Sourced from an evergreen tree that grows in Asia and South America, clove is a natural substance said to offer several health benefits. The tree's leaves, flower buds, and fruit also produce clove oil, which is widely used in aromatherapy. Clove's health benefits are thought to result from its purportedly pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.
Claims for Clove's Health Benefits
Clove and clove oil are typically touted as natural remedies for the following health problems:
The Science Behind Clove's Health Benefits
In Germany, a governmental regulatory agency known as German Commission E has approved clove for use as a topical antiseptic and anesthetic. However, research on clove's health benefits is generally limited. Here's a look at several findings from the available scientific studies:
1) Clove and Dental Pain
In a 2006 study of 73 adults, researchers found that clove-based gel was comparable to benzocaine (a local anesthetic) in its ability to ease pain resulting from injections in the mouth.
2) Clove and Food Poisoning
In lab tests published in 2009, scientists found that clove bud oil (as well as essential oils of cinnamon and allspice) may help protect against food poisoning. After adding clove oil to an edible apple puree, the scientists observed that clove bud oil helped suppress the growth of listeria (a type of bacteria known to cause foodborne illness).
3) Clove and Cancer
Preliminary research suggests that clove holds promise as a means of protecting against lung cancer. In a 2006 study on mice exposed to carcinogens, scientists discovered that animals treated with clove were less likely to develop lung cancer. However, since researchers have yet to test these findings in clinical trials, it's not known whether clove could have the same effect on human lung health.
Is Clove Safe?
Although clove is generally considered safe, it may cause allergic reactions and certain adverse effects (such as a burning sensation, increased risk of bleeding, and lowered blood sugar levels) in some individuals.
Should You Use Clove for Health Conditions?
Given the lack of science behind clove's purported health benefits, clove cannot currently be recommended for any condition. If you're interested in using clove for health purposes, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment.
Alqareer A, Alyahya A, Andersson L. "The effect of clove and benzocaine versus placebo as topical anesthetics." J Dent. 2006 34(10):747-50.
American Cancer Society. "Cloves".
Banerjee S, Panda CK, Das S. "Clove (Syzygium aromaticum L.), a potential chemopreventive agent for lung cancer." Carcinogenesis. 2006 27(8):1645-54.
Du WX, Olsen CW, Avena-Bustillos RJ, McHugh TH, Levin CE, Friedman M. "Effects of allspice, cinnamon, and clove bud essential oils in edible apple films on physical properties and antimicrobial activities." J Food Sci. 2009 74(7):M372-8.
National Institutes of Health. "Clove (Eugenia aromatica) and clove oil (eugenol): MedlinePlus Supplements". July 2010.