4 Clever Uses for Cloves

Break out this spice to clear up colds, mold, and skin problems

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Andrew McCaul

You might be familiar with cloves to stud a baked ham or an orange sachet. You can find cloves in the spice aisle of grocery stores or online in different forms. However, this spice has other uses, like cleaning mold out of your home or offering relief from congestion. Here's more about cloves and their uses.

What Are Cloves?

Cloves are flower buds from a Syzygium aromaticum tree that are dried after harvesting. A whole clove looks like a spike with a small nodular bulb at the top. The flower buds are considered to be a spice and are used in some medicines and cigarettes.

The spice also contains vitamins and minerals. Some of those nutrients include:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Vitamins B1, B6, C, and A

Sometimes cloves are used whole or ground, but cloves can also be processed to produce clove oil. Additionally, cloves are more potent in oil form and less potent in their ground form. Still, their biomedical properties are about the same regardless of their form.

4 Cloves Uses

You probably know cloves as a spice, but they have also been used in medicines and cosmetic products. Also, the spice has been associated with having the following types of properties:

  • Antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anesthesic
  • Antifungal
  • Antiviral
  • Antiseptic

Because of their different properties, cloves can be used in a number of ways—here are four of them.

Clear Congestion

Believe it or not, a tea that contains cloves can help you kick a respiratory infection. "Cloves work as an expectorant, loosening mucus in the throat and esophagus so you can cough it up," said Neil Schachter, MD, a professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Doing aromatherapy with hot clove tea has also been helpful for respiratory conditions like colds, asthma, and sinus inflammation.

After seeing a healthcare provider—to rule out a bacterial infection—try Dr. Schachter's healing brew. Combine the following ingredients and place them in a tea infuser with a black tea bag.

  • 2 cloves
  • A stick of cinnamon
  • 2 crushed cardamom seeds

Add boiling water and let the mixture steep for 1–2 minutes. Then sip away your symptoms.

All-Natural Sachet

To give your clothes an intoxicating aroma—and sweeten up musty spots such as the basement or attic—toss a few whole cloves in the bottom of an old clean sock and tie it with a ribbon. The spicy scent covers up odors and keeps your stuff smelling fresh, noted Summer Rayne Oakes, an eco-activist and author of Style, Naturally.

This sock sachet is a play on a classic clove-spiked orange sachet. For the orange version, you'll want time, patience, and lots of whole cloves. The idea is to stab the clove stalk into the orange without crushing the bulb.

You'll also need a pointed skewer—like what you use with grilling veggies—to stab small holes into the skin of the orange. Making the holes makes it easier to insert the clove stem without crushing the bulb.

As for the spacing of the holes, it's easier to start at the bottom and place a few holes running in a line toward the top of the orange. After placing a few cloves into the orange, you'll get an idea of how much space to leave between your cloves.

Swap out the cloves every two to four weeks, so the scent stays at its sweet and spicy peak.

Treat Acne and Breakouts

Researchers of a Phytotherapy Research study found that a topical formula including clove bud essential oil was helpful against germs that could cause acne due to antimicrobial properties.

The spice helps clear acne, thanks to eugenol, a natural antiseptic that balances the skin, stopping future breakouts, said Cornelia Zicu, global chief creative officer for Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas.

Try Zicu's complexion-perfecting mask: Combine the following ingredients in a small bowl.

  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 3 drops of fresh lemon juice

Apply to your entire face and leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse with cold water for clear skin. But be aware that clove products on your skin may lead to burning or irritation.

Eco-Clean Mold

If you have mold in your basement or bathroom, you can try skipping the harsh chemicals and eliminating it with clove oil.

"Because it works as a natural antiseptic, clove oil can reduce existing outbreaks and prevent future ones in affected spots," said Sara Snow, eco-expert and author of Sara Snow's Fresh Living.

Snow's mold-slashing solution is to add a dash of clove oil—about 1/2 teaspoon—to 2 cups of water and pour it into an empty spray bottle. Scrub the susceptible spots—like shower walls, corners, and outdoor cushions—with a soap and water solution. Then spritz on the clove oil, and let it sit to deter further growth. Sit back and breathe easy.

Other Considerations for Using Cloves

Cloves have had other uses, like treating toothaches, hangovers, and other conditions. But more research is needed to determine how effective these uses are. Additionally, there is not a lot of information to determine how safe it is to consume cloves in large quantities.

Individuals who should limit or stop their use of cloves include people with diabetes or bleeding disorders and those who may be undergoing surgery. Cloves may cause blood sugar levels to drop and reduce how fast blood will clot, leading to an increased risk of bleeding or bruising.

A Quick Review

Cloves are a spice with many uses, including being a remedy for acne or a cold and keeping things smelling fresh. The spice has a lot of beneficial properties (e.g., antioxidant, antiseptic) that allow it to be used in different ways—but that doesn't mean it can be used for everything.

Certain individuals, like people diagnosed with diabetes or bleeding disorders, should exercise care if they want to use cloves and clove-related products. If you're thinking of using cloves in any form, consult a healthcare provider first.

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4 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Clove.

  2. Vicidomini C, Roviello V, Roviello GN. Molecular basis of the therapeutical potential of clove (Syzygium aromaticum L.) and clues to its anti-COVID-19 utilityMolecules. 2021;26(7):1880. doi:10.3390/molecules26071880

  3. Cortés-Rojas DF, de Souza CRF, Oliveira WP. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): a precious spiceAsian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2014;4(2):90-96. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(14)60215-X

  4. Owen L, Grootveld M, Arroo R, Ruiz-Rodado V, Price P, Laird K. A multifactorial comparison of ternary combinations of essential oils in topical preparations to current antibiotic prescription therapies for the control of acne vulgaris-associated bacteria. : antimicrobial topical preparations for acne vulgarisPhytother Res. 2017;31(3):410-417. doi:10.1002/ptr.5762

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