Food and Nutrition

10 Powerful Benefits of Cloves—and How to Use Them for Cooking, Cleaning, and More

Photo: Stocksy / Canan Czemmel
When you stock up your spice rack, your first priority is probably to make sure the basics are covered: garlic powder, a little cayenne when you want a kick of heat, turmeric for your anti-inflammatory lattes, and, of course, salt and pepper. But, the next time you're on a mission to rebuild your inventory, you might consider adding another health-benefiting staple to your cart: cloves.

Cloves might not be a common ingredient in your recipes (yet!), but they're more than worthy of having a spot in your diet. The flower buds come from a type of tropical evergreen tree native to Indonesia and have been used for centuries in many different types of cuisines—a popular example being the Indian curries. They're also a notable ingredient in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, thanks to their many pain-relieving abilities. And the benefits don’t end there. The antioxidant-rich spice really packs a punch in the nutrition department and supports the body in many different ways including keeping blood sugar levels balanced, helping with inflammation, and supporting digestive discomfort.

Intrigued? We thought so. Here's exactly why you should give cloves a try.

10 Most Powerful Benefits of Cloves

1. Cloves can help regulate your hunger levels

Cloves are kind of magic because they can play a role in keeping your stomach from growling between meals. "For a spice, cloves have an impressive amount of fiber—a nutrient that can help regulate your hunger levels," says nutritionist Amy Gorin, RDN. "One teaspoon of cloves alone provides close to a gram of fiber."

2. Cloves can keep your blood sugar levels in check

Anyone who's watching their blood-sugar levels will be happy to know one great strategy for keeping things in order is to simply add cloves into their meals. "Cloves provide manganese, a mineral that can help regulate blood sugar levels," Gorin says. Pretty easy.

3. Cloves have antibacterial properties

Sure, chemical-free mouthwash (and fruit and green tea) is a great way to improve your oral hygiene—but it might work even better with the addition of cloves. "Clove oil has been investigated as an antibacterial agent, per preliminary research," Gorin says. "In one study, a mouth rinse containing clove, basil, and tea tree oil was found to help fight plaque and bacteria in the mouth." That's also why you'll find clove oil in plenty of popular toothpastes.

4. Cloves may alleviate tooth pain

One of the most notable potential pain-relieving benefits of cloves is their ability to help with toothaches due to the eugenol they contain, which acts as a natural antiseptic. In fact, one study found they work better at relieving pain, inflammation, wound healing, and infection than another common option.

5. Cloves may help with inflammation

Cloves are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Past studies have shown eating them on the daily could lead to major major benefits, and experts specifically recommend them for helping with arthritis. Using clove oil as a lotion or adding cloves into tea may also help combat the inflammation.

6. Cloves can help protect against aging

Cloves are also high in antioxidants, which Serena Poon, a celebrity chef, nutritionist, and reiki master, explains can help protect your body against the signs of aging. “The anti-inflammatory properties, epigenetic cues, and mitochondrial activity found in antioxidant-rich foods contribute to longevity and vitality,” she says. So, Poon adds, sprinkling cloves into smoothies, rice dishes, or desserts is an easy way to boost your antioxidant consumption.

7. Cloves can be used as a cough suppressant

If you feel a cough coming on, reach for some cloves. “In Ayurvedic medicine, cloves are also used to suppress a cough by relaxing the throat muscles,” Poon says. To do so, she recommends chewing on the cloves directly (but don’t swallow them). You can also brew them into a tea and serve with honey. Pro tip: Poon suggests adding manuka honey for added antibacterial and antiviral benefits.

8. Cloves can work as insect repellent

If you’re an insect magnet (as in, you’re prone to getting bug bites), you’ll definitely want to keep cloves handy because insects such as mosquitoes, ants, and wasps hate cloves. “Researchers have found that a compound in cloves [called] eugenol is an effective agent for killing insects and larvae,” Poon says. “A spray bottle of diluted clove oil might serve as an effective natural pest control for your home.”

9. Cloves may support skin health

Cloves as skincare? Yes, it’s true. According to Poon, topical applications of clove oil may support skin health too. “Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, clove oil is a promising solution for relieving inflammation in the skin,” she says. “Cloves also possess antibacterial properties, which can make it useful for treating acne caused by bacteria.” Just remember to test the oil on a small patch of skin first to ensure it doesn’t cause a reaction.

