Clove Oil Guide - Benefits, Properties, Characteristics & Composition


Clove is one of the most widely used spices all over the world. Clove oil like clove has a number of health benefits owning to its numerous properties most notably anaesthetic, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiviral, aphrodisiac and stimulating properties. However, not all clove oils are created same. Read on to understand difference between clove bud, leaf and stem oil and characteristics, composition, properties and benefits of clove oil.

Clove oil guide - Syzygium aromaticum


The botanical name of the clove tree is Syzygium aromaticum. It is also known as Eugenia aromatica, Eugenia caryophyllata, Eugenia caryophyllus and Caryophyllus aromaticus.


Cloves are aromatic, small, 10–17.5 mm long, blackish brown dried unopened flower buds. During the flowering season, long buds appear with a rosy-pink corolla at the tip; as the corolla fades the calyx slowly turns deep red.

Clove tree belongs to Myrtaceae family and is a slender evergreen tree that grows up to 12 m high. It has a smooth grey trunk and large bright green leaves. Clove trees are propagated by seeds and they begin to yield at about 4–5 years and continue till 70 years.
The yield of a mature clove tree is generally around 3–4 kg of fresh buds.

Clove tree require warm and humid climate to grow. Cloves are believed to be native to Indonesia, specifically Maluku Islands. The main clove producing areas are Indonesia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Comoros, Kenya, China and India.[1]

The main oil-producing countries are Madagascar and Indonesia.

History of Use of Cloves

Clove has been extensively used as spice for centuries. It has been cultivated in plantations for over 2000 years.

One of the earliest references of clove is found in China as early as 200 BC where Chinese had to have a few Cloves in their mouths to sweeten the breath in order to approach the emperor. Natives in the Molucca Islands planted a Clove tree for each child born. They believed that the fate of the tree was linked to the fate of that child.

During the late Middle Ages, cloves were used in Europe to preserve, flavour, and garnish food.

Clove cultivation was almost entirely confined to Indonesia. Many wars were fought to secure the trade rights of the clove. In Seventeenth Century, the Dutch set fire to destroy clove trees not under their control to limit supply and and raise prices. A Frenchman in 1770, stole some seedlings and thus begin the cultivation of cloves in other regions in world.

Cloves were widely used in traditional Chinese medicines to treat a number of ailments including diarrhoea, hernia, bad breath, bronchitis and indigestion. In Indonesia, cloves have been widely used in preparation of Kretak cigarette.

Tincture of cloves has been used for skin infections (scabies, athlete’s foot); for digestive upsets; to dress the umbilical cord; for intestinal parasites; to ease the pain of childbirth (steeped in wine); and notably for toothache. The tea is used to relieve nausea.

Extraction of Clove Oil

Clove oil is extracted from either flower buds (cloves) or leaves or stems using steam/water distillation. These 3 different raw materials produce oils which are different in compositions.

Clove buds can yield between 15% and 20% of essential oil.

Characteristics of Clove Oil

Clove bud oil is a pale yellow liquid with warm, spicy, sweet and strong aroma. The viscosity of the clove oil is medium.

In comparison, clove leaf oil is dark brown with a crude, burnt-woody odour and clove stem oil is a pale yellow liquid with a strong spicy-woody odour.

Name Clove Oil
Botanical Name Syzygium aromaticum
Family Myrtaceae
Genus Syzygium
Colour Pale Yellow to Dark Brown
Aroma Warm, Spicy, Sweet, Strong, Burnt-woody, Spicy-woody
Note Middle

Composition of Clove Oil

The principal constituent of clove oil is Eugenol. Other known constituents of clove oils are eugenyl acetate, methyl alcohol, methyl salicylate, furfurol, pinene, vanillin and β-caryophyllene.

Three different clove oils – bud, leaves and stem – differ in their composition. For example, the proportion of eugenol is highest in stem oil and least in bud oil. Proportion of eugenyl acetate is found to be highest in bud oil and lowest in leaf oil.

  • Bud Oil: 60‒90% eugenol, 4-15% eugenyl acetate, β-caryophyllene and other minor constituents.
  • Leaf Oil: 82–88% eugenol, β-caryophyllene and other minor constituents with little or no eugenyl acetate.
  • Stem Oil: 90–95% eugenol with other minor constituents.

ISO standards 3141, 3142, and 3143 dealing with the oil from buds, leaves, and stems show character and data for these oils.

Adulteration of Clove Oil

Out of all 3 clove oils, clove bud oil the most expansive. It is often adulterated with oils from clove leaves and stems. Other less expansive clove oil, leaf and stem, may also be adulterated with residues from isolation of natural eugenol and β-caryophyllene from other sources.


Clove essential oil blends well with basil, bergamot, black pepper, cinnamon, clary sage, ginger, lavender, lemon, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary, sandalwood, tea tree and thyme.

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Clove Oil Guide Infographics


Clove oil has analgesic, anthelmintic, antibiotic, anti-emetic, antihistaminic, anti-rheumatic, anti-neuralgic, anti-oxidant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, carminative, counter-irritant, expectorant, insecticidal, larvicidal, spasmolytic, stimulant, stomachic, vermifuge properties.

Benefits of Clove Oil

Clove oil has a number of health benefits including ability to reduce toothache, improve overall dental hygiene, reduce acne, deal with indigestion, respiratory problems, inflammation due to arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and various strains and sprains among others.

Dental Care: One of the most well known usages of clove oil is for dental care. Eugenol, largest component in clove oil, is a natural anaesthetic and has anti-inflammatory property.

