Cloves are most commonly used as a household spice to make everything from chicken to mulled wine. These powerful natural spices offer a host of health benefits when used outside of the kitchen, too. Clove essential oil is used in traditional and modern medicine to protect oral health and aid in digestion.
Clove essential oil features a warm, woody fragrance that awakens the senses and invokes visions of peaceful autumn strolls. The spiced fragrance of this essential oil is pleasant and comforting. Clove oil can be used topically, orally and as part of aromatherapy to help protect everything from your heart and digestive system to your teeth and skin.
What Is Clove Oil?
Clove oil is extracted from the flower buds of the clove tree, a type of evergreen tree known scientifically as Eugenia caryophyllata orSyzygium aromaticum. The clove tree requires a tropical, humid environment for proper growth. It is native to Southeast Asia and cultivated mainly in Indonesia, Zanzibar and Madagascar.
The clove plant is part of the myrtle family, which includes guava, allspice and eucalyptus. All members of this plant family have a pungent aroma that makes them perfect for essential oil use.
There are three different types of clove essential oil which are characterized by the parts of the plant used to extract the oil. Bud oil is derived from flower buds and consists of 60 to 90 percent of the main compound eugenol. Leaf oil is extracted from the clove plant leaves and contains 82 to 88 percent eugenol. Finally, stem oil is extracted from the twigs of the clove plant. This type of clove oil contains the highest concentration of eugenol with a composition of 90 to 95 percent.
The majority of clove essential oils are derived from the buds of flowers. This ensures maximum health benefits without negative side effects that can be caused by excess amounts of eugenol. Clove essential bud oil is made from either unopened buds or buds that are dried immediately after harvest.
Unopened buds are harvested in early spring while essential oils made using dried buds are typically harvested in fall or early winter. Both types of clove bud essential oil are extracted through the process of steam distillation.
The main chemical component of clove bud essential oil is eugenol. This compound is commonly used by dentists due to its anti-inflammatory properties and antiseptic qualities. It is generally applied topically to reduce localized pain and swelling associated with fillings and tooth extractions. Eugenol also kills germs that can cause cavities and infections.
Clove essential oil has a strong aroma that exudes spicy and warm notes. This oil is nutty and woody with a pleasurable bite to round out the fragrance. The eugenol content of clove essential oil gives it a sharp, refreshing finish that contrasts well with the initial smoky, spiced notes. It’s similar in fragrance to nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Clove oil made from fresh flower buds is generally light yellow in color while oil made from dried flower buds has a darker amber hue
Health Benefits and Clove Essential Oil Uses
1. Supports Oral Health
Clove oil has been used for years in candies and gum thanks to its ability to cleanse the mouth and freshen breath. The anti-inflammatory properties of clove essential oil also make it ideal for treating oral pain associated with toothaches and dry sockets. People all across the world, from the remote Maluku islands to the French and Chinese, have used clove essential oil for centuries in the treatment of oral health.
Clove essential oil is also used in modern medicine, especially in dentistry. Clove essential oil is backed by research demonstrating its oral protective powers. In fact, the Journal of Dentistry published a study examining the potential of clove essential oil in replacing benzocaine as a topical anesthetic.
The study consisted of 72 participants who were divided into 4 groups. Each group received either clove gel, a placebo mimicking clove gel, benzocaine 20% gel or a placebo mimicking benzocaine. Patients were stuck with a needle five minutes after application of the gel. Patients who received benzocaine or clove gel showed significantly lower pain. There was no discernable difference in pain levels between the medication and the clove gel.
These results show that clove essential oil can be just as effective as medical anesthetics without negative side effects.
Another study conducted by the Indian Department of Public Health Dentistry examined the effects of clove essential oil and its two main chemical components — eugenol and eugenyl acetate — on tooth decalcification. The tooth subjects were divided into three groups, two experimental groups and one placebo group. The experimental teeth were treated with clove essential oil or fluoride, which contain the chemical compounds. Teeth were then subjected to decalcification caused by apple juice.
The teeth treated with clove essential oil and its main compounds showed lower levels of decalcification — in fact, they showed remineralization. The outcome of this study demonstrates the powerful protective qualities of clove essential oil when used for oral health and dentistry.
