Clove another important spice used and renowned for providing its unique warm, sweet and aromatic taste to ginger breads, pumkin pie and many other dishes and is also one of the vital ingredients in making the garam masala.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum or Eugenia aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata) are dried flower buds of a tree belonging to the plant Myrtaceae family. Cloves are native to Indonesia and used as spice all over the world in various cuisines. The name clove derived its name from the Latin word clavus means nail (also French word clou means nail) as the clove buds resemble the shape of a small irregular nail. Apart from Indonesia, cloves are also now harvested in Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. In India, the clove is also known as laung in Hindi and lavangalu in Telugu. In Vietnam it is called as dinh huong and in Indonesia as cengkeih or cengkih.
Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about ½ inch long and ¼ inch in diameter and with their tapered stem. Cloves have a warm, sweet and aromatic taste that evokes the sultry tropical climates where they are grown. Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile.
Clove tree are evergreen grows to a height ranging from 8 to 12m having large square leaves and sanguine flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. At first the flower buds are of a pale color and gradually turn green after which they develop into bright red which shows that they are ready for collecting. They are harvested when they are 1.5 to 2 cm long and consist of a long calyx spreading into four sepals and four unopened petal which form a small ball I the center.
Originally cloves were native to the Moluccas popularly known as the Spice Islands of Indonesia. In Asia, they have been consumed for more than 2000 years. Due to their sweet and fragrant taste, Chinese courtiers dating back to 200 BC would keep them in their mouths as mouth freshener coz when addressing the emperor so as to not offend him. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe around the 4th century, although they did not come into widespread use until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their pungent flavor that served to mask the taste of poorly preserved foods. Since cloves have a very intense flavor, especially those that have been ground, one should check and take the right quantity to use in a recipe so as to not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.
Clove has enormous health benefits as they are antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, aphrodisiac and stimulating properties. The oil is used for treating a variety of health disorders including toothaches, indigestion, cough, asthma, headache, stress and blood impurities. Cloves are an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of magnesium and calcium.
Clove is prominently used in dental care by using the clove oil. The germicidal properties of the oil make it very effective for relieving dental pain, tooth ache, sore gums and mouth ulcers. Clove oil contains the compound eugenol, which has been used in dentistry since numerous years. Gargles with diluted clove oil help in easing the throat. The characteristic smell of clove oil helps removing bad breath. As a result, clove oil is added to numerous dental products and medications, including, mouth washes, and tooth pastes. Dentists also mix clove oil with zinc oxide and prepare a white filling material as a temporary alternative to root canal.
Due to its antiseptic properties, clove oil is useful for wound, cuts, scabies, athlete’s foot, fungal infections, bruises, prickly heat, scabies, etc. It can also be used for insect bites and stings. Clove oil is very strong in nature and hence should be used in diluted form. Further, it should not be used on sensitive or delicate skin.
Being aphrodisiac in nature clove oils serves as an excellent stress reliever. It has a stimulating effect on the mind and removes mental exhaustion and fatigue. When taken internally, in appropriate amounts, it refreshes the mind. Clove oil also induces sleep and is helpful to insomnia patients. It is useful for treating mental problems such as loss of memory, depression and anxiety. Clove oil when mixed with salt, and applied on the forehead, gives a cooling effect and helps in getting relief from headache.
Clove oil has a cooling and anti inflammatory effect, and thereby clears the nasal passage. This expectorant is useful in various respiratory disorders including coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, and tuberculosis. Chewing a clove bud eases sore throats. Along with blood purification, clove oil also helps in controlling the blood sugar levels and hence is useful to diabetics. Clove is used in making cigarettes is a new trend all over the world. Traditionally, clove was added in cigarettes in Indonesia. Along with its other excellent properties cloves are also used as an flavoring agent to various food recipes which enhances the taste and flavor of the dish. It is added in many Indian dishes, pickles, sauce, spice cakes, etc.
Cloves should not be consumed if one has a proven allergy reaction to cloves. The Eugenol oil can cause allergic rashes when applied to the skin or inside the mouth. Those who are allergic to balsam of Peru may also be allergic to cloves.
If clove oil is applied to the skin or inside the mouth, the patient can experience burning, loss of sensation, tissue damage and an increased risk of cavities and sore lips. Burns and contact dermatitis (rash) is more common if using undiluted clove oil directly on the skin or mouth.
The nutritional values per 6 gms (1 tbsp) of cloves are:
Protein: 0.4 g
Carbohydrates: 4.0 g
Water: 0.4 g
Total Calories: 87.9 KJ
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 f
Sugars: 0.2 g
Total Fat: 1.3 g
Vitamin A: 34.4 IU
Vitamin C: 5.3 mg
Vitamin D: 5.3 mg
Calcium: 42.0 mg
Iron: 0.6 mg
Magnesium: 17.2 mg