Clove is the dried unopened flower bud obtained from a handsome, middle-sized, evergreen tree. The tree has a straight trunk and grows upto a height of 10 to 12 metres.
The dove has been used in India and China, for over 2,000 years, as a spice to check both tooth decay and counter halitosis, that is bad breath. In Persia and China, it was considered to have aphrodisiac properties.
The clove tree is a native of the Molucca islands. The Chinese obtained this spice by the 3rd century BC. Cloves were imported into Alexandria as early as 176 AD. By the fourth century AD it was well known in the Mediterranean and by the 8th century, throughout Europe. Today Zanzibar is the leading producer of cloves.
An analysis of clove shows it to consist of carbohydrates moisture, protein, volatile oil, non-volatile ether extract (fat), and crude fibre besides mineral matter, ash insoluble in hydrocloric acid, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, thiamine, roboflavin, niacin, vitamins C and A. Its calorific value is 430.
The clove buds, stem and leaves, on steam distillation, yield a substantial amount of essential oil. The clove bud oil, derived from the dried buds by steam distillation, contains free eugenol, eugenol acetate and caryophyllene. The stem oil contains more free eugenal than the bud oil, besides eugenol acetate, in small quantity. The leaf oil contains much less of total eugenol than the bud oil and a very small quantity of eugenol acetate.
Cloves have many medicinal virtues. They are stimulant. They are useful in counteracting spasmodic disorders and in relieving flatulence. They help stimulate sluggish circulation and thereby promote digestion and metabolism. In the Indian system of medicine, cloves are used in various conditions either in the form of a powder or a decoction made from them. Clove oil contains ingredients that help stabilize blood circulation and regulate body temperature. Clove oil, applied outwardly, has stimulating effects on the skin, producing heat and redness.
Cloves promote enzymatic flow and boost digestive functioning. They are used in various forms of gastric- irritability and dyspepsia. Licking the powder of fried cloves mixed with honey is effective in controlling vomiting. The anaesthetic action of clove numbs the gullet and stomach and stops vomiting.
Cloves are very useful for treating cholera. About 4 grams of cloves are boiled in 3 litres of water until half the water has evaporated. This water, taken in draughts, will check sever/: symptoms of the disease.
Chewing a clove with a crystal of common salt eases expectoration, relieves the irritation in the throat and stops cough in the pharyngitis -that is, inflammation of the pharynx. Chewing a burnt dove is also an effective medicine for coughs caused by congested throat and pharyngitis.
Three to five drops of dove oil mixed with honey and a clove of garlic helps alleviate the painful spasmodic coughs in tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis. It should be taken once before going to bed.
Clove is an effective remedy for asthma. A teaspoon of decoction prepared by boiling 6 cloves in 30 ml of water can be taken with honey thrice daily as an expectorant.
The use of a clove in toothache decreases pain. It also helps to decrease infection due to its antiseptic properties. Clove oil, applied to a cavity in a decayed tooth, also relieves toothache.
A clove sauted in a teaspoon of sesame ail) oil and 3 to 5 drops of this (warm) oil put into the ear can cure earache.
Muscular cramps are often relieved when the oil of dove is applied as a poultice near the affected portion.
A paste of dove and salt crystals in milk is a common household remedy for headaches. Salt, as a hygroscopic agent, absorbs fluid and decreases tension.
Clove is one of the best remedies for styes which is an inflammation around the eyelash. A clove stub rubbed in water and then applied over the stye gives relief.
Cloves are used as a table spice and mixed with chillies, cinnamon, turmeric and other spices in the preparation of curry powder. They are also used to flavour the betel quid (pan pati). Clove oil is used in the manufacture of perfumes, soaps, bath salts and as a flavouring agent in medicine and dentistry.