The Indian Kitchen as an Ayurvedic Pharmacy – Clove

The medicinal properties of Clove, Laung in Hindi, and Devakusuma or ‘Flower of the Gods’ in Sanskrit, has been known in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Traces were found in vessels that date back to 1721 BC. It has been traded along the Indian spice route with ancient Rome for millennia. The Greeks and Romans used it as a food preservative and as a treatment for dental problems. It is an essential part of any Indian kitchen.

Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree, an evergreen known as Syzygium Aromaticum, and originate in Indonesia’s Maluku Islands (also known as the Spice Islands).

Cloves contain manganese, vitamin C and vitamin K, Eugenol and polyphenols.

Eugenol is the main reason for the slightly sweet aroma of cloves. It is a chemical compound that is found in concentration in cloves of upto 18% in the buds. Clove oil comprises of approximately 80% eugenol. Eugenol is the compound in cloves that helps it keep food from spoiling. It is also an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and a favourite of dentists, who use it to kill germs and help with toothaches and pain, as it has mildly anaesthetic properties. It is a common addition to mouthwash. New research has shown that it may be effective in fighting bacteria and controlling the growth of fungi.

Polyphenols are the main source of antioxidants in our diet, and cloves are one of the richest sources for it. 1 gram of cloves contains over 150 mg of polyphenols, whereas, 1 gram of blueberries, a fruit that contains the most polyphenols, contains approximately 5.6 mg of polyphenols. However it is true that though it is possible to eat a 100 gms. of blueberries it is not possible to eat more that a few clove pods.

In Ayurveda, cloves are used to relieve digestive problems, respiratory disorders, skin infections (viral, bacterial as well as fungal), toothaches and oral infections. Due to its antiseptic properties it is also used to treat wound and cuts. In Naturopathy, clove oil is used for massage to relieve arthritic pain and reduce inflammation. It has an effect on TridoshaKaphapittahara. That is it balances Kapha and Pitta.

In The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, Dr. Marcos José Salvador, in his article ‘Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): a precious spice’ published in February 2014, concluded that “Clove represents a very interesting plant with an enormous potential as [a] food preservative and as a rich source of antioxidant compounds. It’s proved biological activities suggest the development of medicinal products for human and animals uses and confirms why this plant has been employed for centuries.”

In the Indian kitchen, cloves are an essential part of any spice mix, and is used whole and powdered. Many of us push the clove on our plate to the side instead of eating it. Eating the whole cloves on our plate would help give us part of our necessary daily nutrients.

  • Cloves can be consumed and used in a variety of ways.
  • a). As part of our every day meals by incorporating either whole or powdered cloves in our food as a spice.
  • b). By sucking on a single clove placed in the mouth. It is common in India as a mouth refresher and mouthwash to reduce oral bacteria.
  • c). Add 2-3 buds to hot water and drink the infusion after a meal to aid digestion.
  • d). Add a few clove buds to hot water and use as a steam inhalation for respiratory relief.
  • e). Add a few drops of clove oil to water and use as an antiseptic for cuts, bruises and wounds. Alternately, make a paste of ground clove and honey and apply.

– Vasant

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