Cloves are one of the oldest spices in history and the oil that they produce has been used as a natural treatment for a variety of ailments. Its most common use is in dentistry, where it was used in homemade treatments and in professional dental offices for years. Today the oil can be found in medicine cabinets of those who are looking for a more natural approach to treating fungal infections, stomach discomfort or headaches. Here are some of the more interesting facts related to the clove tree, cloves themselves and the essential oil that they produce.
About The Clove Tree
The clove tree is native to the Malucca Islands, now a part of Indonesia. The trees are an evergreen, growing up to 40 feet tall in extreme cases. They have large leaves and produce flowers that group together in clusters. The buds begin with a pale hue and slowly turn green but then transition to a bright red color when they are ready to be harvested. Cloves are still harvested by hand, which must be done before the flower bud opens.
The trees will not produce any cloves until they are at least 5 years old. After this they will produce cloves each year but the quantity often alternates. The first year should produce a large yield while the next year will be minimal, followed by another productive year. The trees prefer warm tropical climates with high humidity levels. The largest threat to these trees are strong winds, as they grow best on coastal areas. When grown commercially, windbreaks are usually constructed to protect the trees.
Today, Indonesia produces the largest amount of cloves but very few are exported. The country uses the cloves to make oil and also clove cigarettes.
Clove In History
Cloves have been used since as early as 1721 BC and quickly became one of the most prized spices for trade. Native to Indonesia, the natives used the cloves for cooking and for healing purposes. As the spice was introduced throughout the globe, many tried to take advantage of selling the spice, including the Portuguese and the Dutch. The Dutch went so far as to even destroy trees that were not in their control to prevent competition. But as the tree began to be introduced to other growing areas, the spice became more readily available and for the first time in history people of any class could discover cloves and their benefits.
- An ounce of clove oil has an antioxidant capacity of 450 pounds of carrots, 120 quarts of blueberries or 48 gallons of beet juice. That means that 1 drop of clove oil is equal to 2 pounds of carrots, 2 quarts of blueberries or 2 cups of beet juice.
- Cloves are used to flavor ketchup, Chinese five-spice powder and Worcestershire sauce.
- Whole cloves will stay fresh for up to a year, as long as they are stored in an airtight container that doesn’t receive direct sunlight. Be cautious using ground cloves for making oil or in cooking, as ground cloves tend to lose their flavor very fast.
- Many essential oils can be used as natural bug repellents, including clove oil. But it can also be used to deter snakes. Spray the oil directly at a snake and it should retreat.
- The Sheraton hotel chain use a scent that contains figs, clove and jasmine for use in their hotel rooms.
- A kretek is a cigarette made with a blend of tobacco and cloves. The name is an onomatopoetic term representing the noise that the cloves make while they are burning. They are the most widely smoked form of cigarettes in Indonesia. In 2009, clove cigarettes were made illegal for sale and distribution in the United States. In 2010, Indonesia filed a claim with the World Trade Organization claiming that the ban on kreteks in the United States was discriminatory. While the World Trade Organization sided with Indonesia, the cigarettes are still illegal in America.
- Cloves are known for their high antioxidant levels but it may surprise you to know that they have the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of all essential oils, which are already have the highest ORAC scores of all known substances.
- The clove tree blooms from July to October and again from November to January. The clove tree grows large, shiny oval leaves that only grow in pairs. There is a clove tree named Afo that is believed to be the oldest clove tree in the world. It is found on Ternate, an island of Moluccas, n Eastern Indonesia. The tree is estimated to be between 350 and 400 years old.
- Cloves get their name from the French word clou because of their appearance. Once harvested and dried, cloves look like small irregularly shaped nails.
- At one time, cloves were one of the world’s most valuable and expensive commodities. During the 17th and 18th centuries, cloves were literally worth at least their weight in gold, mostly because of the high expense involved with importing them. This changed once trees began to pop up in other islands and countries that had the correct growing environment.
- Around 42 million pounds of cloves are produced and consumed each year. While Indonesia produces nearly half of the world’s cloves, very few are exported but instead are used by the country to be used to make oil and clove cigarettes. Tanzania produces three quarters of commercially available clove.
Cloves and Clove Oil Today
Clove oil is still used today in Chinese and Indian medicine and has become more popular in Western medicine as well, as people look for more natural ways to treat medical conditions. It is used to treat stomach ailments, fungal infections and breathing problems. In West Africa, cloves are soaked in water and given as a cure for diarrhea, nausea and other stomach issues. The oil can be used topically to treat acne and skin irritations.
Before using clove oil as a medication, speak with your medical professional. When using the oil internally, keep in mind that usage should be limited to 2 week time periods.