Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy
Essential oils are well-known for their healing benefits and other handy uses, but one of them, in particular, doesn’t get near the buzz it should.
While everyone talks about tea tree oil and lavender, clove oil is equally as beneficial and backed by significant research.
So, what is clove oil good for? What health benefits does it offer? Let’s dive into several ways to put this beneficial essential oil to work in your life and home.
What is Clove Essential Oil?
Clove essential oil is produced from cloves, which are the flowering buds of the evergreen clove tree, also known as Syzygium aromaticum. The name clove is derived from the Latin word meaning “nail,” because clove buds appear as small nails or tacks.
Cloves are a popular warming spice that can be used whole or ground, in dishes ranging from sweet to savory and everything in between.
It’s often associated with autumnal flavors because it pairs well with cinnamon and cardamom, and it’s often found in gingerbread as well as Indian curry dishes.
But cloves aren’t only for spicing foods—they have significant properties that promote wellness and were even used as medicinal substances in ancient times. Cloves contain several elements that can promote liver health, natural detox, blood sugar, and can even work as antimicrobial agents.
It was one of the oils used during the days of the bubonic plague which could protect people from becoming infected.
Clove essential oil is made by extracting the oil from the buds of the clove tree. Clove oil has a strong aroma which is due to its content of being 70 to 90 percent eugenol, the active ingredient that gives it it’s medicinal properties.
It tends to be yellowish to brownish in color. The essential oil can be used to flavor foods, add fragrance, or for topical aromatherapy benefits.
Clove is rich in antioxidants that can help combat free radical damage and it can also provide relief for digestive problems as well as toothaches.
Clove essential oil is a treasure trove of health benefits. Let’s more closely examine them now.
11 Health Benefits of Clove Oil
Clove oil comes with many proven benefits. How many could work to improve your wellness?
Clove oil contains an active ingredient known as eugenol, which is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help to alleviate negative effects of oxidative damage and free radicals in the body, and the ones found in clove oil are more potent than those found in vitamin E. Clove oil can offer antioxidant benefits whether it is used internally or topically.
Cloves have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which means they can help destroy harmful bacteria and organisms. This means it can be used internally, topically, or even as a cleaning agent to disinfect surfaces.
Research has shown clove oil to be effective at destroying bacteria like E. coli and staph, and others that can lead to gum disease, oral health problems, and even acne.
Clove can also work against yeast and candida, helping to destroy these pesky bacteria that can often recur frequently in susceptible individuals. As an anti-fungal agent, clove oil works as effectively as prescriptions used to treat thrush, which is a yeast infection of the mouth.
It can also work against gram-negative bacteria, the kind that can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections and “superbugs,” and parasite infections.
Clove can not only help kill bacteria in the mouth, but it can also reduce dental pain from things like a toothache, swelling, and dry socket.
Clove oil has been used as a natural remedy for dental pain and problems since the 1600’s by the French, but likely for thousands of years by ancient Chinese medicine.
Research proves that clove has a numbing capability that is comparable to benzocaine, which is often used in dental procedures to numb the area before injection.
Beyond pain, clove oil can also reduce decalcification and erosion in the mouth, as well as promote remineralization of teeth.
Blood Pressure and Heart Health
Clove oil can be effective at addressing high blood pressure as shown by research that indicates that eugenol helps to dilate major arteries, relieving excess blood pressure.
It can also help to prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together, basically helping the blood to be more slippery and less prone to clotting.
Because clove can have a blood-thinning effect, anyone taking anticoagulants or aspirin needs to be careful of interactions and should always consult their medical doctor before adding clove oil, either topically or internally.
Research indicates that clove oil can protect against cancer thanks to specific anti-tumor compounds that it contains. It can be especially helpful in promoting death in cancer cells and can work to specifically fight against esophageal cancer. (source, source)
Eugenol, the active ingredient in clove oil, can also help to kill cervical cancer cells. (source) While this research is promising, most of these were test tube studies and haven’t been replicated in humans.
Even so, clove oil is so potently antioxidant that it can destroy cancer cells, which is a promising fact for future research.
Acne is often caused by topical bacteria that perpetuates the development of pimples. While acne can be mild for some, it can be intensely painful and widespread for others.
It is often caused by bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus, which can be destroyed by the antimicrobial properties of clove oil.
Clove can be paired with a carrier oil and applied topically to pimples or breakouts, left to air dry, and then the face cleansed as usual.
Eugenol in clove oil can also simply help to produce a more vibrant skin and complexion because it can stimulate blood flow to the surface of the skin. A few drops added to daily moisturizer can have this youthful effect.
Clove oil can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as scars, warts, and even rashes.
More than 40 million adults over age 50 experience bone mass problems, which can result in osteoporosis and bone fractures. Clove has been shown to protect bone mass, although not in human studies directly.
More research is needed to know specifically how clove oil can impact bone density, but the initial results from test tube studies are promising.
Protects Against Stomach Ulcers and Boosts Digestion
Clove oil has been used for thousands of years to address digestive discomfort, stomach pain, ulcers, and other digestive complaints, including motion sickness, bloating, gas, and belching. It can even reduce nausea-induced vomiting.
