A teaspoon on a grey-blue background filled with clove buds, which are used to make clove essential oil. Share on Pinterest

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Clove oil is an essential oil that’s derived from clove trees. The clove tree, known as Syzygium aromaticum, is native to Southeast Asia, although today you may find it growing in other locations, too.

Clove oil is produced by distilling the dried flower buds that are collected from the clove tree. Other parts of the tree, such as the stem and leaves, may also be used.

Clove oil, which ranges in color from colorless to light yellow and has a strong, spicy aroma, has been used for centuries in a variety of applications.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the potential benefits of this oil and how you can use it at home.

Clove oil has traditionally been used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • as an antimicrobial, to help kill bacteria
  • as a pain reliever for conditions such as toothache and muscle pain
  • for digestive upset
  • to relieve respiratory conditions like cough and asthma

While many different chemicals have been identified in clove oil, a compound called eugenol is one of the primary components.

Like many essential oils, researchers have been working to evaluate the potential health benefits of clove oil and its components. Let’s take a deeper dive into what some of the research says so far.

Antimicrobial activity

In a study from 2012, researchers found that clove oil had the ability to kill staph bacteria cells in liquid culture and in biofilm. A biofilm is a community of bacteria that lives together, shielded by a protective, slimy film.

Most antibiotics aren’t effective at penetrating the biofilm and killing staph bacteria but, according to this study, clove oil seems to be able to.

A 2017 study looked at the antifungal activity of several essential oils. Of the oils tested, clove oil was the most effective at stopping the growth of a range of fungi with environmental origins.

In a 2005 study, researchers investigated the effect of eugenol, a major component of clove oil, on the yeast Candida albicans. This yeast can cause fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, oral thrush, and vaginal yeast infections.

According to the authors of the study, eugenol had the ability to kill the yeast, both in culture and in a rat model.

A 2018 study looked at the effect of essential oils on a variety of bacteria that cause respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and influenza.

Although the effects were lower than the antibiotics tested, clove oil did have antibacterial activity when added to liquid culture or introduced as a vapor.

Summary

Clove oil can be effective at stopping the growth of some types of bacteria and fungi.

Dental uses

In 2012, researchers investigated the effect of clove oil on the dental erosion of teeth by acidic beverages, like apple juice. Dental erosion of teeth can lead to cavities.

According to the study, clove oil and its molecules were effective at preventing dental erosion, leading the authors to believe that clove oil may work in a similar way to fluoride in preventing cavities.

A 2016 study tested 10 natural plant products to see how effective they were against organisms that cause oral cavities. Clove oil was found to be the most effective at inhibiting cavity-causing organisms.

A 2006 study compared the pain-relieving ability of clove gel and benzocaine.

Researchers found that participants who were tested with either clove oil or benzocaine had significantly lower pain scores than the placebo group. This led the authors of the study to believe that clove oil may be effective as a topical anesthetic.

Summary

Clove essential oil may help prevent cavities and relieve oral pain.

Skin applications

In 2017, researchers tested clove oil to see whether, when applied to the skin, it had any effect on chronic itching. The study found that, compared to petroleum oil, clove oil significantly relieved itching.

A study from 2007 compared the topical use of clove oil cream in the treatment of anal fissures with stool softeners and lignocaine cream.

After 3 months, researchers noted healing in 60 percent of people in the clove oil group, compared to only 12 percent in the stool softeners and lignocaine group.

Summary

When applied to the skin, clove oil may be effective at relieving itching and promoting healing.

Anticancer properties

A study from 2014 looked at the effect that clove oil had on a line of human breast cancer cells in vitro, which means the cells were tested in a dish or test tube. The researchers found that clove oil, in certain quantities, was toxic to the cancer cells.

In another in vitro study, researchers found that clove oil stopped the growth of several cancer cell lines, including but not limited to breast, cervical, and colon cancer. Clove extract also increased cell death and disrupted cell division in a colon cancer cell line.

