The dried-out buds of the tropical clove tree have been used in cooking and baking for a long time. An ethereal oil gives cloves their unique taste and smell. Cloves are a must for spicing warm drinks like grogs and punches.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines all over the world. Cloves are harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
The clove tree is an evergreen that grows to a height ranging from 8–12 m, having large leaves and sanguine flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. The flower buds are at first of a pale color and gradually become green, after which they develop into a bright red, when they are ready for collecting. Cloves are harvested when 1.5–2 cm long, and consist of a long calyx, terminating in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the center.
Like other spices, cloves are available throughout the year. They are renowned for providing their uniquely warm, sweet and aromatic taste to ginger bread and pumpkin pie, but they can also make a wonderful addition to split pea and bean soups, baked beans and chili.
Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch in diameter and with their tapered stem, they resemble tiny nails. In fact, their English name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail. Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile.
Cloves are used as a spice in food, sweets and drinks, and have numerous therapeutic properties.
The essential oil of clove has a strong and spicy aroma and powerful antiseptic and mild anaesthetic properties, therefore, can be used externally for nausea, vomiting and flatulence, and may even stimulate the digestive system. It is also used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming is needed, especially for digestive problems, as when applied locally over the stomach or abdomen, can warm the digestive system. Its antiseptic properties make it an ideal ingredient in toothpaste, liquids for mouthwash and other products for healthy teeth. The most common use is for stopping toothache, by placing cotton with drops of the oil on the painful tooth. Even a few drops in some water can stop vomiting and nausea, and can also be useful in indigestion, diarrhoea and flatulence. Clove is antineuralgic and considered as an aphrodisiac. It also helps in various skin diseases like acne, pimples, etc. and can be used in severe burns and irritation to reduce skin sensitivity.
Cloves are native to the Moluccas, formerly known as the Spice Islands of Indonesia. They have been consumed in Asia for more than 2,000 years. Owing to their sweet and fragrant taste, Chinese courtiers dating back to 200 BC would keep them in their mouths in order to freshen their breath when addressing the emperor so as to not offend him. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe around the 4th century, although they did not come into widespread use until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their pungent flavor that served to mask the taste of poorly preserved foods. While for a long time, they were cultivated almost exclusively in Indonesia, today the leading clove-producing region is Zanzibar in Eastern Africa. In addition to these two regions, cloves are also grown commercially in the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, India, Pemba and Brazil.
Clove contains significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has made it the subject of numerous health studies, including studies on the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride, digestive tract cancers, and joint inflammation. In the United States, eugenol extracts from clove have often been used in dentistry in conjunction with root canal therapy, temporary fillings, and general gum pain, since eugenol and other components of clove (including beta-caryophyllene) combine to make clove a mild anaesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent. For these beneficial effects, you’ll also find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.
Anti-Inflammatory Activity – Eugenol, the primary component of clove’s volatile oils, functions as an anti-inflammatory substance. In animal studies, the addition of clove extract to diets already high in anti-inflammatory components (like cod liver oil, with its high omega-3 fatty acid content) brings significant added benefits, and in some studies, further reduces inflammatory symptoms by another 15-30%. Clove also contains a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also contribute to clove’s anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) properties.
A Nutrient-Dense Spice – Like its fellow spices, clove’s unique phytonutrient components are accompanied by an incredible variety of traditionally-recognized nutrients. Using our nutrient ranking system, we determined cloves to be an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, dietary fiber, and vitamin C and a good source of calcium and magnesium.