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Cloves - Natural remedy of the month

 December 2008



clovesChristmas has come round again. For many of us this means scrabbling around in the back of the cupboard for those ingredients we only use at this time of year, ingredients such as cloves which are vital for special Christmas cakes and that tasty bread sauce to go with the turkey.

But in fact clove has been attributed with many more properties than just adding flavour and many claim it should be in every medicine cabinet for use as a pain reliever, digestive aid and warming stimulant.

The formal name of clove is caryophyllus aromaticus; it is also sometimes known as tropical myrtle. It’s an evergreen tree that grows from 15 to 50 feet tall and is native to the Molucca Islands and the Philippines, although today it is cultivated across the world in tropical regions from Madagascar to Brazil and Indonesia.

It has been prized since ancient times, when it is believed the fresh and dried flower buds were used in herbal formulas to treat diarrhea and intestinal worms. Its name comes from the Latin clavus which means nail and aptly describes the shape of the dried bud of a clove.

By far the most famous use of cloves today is as a pain reliever. Clove oil is said to possess powerful analgesic properties. Its main active ingredient is eugenol, which comprises between 60 to 90 per cent of the clove, and it is thought that its high level of eugenol is the key to its pain-killing properties. In my own experience, when I once was suffering toothache on holiday a long way from a dentist, I dabbed clove oil on the tooth and experienced considerable pain relief.

Clove oil is also considered by some to be one of the most powerful germicidal agents in the herbal kingdom. Its antiseptic antibacterial properties are said to help by killing many types of bacteria, so that it is excellent for treating diarrhea or food poisoning. Its disinfectant properties are also used as a mouthwash and freshener.

Cloves are said to be antiparasitic, with its antimicrobial properties destroying intestinal parasites. This supports its traditional use by the Chinese of using cloves to treat intestinal worms.

Another benefit from cloves is its reputed antiviral and antifungal properties, which are said to increase the efficacy of acyclovir, a drug used to treat the viral infections underlying Bell’s palsy, chronic fatigue syndrome and herpes. It is also used to counteract the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.

Cloves are also used for a number of other health benefits, especially to support healthy digestive functions - they are thought to relieve digestive upsets, vomiting and nausea. Oil of cloves is also used to reduce the sensation of bloating and gas pressure within the stomach and because of its warming properties is used to help to improve the assimilation and digestion of foods.

Cloves are sometimes used externally, with oil of cloves popular to relieve toothacheneuralgia and rheumatism.


Cloves are usually available in dried and powder form for culinary purposes and in oil and capsules for medicinal treatments. Always read instructions carefully before using cloves.



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