The health benefits of clove oil have been known for centuries. The clove plant is a tree in the Myrtle family known scientifically as Syzygium aromaticum. It originates from the Spice Islands in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, although most commercial production of cloves occurs in Indonesia and Madagascar.
The essential oil in cloves has significant commercial value and its primary ingredient is eugenol, which belongs to a class of chemicals known as phenylpropanoids. Now, even scientific research shows that clove oil has many health benefits.
The potency of clove oil depends primarily on its concentration of eugenol. Clove oil that comes from the flower buds contains 60 to 90 percent eugenol, according to the Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils. The major impurities of this type of clove oil include caryophyllene and eugenyl acetate.
Clove oil from the leaves of the plant has a eugenol content of 82 to 88 percent with eugenyl acetate as the primary impurity. The stems produce the highest quality clove oil with a concentration of 90 to 95 percent eugenol. This form of clove oil has no pharmaceutically significant impurities.
The most common uses of clove oil in medicine include pain relief and disinfection, especially in dentistry. It is also a popular home remedy for toothaches and dry socket. Clove oil is often used as an expectorant, since it allows you to cough up phlegm more easily. Additional health benefits of clove oil include the following areas:
The Food and Drug Administration generally recognized clove oil as safe and effective for the relief of toothaches until 1991. Since that time, the FDA has considered the scientific evidence to be insufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of clove oil for toothaches. The FDA still considers clove oil generally safe in typical dosages.
Researchers at Kuwait University conducted a study in 2006 comparing the effectiveness of clove oil and benzocaine for the relief of pain caused by injections into the mouth. The study showed that both preparations were more effective than a placebo. The clove oil and benzocaine preparations had approximately the same effect in relieving pain. This effect requires more studies to ensure it is repeatable.
Scientific research also shows clove oil to be an effective mosquito repellent. A recent study used various concentrations of clove oil and found that undiluted clove oil repelled mosquitoes for up to two hours. However, undiluted clove oil can also cause a rash in people sensitive to its effects. The study was performed at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand and its results appeared in a 2005 issue of Phytotherapy Research.
The results of a study on the effect of clove oil on lung cancer were published in a 2006 issue of Carcinogenesis. This study suggests that clove oil may help slow the progression of lung cancer in mice that have been treated with anticancer drugs. Limited laboratory studies suggest that the health benefits of clove oil include fighting skin mites, fungi and bacteria.