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Terpene Profile: Eugenol

The terpene eugenol is a cinnamate derivative found in the shikimate pathway in clove oil as well as other plants. Eugenol is a clear amber-colored or pale-yellow liquid with a pungent taste and the pleasant aroma of cloves. Its pleasant clove-like, spicy odor makes it ideal for use in perfumes or for flavoring of foods. It is also used in medicine, as an ingredient in essential oils, and as a local anesthetic, and antiseptic.

The pale yellow liquid, mainly extracted from cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, and nutmeg essential oils, is soluble in organic solvents and slightly water-soluble. Originally it was used in the production of isoeugenol to manufacture vanillin, however, vanillin is now mostly produced from petrochemicals or by-products derived from the manufacture of paper. 1

Classification within Terpenes: Monoterpene

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Natural Plant Sources

These are the most common natural plant sources of eugenol. The concentration of eugenol that can be extracted from each plant varies. The essential oil of a plant is said to contain the essence of the plant, the part that gives it its smell and taste. The essence of cloves, for example, can be extracted using an organic olive oil solvent to dissolve some of the eugenol contained in the plant matter, given the principle that says: like molecules dissolve like molecules. The smaller the particles that the plant can be broken into, the larger the surface area of particles there will be that can be dissolved. Olive oil extraction will contain the essence of cloves but not pure eugenol.

Distillation and special precipitation processes need to be employed in order to further refine the plant particles for pure eugenol extraction. For purification purposes, a distillation process would be used instead of olive oil extraction.

Eugenol is extensively used as a flavor enhancer in the manufacture of certain foods for its spicy, clove-like taste.

Agrochemical Sources

Eugenol is used in agriculture as a fungicide and a pesticide to kill bacterial agents and prevent the spread of disease.

Medicinal Sources

Its anti-infective agents prevent the spread of infectious organisms and kill infectious agents that prevent the spread of disease. It is also used as a flavorant in medicine. 2

Eugenol is the characteristic molecule that, to some extent, is found in the above mentioned natural plant sources. It is an organic molecule consisting of:

  • a 6-carbon ring of alternating double bonds;

  • 2 oxygen atoms singly-bonded to carbons in a ring;

  • One oxygen atom is single-bonded to a carbon with 3 hydrogen atoms and the other oxygen atom is bonded to hydrogen only.

Eugenol has been found to be an effective antibacterial agent against bacteria such as Salmonella typhi. It has the ability to break down the cell membrane of a bacterium thereby destroying its ability to multiply and spread disease.

Food Preservation

As a food preservative, the antibacterial properties of eugenol is being developed in Nanoemulsion delivery studies. When various oils and surfactants were mixed with eugenol as a food preservative against Staphylococcus aureus in fruit juice, it was shown to be highly effective against microbial spoilage.

Uses of Clove Oil in Aromatherapy Eugenol


The therapeutic properties of clove oil are legendary. It is commonly used as a stimulant and has expectorant, carminative, digestive, stomachic, sedative, and antispasmodic properties. It stimulates digestion, helps with flatulence, restores appetite, and is a highly effective aid in convalescence from illness or surgery. 3


As a general tonic, it is effective in both physical weaknesses and as an intellectual stimulant.


The principal therapeutic value of eugenol in cloves and other essential oils in this category is its antiseptic properties. Because of the high proportion of eugenol contained in clove essential oil, it is highly effective against intestinal parasites and viral infections. It also boosts the immune system to help fight off bacterial infections. Clove essential oil can also be used to soothe and heal a sore throat with its antibacterial properties.


Clove oil is highly effective in fighting oral bacterial infections and to prevent tooth decay. The dental benefits of cloves are well-known. Clove oil has sedative and minor anesthetic qualities that help to reduce the pain of a toothache while at the same time fighting against the bacteria that cause dental decay.

A clove in the mouth will numb the tongue and is also effective in the treatment of bleeding gums. A few drops of clove oil will numb the pain of a toothache and the antiseptic effect will prevent infection from developing until you can get to a dentist. The antibacterial properties have also been shown to be effective in the healing of tooth and gum abscesses.

Mouth Wash

A good mouthwash for halitosis can be made at home with a few cloves boiled in water for 5 minutes. Rinse the mouth with the cooled solution and gargle before spitting out.

Physical and Mental Strain

For physical or mental strain a clove can be sucked several times a day. The pleasant taste has a relaxant effect on the nervous system that calms the mind and relaxes the body.

Smoking Cessation

Sucking cloves has also been proven to be a help when giving up smoking as it prevents cravings and calms the nervous system.

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Additional Information About Eugenol

Eugenol has recently been found to be effective for rheumatism. It has also been found to be effective for combating pneumonia, bronchitis, colds, and flu. In a study with pregnant women, it was found to activate labor soon after the first pains were felt, as well as reducing labor pains. It has also been found to be a wonderful remedy for frigidity.

Molecular Formula: C10H12O2

Molecular Weight : 164.204 g/mol

Boiling Point: 489° F at 760 mm Hg, 225° Celsius

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