Clove Health Benefits: 4 Powerful Perks Of The Antioxidant-Packed Spice
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.
Beyond putting the 'spice' in pumpkin spice, clove's autumnal flavor packs a surprisingly healthy punch. Made from the dried flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree and commonly used in Ayurvedic tradition, clove has applications outside the kitchen and café, too.
Here's what to know about the health benefits of this fall favorite.
The health benefits of clove.
Clove's medicinal properties have been known for centuries, and now, modern science is backing some of those perks. Whether you eat it whole, ground, or as an oil extract, here are the top benefits of using clove:
1. It’s good for bone health.
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 an important role in enzyme activation, which helps support metabolism, wound healing, and neurotransmitter production.
2. It can temporarily treat a toothache.
As far back as the 13th century, clove has been used to treat toothaches because of its active compound eugenol, which has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
In one randomized, controlled study in 2015, 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. Added bonus: Clove has been found to help manage plaque and gingivitis.
3. It may help balance blood sugar.
Studies on mice suggest that clove may promote lower blood glucose levels for those who are diabetic. And while the research in humans is still preliminary, it’s promising.
In one small study on 36 people with type 2 diabetes, 1-3 grams of clove a day for 30 days was enough to help them manage risk factors including glucose and triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.
In another preliminary trial published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2019, healthy adults who supplemented with a clove extract saw that it helped them maintain balanced blood glucose levels. Researchers believe this may be due to its manganese, which plays a role in insulin production.
4. It's rich in 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 were 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 also been shown to slow the growth of certain tumors, though more research needs to be done to confirm this.
Dosage and safety.
When used for culinary purposes, clove is generally safe to consume. 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.
There can be adverse effects of taking cloves in high doses in supplements. The World Health Organization cautions that the acceptable daily intake of clove oil is 2.5 mg/kg of body weight.
In essential oils:
Clove essential oil is potent! When applying it to the skin, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil first. And when it comes to ingesting clove oil, or any essential oil really, it's only safe to do when encased in a vegetable capsule or gelatin capsule and under doctor supervision. Children should not consume clove oil.
Eugenol, the pain-relieving compound in clove, may cause blood clotting issues, so those with bleeding disorders or upcoming surgeries should avoid clove oil. To be safe, always check in with your doctor before adding medicinal herbs and essential oils to your routine.
The bottom line:
Clove's aromatics impart a spicy warmth to both sweet and savory dishes. And from blood sugar balancing to pain relief, there are lots of reasons to add an extra dash of the spice to your cooking.
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