Clove specifically can increase the natural production of mucus in the stomach, which can protect the delicate lining from damage that results in the formation of ulcers.
It has even been shown to be as effective in some cases as medication that prevents or treats ulcers.
Balanced Blood Sugar
Clove oil can help to bring stability to blood sugar, especially in those who are diabetic, because it can increase how quickly glucose is drawn into the cells.
It can also boost insulin secretion and make insulin production more efficient.
Increased Sex Drive and Function
Because clove oil can increase blood flow, it has been used as a natural remedy for low sex drive and function in men and women, specifically with aromatherapy or application to wrists, ankles, or thighs with carrier oils.
Please note: do not use clove oil directly on sensitive areas like the genitals for risk of burning or pain, and do not use it anywhere without a carrier oil.
Clove oil cannot only promote increased blood flow, but it can work as an aphrodisiac and increase arousal, as well as prevent premature ejaculation. It’s basically nature’s Viagra.
Headaches and Pain Relief
Not only can clove oil reduce a toothache, but it can also work to alleviate the pain of headaches, thanks to the presence of flavonoids. These can alleviate pressure and tension in blood vessels in the head that lead to a headache in the first place.
You can apply clove mixed with a carrier oil directly to the affected area of the head for pain relief. It can also be massaged onto areas of muscle pain for a similar effect.
18 Creative Ways to Use Clove Oil
There are many practical and beneficial ways to use clove oil in your everyday life. How many of the following ways have you tried?
- Can relieve the pain of toothaches by numbing the area. Just dab a drop or two on the tooth or gum that is hurting.
- Can help to remineralize teeth when used regularly. Add to toothpaste or DIY your own.
- When used as a mouthwash, clove oil can help to kill bacteria that lead to gum disease. Swish twice daily after brushing and flossing.
- As a mouthwash, clove oil can also be used to address thrush.
- As an acne remedy, combine clove oil with a carrier oil and dab on pimples. Allow to air dry and then cleanse face as usual.
- Diffuse clove oil in your home to help promote clean air, especially during times of cold or flu infection. Breathing in the diffused oil can help to protect against infection and fight existing sickness.
- If your natural deodorant isn’t getting the job done, pair clove with a carrier oil and apply to the underarms. This will help kill the bacteria that react with sweat to produce body odor.
- Mix clove oil with water as a disinfecting surface spray.
- Apply clove oil with a carrier to the wrists for reduction of blood pressure. This also helps to reduce stress!
- Swish clove oil in the mouth, mixed with water, for a natural bad breath remedy.
- Use clove oil directly to kill mold on surfaces by placing a few drops on the affected area. Allow to dry and repeat as needed. Scrubbing mold can sometimes serve to spread it. You want the area to be covered with clove oil but not remain damp, which of course could further perpetuate growth.
- Have a bad case of athlete’s foot or other bacterial infection on the feet? Use clove oil with a carrier to kill the bacteria. Clean showers and bath surfaces with clove oil to prevent spreading or recurrence.
- Help take the sting out of bug bites by adding clove oil topically, mixed with a carrier.
- Fight morning sickness or motion sickness by aromatherapy using clove, or add clove to a fabric square and hold over the nose or mouth as needed to address nausea.
- Massage clove and a carrier oil, like grapeseed, onto the scalp to increase blood flow and promote healthy hair growth and vibrant locks.
- Wear clove oil with a carrier oil as a natural bug repellent or mix with water and use as spray-on bug relief.
- Swish with clove oil and gargle to help relieve the pain of sore throat, either from voice overuse or from sickness or seasonal allergies.
- For a quick boost of mental clarity, diffuse clove oil in your office or take a quick sniff from the bottle. It can increase blood flow and boost mental and cognitive function.
Cautions About Clove Oil
While clove oil is potently antioxidant and has many health benefits, it is also so strong that it warrants caution. Eugenol can be hard on the liver, resulting in damage, and can also have unpredictable results in children.
As such, be very cautious when using clove oil with children under age 18, and do not use it for medical, internal, or topical uses without first checking with your medical practitioner.
Do not use clove oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding since research doesn’t indicate how it could affect fetal development or breastmilk.
If you take blood thinners or other drugs which can have anticoagulant effects, make sure to check with your doctor to ensure that clove oil is safe for you to use.
Clove can cause skin irritation in certain people, so if you notice itching, red, rashes, or any other discomfort, stop using it and seek medical care.
When purchasing clove oil, be sure to choose a 100 percent pure product from a brand that you trust.
This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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- Jirovetz L, Buchbauer G, Stoilova I, Stoyanova A, Krastanov A, Schmidt E. Chemical composition and antioxidant properties of clove leaf essential oil. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(17):6303–6307.
- Gülçin I, Elmasta? M, Aboul-Enein HY. Antioxidant activity of clove oil-A powerful antioxidant source. Arab J Chem. 2012;5(4):489–499.
- Halder S, Mehta AK, Kar R, Mustafa M, Mediratta PK, Sharma KK. Clove oil reverses learning and memory deficits in scopolamine-treated mice. Planta Med. 2011;77(8):830–834.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.