Updated 18 February 2013


Toothache? Try chewing on a clove for relief. This multi-purpose herb has also been know to help with wind and bloating.


These dark brown nuggets, which are used as a spice in curries and mulled wine, have multiple uses. Other common names for cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are caryophyllum and ding xiang.

Key uses:

  • Relieves toothache and inflammation of the tooth and gums
  • Antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Helps treat vaginal yeast infection (thrush)
  • Treats insect bites and skin irritations
  • May ease traveller's diarrhoea
  • May ease stomach ulcers

The main chemical in cloves is eugenol which kills bacteria and viruses. Eugenol has also been found to stimulate insulin production in the body. A recent study suggests that a few grams of cloves per day could help both pre-diabetic and diabetic patients alike in that it boosts insulin function while lowering cholesterol.

According to the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, cloves have the same anticoagulant action as aspirin. Like aspirin, cloves reduce the risk of heart attack by keeping the platelets in your blood from binding together and forming a clot. While it's not strong enough to keep your blood from clotting when you get a cut, it does reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your vessels, which could cut off blood flow to the heart.

Interesting facts:

Cloves have been used in South-East Asia as a panacea for thousands of years.

The tea is widely used to relieve nausea and stomach upsets, even though these actions haven't been scientifically confirmed.

Cloves have been used as aphrodisiacs, and sucking on cloves is said to curb alcohol cravings.

Cloves are a also a preservative. It is tradition to put cloves into a holiday ham, but few realise that the tradition began because it makes the meat last longer.


Clove is generally regarded as safe for food use. However, people with kidney or liver disorders or who have had seizures should avoid clove.

Serious side effects are reported more often in young children, even with small doses, and therefore clove supplements should be avoided in children and pregnant or nursing women.

Clove or clove oil may cause an increased bleeding risk. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding.

Clove oil taken by mouth may lower blood sugar levels. However, caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

Eugenol or clove can cause allergic rashes when applied to skin or inside the mouth.

(Sources:, The American Pharmaceutical Association's Practical Guide to Natural Medicines by Andrea Peirce, published by William Morrow and Company, 1999).

(Image by Brian Arthur)

(updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, July 2010)


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