Food and Nutrition

How to Use the Benefits of Cloves and to up Your Spice Game

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
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, OG 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. Here's exactly why you should give them a try.

5 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, huh?

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, would 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.

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," she 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," she explains.

5 ways to use cloves

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."

These spices will help you cook like a chef. Or, find out the benefits of the licorice-like spice, anise.

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