If any essential oil could be classified as a superfood, it would be clove bud.
Packed with antioxidants and offering high levels of eugenol—one of the most volatile compounds plants can produce—clove bud essential oil has been used for centuries for many different ailments.
Ancient Greeks and Romans used clove bud essential oil to help remedy toothaches, a use that remains popular today.
However, this oil—which makes up about 20 to 40%—of the dried bud, offers many other health benefits, including supporting heart health and maintaining healthy immune system function.
Clove bud oil is derived from the clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum, an evergreen that also produces clove leaf and clove stem essential oil. Of the three, clove bud essential oil is the most popular. This essential oil, also known as Eugenia carophyllata, is so highly-prized because it takes 20 years for a clove tree to produce flowering buds, which are then dried in the sun before the oil is extracted.
Clove bud essential oil pairs well with citrus oils such as bergamot, orange, lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, and lime; spicy scents like basil, cinnamon bark, nutmeg, rosemary, and clary sage; members of the mint family, including peppermint; and florals such as lavender, geranium, rose, and ylang-ylang.
History of Clove Bud
Cloves are native to only a few islands of the Moluccas in Indonesia—once known as the Spice Islands for their abundance of exotic spices—including Bacan, Makian, Moti, Tidore, and Ternate, where experts believe the oldest clove tree in the world still stands.
Visitors to the tree are told that seedlings from the 400-year-old tree were stolen by the French explorer and botanist Pierre Poivre in 1770, which he planted in the Isle de France and Zanzibar, which became the world’s largest producers of cloves.
The dried buds of the clove tree have been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines.
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Cloves have been discovered in ceramic vessels in Syria, placing the prized spice’s use at about 1721 BCE. Additionally, Sinbad the Sailor, a character in the One Thousand and One Nights tales, bought and sold cloves in India, according to translations of the folktales.
During the Middle Ages, the clove trade was profitable, especially because clove oil was thought to prevent the spread of the bubonic plague in Europe because of its antibacterial properties. The formula for the essential oil treatment is believed to have come from Nostradamus, a physician who survived the plague, along with the individuals who worked for him.
The formula, called “Four Thieves” due to the four men who stole the prized formula and surprisingly survived the plague, is believed to contain cloves, wormwood, meadowsweet, juniper berries, wild marjoram, sage, elecampane root, angelica, rosemary, camphor, and horehound preserved in white wine vinegar.
Today, cloves are popular in cuisines around the world, from savory dishes including meats and marinades to desserts and beverages. Cloves are also used in cigarettes, known as kretek in Indonesia. In 2009, the U.S. legally classified these clove cigarettes as cigars.
Clove essential oil is steam distilled from the buds of the dried flowers, and the elixir is one of the most powerful essential oils because of its ability to alleviate pain, kill harmful bacteria, and boost mood.
These benefits come from the chemical compounds found in clove bud essential oil, some of which are highlighted below.
Eugenol is one of the main chemical components of clove bud oil, composing about 90%. Additionally, it offers powerful pain relief and has been used to treat dental pain for centuries.
Additionally, it has been shown to act as an antibacterial, with the ability to inhibit the growth of certain pathogens, making it an excellent addition to any oral care regimen.
Eugenol also acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage.
Clove bud essential oil offers additional pain relief because of methyl salicylate, a compound that acts as an analgesic. It was isolated in 1843 by French chemist Auguste André Thomas Cahours and is often used to remedy muscle aches.
Cinnamaldehyde is also a natural pain reliever that helps control inflammation, making it a good option for easing inflammation-related pain.
In lab studies, carvacrol has been shown to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Carvacrol also helps supports heart health.1
Thymol is a phenol that offers antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Clove oil also contains flavonoids, triterpenoids, and sesquiterpenes, as well as antioxidants. In addition, in their dietary rather than essential oil use, cloves are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium.
Uses for Clove Bud Essential Oil
Since the use of clove bud essential oil dates back at least 4,000 years, it’s no surprise that the oil is one of the most important for tackling a range of health concerns. Some of the health benefits of clove bud essential oil are highlighted below.
Relieves Dental Pain
For the past century, clove oil has been a go-to remedy for dental pain, especially to reduce the discomfort associated with dry sockets.
A 2006 study in the Journal of Dentistry found that clove oil was as effective as benzocaine, a topical used to numb the gum’s surface prior to injections of lidocaine. It can also be used at home to help ease tooth pain.
Because clove on its own can cause dental sensitivity, mix a few drops with a carrier oil, and use a cotton ball to apply the mixture to the source of pain.2
In addition to dental pain, clove oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits may make it an excellent natural option for easing muscle pain.
For those suffering from acne—about 17 million people in the United States—finding a solution that works is a priority. Clove bud oil could be a potential fix.
Researchers have found that clove bud essential oil has the ability to impede the growth of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, one of the bacterial strains linked to acne growth.
Reduces Signs of Aging
The high levels of antioxidants in clove oil—gram for gram, it contains 30 times more antioxidants than blueberries—can help prevent signs of aging, including fine lines, age spots, wrinkles, and sagging skin.
In addition, eugenol has been shown to protect the skin against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This includes pollutants, cigarette smoke, and other toxins.
Maintains Healthy Blood Pressure
According to a 2005 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology, eugenol may help major arteries dilate, allowing blood to flow through them more readily. This can help maintain healthy blood pressure.4
In a time when there are many bacteria that have grown resistant to antibiotics, a natural solution may be welcome. Clove bud oil has been shown to help fight certain types of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains.
A study from the University of Buenos Aires found that clove essential oil effectively eliminated both E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.5
Supports Respiratory Health
Because clove bud oil acts as an anti-inflammatory, it can help relieve the symptoms associated with some respiratory concerns.
It can be used aromatically in a bath, room diffuser, or personal diffuser for maximum benefits, as it acts as an expectorant, helping clear the lungs of mucus.
The aroma of clove oil—reminiscent of holidays, autumn, and baked goods from the oven—may lower stress, relieve fatigue, and reduce tension.
For stress-relieving effects, add a few drops to a warm bath or use clove oil in homemade massage oil.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use clove oil, nor should individuals who are taking blood thinners.
If you opt to use this essential oil topically make sure to dilute it in a carrier oil. Conduct a patch skin test to ensure that the essential oil does not result in an allergic reaction before applying it to larger areas of the body.6
How To Use Clove Bud Essential Oil
- Oral health: Add a drop of oil to your toothpaste at night to eradicate bacteria and promote oral health. Alternatively, use a drop of the oil at the site of a toothache or add a drop of oil to water to create a gargle.
- Aromatherapy: Use clove bud essential oil in a diffuser to dispense the scent throughout the room. For an on-the-go option, use clove oil in a personal diffuser like Cheer or Bright.
- Muscle pain: Add a few drops of clove oil to a carrier oil and massage onto affected areas.
Clove Fun Facts
- When America was being settled, individuals used cloves to stud oranges and create pomanders to scent homes for the holidays.
- The botanical name for clove means “nail.”
- According to records, Chinese army officers used clove oil to alleviate bad breath before meeting with the Emperor.
- The Dutch East India Company controlled nutmeg in the 17th century. However, because clove trees grew throughout the Moluccas, the company failed to monopolize the clove trade.
- Cloves are used to flavor the popular cookie butter Speculoos.
More than just a popular spice, clove essential oil can provide many health benefits when added to your routine. From relieving pain to alleviating stress, this essential oil deserves a spot in your collection.