What are cloves?

Cloves are small, dried, flower buds from an evergreen tree, that have a distinct taste that is similar to cinnamon but with more spice. They can be bought ground or whole to be used in cooking or baking, and are often used alongside other herbs such as nutmeg and cinnamon. You may be more familiar with them around the colder months or Christmas, as they are often used in recipes such as mulled wine and baked ham.


Nutritional profile of cloves

Cloves contain a good mix of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, calcium and vitamin A (beta-carotene). Being a spice, their calorie count is negligible.

Top 5 benefits of clove

1. They're anti-inflammatory

Cloves contain phytonutrients called eugenol and isoeugenol, and some research has shown that they can offer a powerful anti-inflammatory effect which may be beneficial in preventing chronic diseases.

2.They're an antimicrobial

Cloves have been found to have strong antimicrobial properties against a number of bacterial and fungal strains including E Coli, Staph aureus and potentially vaginal candidiasis.

3. They're a natural painkiller

Cloves have long been used as a natural painkiller, dating back to the 13th century, for conditions including toothache. This again is thanks to eugenol which is a natural anaesthetic. You can use clove oil or even buy a clove mouthwash to reap its numbing benefits.

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4. May offer anticancer benefits

There have been several studies looking into the anticancer properties of eugenol and suggest it may have some benefits in both cervical and oesophageal cancer. N.B. In these studies, it is used in a very concentrated dose, and can be toxic if used in high amounts.

5. May help protect the liver

Conditions such as fatty liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver may benefit from cloves, as research suggests improvement in both conditions.

6. May help balance blood sugars

Another compound found in cloves, called nigricin, has been tested in animal models and found to be of benefit to blood sugars and those who are insulin resistant. More research is need, but this may offer some benefits to those with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and diabetes in due course.

Can you be allergic to cloves?

Yes, someone can be allergic to cloves, or clove oil, although this is quite rare.

If you experience a mild allergic reaction, such as tingling mouth or tongue, or coughing, then go to see your GP to seek advice. Very rarely it may produce an anaphylaxis reaction, which is a severe allergic reaction, and requires immediate medical attention.

Cloves recipes to try

Spiced apple syrup with clementine & cloves
Gingerbread cookies
Homemade pumpkin pie spice
Hot toddy
Nutmeg & orange Christmas coffee
Stem ginger & mustard glazed ham

This article was published on 29 November 2021.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


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