Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Syzygium
Species: S. aromaticum
Binomial name
Syzygium aromaticum
(L.) Merrill & Perry
  • Caryophyllus aromaticus L.
  • Eugenia aromatica (L.) Baill.
  • Eugenia caryophyllata Thunb.
  • Eugenia caryophyllus (Spreng.) Bullock & S. G. Harrison

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines all over the world. Cloves are harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The clove tree is an evergreen that grows to a height ranging from 8–12 m, having large leaves and sanguine flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. The flower buds are at first of a pale color and gradually become green, after which they develop into a bright red, when they are ready for collecting. Cloves are harvested when 1.5–2 cm long, and consist of a long calyx, terminating in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the center.


Taxonomy and nomenclature

The scientific name of clove is Syzygium aromaticum. It belongs to the genus Syzygium, tribe Syzygieae, and subfamily Myrtoideae of the family Myrtaceae. It is classified in the order of Myrtales, which belong to superorder Rosids, under Eudicots of Dicotyledonae. Clove is an Angiospermic plant and belongs to division of Magnoliophyta in the kingdom Plantae.[1]

The English name derives from Latin clavus 'nail' (also the origin of French clou and Spanish clavo, 'nail') as the buds vaguely resemble small irregular nails in shape.

Cloves are also known under the following names in other languages:[1]

  • Dutch: kruidnagel
  • French: giroflier (for the tree), clou de girofle (for the spice)
  • German: Gewürznelkenbaum
  • Hindi: lavang
  • Indonesian: cengkeh or cengkih
  • Kannada: lavanga (ಲವಂಗ)
  • Malayalam: grampoo
  • Marathi: lavang (लवंग)
  • Pashto: lawang
  • Portuguese: cravo-da-Índia, cravo-das-molucas, and cravo-de-doce
  • Spanish: árbol del clavo or clavero giroflé (for the tree), clavo de olor (for the spice)
  • Sinhala: karabu nati (කරාබු නැටි)
  • Tamil: kirambu (கிராம்பு), lavangam (இலவங்கம்)
  • Telugu: lavangam (లవంగం)
  • Urdu: laung, laong
  • Vietnamese: đinh hương


Dried cloves
Clove output in 2005

Cloves can be used in cooking either whole or in a ground form, but as they are extremely strong, they are used sparingly.

Cloves have historically been used in Indian cuisine (both North Indian and South Indian). In North Indian cuisine, it is used in almost all rich or spicy dishes as an ingredient of a mix named garam masala, along with other spices, although it is not an everyday ingredient for home cuisine, nor is it used in summer very often. In the Maharashtra region of India it is used sparingly for sweet or spicy dishes, but rarely in everyday cuisine. In Ayurvedic medicine it is considered to have the effect of increasing heat in system, hence the difference of usage by region and season. In south Indian cuisine, it is used extensively in biryani along with "cloves dish" (similar to pilaf, but with the addition of other spices), and it is normally added whole to enhance the presentation and flavor of the rice.

Dried cloves are also a key ingredient in Indian masala chai, spiced tea, a special variation of tea popular in some regions, notably Gujarat. In the US, it is often sold under the name of "chai" or "chai tea", as a way of differentiating it from other types of teas sold in the US.

In Mexican cuisine, cloves are best known as clavos de olor, and often used together with cumin and cinnamon.[2]

In Vietnamese cuisine, cloves are often used to season the broth of Phở.

Due to the Indonesian influence, the use of cloves is widespread in the Netherlands. Cloves are used in cheeses, often in combination with cumin. Cloves are an essential ingredient for making Dutch speculaas. Furthermore, cloves are used in traditional Dutch stews like hachee.

Non-culinary uses

The spice is used in a type of cigarette called kretek in Indonesia.[1] Kreteks have been smoked throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. In 2009, clove cigarettes (as well as fruit and candy flavored cigarettes) were outlawed in the US.[3] However, they are still sold in similar form, re-labeled as "filtered clove cigars".

Cloves are also an important incense material in Chinese and Japanese culture. And clove essence is commonly used in the production of many perfumes.

During Christmas, it is a tradition in some European countries to make pomanders from cloves and oranges to hang around the house. This spreads a nice scent throughout the house and serves as holiday decorations.

Cloves are often used as incense in the Jewish practice called Havdala.

Traditional medicinal uses

Cloves are used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and western herbalism and dentistry where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller) for dental emergencies. Cloves are used as a carminative, to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis. Cloves are also said to be a natural anthelmintic.[4] The essential oil is used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming are needed, especially for digestive problems. Topical application over the stomach or abdomen are said to warm the digestive tract. Clove oil, applied to a cavity in a decayed tooth, also relieves toothache.[5] It also helps to decrease infection in the teeth due to its antiseptic properties.

