8 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.

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 [2]

Cloves Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA FoodData Central, 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 these spices used in many dishes, while they contain many nutrients, one would likely not obtain them in large amounts. [3]

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 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 according to an animal study. [4]

Another 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. [5] [6]

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.  [7]

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. [8]

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. [9]

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. [10]

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 according to results observed on mice. [11]

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. [12]

In an animal study, clove extract demonstrated its potential to help stabilize blood sugar levels in mice with diabetes. [13]

Human studies are needed to further validate this claim.

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. [14]

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Solution

A 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. More research is needed to further back this claim. [15]

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. [16]

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. [17]

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 on male mice, and both clove and nutmeg showed positive results. [18]

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. [19]

Studies on humans are needed to further validate this claim.

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 it possesses cytotoxic properties. [20]
  • 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 the lungs was higher than that of normal tobacco cigarettes. [21]

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 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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