Synopsis ~ Cloves are flower buds used as spice for 2000 years and have properties and uses beyond food — to support the health of your body; includes aromatherapy information and safety tips.
CLOVE EO Profile & Information
Name of Oil and Naming and Family ~ Clove Oil from bud, leaf and stem oil is also called Oil of Clove, an essential oil extracted from the Clove plant. Normally, the Clove oil is best known as water-distilled from the immature flower buds called Clove buds. This is the sun-dried, unopened flower buds of the Clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum from Indonesia and other locations.
“The earliest written mention of cloves is in writings from the Han dynasty in China (207 BC to AD 220) which tell how officers of the court were made to hold cloves in their mouth when talking to the king, apparently to insure the sweetness and acceptability of their breath” —Univ. Minnesota Library.
Clove buds are warming and spicy and are now used to flavor foods, making pomanders and used in medicine. Cloves supply vanillin to the industry.
Dicypellium caryophyllatum (syn. Cassia caryophylatta) bark from another family Lauraceae is used as a substitute tor true cloves and cinnamon. The wood is valuable but is little exported from Brazil. The bark is sold as quills and smells like cloves (95%) eugenol) and it is also called Cassia caryophylatta. It is used as a flavorant and with its leaves is a stimulating tea.
The true Clove, Syzygium aromaticum (the old name is Eugenia caryophylatta), is from the family Myrtaceae. Other names for this is Clove, clovos, caryophyllus and the parts used are Flower buds, stems or leaves.
Is one or the other better for aromatherapy use? If you want to use Cloves, use cloves. These are of two different families, indigenous to different areas.
Different plants called Clove ~ The difference(s) between Clove Bud, Clove Leaf and Clove stem is CLOVE BUD is the fruit, CLOVE LEAF is the leaf of the tree and CLOVE STEM is the stem. They have different chemical constituents. They are all used in aromatherapy and the applications are different. See page 87 in The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations for uses of these two trees. This article is entirely about Clove Bud oil and herb.
Latin Binomial/Botanical? L. There is some confusion between the two above named plants and their essential oils. This paper discusses Syzygium aromaticum or Clove of the Family – Myrtaceae.
Countries of Origin: Clove trees are native to the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. Much exported from Zanzibar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and the Reunion and Madagascar where they are thought to have derived from one tree.
General description of plant, habitat & growth: Syzygium is native to Africa and the Pacific. They are evergreen, canopy and emergent trees, growing to a height of between 40 and 50 feet, with large, bright green leaves and strongly fragrant flowers that grow in bunches at the end of the twigs. These flower buds are pale, then turn green and eventually turn bright red when they are ready to harvest.
Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods & yield ~ The essential oil is water/hydro or steam-distilled from the sun-dried flower buds depending on the condition of the Cloves. “As it distills over the Clove oil is collected, in the receiver, in two fractions, one lighter, the other heavier, than water. These two fractions must be mixed to obtain the complete oil.” —Guenther, vol. 4, p. 428. Yield: 10-15%.
This picture shows the two fractions of the oil with a layer of water in between.
There is also an absolute of Clove available obtained by solvent-extraction and is considered to bring the true scent of the buds to life when used in a perfume.
SUSTAINABILITY ~ Essential oils are just not sustainable for the environment in the amounts that are now in use. In my own lifetime, I have seen many oils be overused and then go out of use as they were not being replanted. Be selective in your usage of the plants essential oi. Be moderate. Often, the herbal use is preferred over the essential use.
Color: Light yellow to pale brown when older
Viscosity: Some viscosity
Taste: Bitter, aromatic
Intensity of Odor: 7 (Scale is 1-10 with some Lavenders about 2)
Odor Assessment and Description: This is one of the several plants whose useful parts are considered to have a licorice or anise scent. In this case, it is the eugenol that is being described. Eugenol in my opinion, does not smell much of licorice/anise. Clove oil can be described as very spicy, with a fruity subsidiary note and a somewhat woody back note.
Chemical Components: Active Compounds in Clove oil is 60 to 90 percent eugenol. Its properties are anesthetic and antiseptic. India’s traditional Ayurvedic healers have used clove since ancient times to treat respiratory and digestive ailments.
Historical and Interesting Facts and Uses ~ Like the history of many spices, the history of Cloves goes back many centuries. In fact, this spice was one of the first to be traded and evidence of cloves have been found in vessels dating as far back as 1721 BC. Besides being used as a mouth refresher by ancient Chinese, Clove bud was used in Alexandria in 200 BC as a spice. Clove first arrived in Europe around the 4th century A.D. as a highly coveted luxury. The medieval German herbalists used cloves as part of anti-gout mixture. Indonesia is the largest customer of Clove bud oil as it is used in Kretek cigarettes. There is a fascinating history of Cloves in commerce in the Guenther books, volume IV, p. 306. Portuguese explores carried cargoes of Cloves in their galleons, and “unwittingly initiated that fabulous spice trade which caused many a bloody and lengthy sea war”.
2.The old (1902) and the new (2017)
Safety Precautions for Clove Oil: It can cause serious skin and mucous membrane irritations when used by application. Use this oil only highly diluted and do not take by mouth. This is one of those plants that can be used herbally in small amounts but the EO is not to be taken internally.
GENERAL PROPERTIES ~
The EO is antibacterial, antiviral (against herpes), and analgesic, which helps in headache and toothaches. In skin care Clove oil, highly diluted, is used for the spicy scent in aftershave products or products for problem skin. Clove bud oil is effective in perfumery as a fixative or as part of a ‘Carnation’ scent. Clove EO is an anesthetic and is often used in carious teeth to relieve pain. The oil is wonderful in potpourri and sachet, the buds themselves boiled in wine with Cinnamon and other spices as drink.