How to Use: Toothpaste, Mouthwash, Oral Pain Reliever
For the best results, add 1 drop of clove essential oil to your toothpaste to cleanse and freshen your mouth.
For pain relief, put 1 drop of clove oil and 1 drop of carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil on a cotton ball. Apply directly to sore teeth and gums.
Clove essential oil can also be used as a mouthwash to get rid of morning breath. Simply combine 1 drop of clove oil with 2 ounces of water, gargle and rinse as normal.
2. Relieves Sore Muscles
Clove essential oil contains analgesic properties that are not only beneficial in dentistry, but also in aromatherapy and massage. Clove oil can be used to alleviate achy muscles after strenuous exercise. It can also alleviate joint pain caused by illnesses such as arthritis.
How to Use: Hot Massage Oil
To relieve pain, simply apply 1 or 2 drops of clove essential oil with carrier oil such as jojoba oil and gently massage any sore spots. For added relaxation, heat the carrier oil before application for a hot massage that is sure to relax even the most tense muscles.
3. Fights Fungal Infections
Clove oil contains properties and compounds that make it especially useful in fighting fungal infections such as candidiasis. Candida albicans is a pathogenic yeast that is present in the gut of 40 to 60 percent of the human population. Excess amounts of this yeast can lead to oral infections and digestive tract issues.
Oral thrush is one of the most common disorders associated with the presence of this yeast. Oral thrush causes creamy, white lesions in the mouth that are painful and can lead to difficulty swallowing. Fortunately, there is research showing that clove oil can help eliminate this bacteria and clear up infections.
A study published in Oral Microbiology and Immunology examined the effects of clove oil on rats with oral candidiasis. Rats were monitored for eight days with scientists focusing on the effect of the main components of oregano and clove essential oils — carvacrol and eugenol. At the conclusion of the study, scientists saw significant improvements in rats treated with clove essential oil thanks to the antifungal properties of eugenol.
A second study examined the effect of eugenol from clove oil on parasites. Scientists focused specifically on leishmaniasis — a disease caused by sand fly bites that results in ulcers of the skin and mouth. When untreated, leishmaniasis can lead to more severe conditions such as enlarged liver and low red blood cell counts. Published in the journal of Medical Microbiology, this study found that clove essential oil had a 50 percent inhibitory effect against the spread of the Leishmania donovani parasite.
How to Use: Oral Consumption
For these health benefits, take clove oil internally for one to two weeks. We recommend placing 1 drop of clove oil underneath your tongue. Alternatively, you can add 2 drops to a large glass of water or flavor food with a few drops of clove oil. It’s best to confer with a healthcare professional or your alternative medicine physician to ensure proper dosage.
4. Promotes Heart Health
Clove oil may help to lower blood pressure and prevent serious heart conditions including heart attack and blood clots. A study published by the Journal of Pharmacology examined the effects of clove essential oil on arteries in rats. Results showed that rats treated with eugenol had relaxed arteries and lower systemic blood pressure.
A second study published in PLEFA examined the effects of the second main component of clove oil, acetyl eugenol, in human blood cells. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that this chemical compound effectively prevents the clumping together of platelets in the blood stream. Acetyl eugenol operates as a blood thinner. It prevents blood clots and increases circulation to prevent serious heart conditions such as heart attacks caused by blockages.
How to Use: Spice Replacement
To reap these heart-healthy benefits, consume clove oil in your favorite foods a few times per week. In recipes that call for cloves or clove extract substitute clove essential oil. Alternatively, you can use clove essential oil in place of similar spices such as nutmeg and allspice.
5. Eliminates Free Radicals
Clove oil is chock full of antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals which can cause premature aging including fine lines and wrinkles. Free radicals enter your body through a variety of pathways. A bad diet, smoking and exposure to high levels of air pollution can all increase free radicals.
According to Superfoodly, cloves land in the top five when it comes to antioxidant power based on ORAC scores. These scores stand for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which is a test that rates total antioxidant capacity. Clove essential oil contains more antioxidants than berries based on their respective ORAC scores.
