The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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The power of cloves: Unveiling the health benefits of this aromatic spice

Sunday, 9 June 2024, 08:25 Last update: about 7 days ago

Written by Prof. Renald Blundell and Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi

Cloves, the dried flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, have been treasured for centuries for their aromatic and medicinal properties. They were highly valued in ancient China and Egypt for their medicinal properties. The spice trade brought cloves to Europe, where they became a symbol of wealth and luxury. Today, cloves are widely used in various cuisines and traditional medicine practices across the globe. These small, dark brown spice gems not only add a distinct flavour to culinary dishes but also possess a wide range of health benefits.

Cloves are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamin K, manganese and dietary fibre. Additionally, cloves contain powerful antioxidants, such as eugenol, beta caryophyllene, alpha humulene and eugenyl acetate, which contribute to their health-promoting properties.

Some of the health-promoting properties of cloves include:

  1. Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic properties: Cloves possess potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making them effective in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. The active compound eugenol acts as a natural painkiller and helps alleviate toothaches, headaches and muscle soreness.
  2. Antimicrobial effect: Clove possesses broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects against various microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and even some viruses. The main component responsible for these antimicrobial properties is eugenol. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

a.      Clove essential oil also demonstrates antifungal activity against a range of fungal species, including Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger and Trichophyton rubrum. Studies have also shown that clove essential oil can inhibit the replication of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) as well as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and potential clinical applications of cloves against viral infections.

  1. Resolution of digestive health disorders: Cloves stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes, improving digestion and nutrient absorption. Cloves also function as a carminative, enhancing peristalsis by boosting stomach hydrochloric acid levels. They aid in the relief of digestive disorders like bloating, indigestion and nausea.
  2. Better oral health: Eugenol, present in cloves, has antimicrobial properties that help combat oral infections and reduce bad breath. Clove oil is often used in dental care products and mouthwashes for its antibacterial effects.
  3. Immune system support: Cloves are rich in antioxidants, which help to neutralise harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body, thereby supporting immune function.
  4. Diabetes management: Cloves are rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Oxidative stress and inflammation are associated with the development and progression of diabetes and its complications. By reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, cloves can potentially contribute to better diabetes management by enhancing insulin secretion and improving insulin sensitivity,
  5. Respiratory health: Cloves have been used for centuries to alleviate respiratory conditions such as coughs, colds and asthma. The expectorant properties of cloves help to loosen mucus and relieve congestion, promoting easier breathing. One common method is to prepare a clove-infused tea by steeping crushed cloves in hot water and then drinking the resulting mixture. This warm beverage may help soothe the throat and provide temporary relief from coughing.
  6. Anticancer potential: Some studies suggest that cloves may have anticancer properties. The antioxidants in cloves help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to the development of cancer.
  7. Insect repellent: Clove oil can be used as a natural insect repellent to keep pests at bay. Its strong scent acts as a deterrent for insects like mosquitoes, flies and ants. To utilise clove as an insect repellent, you can dilute clove essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or almond oil, and apply it to exposed skin areas.


Incorporating cloves into your diet can be a simple and enjoyable way to reap health benefits. Here are some ideas for incorporating cloves into your diet:

  • Spice up your meals: Add ground cloves to your favourite recipes, such as soups, stews, curries and marinades. Cloves pair well with savoury dishes, especially those with rich flavours like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  • Infuse beverages: Brew a cup of clove tea by placing a few cloves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. You can also add cloves to your favourite herbal teas or hot apple cider for a warm and comforting beverage.
  • Baking with cloves: Add ground cloves to baked goods like cookies, cakes and bread for a unique and aromatic flavour. Cloves work particularly well with ingredients like cinnamon, ginger and citrus.
  • Pickling and preserving: Use cloves as a flavouring agent in pickles, chutneys and preserves. The warm and spicy flavour of cloves adds depth to these preserved foods.
  • DIY spice blends: Create your own spice blends by combining ground cloves with other spices like cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Use these blends to season meats, vegetables and grains.

Cloves are not just a flavourful spice; they are a powerhouse of health benefits. From their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties to their positive effects on digestive health, oral health and immunity, cloves have proven their worth in traditional medicine practices. Incorporating cloves into your diet or using clove oil in moderation can be a natural and holistic way to enhance your overall well-being. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using cloves for medicinal purposes, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Embrace the power of cloves and experience the multitude of health benefits they offer.


About the authors

Renald Blundell is a biochemist and biotechnologist with a special interest in Natural and Alternative Medicine. He is a professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Malta


Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi is a pharmacist with a passion for natural and preventive medicine



AI-generated image created by Prof. Blundell

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