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Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

A slender evergreen tree with a smooth grey trunk which grows up to 12 metres high.  The bright green leaves stand in pairs on short stalks.  At the beginning of the wet season buds appear with a rosy pink corolla at the tip.  As the corolla fades the calyx turns deep red and these are harvested from the tree, dried and sold as the culinary clove that is used in everyday cooking.

The oil is extracted from the dried clove, leaves and stalks of the tree.  Extraction is by water distillation from the buds and leaves; and steam distillation from the stalks or stems.  However only the oil extracted from the bud is used in aromatherapy as the others are powerful skin irritants.

The trees are believed to be native to Indonesia but are now cultivated worldwide.  The main oil producing countries are Madagascar and Indonesia.

Clove has been extensively used as a domestic spice all over the world.  Tincture of cloves has been used for skin infections such as scabies, for digestive upsets, to ease the pain of childbirth when it was steeped in wine, and for toothache.  In Chinese medicine the oil is used for a variety of disorders including bad breath.  

By sticking cloves into oranges you make a very effective insect repellent.  It can also be used as a pomander by adding Cinnamon and was often found in homes during the Christmas period.  This not only gives a pleasant fragrance but also helps ward off infections.

The principal constituents of Clove Bud are 60-90% eugenol, eugenly acetate, caryophyllene with other minor constituents; the leaf are 82-88% eugenol with little or no eugenyl acetate, and other minor constituents; stem 90-95% eugenol, with other minor constituents. 

Clove is anthelmintic, antibiotic, anitemetic, antihistaminic, antirheumatic, antineuralgic, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, carminative, counter-irritant, expectorant, larvicidal, spasmolytic, stimulant, stomachic, vermifuge.

Aromatherapy uses are; acne, athlete's foot, bruises, burns, cuts, insect repellent (mosquito), toothache, ulcers, arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, asthma, bronchitis, colic, dyspepsia, nausea, colds and flu.

Clove can also be found in dental preparations, soaps, toiletries, cosmetics and perfumes.  It is used extensively as a flavouring ingredient in food categories, alcoholic and soft drinks.  It is also used in the production of glue, varnish, and printing ink. 

Safety Data:

All clove oils can cause skin and mucous membrane irritation; clove bud and stem oil may cause dermatitis in some individuals.  Clove bud is the least toxic of the three oils due to the lower eugenol percentage and is the only clove that should be used on the skin.  Use in moderation only in low dilution (less than 1%).

Most essential oils are quite safe for home use.  Used sensibly they are very helpful in many situations to promote good health, relaxation and well-being.  It should be remembered that essential oils are extremely powerful and should always be diluted, usually 1 to 2%.

Do not take essential oils by mouth.  Store essential oils out of reach of babies and children.  Avoid contact with the eyes.  If in doubt about the use of any oil, consult a qualified aromatherapist.


Anthelmintic      -          vermifuge, destroying or expelling intestinal worms.
Antibiotic          -           prevents the growth of, or destroys, bacteria.
Antiemetic        -           prevents vomiting
Antihistaminic   -           treats allergic conditions; counteracts effects of histamine
Antirheumatic   -           helps prevent and relieve rheumatism
Antineuralgic     -           relieved and reduces nerve pain
Anti-oxidant     -           a substance used to prevent or delay oxidation or deterioration, especially with exposure to air.
Antiseptic         -           destroys and prevents the development of microbes
Antiviral            -           substance which inhibits the growth of a virus
Aphrodisiac      -           increases or stimulates sexual desire
Carminative      -           settles the digestive system, relieves flatulence
Counterirritant  -          applications to the skin which relieve deep-seated pain, usually applied in the form of heat
Expectorant      -           helps promote the removal of mucous from the respiratory system
Larvicidal         -           an agent which prevents and kills larvae
Spasmolytic      -           prevents and eases spasms or convulsions
Stimulant          -           an agent which quickens the physiological functions of the body
Stomachic        -           digestive aid and tonic; improving appetite
Vermifuge         -           expels intestinal worms  

By Myra Lewis
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