Herb Spotlight: Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)

Cloves, a popular cooking spice and important Ayurvedic herb, are the dried flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, originally native to Indonesia. It is called lavaṃga in Sanskrit.

The very distinctive flavor and aroma of clove buds comes mainly from the compound eugenol, which constitutes up to 90% of the essential oil of clove. Eugenol is also present in and contributes much to the flavor, aroma and medicinal properties of Tulsi, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Bay leaf.

As an Ayurvedic herb, Cloves act as a strong kaphahara (herbs which reduce the kapha dosha) and also bring balance to the vata dosha. While being gently warming, increasing the circulation and metabolism and stimulating agni (digestive fire), it does not generally aggravate the pitta dosha unless taken in excess.

It is an astringent herb with a distinctive pungent taste, classified according to the following properties:

  • antiseptic (anti-microbial)
  • anaesthetic (pain-relieving)
  • carminative (gas-relieving)
  • antispasmodic (cramp-relieving)
  • antiemetic (nausea-relieving)
  • expectorant (congestion-relieving)

Modern medicinal research has focused on investigating the powerful potential of Cloves for pain-relief, including toothaches, reducing oral pathogens and gingivitis and boosting insulin and lowering blood sugar in people with diabetic conditions, among other potential uses.

The beneficial properties of Cloves come in many different forms: it can be used in cooking or as a beverage spice or in tea, as a powder, and as an essential oil, either applied by itself or used in multi-herb formulas in toothpastes, mouthwashes, massage oils or balms and throat lozenges.

Cloves as a cooking spice

Though cloves are often used in cooking to impart a pleasant flavor and fragrance to many dishes, from main courses like meat, rice and lentil dishes to sweets and desserts and even teas, using cloves as a spice in cooking has other more practical benefits as well.

Since cloves act powerfully to reduce the heavy kapha dosha, balance the vata dosha and stimulate agni (digestive fire), they are commonly added to heavier, difficult-to-digest dishes like meats, beans & lentils.

These properties also make it well-suited as a winter-time spice when the cold kapha and vata doshas are more active in the environment and heavier dishes are consumed more often. It also makes an excellent addition to winter-time teas and other seasonal warm beverages, especially if suffering from typical cold or flu symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, cough and congestion.

As modern medical research turns its attention to cloves’ potential to boost insulin and lower blood sugar levels, it is easy to see why it has been traditionally used in starch-heavy dishes like rice and in sweets and desserts as well.

Clove oil

In addition to using whole as a cooking spice, cloves are also often used in essential oil form, containing up to 90% eugenol. While the oil alone does have some use as an anaesthetic in dental applications and in veterinary medicine (fish anaesthesia!), in Ayurveda it is often used in multi-herb formulas for diverse applications. It can even be used as an effective mosquito repellant!

As clove oil does have general pain-relieving properties, many Ayurvedic medicated balms, massage oils and lozenges contain clove oil, useful in various conditions such as headache, migraine, arthritis, back & joint pain and sore throat.

In addition to its general ability to soothe pain, cloves are often cited specifically for relief of toothaches. Since they also freshen breath and have strong antiseptic, antibacterial properties, it functions as an important herb in Ayurvedic dental care, and finds its place in many Ayurvedic toothpaste and mouthwash formulas. Cloves are a very important part of Auromere’s Toothpaste and Mouthwash 23-herb, Ayurvedic herbal blend!

Whether used as a spice or essential oil, or in your favorite daily toothpaste and mouthwash, cloves have an abundance of beneficial properties according to Ayurvedic wisdom, and in case you weren’t aware of them before, we do hope this article has been helpful.

***With all best wishes for your health and wellness from Auromere***

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