10. Cloves help heal digestive discomfort

Using cloves to ease digestive problems is a common practice in Ayurvedic medicine. “Cloves are said to relax the stomach lining and are used to relieve nausea, gas, and vomiting,” Poon says. To reap the benefits, Poon recommends brewing a tea with cloves and ginger. Then sip and enjoy.

Nutritional Value of Cloves

1 tbsp of ground cloves contains approximately:

  • 18 calories
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2.2 grams of fiber
  • .15 grams of sugar
  • .4 grams of protein
  • 1.3 grams of fat
  • 40.5 mg of calcium
  •  9 mcg of vitamin K
  • 1.9 mg of manganese
  • .573 mg of vitamin E
  • .081 mg of vitamin B6
  • 6 mcg of folate

The Risks of Cloves

While it's clear that cloves offer a whole host of potential benefits, just like with many things in life, if you overdo it, problems can ensue. Basically, moderation being key is at play with cloves. "If you make a batch of muffins with cloves in them and have a couple, you should be fine," Gorin says. If you're ingesting "high amounts," on the other hand—which isn't clearly defined and should be clarified with a health professional—you could be putting yourself at risk.

"I would actually recommend speaking with your doctor or medical team before adding cloves in medicinal doses and/or clove oil to your diet. There can be potential risks to consuming larger amounts of cloves," Gorin adds. "Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking clove oil or clove in medicinal doses. In children, clove oil may cause seizures, liver damage, or fluid imbalances. And because clove oil contains eugenol, which may slow blood clotting, the National Library of Medicine recommends people should avoid clove oil or cloves in medicinal doses at least two weeks before surgery, and people with bleeding disorders should avoid it completely. Also, the application of clove oil in the mouth or gums may cause damage to the mouth."

Cloves can also have negative interactions with medications. "There may also be interactions with clove oil/medicinal doses of cloves with medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and warfarin, so I'd recommend speaking with your doctor before adding a high amount of cloves to your diet," Gorin explains.

9 Ways To Use Cloves

Now that you’re in on all the benefits and risks of cloves, you’re probably thinking: “Sounds great! But, how do I actually use cloves?” Ahead, find some creative ideas to get you started.

The benefits of cloves—supports anti-aging, benefits skin health, helps regulate hunger levels, and more—definitely make it worthy of a spot in your pantry. Plus, with so many creative ways you can incorporate cloves into your diet (or skincare routine or home), you won’t tire of reaching for it.

1. Put cloves in your chai tea

One simple way to reap the benefits of cloves is to add them into your tea—chai in particular. Ayurvedic practitioners say cloves are especially great for the kapha dosha thanks to their "clearing and purifying nature."

2. Use cloves as a natural cleaner

Because of the antibacterial properties of cloves, they work great as a natural cleaner. Grab them in essential oil-form and add some drops into water—along with your other good-smelling favorites—to help disinfect the surfaces in your home.

3. Add cloves into your smoothies

One quick way to add flavor into your smoothie is with cloves. "I have a pumpkin smoothie I love that uses ground cloves and other warming spices, such as nutmeg," Gorin says.

4. Use cloves as an air freshener

If you're a fan of stovetop potpourri, cloves make the perfect addition with their heavy spicy scent. Combine a few cloves with a couple sticks of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla to fill your home with a comforting aroma.

5. Use cloves in your baked goods

Adding cloves into your baked goods instantly amps up the cozy vibes. "I find the warm spiciness of cloves very lovely," says Gorin. "I like to use it in my muffins."

6. Make a pomander

Making a pomander, or as Poon calls them “aromatic ornaments,” is another fun way you can make your home smell amazing using cloves. “These balls release a natural, invigorating scent that can uplift your space and energy,” she says.

To make it, you’ll need an orange and a bag of whole cloves. “Stick the cloves into your orange, one by one,” Poon says. “You can either fill the entire outside of the orange or create a design.”

7. Dress up desserts with clove syrup

Yes, clove syrup is also a thing. Here’s how to make it: Simmer down water with sugar and other spices to create a syrup consistency, Poon says. Then use it to top ice cream, desserts, or even cocktails.

8. Make mulled wine

Cultivate all the festive vibes during the winter months by making mulled wine at home, which Poon says typically contains many different spices, including cloves. “Use caution when cooking wine on your stove at home; these recipes take a lot of care to get just right,” she warns.

9. Make Indian biryani

Indian biryani is a mixed rice dish that features a medley of spices, including cloves. “Common spices for biryani include coriander, cumin, cloves, anise, and saffron—just to name a few,” Poon says. “These spices can enliven your rice dishes and give them an added health supportive quality.”

 

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