4 Clever Uses for Cloves

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

You might be familiar with cloves to stud a baked ham or an orange sachet, but there are other uses for this spice. Cloves are actually flower buds from a Syzygium aromaticum tree that are dried after harvesting. Whole cloves look like a spike with a small nodular bulb at the top and sometimes cloves are ground. Cloves can also be processed to produce clove oil.

Congestion RX

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.

After seeing your own 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.

Swap out the cloves every 2–4 weeks so the scent stays at its sweet and spicy peak.

This sock sachet is a play on a classic clove-spiked orange sachet. For the orange version, you'll want to have 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, I find it's easiest 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.

Breakout Buster

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.

Eco-Cleaner

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 the shower walls and 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.

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