12 Surprising Health Benefits of Cloves

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

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Native to Asian countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and even areas of East Africa, cloves are 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 & anti-microbial properties, along with fighting against oral diseases & headaches and are also thought to display aphrodisiac properties.

What are Cloves?

Cloves are a popular flavoring agent used in a variety of ways across the world, particularly in Asia; cloves form a culinary base in a number of different Asian cuisines.

Clove is the dried bud of the flower from the tree Syzygium aromaticum. It belongs to the plant family named Myrtaceae. It is an evergreen plant growing in tropical and subtropical conditions. 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.

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.

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 and condiment but also as a medicine for many ailments.

Nutrition Facts

Spices, cloves, ground
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]9.87
Energy [kcal]274
Protein [g]5.97
Total lipid (fat) [g]13
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]65.53
Fiber, total dietary [g]33.9
Sugars, total [g]2.38
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
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0.2
Thiamin [mg]0.16
Riboflavin [mg]0.22
Niacin [mg]1.56
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.39
Folate, DFE [µg]25
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]8
Vitamin A, IU [IU]160
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]8.82
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]141.8
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]3.95
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.39
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]3.61
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.25
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

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. Given the small number of cloves used in many dishes, while they contain many nutrients, one would likely not obtain them in large amounts.

Bioactive Substances in Cloves

According to research conducted by Professor Tom Mabry 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 may 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. In his book “Herbs that Heal: Natural Remedies for Good Health“, award-winning expert on naturopathy Dr. H.K. Bakhru writes: “This herb is also an effective remedy for chronic diarrhea and dysentery.”

Antibacterial Properties

Cloves are touted by many 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.

A close up of wooden spoon filled with dried cloves

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 may be helpful in controlling lung cancer at its early stages. Research suggests that oleanolic acid present in cloves provides antitumor activity, while another study showed that eugenol found in cloves has anticancer potential against cervical cancer. While more research on this topic needs to be conducted, these preliminary findings indicate that cloves could be a positive solution in this field.

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 a helpful component in counteracting these effects with its hepatoprotective properties.

Diabetes Management

Cloves have been used in ancient medicinal practices 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. 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.

Bone Preservation

The hydro-alcoholic extracts of cloves 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 tensile strength of bones in case of osteoporosis. More research is needed to confirm the efficacy of these findings.

Anti-mutagenic Properties

Mutagens are chemicals that change the genetic makeup of the DNA by causing mutations. Biochemical compounds found in cloves, like phenylpropanoids, possess anti-mutagenic properties, according to 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.

Health benefits of clove - infographic

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.

Oral Health

Cloves can be taken for a reduction in gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Clove bud extracts 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.

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.

Headache Treatment

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.

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 

  • Clove Oil: Clove oils must not be used directly; instead they must be diluted either in olive oil or in distilled water. Clove extract oil is generally considered to be safe, but one study revealed that they possess cytotoxic properties. There are two major components present in clove extract oil; eugenol and B-caryophyllene.
  • 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 actually 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.
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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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