Popularly, herbs and spices are often mentioned in the same breath as if they were actually the same thing. Yet there are some subtle differences – herbs are mainly (dried) leaves of plants that grow best in temperate climates, they can either be used fresh or dried. Spices, on the other hand, come from the sturdy parts of a plant such as the branches, roots, resins or gum, but also flower buds. The latter are always used in dried form and originate from vegetation that especially thrives in a tropical climate. In addition, the pronounced essential part of spices is the oil they contain, while other ingredients also play an important role in herbs.
Being the dried, closed flower buds of the clove tree, cloves therefore belong to the category of spices. Cloves are considered one of “The Big Four” spices, the other three being cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. The name of the flower buds literally translates as “spicy nails” and is derived from its similar shape.
Clove Bud Oil Origin & Characteristics
Cloves come from a beautiful evergreen tree with dense foliage that loves a tropical maritime climate and is native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. The leaves of the clove tree are large, and in the flowering time the tree is covered with bright crimson flower buds, that hang in small clusters at the end of the twigs. The flower buds initially have a pale hue, gradually turn green, then transition to a bright red when ready for harvest. The clove tree grows slowly and can only be harvested after six to eight years, after which the harvest can continue for up to a hundred years.
The shape of the future cloves can already be recognized in the green flower buds. Cloves must be harvested before buds open and form their deep red blossoms. The flower buds remain on their stem and are carefully hand-picked, already opened flower buds lose their value as a spice.
The flower buds are dried in just a few days by spreading them out in the open air. As a result, their colour changes to dark brown with slightly lighter brown heads, and are now clearly recognizable as the well-known cloves. More advanced techniques considerably shorten the drying process, which improves their quality. The cloves immediately have that characteristic strong, sweet, spicy and pungent smell and taste.
Cloves were known long before our era in China and Indonesia. The Arabs first introduced cloves to Europe, they were an expensive spice and were mainly used to disguise the bad taste of spoiled food, or to cover up a sour or bitter taste. During the trading era between Europe and Indonesia, this characteristic spice was rediscovered and traded on a large scale. Nowadays, cloves are a widely used seasoning in biscuits, mulled wine and cognac, but also in marinades and stews. Their special quality may well be the fact that cloves, even after a long extraction, continue to give off its pungent aroma and peculiar taste.
Clove Bud Oil & Benefits
Clove bud oil is derived from the dried buds of the clove tree by steam distillation. Eugenol is the main component of clove bud oil, a phenol that contributes dramatically to the oil’s aroma and its therapeutic properties. Eugenol contains anti-fungal properties, and is particularly antiseptic and highly antibacterial. Eugenol contributes to the mild anaesthetic and analgesic properties of clove oil and plays an important role in the body’s blood clotting system, which is one of our main defence mechanisms.
Due to its antiseptic properties, clove oil and eugenol are used to combat tooth decay and inflammation. The most common method to treat oral disorders is to topically apply clove oil to the tooth, which can relieve pain caused by inflammation in the mouth, toothache and mouth ulcers. Research found that clove extracts can slow the growth of some bacteria linked to gum disease. Clove oil can also be beneficial as a gargling agent for a sore throat.
Its so-called antimicrobial properties can stop the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, while the strong fungicidal effect of clove bud oil supports to fight various types of fungi that cause skin disorders.
In addition, clove bud oil has allergy-suppressing and antispasmodic properties. Local application suppresses sensory receptors involved in pain sensation. Clove essential oil is therefore a suitable agent for use in blends intended to relieve pain. External application of clove bud oil is used for asthma and bronchitis, to reduce swellings, and to relieve pain related to rheumatism, arthritis and cramps. At the same time, this essential oil is suitable for the prevention of viral and bacterial infections. Clove bud oil can be added to baths or used in various applications for inhalation.
Several remedies based on cloves help to get rid of corns, warts and large benign tumours. Clove bud oil is able to quickly heal large wounds and damaged skin, while at the same time restoring general well-being.
Clove Bud Oil & Aromatherapy
The fragrance of clove buds is described as “undoubtedly one of the most gratifying scents in existence to the smelling nerve”. The versatile effects of clove makes clove bud essential oil ideal for use in aromatherapy – it is invigorating, uplifting and mentally stimulating. In addition, its particular scent and pleasant extremely warming impact is advantageous for muscles, which makes clove bud oil suitable as a soothing massage oil. The anti-inflammatory properties of this oil can only be described as a very beneficial side effect.
Due to the strong warming effect of this “hot” oil, it should always be diluted before use in topical application and only added in small doses.
Aromatherapy can be easily applied at home by diffusing clove oil in an aroma lamp or vaporizer. It can be helpful in promoting concentration and relieving mental stress. The aroma of cloves gives energy and confidence, and can stimulate appetite.
Clove bud oil is known to be a strong aphrodisiac. This essential oil is used in the treatment of frigidity, potency disorders and scabies.
To round it all off nicely: clove oil keeps insects at bay and rubbing mosquito bites with this diluted oil has a disinfecting and analgesic effect.