Did you ever wonder where the word ‘clove’ comes from? Have a look at the shape and you might not be surprised to learn that it comes from the French word “clou”, which means nail. So if you have been eating cloves to help your body steer itself towards better health, you have definitely hit the nail on the head!

Humans have been benefiting from cloves’ incredible health benefits for thousands of years. Over 2000 years ago, in imperial China, people who were meeting the emperor were required to chew on cloves in order to get rid of any potential bad breath and be respectful. Even if you don’t have such an important occasion to attend, eating food that contains cloves is an excellent way to take care of your dental health.

Cloves are used to relieve the pain that can occur due to dental disorders. A study compared the effect of benzocaine, a local anesthetic commonly used for dental purposes, with the effect of cloves. No substantial difference in pain levels between the people who had the cloves and those who had the benzocaine were found1.

            In addition, cloves have strong anti-fungal activity, which is why it is an effective way to free your mouth of excess candida2. Also commonly called thrush, candida is a type of yeast that lives in small amounts in places such as your mouth. However, if the yeast multiplies and grows out of control, you can experience the unpleasant symptoms of candidiasis. This can happen because of a variety of factors, including diets high in sugar and refined carbs. Cloves have high levels of eugenol, which is also one of the most powerful anti-oxidants you can find and has strong anti-fungal properties that will help your body maintain healthy levels of candida.

Cloves are also a great way to avoid or cure caries (aka cavities). In the beginning of dental caries, the superficial dental structure is destroyed by a bacterium called Streptococcus mutans, which can then be a source of infection and inflammation. Eventually, this can lead to the loss of a tooth. Cloves have strong anti-microbial activity, helping get rid of the bacterium that causes the teeth to decay3.

Cloves are such a powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal that they are one of the main ingredients of the famous thieves oil, which is said to have, according to legend, protected people from the bubonic plague. The folklore story dates back to the year 1413, when the bubonic plague (also known as Black Death) was decimating parts of European and Asian populations. Four thieves were caught in France during that time for robbing the sick. The judge was baffled by how they could still possibly be alive, since the bubonic plague is highly contagious. The thieves’ crime was punishable by being burned alive, but the judge promised them he would spare them if they told him their secret. The thieves then told the judge that they covered themselves with an oil blend, made mainly of cloves, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary and it kept them safe. Although the judge kept his promise of not burning them alive, the thieves did not escape their tragic destiny: they were hanged instead.

The impressive and extensive antimicrobial properties of cloves can make your food safer to eat and help your body stay free of harmful microbes such as E.Coli4. There are microbes everywhere, some of them aren’t harmful but some of them can be, and if your body is healthy it will have no problem dealing with them. Cloves can be a huge help for this.

Finally, if you’ve been wondering what the key to happiness is, search no more, you might find your answer in cloves! While this may be an overstatement, there actually is scientific evidence that cloves have anti-depressant effects. The eugenol present in the cloves acts as an anti-depressant5, increasing levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and making you feel good.

If you’ve been looking for ways to make your body stronger and healthier, the foods you eat matter a lot. With a wonderfully strong and spicy flavor, cloves can be enjoyed in numerous sweet foods, such as spiced oats, or savory dishes, such as biryani… Whatever your pleasure, know that will bring numerous benefits to your physical and mental health.

Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include, not only eating, but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA with a specialty in “Cultivating Resiliency and Food Justice Through Community”. She is truly a citizen of the world and continues to explore cultures through world travel.