolds as a potent health ally. Its extensive list of benefits ranges from aiding digestion to bolstering the immune system and potentially managing diabetes. Cloves, packed with bioactive compounds and nutrients, offer a diverse array of advantages.

These aromatic buds are not only a culinary treasure but also a natural remedy with a rich history. From supporting oral health to safeguarding your liver, cloves showcase their versatility. They exhibit anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making them a holistic solution for various health concerns.

Incorporating cloves into your daily routine can be flavorful and beneficial offering a taste of natural well-being. Remember to use them wisely, and reap the rewards of this ancient spice.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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