Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree, an evergreen also known as Syzygium aromaticum (1Trusted Source).
Found in both whole and ground forms, this versatile spice can be used to season pot roasts, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes.
You may know cloves as one of the main ingredients in gingerbread baked goods or a staple spice in Indian cuisine.
Cloves are best known as a sweet and aromatic spice, but they have also been used in traditional medicine.
In fact, animal studies have found that the compounds in cloves may have several health benefits, including supporting liver health and helping stabilize blood sugar levels (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
This article reviews 8 of the most impressive health benefits of eating cloves.
1. Contain important nutrients
Cloves contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so using whole or ground cloves to add flavor to your food can provide some important nutrients.
One teaspoon (2 grams) of ground cloves contains (4Trusted Source):
Carbs: 1 gram
Fiber: 1 gram
Manganese: 55% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin K: 2% of the DV
Manganese is an essential mineral for maintaining brain function and building strong bones (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Apart from being a rich source of manganese, cloves are only used in small amounts and do not provide significant amounts of nutrients.
2. High in antioxidants
In addition to containing several important vitamins and minerals, cloves are rich in antioxidants (7Trusted Source).
Antioxidants are compounds that reduce oxidative stress, which can contribute to the development of chronic disease (8Trusted Source).
Cloves also contain a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to act as a natural antioxidant.
In fact, a test-tube study found that eugenol stopped oxidative damage caused by free radicals five times more effectively than vitamin E, another potent antioxidant (9Trusted Source).
Including cloves in your diet along with other antioxidant-rich foods can help improve your overall health.
3. May help protect against cancer
Some research suggests that the compounds found in cloves might help protect against cancer.
One test-tube study found that clove extract helped stop the growth of tumors and promoted cell death in cancer cells (10Trusted Source).
Another test-tube study observed similar results, showing that concentrated amounts of clove oil caused cell death in 80% of esophageal cancer cells (11Trusted Source).
The eugenol found in cloves has also been shown to have anticancer properties.
A test-tube study found that eugenol promoted cell death in cervical cancer cells (12Trusted Source).
However, keep in mind that these test-tube studies used very concentrated amounts of clove extract, clove oil, and eugenol.
Eugenol is toxic in high amounts and overdosing on clove oil may cause liver damage, especially in children. Further research is needed to determine how lower amounts may affect humans (13Trusted Source).
4. Can kill bacteria
Cloves have been shown to have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can help stop the growth of microorganisms like bacteria (14Trusted Source).
One test-tube study showed that clove essential oil killed three common types of bacteria, including E. coli, which is a strain of bacteria that can cause food poisoning (15Trusted Source).
What’s more, the antibacterial properties of cloves could even help promote oral health.
In one test-tube study, the compounds extracted from cloves were found to stop the growth of two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease (16Trusted Source).
Another study in 40 people tested the effects of an herbal mouthwash consisting of tea tree oil, cloves, and basil.
After using the herbal mouthwash for 21 days, they showed improvements in gum health, as well as the amount of plaque and bacteria in the mouth (17Trusted Source).
In combination with regular brushing and proper oral hygiene, the antibacterial effects of cloves may benefit your oral health.