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Cloves are one of the most widely used spices in the world due to its availability in the market throughout the year. Clove is a tiny brown coloured spice, about 1 to 2-inch long and 1 to 4-inch in diameter with a narrow stem. It is known for a pleasant aroma and sharp taste. A clove is basically a flower bud of a tree and is commonly found on the islands in Indonesia, Maluku to be specific. Their commercial harvesting takes place in various parts of the world including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Tanzania.

 The word 'clove' is derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail. The name refers to the nail-like shape of the clove as well as the size of clove buds Indonesia is the native place of cloves and now they are widely cultivated in East African regions. Clove is majorly consumed by the Asian countries. In fact, it has long since been used in Asian cultures. In 200 BC, Chinese courtiers would keep a clove in their mouths as a mouth freshener while addressing their emperor as a token of respect. Then in the 4th century, cloves were brought to Europe by Arab traders.

The exotic and spicy clove flavour can be easily identified in food items. Cloves also have a lot of medicinal uses. It is commonly used for curing toothaches and other dental related issues. All the parts of this plant including, leaves, dried flower buds, stems, and clove oil are used for making various medicines. Due to their strong aroma and nutritional properties, they are also used in the manufacturing of cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste and perfumes. 'Kreteks' are a type of clove cigarettes that are also available in the market.

Cloves can be grown indoors as well in temperate regions. They demand a specific type of humid tropical and subtropical climate to grow. Also, clove plant requires extensive care to grow and survive. Cloves provide a unique, warm and sweet taste to dishes like gingerbread and pumpkin pie. They also provide an addition to split pea and bean soups, baked beans and chilies. They can easily combat nasty odours in a household as their oils have freshening properties.  

Some basic facts about cloves (laung):

  • Scientific name: Syzygium aromaticum
  • Family Name: Myrtaceae
  • Common name: Clove in English, Laung in Hindi
  • Sanskrit name: लवङ्गम् (Lavangam)
  • Native Regional and geographical distribution: Cloves are native to the Moluccas Island of Indonesia. Asian countries have always been higher consumers of clove that too for more than 2,000 years. The traders of Arab brought cloves to Europe around the 4th century. The major cultivations have always been in Indonesia but today the lead is in the hands of East Africa, Zanzibar region. The commercial growth of cloves takes place in countries like India, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Pakistan, Pemba and Brazil.
  • Interesting facts:  For centuries, cloves have been one of the world's most valuable and expensive commodities due to their richness in taste and nutrition. In the 17th and 18th centuries, cloves were worth their weight in gold in Britain, because of the high prices for their import.
  1. Cloves nutrition facts
  2. Health benefits of cloves
  3. Storing cloves
  4. Side effects of cloves
  5. Takeaway

Cloves are a powerhouse of nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals. The phytonutrient compounds along with traditional nutrients make it a highly recommended spice for nutritional purposes. It also disseminates vitamin K, manganese, and calcium that helps in improving bone health. Additionally, clove is a good source of iron and it is filled with minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and sodium.

The nutritional value of cloves per 100 g according to the USDA Nutrient Database is as follows.

Nutrients Value per 100g
Water 9.87 g
Energy 274kcal
Fats 13.00g
Carbohydrate 65..53 g
Fibre 33.9 g
Sugars 2.38 g

 

Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 632mg
Iron 11.83mg
Zinc 2.32mg
Magnesium 259 mg
Phosphorus 104 mg
Potassium 1020 mg
Sodium 277 mg

 

Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin A 8 µg
Vitamin B 1 0.158 mg
Vitamin B 2 0.220 mg
Vitamin B 3 1.560 mg
Vitamin C 0.2 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.391 mg
Folate 25 mg
Vitamin E 8.82mg
Vitamin K 141.8 µg

 

Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 3.952 g
Monounsaturated 1.393 g
Polyunsaturated 3.606 g

Cloves deliver many health benefits and are often used in Ayurvedic medicines. Laung has essential oil named eugenol which is very useful in alleviating various ailments. Eugenol is a phenylpropanoids class of chemical compound which is also responsible for aromatic fragrances to the flower-bud. Let us explore some health benefits of cloves.

Cloves are a powerhouse of antioxidants

Cloves contain a component known as eugenol which is a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants are very important to protect the human body from free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). DNA, proteins, and lipids may be severely damaged because of ROS effects.

Clove bud helps in scavenging these free radical thus protecting the biomolecules against metal ion induced oxidation.

In vitro studies suggest that eugenol is more effective in stopping the oxidative damage caused by free radicals as compared to vitamin E or any other potent antioxidant.

Antioxidants also help protect against diseases caused by oxidative stress like diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. A study conducted on animal models showed that pre-treatment with clove essential oils decreased the oxidative stress and reduced glutathione levels in the brain. This leads to an improved memory and cognition. The research study published in the journal “Flavour and Fragrance” considered clove as the best natural antioxidant. Cloves also contain Vitamin C which is another antioxidant compound that can help in neutralizing the radicals.

