10 Surprising Health Benefits of Cloves

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

Native to Asian countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and even areas of East Africa, clove is a spice that offers many health benefits. These benefits include aiding in digestion, boosting the immune system, and controlling diabetes. Cloves also contain anti-mutagenic and anti-microbial properties which may even help fight oral diseases and headaches.

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 of 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 vitamin 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 are known to have been used in several traditional medicinal cultures as a way to help with stomach issues. According to the book Herbs that Heal: Natural Remedies for Good Health’, cloves have been used to boost digestion and control gastrointestinal irritation. Furthermore, ingestion of fried cloves may even stop vomiting, owing to their anesthetic properties. It can also be an effective agent against ulcers and can be used as a purgative agent. [7]

Antibacterial Properties

Cloves are touted by many for their antibacterial properties against several human pathogens. The extracts of cloves were thought to be potent enough to kill those pathogens.

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 contain high amounts of antioxidants, which may prove to be ideal for protecting the vital 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. In such cases, clove extracts may prove to be a helpful component in counteracting these effects with its hepatoprotective properties. [9]

Might Assist in Diabetes Management

Extracts from cloves imitate insulin in certain ways and might help in controlling blood sugar levels. One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that cloves may have a beneficial effect on diabetes as part of a plant-based diet. [10]

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. [11]

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. [12]

Anti-inflammatory Properties

The spice possesses 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 can reduce pain by stimulating pain receptors. [13]

Might Help Restore Oral Health

Cloves can be taken for a reduction in gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Clove bud extracts have the potential to significantly control the growth of oral pathogens, which are responsible for various oral diseases, as per a study published in the Journal of Natural Products. They can also be used for toothaches due to their pain-killing properties. [14]

Health benefits of cloves infographic

Clove is an herb of 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. [15]

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. [16]

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.

  • Clove Essential Oil: Clove essential oil must not be used directly. Instead, dilute it either in olive oil or in distilled water. Clove extract oil is generally considered to be safe, but a study revealed that they possess cytotoxic properties. [17]
  • Clove Cigarettes: In Indonesia, cloves are consumed on a large scale in the form of cigarettes, popularly known as kreteks. These clove cigarettes have emerged as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but research shows that clove cigarettes are worse health-wise than conventional cigarettes. In the case of clove cigarettes, the amount of nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar entering into the lungs was higher than that from normal tobacco cigarettes. [18]
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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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