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Clove, the aromatic and exotic spice, has a long history of medicinal use going back many centuries into early human history. Clove was highly regarded by the German abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) for its medicinal properties. Clove is also well known in the traditional medicine of India and China.
Clove comes from clove trees (Syzygium aromaticum) which grow in tropical regions. Clove essential oil (or oil of cloves) is steam distilled from flower buds and stems.
Both the clove spice and the oil of cloves are rich in a phytochemical (plant chemical) known as eugenol. In fact, clove oil consists of about 75-85 percent eugenol. Eugenol is exciting quite a bit of interest in both conventional and alternative medicine because of its demonstrated ability to stop cancer cells in their tracks. More on that below.
Clove’s Interesting History
Clove has been used for centuries for numbing pain, repelling internal parasites, arthritis and rheumatism, for throat, sinus and lung infections. Clove is a natural anti-coagulant (see warning at end of article), with anti-fungal, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-tumoral, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. All the important anti’s!
An excellent illustration of clove’s anti-viral capabilities occurred in Indonesia in the mid-17th century. The people of Indonesia’s islands of Ternate and Tidore (historically called the Spice Islands) used clove extensively throughout their history for wellness. During the mid-1600s the Dutch East India Company controlled the spice trade in the Spice Islands and gained complete control of the clove trees in this area. Any clove trees discovered that didn’t belong to the Dutch East India Company were destroyed, thus allowing them to have a complete monopoly of this and other spices.
As a consequence, the islanders who relied on those clove trees died from the epidemics that raged through the region, brought to them courtesy of the same Dutch colonists. Such is the power of clove to protect us.
Clove, Eugenol and Cancer
The most exciting and promising research on clove essential oil relates to its anti-cancer benefits. Most of the researchers who study clove essential oil for any length of time agree it has great promise, not only for its ability to kill cancer cells, but as a natural chemopreventive (cancer prevention) agent.
Clove essential oil has been found to have cytotoxic (cancer cell killing) properties against a line of breast cancer cells known as MCF-7. These cells are invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) with both estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER+/PR+). A 2014 study investigated different clove extracts, including water, ethanol, and essential oil and found that the essential oil provided the most cytotoxic activity against the MCF-7 cells. Researchers stated “Cloves are natural products with excellent cytotoxicity toward MCF-7 cells; thus, they are promising sources for the development of anticancer agents.”
An earlier 2013 study investigating the anti-cancer potential of eugenol found the phytochemical in highest quantity in clove. Researchers tested eugenol against different breast cancer cell lines including the aforementioned MCF-7 breast cancer cells. They also tested eugenol against MDA-MB- 231 cells, which are triple negative breast cancer cells and invasive ductal carcinoma. Researchers discovered that eugenol increased apoptosis (planned cell death, lacking in cancer cells). It also decreased the protein coding gene E2F1 (also known as survivin).
Eugenol also inhibited the rapid growth of these cells. It inhibited onco-proteins known to be highly expressed in breast cancer cells and tissues, both in vitro (test tubes) and in vivo (inside the body). Eugenol was found not to be toxic to normal, healthy cells.
For women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer looking for natural anti-estrogen products, clove essential oil provides one other exciting benefit. A 2012 study revealed that eugenol not only exhibited growth inhibition and promoted apoptosis (as described in the previous study), but also exhibited an ability to act as an antagonist to estrogen. Researchers found eugenol “to have compounds that have similar or even better affinities to ER than tamoxifen and its metabolites.”
Clove essential oil is not only useful for breast cancer. There are plenty of studies showing its benefits for liver cirrhosis, for colon cancer, and esophageal cancer. Indeed, because of clove’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well as its ability to effectively stop the growth and spread of many cancer cell lines, clove essential oil shows great promise. Its natural healing properties and anti-cancer benefits will no doubt continue to be studied extensively in years to come.
8 Great Ways to Use Clove Essential Oil
1. As an Anti-bacterial – Clove is powerful against many strains of bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, Helicobacter pylori (the one associated with stomach ulcers), Staphylococcus Aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and many others. If you choose a high quality food grade oil you can take it internally in an empty gel capsule (see caution #3 below). Clove oil can also be applied topically.
2. As an Anti-fungal – Clove oil is a potent anti-fungal, especially against Candida albicans. As with item 1, above, you can take quality food grade clove oil internally by placing a few drops in an empty gel capsule (see caution #3 below).
3. Helps Toothache & Abscesses – Apply clove oil to a cotton swab and hold it onto the affected tooth or gums. Clove oil has great pain relieving properties and has been used by the dental industry for decades. Oil of cloves is often included in dental rinses and mouthwashes.
4. For Cold Sores – Clove is quite effective against herpes simplex, the virus that causes cold sores. Put a drop or two on a cold sore to decrease pain and duration. You can also put a few drops into an empty capsule and take it internally to rid yourself of viral infections.
5. Flatulence, Indigestion, and Diarrhea – Dilute clove oil in a base oil such as almond, coconut, or olive oil and massage over the abdomen. It has a warming and antiseptic action which makes it especially soothing for these maladies.
6. Arthritis Pain – Clove’s pain relieving properties make it beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. As in step 5, dilute it and rub it into the affected painful area.
7. Head Lice – Using 1 tablespoon of your favorite natural hair conditioner, mix in several drops of clove essential oil. Wash your hair, then massage in the clove-enhanced conditioner. Don’t rinse yet, instead comb it through carefully with a head lice comb, removing any lice you see (they will be dead), then rinse the conditioner out. Reapply daily until the infestation is gone. This treatment is nice and natural, with no nasty chemicals.
8. Natural Insect Repellent – Clove is an excellent insect repellent, especially when combined with cedarwood, cinnamon, and lemon in a carrier oil and applied to the skin. It also relieves the sting and itch of various types of insect bites.
3 Important Cautions When Using Oil of Cloves
1. Clove oil has natural anti-coagulant properties which can be enhanced when combined with drugs like Warfarin and aspirin. Be very cautious if you are on these blood thinners.
2. Clove oil may irritate the skin. Don’t apply it to your face, it will sting. If preferred, dilute clove oil before using topically, although it is not terribly hot or unpleasant if you do not.
3. Because of its strength, clove oil can be potentially dangerous when ingested in high amounts. Use it in moderation and work with a qualified aromatherapist or healthcare practitioner. Make sure your clove essential oil also comes from a reputable source and is a high grade organic oil.
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Cloves (the spice) have been used for centuries for numbing pain, repelling internal parasites, arthritis and rheumatism, and for treating throat, sinus, and lung infections. Clove is a natural anti-coagulant, with anti-fungal, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-tumoral, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Oil of cloves (aka clove essential oil or clove oil) has been found to have cytotoxic (cancer cell killing) properties against a line of breast cancer cells known as MCF-7. These cells are invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) with both estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER+/PR+).
Clove essential oil is not only useful for breast cancer. There are plenty of studies showing its benefits for liver cirrhosis, for colon cancer, and esophageal cancer.
In addition to its anti-cancer benefits, here are 8 ways to use clove essential oil:
- As an Anti-bacterial
- As an Anti-fungal
- Helps Toothache & Abscesses
- For Cold Sores
- Flatulence, Indigestion, and Diarrhea
- Arthritis Pain
- Head Lice
- Natural Insect Repellent
3 Points of Caution When Using Oil of Cloves:
- Be extra cautious if you are using blood thinners as clove oil can also thin the blood.
- Clove oil may irritate the skin, so be especially careful if applying to your face.
- Use in moderation. Clove essential oil is potent and can be potentially dangerous when ingested in high amounts. Consult with a qualified specialist.