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 a variety of different ailments.
Ancient Greeks and Romans used clove bud essential oil to help ease toothache pain, a natural remedy that remains popular today.
However, this oil which makes up about 20 to 40 percent of the dried bud, offers plenty of 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.
Clove bud 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.
The 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 French explorer and botanist Pierre Poivre in 1770, which he planted in the Isle de France and Zanzibar, which later became the world’s largest producer of cloves.
The dried buds of the clove tree have been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years, not only in Chinese medicine but also in Ayurvedic medicine.
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Cloves have been discovered in ceramic vessels in Syria, placing the prized spice’s use at about 1721 BCE, and 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 further 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 (a member of the sunflower family), angelica, rosemary, camphor, and horehound, all 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, in the United States, clove cigarettes were legally classified 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 percent. Eugenol 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 damage caused by free radicals.
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 treat muscle aches.
Cinnamaldehyde is also a natural pain reliever that helps control inflammation, making it a good option for easing the inflammation-related pain.
In lab studies, carvacrol has been shown to kill some 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, as dietary use, not the essential oil, 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 should come as no surprise that the oil is one of the most important essentials for tackling a wide range of health concerns.
Relieves Dental Pain
For the past century, clove oil has been a go-to to treat pain associated with dentistry, especially to treat the discomfort associated with dry sockets.
A 2006 study appearing 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 toothache pain.
Because clove on its own can cause dental sensitivity, a few drops should be mixed with a carrier oil and applied with a cotton ball at 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 the pain of sore muscles.
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, which are classified as a superfood—can help prevent signs of aging, including fine lines, age spots, wrinkles and sagging skin.
In addition, the eugenol in cloves has been shown in studies to help protect skin against oxidative stress caused by free radicals from pollutants, cigarette smoke, and other toxins.
Maintains Healthy Blood Pressure
According to a 2005 study appearing in the British Journal of Pharmacology, the eugenol in clove oil may help major arteries dilate, allowing blood to flow through them more smoothly, maintaining healthy blood pressure. 4
In a time when there are so many different bacteria that have grown resistant to antibiotics, a natural solution is a welcome intervention. Clove bud oil has been shown to help fight certain bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains.
A study from the University of Buenos Aires found that clove essential oil effectively eliminated bot E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes pneumonia.
Maintains Healthy Immune System Function
In addition to improving digestive health, ensuring that the probiotics that make up the bulk of the immune system have a healthy environment in which to proliferate, researchers in India found that clove oil helped boost the immune response of red blood cells, protecting against infections in the blood and body tissue.
Supports Respiratory Health
Because clove bud oil acts as an anti-inflammatory, it can help relieve the symptoms associated with bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, and other respiratory problems.
It can be used in aromatically in a bath, room diffuser, or personal essential oil 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—has been shown to 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 soap or as part of a massage oil.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use clove oil, nor should individuals who are taking blood thinners.
If being used topically, clove essential oils should first be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut, almond, or jojoba 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.5
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 several ounces of water to create a gargle.
- Aromatherapy: Use clove bud essential oil in a diffuser or add a few drops to a water bottle with a spray cap to dispense the scent throughout the room. For an on the go option, inhale clove oil through a personal essential oil diffuser like Love MONQ.
- 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, cloves were used to stud oranges to create pomanders to scent homes for the holidays.
- The botanical name for clove means “nail,” which makes sense given the sharp tip on the end of its dried flower bud.
- According to records, officers in the Chinese army used clove oil to alleviate bad breath before they had to meet with the Emperor.
- The Dutch East India Company had control over nutmeg in the 17th century but 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 a range of health benefits when added into your daily routine. From relieving pain to alleviating stress, this essential oils deserves a spot in your collection.