Cloves have been used both medicinally and as ingredients in cooking for thousands of years. Cloves grow in warm, humid regions such as Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Brazil. Cloves, along with nutmeg and other spices, were in large part what drove the Europeans to explore and establish trade routes with other countries. At a certain time in Europe, cloves were worth more than gold! Knowing this, cloves have been very influential in historical events that have shaped the last millennia.
For many, though, the flavor and aroma of cloves recall memories of the holidays. From the smell of baking holiday sweets or the flavor of ham baked with cloves, the warmth of cloves pairs well with the cooler weather and festivities of the holidays. Cloves, however, are more than just a flavorful spice with a long history. Science continues to prove that inherent in cloves are a variety of health benefits.
We know that cloves are anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and contain anesthetic properties. Clove’s anesthetic and anti-septic qualities have made them popular in dentistry as numbing agents. They also have rubefacient qualities, meaning they provide a warming and soothing effect; for this reason, clove and clove oil has been used as soothing agents for sore muscles. Clove also has benefits for stomach health, improving digestion and reducing gas and stomach discomfort. Cloves are also rich in anti-oxidants. Cloves may also contain some benefit for heart health, assisting in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Cloves have also shown to have some benefit for diabetics in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Cloves are also potent anti-fungal agents. Published research indicates that clove, and the active component therein known as eugenol, has strong anti-fungal activity against clinically relevant fungi such as aspergillus, candida and other types of skin-dwelling fungi. Clove’s anti-fungal activity is so potent that it even works against fluconazole-resistant species of fungi, putting it in league with cinnamon oil and oregano oil in terms of efficacy against species of fungus.
There are many companies that make supplemental products with clove; it is also possible to buy concentrated clove essential oils. These are great additions to your Kaufmann diet medicine cabinet, both as internal and as topical agents. Given its delicious flavor, it is also possible just to use cloves in the food you prepare as a flavorful way of spicing up what you eat. Clove’s versatility and legion of health benefits should make it a year-round addition to your food.