Cloves might not be a common ingredient in your recipes, but they are more than worthy of a spot in your spice rack.
One of the oldest and most storied spices in existence, cloves are the dried flower buds of an evergreen tree that belongs to the myrtle family. Cloves have a rich culinary and medicinal history that dates back thousands of years. Today, they are known for their distinct aroma, and they can add intense warmth to virtually any dish they are added to.
- Clove boost gut health – Cloves have a long history of use in traditional medicine. Ancient healers used cloves (whole and fried) to improve digestion and relieve gastrointestinal irritation. Cloves can even help stop vomiting, possibly due to their anesthetic properties. Cloves can also be used as a purgative.
- Cloves protect against bacterial infections – Cloves can help protect you from bacterial infections thanks to their antibacterial properties. In one study, researchers found that the active compounds isolated from cloves can stop the growth of two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease.
- Cloves support liver health – Cloves contain a compound called eugenol, which is especially beneficial for your liver. In one study, researchers fed rats with fatty liver disease mixtures containing either clove oil or eugenol. The results showed that both mixtures improved liver function and reduced inflammation.
- Cloves help control blood sugar – Cloves may help control blood sugar in people with diabetes, a condition marked by high blood sugar. In one study, researchers found that taking just one to three grams of cloves every day for 30 days was enough to help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar.
- Cloves promote strong, healthy bones – Cloves are packed with manganese, an essential bone-building mineral. Manganese also helps your body form connective tissues and reproductive hormones.
- Cloves boost the immune system – The eugenol and other antioxidants in cloves help protect immune cells from inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Cloves can reduce inflammation – Eugenol, one of the main active compounds in cloves, can reduce inflammation. Studies on clove extracts administered to rats show that eugenol reduced inflammation caused by edema. Eugenol can also reduce pain by stimulating pain receptors.
- Cloves support optimal oral health – Cloves can keep your mouth clean and healthy by controlling the growth of oral bacteria responsible for oral diseases. Thanks to eugenol’s pain-killing properties, cloves can also be used to temporarily relieve a minor toothache.
- Cloves can relieve headaches – Cloves can treat headaches thanks to eugenol’s pain-killing properties. To relieve a headache, crush a few cloves and wrap them in a clean handkerchief. Inhale the smell of the crushed cloves.
How to use cloves
You can find whole cloves online or at your local grocery store. They are best stored in a small glass jar in a cool place.
Because of their intense aroma and sweet flavor, cloves can lend plenty of warmth to any dish. They also pair well with other rich, slightly sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cloves are often used in spice blends for meat rubs, such as garam masala and Chinese five-spice powder. They are one of many spices used to make Vietnamese pho, and they are often used to stud whole-baked hams and pots of German braised red cabbage. Cloves are also sometimes used to flavor hot beverages, like tea, mulled wine and hot apple cider.
Cloves take center stage in the fall, when they are used to add flavor to fall staples, such as pumpkin pie, stewed apples and pears and gingerbread.
Because of their strong taste and aroma, cloves are best used sparingly. If you are cooking with cloves, don’t forget to remove the cloves before serving or pick them out of your dish before eating. Even when cooked, whole cloves have a very hard and woody texture that would be unpleasant to bite into. They also have an astringent or drying mouthfeel.
Cloves are a pungent warm spice known for their intense flavor and powerful aroma. They provide a wide range of benefits as well, from a healthier gut to reduced inflammation. Enjoy these benefits and more by incorporating cloves into your cooking.