Spices: Clove Bud

Clove Bud, Franz Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897. Public Domain.

Clove Bud, Franz Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1897. Public Domain.

Every spice cabinet I’ve ever opened has the underlying aroma of clove. Clove is that spice that you buy maybe once every five years, except if you’re my mom, then it’s once every thirty.

True story, a few years ago McCormick published an ad that listed their different herbs and spice packaging throughout the years, accompanied by a tagline that urged people to clean out their spice cabinet. Well, some of my mom’s spices were from the early 80s. Thirty years!

Until I had a toothache last week, I never knew of much use for cloves outside of baking. I remembered reading in my favorite essential oil book*  that clove had antiseptic properties and was often used as a dental analgesic.

I put a few drops on some cotton gauze and stuck it in my mouth. After a few moments the gum was blessedly numb. Granted, my mouth tasted like I licked my mom’s old McCormick clove tin, but I was grateful for the relief.

Clove Bud

Latin Name: Syzygium aromaticum, of the family Myrtaceae. Also in the family Myrtaceae (Myrtle family) are myrtles, guava, allspice and eucalyptus.

Native to: The Maluku Island in Indonesia, historically known as the Spice Islands

Parts Used: The flower bud of the clove tree

Common Forms: Ground, dried whole bud, essential oil. The active compound of clove is eugenol, also contained in basil, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg.

History:  Archaeologists have found evidence of cloves in Syrian pottery dating back to around 1720 BC (1). The first reported use of clove is from the Hang Dynasty (260 BC to 220 AD). According to written records, “officers of the court were made to hold clove in their mouth when talking to the king.” (2)

Clove is one of the four “major” spices in trade and history, along with nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. Procuring it sparked expeditions and wars. For more information: History of Cloves.

Using Clove: Clove is used in a variety of ways. Most of us know clove from culinary applications–my favorite being Soft Ginger Cookies.  Historical Europeans preserved meat using cloves, as well as enjoying it for its added flavor (clove studded ham spiral, anyone?). Jamaican jerk spice blends and Indian curries also can contain cloves.

Medicinally, clove has been used for thousands of years. In Ayurveda, clove is indicated to aid slow digestion. Perhaps it’s best known application is as a dental analgesic and antiseptic, for which it is still used (rather,  its active compound, eugenol) in modern dentistry.

Magically: Because it belongs to the myrtle family, I associate clove with Aphrodite (3). Therefore, use in spells, charms, or ritual involving relationships, love, beauty and sexuality would be appropriate.

When I’m practicing in the kitchen, I use clove as a warming and comforting agent. Use sparingly, however, since it is very powerful because of the eugenol. Excess eugenol can have definite physical effects in the mouth.

Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs lists Clove as masculine and associated with Jupiter and fire. It is also indicated to use for protection, money and exorcism.

Sources and Resources:

*The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Woodward. I can’t recommend it enough.

1. 2. “Clove” from Wikipedia. Footnote 18. Spice: The History of Temptation by Jack Turner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clove

2. “Cloves” by Cynthia Gladen. https://www.lib.umn.edu/bell/tradeproducts/cloves

3. “Aphrodite” http://www.theoi.com/Summary/Aphrodite.html

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5 comments on “Spices: Clove Bud

  1. thalassa says:

    I love clove—I use it quite often in the fall…and less so the rest of the year. Its one of those things I associate with coldening weather (yeah, I just made up a word, lol). I actually had clove in three things today–in a pumpkin bread pudding, in my harvest tea blend (its dried pumpkin, apple, orange peel, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger), and I even tossed a few into a soup I made for dinner. Can I just say that my house smells yummy! Its awesome to add a few to the water as you boil it before making a pot of tea, too!

    • That tea blend sounds divine! Do you mind sharing the recipe? When I want the house to smell fallish I put clove and orange in my essential oil burner.

      • thalassa says:

        These ladies (http://www.thepaganmama.com/) have started a newsletter, and I’ve offered to do a monthly tea recipe for them…the (easier and fresher version) of my Harvest tea is in this month’s issue, but the harder (dried, and make-able in a coffee maker or french press) version involves chopping up a pie pumpkin and several apples, drying them in the oven, and putting them in the blender with some mulling spice, and then adding them to some loose Earl Grey. When I make it, its usually about 2 cups of dried pumpkin, 1 cup of dried apples, 1/2 cup of mulling spices, a crushed cinnamon stick, and an extra dash of nutmeg and ginger (proly good with some cardamom too), all in the blender, until coarsely ground, with an equal amount of Earl Grey. I like it with some vanilla sugar.

      • That sounds absolutely amazing. Thanks for sharing!

      • thalassa says:

        You are more than welcome!

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