Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is a tree native to Indonesia. Its dried flower buds are utilised in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Medicine is made from dried flower buds, leaves, and stems. Clove is one of my favourite spices to use in cooking.
Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and have been used as a spice all over the world for many centuries. Cloves are harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
You may have heard about the effect that cloves have on toothache; the oil in particular has a numbing effect on mouth tissues such as the gums and help to soothe nerves of teeth that are affected by toothache. What you may be less familiar with is that even in the tiniest of concentrations, clove oil is a very powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal agent.
The main compound that is the effective antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic is eugenol that comprises up to 90% of the essential oil extracted from cloves. Eugenol is the compound most responsible for the strong medicinal effects as well as for the characteristic aroma of cloves.
The good thing is that even commercially available clove oil has been analysed by scientists and found to have a high concentration of eugenol (over 80%), and it is cheap and readily available. But you must take care when using clove oil! You will be able to read more about caution when using clove oil further ahead.
There are numerous studies from India and Asia that have revealed the yeast suppressing and yeast killing effect of cloves in both the oral cavity as well as in the digestive tract. Clove tea, made by steeping the dried buds in boiling water can help to ease nausea and indigestion. Tincture of cloves as well as oil of cloves helps to heal many types of fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm.
A laboratory study in 2009 has found clove oil and its active component to be effective anti-fungal agents against Candida and other fungal pathogens Researchers at the University of Porto, Portugal, studied the composition and anti-fungal activity of clove essential oil. The researchers found that both whole clove oil and eugenol showed inhibitory activity against all the fungal strains tested. They discovered that yeast cells were ruptured and even died due to the damage inflicted by cloves, but even better news was that they discovered that cloves almost entirely prevented the production of hyphae by candida albicans. (Hyphae are branching filaments that extend out from the cells of candida albicans and other fungi and can penetrate tissues in the body). It is these hyphae that are know to penetrate the walls of the small intestine and are known to contribute to an increase in intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome).
The conclusion from the Portuguese research was that cloves and eugenol in particular have demonstrated a considerable anti-fungal activity against many fungal strains, including candida Albicans (including fluconazole resistant yeast strains) and that clove deserves much further investigation into its use into the clinical applications for a wide variety of yeast infections.
It is impressive that clove oil is effective against fungal strains that have become resistant to fluconazole (Diflucan), one of the most common and well known of the anti-fungal drugs your doctor will use. One of the biggest benefits of clove is that it is cost effective and when appropriately used is virtually side effect free when compared to the commonly used azole drugs.
Reference: Pinto E Vale-Silva L Cavaleiro C Salgueiro L (2009) Antifungal activity of the clove essential oil from Syzygium aromaticum (Eugenia caryophyllus) on Candida, Aspergillus and dermatophyte species
Spices like cloves have long been known to possess medicinal value, in particular, antimicrobial and anti-fungal activity. An Indian study was completed in 1999 that compared the sensitivity of some human pathogenic bacteria and yeasts to various spice extracts and commonly employed antibacterial and anti-fungal drugs. Of the different spices tested, garlic and cloves were found to possess the main antimicrobial and anti-fungal activity.
The bactericidal effect of garlic extract was apparent within 1 hour of incubation and 93% killing of Staphylococcus and Salmonella was achieved within 3 hours. Yeasts were totally killed in 1 hour by garlic extract but it took 5 hours with clove. The interesting thing is that in this study some bacteria showing resistance to certain antibiotics were highly sensitive to extracts of both garlic and clove. When Nystatin was trialed against garlic, it was discovered that garlic as well as cloves have a greater anti-candida activity than Nystatin. This study has once again showed that commonly used household spices might have a greater potential to be used as antimicrobial agents than is commonly thought.
Reference: Arora, D. S., et al. Antimicrobial activity of spices. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 12(3):257-262, 1999.Department of Microbiology, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India
Internally: (caps) Take one capsule (of a compound dietary supplement formulation containing dried clove bud amongst other herbs, spices, vitamins, etc.) daily with meals, build up to two or three daily with meals.
CAUTION: Take clove in a dietary supplement that contains a very small percentage. I do NOT recommend the use of straight clove oil orally (unless you use it on a cotton bud or tip applied to your gum or tooth when you have a toothache) because liquid clove oil is a known hepatotoxin (toxic to the liver) and it is an inhibitor of blood clotting. Make sure you take clove either in the form of a candida dietary supplement (which contains several other ingredients and clove is NOT the primary ingredient, it is a minute amount) or in the form of a clove tea which you can at times get from your health-food shop.
Any product containing clove will be strong, so just like when starting out with garlic or oregano, start with small amounts!
Externally: (use the liquid essential oil or make clove tea)
CAUTION: Oil of clove can easily cause skin irritation and should never be used in concentrations any higher than 1% when applied directly to the skin. Like oregano oil, it is best mixed with olive oil or coconut oil before application (1 drop per tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil/butter).
Some people can take more (anywhere from 2 to 10 drops per Tablespoon), and some can take less, like any essential oil, it is all about trial and error. You need to especially careful with clove oil around the face/eyes and genitals. I once had a tiny amount very close to my eye and it was a most terrible experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone, so be warned! Apply the tiniest amount sparingly on your wrist and see if there is any reaction and if there is, take extra care.
I recommend that you try this oil blended with oregano oil if you have a particularly difficult case of toenail fungus or athlete’s foot. Mix five drops of clove oil with five drops of oregano oil along with a Tablespoon of olive oil. Apply to the affected areas very sparingly twice daily. Reduce the clove oil if too strong and add a few drops of lavender oil if you want to mask the clove oil smell.
I saw a patient some years ago who successfully got rid of his jock itch by using a concentrated tea made from clove buds. He washed his groin each evening with this strong tea made from 1 teaspoon of clove buds that had been steeped in boiling water (about 250 ml) for 20 minutes. It only took two weeks to make a change, and along with a diet very similar to the MEVY diet he eradicated jock itch within two months.
Clove oil is an essential oil that blends very well with other essential oils. It’s strong penetrating and spicy odour blends well with lavender, Spanish rosemary, nutmeg, thyme, cinnamon and basil. Each of these oils will only add to the antiseptic quality of clove oil and I recommend you start by blending with just one oil initially to find out which combination you like the best.
My favourite oil to blend with clove oil is good quality lavender oil, a 50/50 mix is excellent and a fantastic fungal foot massage can be had by rubbing a combination of these two oils into the feet vigorously each evening. It is important to always remember with clove oil that less is better.
The smell is too overpowering if you have too much oil in the blend and you will soon be put off this fantastic essential oil. By the way, always rotate the pairs of shoes you wear and place a few drops in the tow and heel area of your shoes once per week if you have athlete’s foot or toenail fungus and go bear foot when you can.
As I have mentioned previously, be careful with clove oil, as it is very strong, it can cause skin irritations in some and should NEVER be consumed in the straight liquid oil form. Always get the opinion of your health-care professional regarding the use of clove oil during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Occasionally I’ve noticed that a few patients may have an allergic reaction to cloves, although this is very rare, so it is always best to start with a small dose.