In Chinese medicine cloves or ding xiang are considered acrid, warm and aromatic, entering the kidney, spleen and stomach meridians, and are notable in their ability to warm the middle, direct stomach qi downward, to treat hiccough and to fortify the kidney yang.[6] Because the herb is so warming it is contraindicated in any persons with fire symptoms and according to classical sources should not be used for anything except cold from yang deficiency. As such it is used in formulas for impotence or clear vaginal discharge from yang deficiency, for morning sickness together with ginseng and patchouli, or for vomiting and diarrhea due to spleen and stomach coldness.[6] This would translate to hypochlorhydria. Clove oil is used in various skin disorders like acne, pimples etc. It is also used in severe burns, skin irritations and to reduce the sensitivity of skin.

Cloves may be used internally as a tea and topically as an oil for hypotonic muscles, including for multiple sclerosis.[citation needed] This is also found in Tibetan medicine.[7] Some recommend avoiding more than occasional use of cloves internally in the presence of pitta inflammation such as is found in acute flares of autoimmune diseases.[8]

In West Africa, the Yorubas use cloves infused in water as a treatment for stomach upsets, vomiting and diarrhea. The infusion is called Ogun Jedi-jedi.

Medicinal uses

Western studies have supported the use of cloves and clove oil for dental pain. However, studies to determine its effectiveness for fever reduction, as a mosquito repellent and to prevent premature ejaculation have been inconclusive. Clove may reduce blood sugar levels.[9]

Tellimagrandin II is an ellagitannin found in S. aromaticum with anti-herpesvirus properties.[10]

The buds have anti-oxidant properties.[11]

Clove oil can be used to anesthetize fish, and prolonged exposure to higher doses (the recommended dose is 400mg/l) is considered a humane means of euthanasia.[12]


Until modern times, cloves grew only on a few islands in the Maluku Islands (historically called the Spice Islands), including Bacan, Makian, Moti, Ternate, and Tidore.[13] Nevertheless, they found their way west to the Middle East and Europe well before the first century AD. Archeologists found cloves within a ceramic vessel in Syria along with evidence dating the find to within a few years of 1721 BC.[13]

In the 3rd century BC, a Chinese leader in the Han Dynasty required those who addressed them to chew cloves so as to freshen their breath.[14] Cloves, along with nutmeg and pepper, were highly prized in Roman times, and Pliny the Elder once famously complained that "there is no year in which India does not drain the Roman Empire of fifty million sesterces".

Cloves were traded by Muslim sailors and merchants during the Middle Ages in the profitable Indian Ocean trade, the Clove trade is also mentioned by Ibn Battuta and even famous One Thousand and One Nights characters such Sinbad the Sailor is known to have bought and sold Cloves[15]. In the late fifteenth century, Portugal took over the Indian Ocean trade, including cloves, due to the Treaty of Tordesillas with Spain and a separate treaty with the sultan of Ternate. The Portuguese brought large quantities of cloves to Europe, mainly from the Maluku Islands. Clove was then one of the most valuable spices, a kg costing around 7 g of gold.[citation needed]

The high value of cloves and other spices drove Spain to seek new routes to the Maluku Islands, which would not be seen as trespassing on the Portuguese domain in the Indian Ocean. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain sponsored the unsuccessful voyages of Christopher Columbus, and their grandson Charles V sponsored the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. The fleet led by Magellan reached the Maluku Islands after his death, and the Spanish were successful in briefly capturing this trade from the Portuguese. The trade later became dominated by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. With great difficulty the French succeeded in introducing the clove tree into Mauritius in the year 1770. Subsequently, their cultivation was introduced into Guiana, Brazil, most of the West Indies, and Zanzibar.

In Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, cloves were worth at least their weight in gold, due to the high price of importing them.[citation needed]

Active compounds

The compound eugenol is responsible for most of the characteristic aroma of cloves.

Eugenol comprises 72-90% of the essential oil extracted from cloves, and is the compound most responsible for the cloves' aroma. Other important essential oil constituents of clove oil include acetyl eugenol, beta-caryophyllene and vanillin; crategolic acid; tannins, gallotannic acid, methyl salicylate (painkiller); the flavonoids eugenin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and eugenitin; triterpenoids like oleanolic acid, stigmasterol and campesterol; and several sesquiterpenes.[16]

Eugenol has pronounced antiseptic and anaesthetic properties. Of the dried buds, 15 - 20 percent is essential oils, and the majority of this is eugenol. A kilogram (2.2 lbs) of dried buds yields approximately 150 ml (1/4 of pint) of eugenol.[17][unreliable source?]

