Sweet and a little spicy, cloves are an autumn spice staple. Harvested from evergreen trees native to South America and Asia, cloves have historically been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines. Since they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, ground clove and clove oil are gaining popularity for their holistic healing abilities.
Clove Nutritional Information
Cloves are dried flowers that are found year-round in grocery and health food stores. They typically come ground or whole, and they’re used in both sweet and savory food applications. Although they’ve been used in Eastern medicine for centuries, cloves have recently been studied more thoroughly regarding their medicinal properties when it comes to Western medicine.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2.1 grams (roughly one teaspoon) of ground cloves contain:
- Calories: 6
- Protein: 0.13 grams
- Fat: 0.27 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1.38 grams
- Fiber: 0.7 grams
Cloves are also a great source of manganese, with one serving of ground cloves providing 67% of the recommended daily intake. Manganese helps produce and regulate the enzymes that repair your bones and produce hormones. This mineral also acts as an antioxidant to protect your body from free radicals that can cause cancer.
Let’s explore some of the benefits this incredible spice has to offer.
Benefits of Clove
1. Has Antibacterial Properties
Clove oil has been found to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. In a 2012 study, clove essential oil killed three common types of bacteria, including E. coli (the bacteria that can cause food poisoning). In an older study, clove essential oil stopped the growth of two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease. This particular study concluded that – in conjunction with proper oral hygiene and regular brushing – clove oil could benefit your oral health.
2. May Improve Liver Function
Eugenol is the compound that makes up the vast majority of clove oil, and it may help improve liver function. In one study, rats with fatty liver disease were fed clove oil. Results showed improved liver function, less inflammation, and decreased oxidative stress. Similarly, another study found that eugenol helped reverse signs of liver cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease that leads to permanent scarring. While both of these studies were on rats, there is promise that the results can translate to human subjects.
3. Soothes Peptic Ulcers
The lining of your stomach protects the outside of your stomach and surrounding organs from the harsh acid inside. When this lining – called gastric mucus – wears thin, you develop a stomach or peptic ulcer. Ulcers can be caused by a combination of things, including stress, genetics, and some gastrointestinal infections. These ulcers are usually treated with over-the-counter or prescription ulcer medication, but one study concluded that clove extract helped just as much as medication in increasing gastric mucus (stomach lining). Be sure to speak with your doctor before potentially skipping any prescribed medication, though!
4. Aids Blood Sugar Regulation
Clove oil may help people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels. Research suggests that clove oil can help reduce blood sugar, both before and after meals. A 2019 study found that ingesting clove oil after eating helped lower glucose levels in people without diabetes. More research is needed on people with diabetes, but these first results seem promising.
5. Is Full of Nutrients
Besides a healthy dose of manganese, clove offers significant nutritional benefits. The spice contains 4% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin K (supports heart and vascular health); 3% of the RDI of vitamin C; and small amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. It’s also a good source of fiber. In addition, vitamin C and eugenol, both great antioxidants, have been shown to help slow the development of chronic disease.
6. May Promote Bone Health
Because of their high eugenol content, a mineral that promotes bone health, cloves may also support the health of your bones! One animal study in 2011 found that clove oil not only improved many of the markers of osteoporosis (a degenerative bone condition) but also increased bone density and strength. Like many of the studies involving clove oil, these studies haven’t been conducted with humans, so more information is needed.
7. Measures High in Antioxidants
According to a 2012 article from Today’s Dietitian, “just 1/2 teaspoon of ground clove is said to contain more antioxidants than 1/2 cup of blueberries.” In several different studies, scientists found that clove extract helped to slow the growth of colon cancer cells and breast cancer cells in humans ‒ and clove oil has been found to slow the growth of tumors in mice significantly.
8. Acts as an Insect Repellant
Looking for an essential oil bug spray? Clove oil might be your answer. Eugenol is a powerful insecticide. She advises to simply spray clove oil directly on household pests or to place whole, dried cloves in spots around the home where pests are most common.
Cooking with Clove
Cloves lend themselves to a wide variety of recipes and cooking techniques. Check out these recipes that utilize the unique spice.
From IIN Grad Annika Schimmer
- 1/2 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
- 1 banana
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Combine coconut milk, banana, coconut oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla in blender until smooth.
- In a separate medium-size bowl, combine remaining ingredients using a whisk.
- Add flour/spice mixture to the liquid mixture and blend until smooth.
- Pour batter into an 8” x 8” pan and bake for 30 minutes in the middle of the oven.
- Let it cool, cut into squares, and enjoy!
Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry
From IIN Grad Mandy Karlsson
For the curry:
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander
For the garam masala:
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 200°F.
- Place whole, unpeeled butternut squash in oven. If it’s on the larger side, cut it in half.
- Bake squash 30‒40 minutes (depending on size), until soft.
- Rinse chickpeas with cold water.
- Make the curry: Heat a large pan with coconut oil and add onion. Let it brown; then add the garlic, chickpeas, vegetable stock, tomatoes, and spices. Stir and let simmer.
- Remove squash from oven, peel it, and slice into small pieces.
- Add squash to curry, and let it all simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the sauce has become thick.
- Serve with coconut- or goat-milk yogurt and fresh coriander on a bed of quinoa.
Paleo Pumpkin Bread
From IIN Grad Emily Claire Clarke
- 1-1/2 cups blanched almond flour
- 2/3 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda/sodium bicarbonate
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 4 large pastured eggs
- 3/4 cup (approximately half a can) canned organic pumpkin (not pumpkin filling)
- 1/4 cup organic grade B maple syrup
- 1 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a medium-size loaf pan with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine dry ingredients until all parts are evenly distributed.
- Add eggs one at a time and mix well.
- Slowly add remaining wet ingredients until combined. There should be no visible pockets of dry ingredients remaining.
- Pour mixture into loaf pan.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry.
- Allow to cool for one hour before slicing and serving.
The Bottom Line
Besides making a flavorful addition to soups, stews, roasts, curries, desserts, and teas, cloves have been shown to offer significant medicinal properties. While more research is needed, cloves seem to offer a wide variety of solutions to inflammatory, bacterial, and fungal issues ‒ and even ward off unwanted critters. It’s important to note that essential oil toxicity is always a concern when ingesting extracts, so be sure to consult with your doctor before using any essential oils.