Clove is a spice that is used both in Chinese and Indian food. It is an ingredient of Chinese five-spice powder and Indian garam masala. It also is an ingredient in the four-spice popular powder used in French cuisine.

The plant is an evergreen tree indigenous to Indonesia, its biggest producer. Other regions that produce cloves are Madagascar, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka.

It is the aromatic flower buds of the tree that is used as a spice. The flowers are grouped in terminal clusters and harvested just before they open. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink in color. The buds are dried in the sun until they turn brown. They are kept in the shade at night to protect them from moisture.

The cloves have a hard exterior but are fleshy inside. The buds’ essential oil makes for the clove’s fleshiness and is the source of both nutrition and flavor. The spice has a warm, sweet, aromatic, and slightly peppery taste.

Eugenol is the active component found in cloves. It is used globally by dentists in root canal therapy, temporary fillings, gum pain, and a mild anesthetic and antibacterial agent. The species is also used in toothpaste, mouthwashes, and chewing gum.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the spice is said to possess anti-fungal, anti-cholera, and anti-diarrheal properties. A poultice made from cloves provides relief in cases of cracked nipples and insect and scorpion bites. Clove helps relieve indigestion.

Anti-microbial clove effects were observed in experiments conducted on soft cheese and other food (Leuschner et al., 2003). The anti-fungal properties of spice essential oils that included cloves have been demonstrated in experiments conducted on bakery products (Guynot et al., 2003).

The local anesthesia property of clove essential oil has been demonstrated in experiments (Alqareer et al., 2006).

Additional reading:

  1. Asian herbs and their wondrous  health-giving properties
  2. Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants

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