Eugenol can be toxic in relatively small quantities—as low as 5 ml.[18]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d "Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & L. M. Perry". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) online database. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  2. ^ Dorenburg, Andrew and Page, Karen. The New American Chef: Cooking with the Best Flavors and Techniques from Around the World, John Wiley and Sons Inc., ©2003.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Balch, Phyllis and Balch, James. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd ed., Avery Publishing, ©2000, pg. 94.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, Third Edition by Dan Bensky, Steven Clavey, Erich Stoger, and Andrew Gamble 2004
  7. ^ "TibetMed - Question: Multiple Sclerosis". 
  8. ^ Tilotson, Alan. Special Diets for Illness
  9. ^ National Institutes of Health, Medicine Plus. Clove (Eugenia aromatica) and Clove oil (Eugenol)
  10. ^ Kurokawa, Masahiko; et al. (1998). "Purification and Characterization of Eugeniin as an Anti-herpesvirus Compound from Geum japonicum and Syzygium aromaticum". JPET 284 (2): 728–735. 
  11. ^ Niwano, Y.; et al., Keita; Yoshizaki, Fumihiko; Kohno, Masahiro; Ozawa, Toshihiko (2011). "Extensive screening for herbal extracts with potent antioxidant properties". Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition 48 (1): 78–84. doi:10.3164/jcbn.11-013FR. PMC 3022069. PMID 21297917. 
  12. ^ Monks, Neale. "Aquarium Fish Euthanasia: Euthanizing and disposing of aquarium fish.". Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Turner, Jack (2004). Spice: The History of a Temptation. Vintage Books. pp. xv. ISBN 0-375-70705-0. 
  14. ^ Andaya, Leonard Y. (1993). "1: Cultural State Formation in Eastern Indonesia". In Reid, Anthony. Southeast Asia in the early modern era: trade, power, and belief. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8093-5. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, Third Edition by Dan Bensky, Steven Clavey, Erich Stoger, and Andrew Gamble. 2004
  17. ^ Ryman, Clove
  18. ^ Hartnoll, G; Moore, D; Douek, D (1993). "Near fatal ingestion of oil of cloves". Archives of disease in childhood 69 (3): 392–3. doi:10.1136/adc.69.3.392. PMC 1029532. PMID 8215554. 

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Clove — Clove, n. [OE. clow, fr. F. clou nail, clou de girofle a clove, lit. nail of clove, fr. L. clavus nail, perh. akin to clavis key, E. clavicle. The clove was so called from its resemblance to a nail. So in D. kruidnagel clove, lit. herb nail or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • clove — Ⅰ. clove [1] ► NOUN 1) the dried flower bud of a tropical tree, used as a pungent aromatic spice. 2) (oil of cloves) an aromatic oil extracted from these buds and used for the relief of dental pain. 3) (also clove pink or clove gillyflower) a… …   English terms dictionary

  • Clove — Clove, imp. of {Cleave}. Cleft. Spenser. [1913 Webster] {Clove hitch} (Naut.) See under {Hitch}. {Clove hook} (Naut.), an iron two part hook, with jaws overlapping, used in bending chain sheets to the clews of sails; called also {clip hook}.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Clove — Clove, n. [D. kloof. See {Cleave}, v. t.] A cleft; a gap; a ravine; rarely used except as part of a proper name; as, Kaaterskill Clove; Stone Clove. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Clove — Clove, n. [AS. clufe an ear of corn, a clove of garlic; cf. cle[ o]fan to split, E. cleave.] 1. (Bot.) One of the small bulbs developed in the axils of the scales of a large bulb, as in the case of garlic. [1913 Webster] Developing, in the axils… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • clove — klōv n 1 a) the pungent fragrant aromatic reddish brown dried flower bud of a tropical evergreen tree (Syzygium aromaticum) of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) that yields clove oil b) a spice consisting of whole or ground cloves usu. used in pl. 2) …   Medical dictionary

  • clove — clove; clove·root; …   English syllables

  • clove — clove1 [klōv] n. [ME clowe < OFr clou (de girofle), lit., nail (of clove) < L clavus, nail (see CLOSE2); so called from its shape] 1. the dried flower bud of a tropical evergreen tree (Eugenia aromatica) of the myrtle family, originally… …   English World dictionary

  • Clove — (spr. Klohw), 1) Wollgewicht in England, = 7 Pfd. Zollgewicht; 2) in Essex Gewicht für Butter u. Käse, = 8 Pfd. Zollgewicht …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Clove — (spr. klow ), Wollgewicht in England zu 7 Pfund Avdp., = 3,175 kg; auch Butter oder Käsegewicht für Essex, = 3,628 kg …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”