According to a study to compare effect of 0.2% chlorhexidine gel and a eugenol-based paste on postoperative alveolar osteitis in patients having third molars extracted, eugenol was found to be a better intervention in reducing pain, inflammation and infection.[2]  Another study found clove gel to be as effective as benzocaine as topical anaesthetics. Benzocaine is a topical agent commonly used before needle insertion. [3]

Eugenol when mixed with zinc oxide forms a material which has restorative and prosthodontic applications in dentistry. [4]

Clove oil is an effective natural remedy for dry socket and toothache related to dental and gum problems because of its anaesthetic property that helps alleviate pain.

Add a drop of clove oil on a cotton swab and apply to the surrounding gum line of the affected tooth for immediate relief. Or mix few drops of clove oil with a teaspoonful of olive/coconut oil and use a cotton ball to apply this mixture on the affected area.

Clove oil is also useful in getting rid of bad breath and improving overall oral health. Put a few drops of clove oil in a cup of warm water and use this mixture to gargle. In addition to freshening breath, antibacterial property of clove oil helps minimise the spread of bacteria inside the mouth and thus is effective against gingivitis, strep throat, tonsillitis, laryngitis.

According to a study conducted to study the effect of apple juice on decalcification, clove essential oil found to be effective in inhibiting the decalcification and/or may promoting the remineralization. [3]

Digestive Aid: Clove oil is a natural remedy for treatment of common digestive problems like indigestion, bloating and flatulence. Stimulant properties of clove oil helps in releasing gastric acids and to digest food. It helps in reducing in gas pressure and associated pain.

Clove oil is beneficial in dispelling intestinal worms and parasites due to its anti-parasitic and anthelmintic properties.

For best results, mix clove oil with carrier oil and massage over abdomen.

In addition according to a study conducted, clove oil has also been found to significantly enhance mucus production and show anti-ulcer activity in rats against indomethacin-induced and ethanol/HCl-induced ulcer model. [4]

Anti-inflammatory: Clove oil is useful in case of rheumatic-type pains and relieving symptoms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and various strains and sprains due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic properties.

In addition, clove oil also helps to increases blood circulation and thus promoting faster healing of the injured tissues.

The study conducted in 2017 to study anti-inflammatory activity of clove oil found important evidence of clove oil induced anti-inflammatory and tissue remodelling activity in human dermal fibroblasts. [5]

Acne Cure: Clove oil is natural remedy for curing acne because of its potent antimicrobial properties.

According to a study, clove oil exerted significant antibacterial activity toward propionibacterium acnes, propionibacterium acnes is a gram-positive anaerobic microorganism recognised as the major skin bacterium causing acne. [6]

According to another study, clove oil efficiently inhibited and killed both planktonic cell and biofilm of Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus is the most prominent member of the skin microbiota and it plays a role as a pathogen in many skin infections such as folliculitis and impetigo and their co-existence with other microbes in acne lesions has been reported.

For effective results, either add a few drop of clove oil to skin cream or lotion or add few drop to a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil and apply to the affected area. You may also ad a few drops of clove oil to raw honey and apply on face. Wash it once dry.

Anti-bacterial: Clove oil is effective in treating a broad spectrum of viral, bacterial and fungal infections, including warts, herpes, athlete’s foot, chronic pruritus, and toenail fungus due to its antiseptic and anti-infectious properties.

According to a research published in 2017, topical treatment of chronic pruritus with clove oils is effective, easy to use, safe, cheap, and more acceptable for whom topical and systemic treatments tend to be irritating, contraindicated, or less well tolerated. [7]

Another study has confirmed that the clove oil and eugenol showed inhibitory activity against Candida, Aspergillus and dermatophyte species. [8]

Stimulant: Clove oil enhances memory retention and is good for relieving nervous exhaustion, fatigue, brain fog, lethargy and depressive states of mind.

Insect Repellent: Eugenol, main compound of clove oil, is toxic to many common pests, insects including mosquitoes.[1] To keep insects and moths out of your home, put two or three drops of clove oil on a cotton ball and place it in your closet or cupboard. [9]

Respiratory Problems: Clove oil is a natural remedy for various respiratory conditions such as asthma, sinus infections, bronchitis and other pulmonary conditions due to its antihistamine and expectorant properties.

Other Uses: Clove oil is widely used in dental preparations and as a fragrance component in toothpastes, soaps, toiletries, cosmetics and perfumes. In addition, clove oil is also used as a flavour ingredient in major food categories, alcoholic and soft drinks.


Clove oil may cause skin and mucous membrane irritation. It is advised to be used in moderation only in low dilution (less than 1 percent). Clove bud is the least irritant of the three oils due to the lower eugenol percentage.

Do NOT use during pregnancy or if you have a history of high blood pressure or have renal (kidney) disease.

Consult your healthcare provider if you’re nursing, taking medications, or being treated for other health challenges. Keep out of reach of children.

Care must be taken in storing clove oil. Must be stored in a cold and dark place. Shelf life is around 4-5 years.


The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.

Julia Lawless. Encyclopedia of Essential Oils
White, Gregory Lee. Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: How to Use Essential Oils for Beauty, Health, and Spirituality
Jean Valnet. The Practice of Aromatherapy
KG Stiles. The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide
Konstantine, Ramit. Essential Oils: A Complete Guide to Healing With Natural Herbal Remedies, Alternative Therapies, and Using Essential Oils For Beauty, Essential Oils For Stress and Weight Loss.
Kymberly Keniston-Pond. Essential Oils 101
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