Properties (by AP=application or IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation):
Application: Antiseptic, stimulant, carminative, parasiticidal, antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, analgesic, anti-neuralgic, antispasmodic, and anti-infectious.
Ingestion (only if highly diluted) for Stomachic, tonic, antiparasitic but the herbal tea is recommended instead.
Inhalation (only if highly diluted): Antiseptic, stimulant, aphrodisiac.
Physical Uses & How used (IG or AP):
Application: Clove Bud is used to relieve toothache, for some types of cancer, and in removing warts. In fact, it was one of the first oils to be directly applied in therapy. Other uses include external application, greatly diluted in carrier oil for rheumatism, and arthritis, and for muscular aches and pains. Further still, Clove bud is used in salves or lotions as an application for colds, flu, verrucae, tired limbs, scabies, ringworm, and recovery from infections.
Contraindication in Skin Care: Clove oil can cause serious skin and mucous membrane irritations, make sure that if you use it, dilute it greatly and use only the bud oil and neither the stem nor the leaf.
Inhalation: Use with other oils and diluted for colds, flu, chest infections, and bronchitis. It stimulates the respiratory system and is antiseptic for various infectious diseases.
By inhalation, Clove Bud alleviates mental debility, stimulates the memory, stimulates the mind, and helps one overcome exhaustion. Use in dilution with other oils such as Rosemary, Bergamot and Lavender.
DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION of the Essential Oil ~ Clove oil is very powerful and I strongly urge you not to use it in a diffusor.
BLENDING and Perfumery: Cloves blend well with Vanilla, Rose, deeply-scented or sweet florals where it has a ‘unique and natural richness and body’. The classic scent called Rondeletia is a mixture of Lavender and Clove where Sage and Clary Sage is a good addition. Rondeletia Odor described by Askinson is Bergamot, Lavender, Clove, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla and a fixative of ambergris and musk.
Rondeletia accord was recently used to make a modern masculine creation. It is a sweet, floral spicy odor of Lavender, Clove and spring flowers with Rose first macerated in corn alcohol with maybe some Clary Sage absolute. Corn alcohol is used according to the British manner. The spirit has to be carefully chosen in perfumery; if a brandy scent is desired use grape spirits for an entirely different odor choose corn or wheat spirits.
Clove Perfume ~ Formula for Mock Carnation Scent:
Cinnamon 10% percentage by weight — 2 drops
Clove 10% — 6
Geranium 10% — 6
Green Mandarin 10% — 3
Osmanthus abs 10% — 3
Rose abs 15% — 10
Tuberose 10% — 4
Vanilla C02 10% — 4
Ylang Ylang 10% — 7
HYDROSOL: I have never had the opportunity to use Clove hydrosol but I imagine it would have some use either as a seasoning in food or possibly diluted as a stimulating antiseptic mouthwash.
CULINARY AND HERBAL USES ~ Cloves are extensively used in all sorts of foods or spicy seasonings. The holiday ham can be studded with Cloves. Herbally, the buds are useful in antiseptic or analgesic formulas when infused in carrier oils or to make potpourris and pomanders.
A JEANNE ROSE TOMATO TALE
MY FAVORITE USE for Clove buds is to make pomanders at Christmas. You can hang them on the tree or on your door to fragrance your home or just pile them in a bowl. You have to start the pomander as soon as September so that the Clove buds have time to do their magic in that the apple or orange will begin to dry up, wizen-up, shrink and become simply a ball of clove buds.
FORMULA: Purchase small fragrant Apples or non-juicy Oranges. I prefer small sweet Apples. Stab all over with the point of a sharp knife or an ice pick in a design or just in rows. It will take over 300 Clove buds to cover a small Apple. Stick the pointy end of the Clove bud into the holes that you have made. Make sure that the Apple is thickly studded with Clove. Now mix together some powdered Cinnamon, powdered Cloves, maybe some Nutmeg and powdered Star Anise and place the pomander apple in this mixture. Roll it around until all parts are covered (or shake in a bag with the spices). Let the pomander sit somewhere where it can dry out. This will take a month or so. Tie some bright green or red ribbons around the Pomander and tuck fresh Rosemary into the bow for good luck.
In the past, I have just dropped the last years pomander balls into my “Old Oil Jar”. The Clove-studded Apple quickly becomes a part of the scent of the oil, thus changing it. This “Old Oil Jar” is now about 25 years old and changes scent continually as I add oils and pomanders and remove some to add to my clean house routine. I will never know the entire ingredients of the jar.
Key Use: Culinary use and tooth care.
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
Science article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3819475/ where it is discussed that Cloves are an antioxidant, food preservative, reversal of memory impairment, radical scavenger and as a commercial source of polyphenols and antifungal.
References: There is a lot of information online as well as in the Arctander book (referenced below) and The Essential Oils books by Ernest Guenther.
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Elizabeth, NJ. 1960
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Vol. IV. Pages 396-436
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol. 2016
Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 Third Edition with 2014 updates, Cambridge University Press
Rose, Jeanne. Herbs & Things. Personal copy
Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Body Book. Frog. Ltd.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Frog Ltd. 1999
Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann. Essential Aromatherapy, Novato, California: New World Library, 2003.
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose
105 years of Clove Bud Oil
~ JR ~