Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of an evergreen tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. They are available throughout the year due to different harvest seasons in different countries. A common spice used in cooking and medicine since the ancient times – many benefits of cloves can be found. They lend aroma and flavour to meats, marinades, curries and even hot beverages. They also contain medicinal properties and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine as well as ayurvedic medicine.
As early as 200 BCE, envoys from Java to the Han-dynasty court of China had to chew cloves to perfume their breath during audiences with the emperor. Cloves were also traded by Omani sailors and merchants from India to the mainland and Africa during the Middle Ages. In the 18th century the French smuggled cloves from the East Indies to Indian Ocean islands and the New World, breaking the Dutch monopoly. Indonesia became the world’s largest producer of cloves, followed by Madagascar, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka by the 21st century.
Cloves contain a major chemical compound called eugenol that composes 72% to 90% of the essential oil being extracted. Eugenol is responsible for aroma and you will be surprised to know that it also has a number of health benefits.
Here are 7 benefits of cloves:
1. Contains essential nutrients
According to nutrition research, one teaspoon of ground cloves contains 30 percent of the daily value (DV) of manganese, 3 percent of the DV of vitamin C and 4 percent of the DV of vitamin K. It also contains trace amounts of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and is a good source of fiber.
2. High in antioxidants
The benefits of cloves include antioxidants and they are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases; thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage the cells of organisms. Free radicals can be caused by a number of factors such as diet, smoking, poor air quality, emotional stress or extreme physical exercise.
Cloves are full of powerful compounds and ranks #6 on the ORAC Scale for antioxidant value among all of the foods and beverages across the world. These compounds include vitamins (K, C and E) and eugenol. Vitamin C has been known to react extensively with free radicals and reduces the oxidative stress. Studies also have shown that eugenol is 5 times more effective in combating free radicals than vitamin E.
3. Alleviates toothache and dental pain
Other benefits of cloves include also reducing toothache and dental pain, believe it or not. As a matter of fact, Cloves have been used in Chinese medicine some 2000 years ago as an anti-inflammatory agent against tooth pain and decay. It produces a numbing effect and has been shown to treat gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. Eugenol is the main active compound in cloves and is also used extensively in the manufacture of dental materials. It reduces the erosion of teeth and helps to remineralize them.
4. Kills bacteria
Cloves contain anti-microbial properties that help to stop the growth of microorganisms. One test-tube study showed that clove essential oil killed three common types of bacteria, including E. coli, a common strain of bacteria found in food poisoning cases.
A mouthwash study tested herbal remedies containing cloves, tea tree oil and basil for 21 days. Results showed improved gum health, decreased plaque build up and mouth bacteria.
5. Regulates blood sugar levels
Cloves are used in many traditional remedies to treat various conditions including diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Having too much blood glucose can cause major health problems.
An animal laboratory study looked at the effects of clove bud powder on laboratory markers in a rat model of diabetes. They found that blood sugar level was lower in rats that received the clove powder compared to those that did not receive the clove powder. Overall, cloves keep your blood glucose in check.
6. Anti-cancer agent
Cloves have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which play a role in eliminating carcinogens. Carcinogens are substances that cause cancer. Some carcinogens are found in our food intake and lifestyles such as processed meat and smoking etc.
One test-tube study found that clove extract helped stop the growth of tumors and promoted cell death in cancer cells. A similar study was done, showing the effect of clove extract on tumour growth in mice. Tumors grew significantly less in the mice treated with clove extract compared to those in the control group. The health benefits of cloves are many and not exhaustive to these only.
7. Promotes beautiful skin
Cloves can clear and draw out existing acne and impurities due to their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, thereby reducing the pores and preventing future breakouts.
Skin is found everywhere on our physical bodies and many factors such as overexposure to the sun and stress can cause us to age tremendously. Cloves work as powerful anti-aging agents and are useful especially for the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin. Hence they are used in the manufacture of many skincare products.
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