Cloves’ many medicinal uses have been most famously applied to toothache, and for mouth and throat inflammation (2).More than just a counterirritant though, the German Commission E Monographs list cloves as having antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties (1) (4).
What is behind cloves’ various properties? One of the main constituents of clove oil (eugenol) exhibits broad antimicrobial activities against both Gram-positive, Gram-negative and acid-fact bacteria, as well as fungi (3) (7). Cloves are well known also for their anti-emetic (relieves nausea and vomiting) and carminative properties (3) (5) (6) (17).
The oldest apparent medicinal use of cloves was in China, where it is reported that they were taken for various ailments as early as 240BC. Cloves were taken over the centuries for diarrhea, most liver, stomach and bowel ailments, and as a stimulant for the nerves (8).
Traditionally cloves have been used to treat flatulence, nausea and vomiting (2) (9). In tropical Asia cloves have been given to treat such diverse infections as malaria, cholera and tuberculosis, as well as scabies (10). Traditional uses in America include treating worms, viruses, candida, various bacterial and protozoan infections (11).
Laboratory tests on cloves identify eugenol as being the possible reason for the antimicrobial actions, and confirm cloves’ effectiveness in inhibiting food-borne pathogens as well as other bacteria and fungi (12). The volatile oil of cloves (about 85-92% eugenol) was highly active against a range of test microorganisms, being classified as bactericidal in nature (13).
Cloves are generally regarded as safe when taken orally and appropriately for medicinal uses, and as a short-term topical application. Cloves are regarded as unsafe when inhaled, and clove cigarettes contain properties more damaging than many tobacco varieties. It is generally accepted that cloves are safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding in quantities commonly found in foods.
- Blumenthal M, et. al. ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council, 1998.
- Jellin JM, Batz F, Hitchens K. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Third Edition. Stockton, California: Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2000.
- Lueng AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. Second Edition. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons, 1996.
- Gruenwald J, et.al. PDR for Herbal Medicines. First Edition. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, Inc., 1998.
- The British Pharmacopoeia (2001), Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London.
- British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1996). Fourth Edition. British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee, West Yorks, England.
- Bisset NG. ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Translated from Second Edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1994.
- Gordon L. A Country Herbal. Devon, England: Webb & Bower (Publishers) Ltd. 1980.
- Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy Phytochemistry Medicinal Plants. Second Edition as Translated by Caroline K. Hatton. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing, 1999.
- Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Revised Edition. Sydney, Australia: Dorling Kindersley. 2001.
- Duke JA, et. al. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Second Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 2002.
- De M, Krishna De A, Banerjee AB. Antimicrobial screening of some Indian spices. Phytother Res. 1999 Nov; 13 (7): 616-8.
- Dorman HJD, Deans SG. Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils. J Appl Microbiol 2000, 88; 308-316.