(Read more: Antioxidant rich food)

Clove as an anti-inflammatory

Other than being an antioxidant, eugenol, the primary component of clove's volatile oils also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. In a preclinical study, it was seen that the addition of clove extract to diets already high in anti-inflammatory components provided quicker relief from inflammatory symptoms. The presence of eugenol in higher amounts also helps in the reduction of pain associated with oedema (swelling due to fluid accumulation in tissue).

Furthermore, cloves also consist of a variety of flavonoids such as kaempferol and rhamnetin which contribute to its anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) potential

Cloves antibacterial properties

Cloves exhibit potent antibacterial properties against a number of human pathogens. The extracts of clove bud/extract/oil are powerful enough to kill some common infectious bacteria including Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus aureus. Clove extracts are also effective in killing specific bacteria that spread cholera.

According to a study, clove essential oil is potent in killing Escherichia coli. It is basically a bacteria that is responsible for causing problems like cramps, diarrhoea, and fatigue. Earlier lab studies suggest that extracts from clove bud are useful against gram-negative bacteria like Enterobacter, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella typhi.

Cloves for a healthy liver

Due to the richness of antioxidant properties in cloves, they are the perfect spices for protecting the organs from the effects of free radicals, especially the liver.

In an animal-based study clove oil and eugenol have been claimed to be helpful in relieving fatty liver disease along with improving liver function. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which is also known as NAFLD is one of the most common causes of liver dysfunction these days. Natural products like clove are increasingly being considered for the treatment of such problems. A study suggested that Syzygium Simile leaves (SSL) can reduce the uptake and accumulation of fats by the liver. Thus, cloves can be used in the anti-NAFLD therapies.

Cloves for toothache

Cloves are one of the most common home remedies for toothache. It has been suggested that eugenol has anaesthetic properties and is responsible for getting rid of the pain. Being an antibacterial, cloves are effective in the treatment of gum-related diseases and problems such as gingivitis and periodontitis. To relieve pain, an entire clove bud is pressed onto the tooth that is affected by the infection. Cloves are used for preparing various formulations like mouthwashes, toothpaste, topical gels etc. In case of severe pain, crushed cloves or clove oil seems more effective. Cloves also help in getting rid of bad breath.

Cloves for immunity

There are various plants which can help in developing the immunity level in a person. Clove is one such plant. There are certain compounds in the dried flower bud of clove which help in increasing the count of the white blood cells which in turn makes us resist foreign agents and diseases. However, animal-based studies suggest that clove oil can reduce the cell-mediated immunity which is detrimental to the health.

(Read more: Immunity boosting foods)

Clove for bone health

Low bone density can lead to osteoporosis, which may cause breaks and fractures in bones. Some of the compounds in cloves like phenolic and eugenol grants preservation in bone density and increases the tensile strength of bones. Thus, regular use of clove can be helpful for patients suffering from osteoporosis.

Cloves are a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, and phosphorus. Minerals are of utter importance for the growth of bones and bone health. According to a study, when manganese supplements were consumed for 12 weeks they resulted in an increase in bone mineral density and its growth. Since it was an animal study, further research is required to evident similar effects in human bones.

Cloves for diabetes

Regular consumption of clove can help in maintaining blood sugar levels. People suffering from diabetes may go through either lower levels of insulin or no insulin at all. Various compounds present in cloves emulate insulin which leads to controlled blood sugar levels.

A preclinical study showed how the extracts of cloves moderated blood sugar spikes. The presence of Nigericin has also been suggested to improve insulin secretion by the pancreatic cells.

Clove has anticancer properties

Cloves are amongst the many spices that have potent anticancerous properties. Cell damage is one of the primary reasons for cancer. Clove has a number of antioxidants that can prevent cell damage. The eugenol that is found in clove is also an effective anti-cancer agent. In a study, it was seen that eugenol played a positive role in the treatment of cervical cancer. Another test tube study showed that concentrated quantities of clove oil were responsible for the death of cancerous cells in cases of oesophagal cancer.

Cloves are amongst the most easily available spices worldwide. The correct way to store it is in an enclosed space, to be specific an airtight jar where there is no space for moisture to maintain their freshness. It is wise to store a whole clove bud than the crushed or powdered clove as they tend to lose their strength with the passage of time.

  • Cloves are known to reduce the blood sugar levels in the body. So, if you have low blood sugar levels or are a diabetic on medication, it is best to avoid clove.
  • If you are on any kind of prescribed medicine, it is best that you talk to a doctor before adding cloves to your regular diet.
  • Clove cigarettes can be harmful to health. Frequent consumptions of clove cigarettes can cause numerous respiratory issues such as shortness of breath and lung infection.

Cloves have so many health benefits but they are excellent for oral health. It is advisable to include them as a part of your diet. They can be easily included in tea, dishes, chutneys, etc.

However, it is best to consume them in moderation. If you are on any kind of prescribed medicine, it is advisable that you talk to your doctor before adding cloves to your diet.

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