Friday, January 7, 2011

Clove Power: A tasty and aromatic anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anesthetic!

Cloves have that wonderful aroma so reminiscent of apple pie baking in the oven, deliciously spicy grog, or aromatic dried oranges studded with clove nails. But cloves also have amazingly powerful remedial uses due to their anti-bacterial, antiseptic, anesthetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Inserting a clove in the mouth to reduce toothache or in the ear to relieve earache, making an infusion to assuage skin ailments or respiratory difficulties, or applying a poultice of clove oil to reduce infection are just some of the ways cloves can be used to relieve aches and pains.

The moniker “clove” originates from the word “clou,” which is French for nail, and of course describes the shape of this multi-faceted spice. Scientifically, cloves are known as Caryophyllus Aromaticus or Syzygium Aromaticum. Cloves originate in warm, exotic climes such as Tanzania, Sumatra, Indonesia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Molucca Islands, and South America.  They have been used as far back as the Han dynasty in China where they freshened the breath of courtesans. In ancient Egypt they were stung on necklaces, and much later in 4th Century Europe they were introduced by Arab traders and used to flavor teas and culinary dishes. In Tibet, they have been a staple throughout the ages to fortify the immune system.

Cloves come from an evergreen tree with leathery leaves and buds that form a hood to protect their stamens. The buds are responsible for up to 20% of the spice’s volatile oils, with 2% remaining in the leaves and 5% in the stems. Clove oil contains a substance called eugenol, which is both antiseptic and analgesic, which means it helps reduce infection and swelling. Cloves also boast a good supply of phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and vitamins A and C.  Its high calcium and iron content helps to keep bones strong.

Placing clove oil on achy joints and muscles helps to increase circulation, directing nutrients to zones that need particular attention.  Clove oil warms the area as it penetrates the skin, helping to reduce stiffness and swelling.

Including cloves in your recipes is an excellent way to get clove power, either by using it in powdered form, or grinding the spice with an electric grinder or a mortar and pestle. Whole cloves can also be boiled for use a tea or taken in capsule form. Clove oil is easy to find in health food stores and can be applied directly to the skin after diluting it in a bit of coconut, olive, or vitamin E oil to avoid possible irritation to the skin.

Note: Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting on a clove protocol, especially if you are taking medications.

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