Clove is a scent we associate with Christmas in Europe but when we lived and sheltered on our boat during one hurricane season a few years ago in the waters of the Caribbean next to the island of Grenada – coincidentally, also known as ‘Spice Island’ – we found a multitude of spices were growing all year round, from nutmeg (which is even on their flag) to mace, turmeric, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
We frequently saw these freshly picked spices in the street markets and when we visited a nearby spice factory. Of course it was more enjoyable for us to find them in their natural forms at on an old sugar plantation where we could freely dig up ginger root and see the unopened flower buds on nearby clove trees.
Clove, with its proper genus name of Syzgium aromaticum, naturally has a warm and spicy nature that is considered to be revitalising and comforting.
OurClove Christmas Candles uses this natural essential oil to which we have added a little basil oil which offers a hint of sweetness to an otherwise deeply aromatic scent.
When added to a red wine and warmed, clove spice goes well with orange, cinnamon and bay leaves to help create a spicy seasonal mulled wine drink too.
Cloves contain fiber, vitamins and minerals (rich in manganese which the body uses in bone formation) and is also high high in antioxidants. So it is often seen as a good all round flavouring to add small amounts to your meals once or twice a week to gain some important nutrients.
They also help improve digestion and help in better functioning of the digestive tract - a clove tea to drink in the morning and/or the evening can improve the digestive system by attacking bacteria.
There are a whole host of other research studies that have outlined the potential health benefits of consuming clove but the key is that it is most effective when included as part of a healthy and balanced diet. In these, admittedly limited, studies clove has been shown to contain beneficial compounds that could help promote liver health, reduce stomach ulcers, promote bone health and may assist in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
However, it isn’t just good at offering culinary flavouring and scent around the world, in many cultures it is also known for its oral health benefits. It is used to relieve dental pain and fight bacteria that cause gum disease thanks to its main compound, Eugenol, which naturally contains powerful pain relieving, anti-bacterial properties.
It also has extremely high antioxidant content as well as anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and has been used in a number of cancer studies.
With growing resistance and detrimental side effects caused by some common cancer treatments, the focus has switched towards more natural products such as spices and plants as possible treatment alternatives.
In a 2014 study, Clove extract was found to slow the growth of multiple types of human cancer cells and increase cell death of colon cancer cells. Another study also found clove essential oil to be toxic to human breast cancer cells.
The conclusion is that Clove may play a beneficial role in the future of cancer treatment due to its ability to slow cell multiplication and in some cases cause cancer cell death.
Additionally, also due to the Eugenol compound found in Clove essential oil), it can be used for stiff and painful joints and studies have shown it could be useful as a beneficial supplement in treating human arthritis.
We use it in our deeply soothing muscle balm along with other beneficial essential oils and infused herbs to tackle acute muscle and joint pain.
As a powerful and potent spice, clove needs to be used with care and always in a diluted form.