Clove: 4 Reasons To Add A Dash Of This Powerful Spice To Everything

mbg Associate Health Editor By Darcy McDonough, M.S.
mbg Associate Health Editor
Darcy McDonough is the associate health editor at mbg. She has a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Expert review by Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University. She lives in the Greater Boston Area, and enjoys connecting people to the food they eat and how it influences health and wellbeing.

Image by Jeff Wasserman / Stocksy

Often associated with gingerbread cookies and winter cocktails, clove is what puts the spice in pumpkin spice. Similar to cinnamon or ginger, clove is a spicy, yet warm, aromatic that adds depth to any dish, from garam masala curries to chai tea lattes. But it's more than just a sprinkling spice; small but mighty, clove packs a surprisingly healthy punch.

Traditionally used in ayurvedic medicine, clove boasts antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and analgesic properties and is at the center of many home remedies. Here, we break down all the science-backed reasons you should add a dash of clove to everything. 

What is clove? 

You are probably familiar with the basic spices, like cinnamon, turmeric, and oregano, but what exactly is clove? Clove is the dried flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, native to Indonesia. You can usually find it in the spice section, either in its whole or ground form, as well as located near the natural remedies and essential oils, in its oil form.  

Clove's aromatic flavor adds a spicy warmth to both sweet and savory dishes. However, it should be used sparingly, as its potent flavor can overwhelm a dish. Also, note that if you are cooking with whole cloves, they should be removed before serving. Some of our favorite clove-filled recipes include chai-spiced energy balls and turmeric apple cider vinegar shots.

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Health benefits of clove.

Clove's medicinal properties have been known for centuries, and now, modern science is backing some of those benefits. Whether it's whole, ground, or as an oil extract, here are the top benefits of using clove:

It’s chock-full of manganese.

As a spice, you might not think clove has much to offer in the way of nutrients, but it is actually packed with the essential bone-building nutrient manganese. Just one teaspoon of clove contains over 50% of the daily adequate intake levels recommended by the FDA.

Manganese is a mineral that, along with calcium, is key for bone formation and density. 

It also plays and important role in enzyme activation, which supports the metabolism, wound healing, and neurotransmitter production.

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It will temporarily treat a toothache.

As far back as the 13th century, clove has been used to soothe sore mouths—and it works. That's because eugenol, a compound specific to clove, is a potent analgesic. In one study, patients who used a eugenol-based paste after dental work experienced less pain, inflammation, and infection than patients who used a typical topical pain reliever or nothing at all. Clove has even been found to be as effective as benzocaine, a local anesthetic. 

To try it, place a few drops of diluted clove oil on a cotton ball and gently wipe it on the affected area. Added bonus: Clove has been found to fight plaque and gingivitis.

It may help balance blood sugar.

Animal studies have suggested that clove may lower blood glucose levels in diabetic mice. And while the research in humans is still preliminary, it’s promising. In one small study, patients with diabetes who took 1-3 grams of clove for 30 days, saw significant improvements in risk factors for diabetes including glucose and triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels. In another preliminary trial, healthy adults who supplemented with a clove extract saw improvements in glucose levels. Researchers believe clove’s blood-sugar-balancing properties may be due manganese, which plays a role in insulin production.

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It's a rich source of antioxidants.

When you think of antioxidants, you probably think of blueberries, dark chocolate, or red wine. But did you know herbs and spices are actually one of the best sources of antioxidants? In fact, in a ranking of the top 100 richest sources of polyphenols and antioxidants, seasonings was the food group that had the most items listed, and cloves ranked No. 1, outperforming blueberries with more than 30 times the antioxidant concentration.

Antioxidants are important for fighting off free radical damage, which can degrade cells and leave them susceptible to chronic disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and other signs of aging. In lab studies, the antioxidant properties of clove extract have been shown to slow tumor growth and promote cell death.

Dosage and safety.

When used for culinary purposes, clove is generally safe to consume. However, in large doses, like as an oil extract or supplement, there can be adverse effects. The World Health Organization cautions that the acceptable daily intake of clove oil is 2.5 mg/kg of body weight.

Essential oils, like clove oil, are very potent, so be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil. Functional wellness practitioner, Mariza Snyder D.C., suggests a ratio of "15 to 30 percent, or one drop of essential oil for every three drops of carrier oil" when using topically to avoid skin irritation. When it comes to ingesting clove oil, or any essential oil really, it should only be done encased in a vegetable capsule or gelatin capsule and under doctor supervision.

Children should not consume clove oil. Also, eugenol, the pain-relieving compound in clove, may cause blood clotting issues, so those with bleeding disorders or upcoming surgeries should avoid clove oil. 

Always check in with your doctor before adding medicinal herbs and essential oils to your routine.  

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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