Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is an aromatic spice used by many cultures around the world. Also known as clove bud, it has been cultivated in Europe since the 16th century for its culinary uses, mainly in curried dishes, spicy fruit cakes and sauerkraut.1
Like other spices, clove bud can be used to make an essential oil that may benefit your health. While not as popular as other plant oils,2 I believe there are numerous reasons why you should consider having clove bud oil at home.
Clove bud oil is derived from the clove tree, a member of the Myrtaceae family native to Indonesia and the West Indies.3 The plant itself is typically found in low-lying areas that have a humid climate. It is also a hardy plant, growing well in poor-quality soil (but not sandy soil). A fully grown clove tree can reach a height between 10 and 12 meters (approximately 32 to 39 feet), with tough evergreen leaves. The flowers (or buds) are clustered and generally forked into three peduncles or “stems” as they are often called.4
Today, clove bud oil is known for its benefits to oral health. A study published in the British Dental Journal notes that clove oil may be effective for teething pain in children.5 In another study, clove extracts were found to help fight bacteria responsible for gum disease.6
Apart from its positive effects in the field of dental care, clove bud oil can be used as a treatment for other health conditions. Below are some of the most common uses of this plant oil:
- Digestive aid — Cloves possess properties that may help relax the smooth muscles lining your gastrointestinal tract, helping relieve digestive problems like nausea and vomiting.7
- Skin care product — Topically applying clove bud oil can help address skin problems like warts, acne, sagging skin and wrinkles.8
- Insect repellent — When used together with citrus essential oils, this plant oil can help ward off insects.9
- Expectorant — Clove bud oil may help ease respiratory problems, such as cough, colds, sinusitis, asthma and tuberculosis. Chewing on a clove bud is said to help ease sore throats.10
- Antiseptic — Topical application may help manage fungal infections, wounds and cuts. It is also a common treatment for athlete's foot.11,12
- Perfume ingredient — Clove bud oil, with its strong and unique scent, is used in carnation, rose and honeysuckle perfumes. It has a strong and unique fragrance.13
- Flavoring agent — Clove buds can be used in various dishes for additional flavor.14
- Massage oil — It can be used to relieve pain and stress.15
The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine notes that eugenol is the main active compound in clove bud oil, with a concentration of 9,381.70 to 14,650 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh plant material. In addition, clove contains other phenolic compounds such as flavonoids, hidroxibenzoic acids, hidroxicinamic acids and hidroxiphenyl propens.
Out of all phenolic acids, gallic acid is the most abundant at 738.50 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh plants. Small concentrations of other compounds such as kaempfrol and quercetin are found in clove as well.16
Clove bud oil owes much of its health benefits to eugenol, which comprise up to 89 percent of the oil. This compound provides potent antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.17
Thanks to this chemical compound, this plant oil is very effective against dental pain, sore gums, mouth ulcers, cavities and bad breath.18 It is because of the compound that clove oil, as well as other spice oils that contain eugenol (like cinnamon, basil and nutmeg oils), are added to dental products, insect repellents, perfumes, foods and even pharmaceutical products.
Eugenol also causes clove oil to have stimulating and warming properties, which make it a popular choice among aromatherapy practitioners.19,20 Among its benefits is its ability to aid in stimulating your metabolism by helping improve your blood circulation and lowering your body temperature.
Clove bud oil can also promote digestive health by helping manage hiccups, indigestion, motion sickness and excess gas.21 Apart from helping support your metabolism, it can help manage inflammation22 and, interestingly, blood sugar levels as well. A study published in 2012 notes that clove extracts helped significantly suppress spikes in blood sugar levels in mice affected with Type 2 diabetes.23
Infused clove bud oil can be easily made in the comfort of your own home with a few simple items. Here’s an easy recipe from Naturally Curly that you can try:24
Infused Clove Bud Oil
What You'll Need:
• 4 fresh clove buds
• Carrier oil of choice, such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
• Airtight jar
• Pourable glass container
1. Crush the clove buds thoroughly and place them in the airtight jar.
2. Fill the jar with carrier oil until the buds are submerged.
3. Close the container tightly.
4. Set aside the mixture for a week while being exposed to sunlight.
5. Pour the mixture in another glass container using a strainer. Repeat the process until you get a clean oil. This can last up to five years when sealed properly.
Clove bud oil is often applied topically, and when mixed with other oils like coconut oil and olive oil, it can function as a massage oil. To help ease respiratory illnesses, clove oil can be used in steam inhalation. It may also be mixed in skin care products to enhance their benefits. Here are some specific ways on how to use this plant oil:25
- Mix two drops with a carrier oil and massage onto your abdomen to assist in relieving digestive discomfort. You may also add three to five drops in lukewarm bathwater to help address bowel issues.
- Use two drops of clove bud oil in steam inhalation to aid in relieving mucus and loosening phlegm. You may also add two drops to your decongesting ointment or gel and rub onto your chest, back and throat.
- Add two drops of clove oil to your skin care products or 1 milliliter of jojoba oil. This can help hasten the healing of wounds, cuts, bruises and even athlete's foot.
- Massage three drops of clove oil with 2 milliliters of carrier oil to experience the oil's painkilling action.
- Add a drop of diluted clove oil onto a small cotton ball to relieve tooth or gum pain. Press the cotton ball onto the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. You may also add two drops of clove bud oil to a cup of warm water and use this as a gargle.
- Two drops of clove bud plant oil used in a diffuser or vaporizer can ward off insects. Blending two to three drops to your skin care product may also help repel insects.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, clove oil is safe for most people, either taken internally or applied topically. However, caution is advised when applying clove oil on sensitive areas such as the gums, as it may cause inflammation and damage to tissue.26
Pregnant and breastfeeding women may safely ingest clove when it is used as an ingredient in meals. However, they should avoid ingesting clove oil in medicinal doses as it may endanger their health. Use of clove oil is also discouraged in children, especially when taken internally, as it may cause organ damage.27
Those undergoing surgery are advised to stop taking clove oil two weeks before the procedure. Eugenol is known to slow down bleeding, making recovery more difficult.28
I advise you to practice extra caution if you decide to ingest clove bud oil, as too much can cause certain side effects (see section below). I recommend using clove bud oil, or any essential oil for that matter, under the supervision of an experienced aromatherapy practitioner.
Internal consumption of clove oil is safe for most people at 1,500 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. It is easily absorbed into the cardiovascular system, with half-lives of 14 hours for plasma and 18.3 hours for blood.29 PubChem notes that the lethal oral dose is 3.75 grams per kilogram of body weight, and that children under 2 years of age should not be given clove oil whatsoever as it may cause life-threatening complications.30
On the other hand, clove bud oil may have negative effects on your skin. In a study published in Cell Proliferation, the oil exhibited cytotoxic properties to human fibroblasts and endothelial cells in in-vitro environments due to its eugenol content.31 PubChem also notes that it may irritate the skin and mucous membranes, causing problems such as contact dermatitis, lip inflammation and ulceration of the mouth.32
If you experience any negative reactions to your skin, stop using clove bud oil and seek professional treatment immediately.