The antioxidants in clove oil eliminate free radicals that are also tied to serious illness such as cancer. They can boost the immune system to protect against viral infections. Clove essential oil is one of the most protective oils when it comes to overall health.
How to Use: Flavoring Agent
To reap these benefits, add a few drops of clove bud oil to your favorite recipes or as a flavoring to your daily cup of tea.
6. Supports Healthy Digestion
Clove oil has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a cure for a variety of digestive ailments. It’s useful in treating motion sickness as well as excess gas. Carminative properties of clove essential oil help to reduce gas and feelings of bloating after a big meal. The natural calming scent of clove oil can also help to alleviate nausea when used before boarding a boat or airplane.
Clove oil has also shown promise when it comes to treating and preventing serious digestive issues including ulcers. A 2011 study examined the effects of clove essential oil on gastrointestinal ulcers in animal models. Clove oil significantly increased production of mucus across the mucous membrane without increasing stomach acid or bile. Mucus is an important part of the digestive system as it creates a barrier that protects against disease and damage. Clove oil is an antiulcer agent that can still be used in individuals who experience acid reflux.
How to Use: Clove Oil Tea
For severe upset stomach or to treat ulcers, mix 15 to 30 drops of clove essential oil into a large cup of warm water. Drink 3 times per day during each meal.
7. Clears Up Skin
Clove oil can help you achieve brighter, more even skin and help to reduce acne breakouts. One study conducted by Burapha University in Thailand found that clove oil eliminates planktonic cells and biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This bacterium is one of several that can cause acne breakouts. After 24 hours, bacteria reduction was four times higher than when compared with a placebo.
How to Use: Face Mask
To reap these healthy skin benefits and reduce acne, combine 3 drops of clove oil with 2 teaspoons of raw honey to create a face mask. Leave on for five minutes before rinsing.
8. Warms You Up
You can get some of the health benefits of clove essential oil while enjoying its warm, spicy flavors as part of your favorite holiday treats. It is used ubiquitously in Europe as a staple ingredient in mulled wine sold at Christmas markets, where temperatures are often freezing. Clove helps you warm up by increasing circulation. Clove oil works well with cinnamon and ginger essential oils to enhance feelings of warmth.
How to Use: Baking Additive or Diffuser Blend
Use clove oil to warm up in the cool autumn or frigid winter months. Simply add a few drops of the essential oil to your favorite pumpkin pie or gingerbread recipe.
To awaken a warming scent in your home, add 4 to 5 drops of clove oil or a combination of clove and cinnamon oils to your diffuser. Clove oil blends well with complementary scents such as cardamom, orange, rosemary and vetiver essential oils.
Side Effects of Clove Essential Oil
Clove oil is safe for the majority of individuals although there are a few precautions. Make sure to always use high-quality or therapeutic-grade essential oils to avoid respiratory problems. This is especially important when consuming clove oil orally or using in aromatherapy. Avoid consistent daily oral consumption of clove oil for more than two weeks. Don’t use this oil if you are on blood thinning medications.
Clove oil contains anywhere between eight to 90 percent eugenol on average. Higher concentrations of eugenol can cause skin irritation in certain individuals. If you have sensitive skin, test clove essential oil on a small spot first. Always use clove esential oil in combination with carrier oil when applying topically to avoid irritation.
Due to its eugenol content, clove essential oil should not be used in combination with blood thinning medications. Eugenol is a natural blood thinner, which causes significant problems when combined with other anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs. As always, consult with a physician before using essential oils.
Use Cautiously During Pregnancy and For Children
Clove oil may be safe for pregnant women, but it is recommended to discuss use with your doctor first. Don’t use clove oil on infants or young children. Serious side effects including severe allergic reactions have been reported.
Spice Up Your Health With Clove Essential Oil
Clove essential oil has a range of uses. It provides a soothing effect that alleviates aches and pains and also promotes a healthy heart and digestive system. This oil hits the mark when it comes to relaxing aromatherapy and massage thanks to its warm, woody fragrance. Use topically or orally to protect teeth from cavities and decalcification. Add clove oil to your aromatherapy to support better blood circulation or apply topically to even out skin tone.