Summary

In a test tube, clove oil seems to be effective at killing cancer cells or stopping them from growing. However, further research is needed to investigate clove oil’s anticancer properties.

There are several ways you can use clove oil at home. Here are some suggestions:

Spray

Using the oil as a spray is an easy way to add the spicy scent of clove to a room. Or perhaps you’d like to make use of clove oil’s antimicrobial properties and use it as a mild disinfectant. To make a clove spray:

  1. Add several drops of clove oil to water. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) suggests 10 to 15 drops per ounce of water.
  2. Since essential oils don’t dissolve in water, you may want to add a dispersing agent such as solubol to the solution as well.
  3. Be sure to shake the bottle well before spraying.

Diffusion

Like spray applications, using a diffuser can help spread the aroma of clove throughout a room. When diffusing clove oil, be sure to carefully follow the instructions that came with your diffuser.

When spraying or diffusing clove oil, make sure the room is well-ventilated.

Topical

There are a couple of ways to apply clove oil to your skin if you want to use it for pain relief, wound healing, or to ease itching:

  • Massage oils. Dilute clove oil in carrier oil, such as jojoba, coconut, or olive oil. The NAHA suggests using 15 drops of clove oil per ounce of carrier oil in order to create a 2.5 percent solution.
  • Creams, scrubs, or lotions. Dilute clove oil in an unscented product, such as a lotion or facial cream. The NAHA recommends a 1 to 2.5 percent dilution for normal skin and a 0.5 to 1 percent dilution for sensitive skin.

Dental

Do you have a toothache? Dabbing clove oil onto your sore tooth may help to relieve the pain until you can get to see a dentist. To use clove oil for a toothache, follow these steps:

  1. Dilute a few drops of clove oil in an edible carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil.
  2. Dab a clean cotton ball into the solution, allowing it to soak in.
  3. Avoiding contact with your gums, apply the cotton ball to the sore tooth. It may take a few minutes of application to feel relief.
  4. Reapply every 2 hours as necessary.

If you experience irritation or discomfort when applying clove oil to a tooth, stop using it.

There are some potential side effects of clove oil you should be aware of.

Skin irritation

Clove oil can cause skin irritation in some people. If you’re concerned about your sensitivity to clove oil, test it first. To do this, apply a small amount of diluted clove oil to the inside of your elbow.

If you notice signs of skin irritation, like redness, itching, or swelling, don’t use clove oil topically.

Allergy

Although rare, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to clove oil or its components. Be sure to know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction:

  • rash or hives, which may be itchy
  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing or coughing
  • tightness in the throat or trouble swallowing
  • digestive upset like vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping
  • passing out

Drug interactions

Avoid using clove oil if you’re taking any of the following types of medication:

Specific health conditions

Avoid using clove oil if:

You can shop for clove oil online or in natural food or health stores. To find the best quality clove oil, follow the tips below:

  • Know the scientific name. It should be included on the product label. For clove oil, it’s Syzygium aromaticum. A synonym for clove oil that you may also see is Eugenia cariophylata.
  • Look for a purity statement. Try to buy 100 percent clove essential oil. If there are any other ingredients, they should be listed on the label.
  • Be wary of marketing hype and product claims. Essential oils aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way that drugs are regulated. Be cautious of any oil that claims it can be used to treat or cure a specific condition.
  • Make sure the oil is in a dark glass bottle. Light can damage essential oils, and dark glass helps to keep the light out.
  • If you can, smell it before buying it. Clove oil has a unique scent. If it doesn’t smell like you’d expect, don’t purchase it.

Traditionally, clove oil has been used for easing digestive upset, relieving pain, and helping with respiratory conditions. Research has found that clove oil may have benefits for dental and topical applications, for treating infections, and even fighting cancer.

As with any essential oil, make sure to use clove oil safely. Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns before using clove oil.