By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
“Cloves are dangerous! You can’t use that!” I have heard it all! Most of us have probably heard this about clove and clove essential oil. Many people are getting them confused, though. Did you know they are not the same thing? Aside from having similar benefits, the way these two products are used couldn’t be more different!
I use both of them, but not interchangeably. For instance, clove is an herb meant to be taken internally, while clove essential oil should never be ingested, but diffused or applied topically instead. Learn more about why you should never ingest essential oils here.
For starters, clove is also known as clove flower, clove flowerbud, clove leaf, clove oil, clove stem, cloves bud, or its scientific name Syzygium aromaticum. Clove is a beautiful tropical tree of the Myrtaceae family with tiny reddish-brown flower buds indigenous to the Moluccas or Spice Islands of Indonesia (1).
Benefits of clove include:
- Rich in antioxidants
- Antibacterial properties
- May reduce stomach ulcers
- May help regulate blood sugar levels
- May promote bone health
- May improve liver health
- Anticancer properties
Learn more about the benefits of clove here.
When & Why to Choose Clove Vs. Clove Essential Oil
Firstly, clove’s medicinal properties stem from compounds like eugenol, eugenol acetate, and gallic acid with powerful pharmaceutical-like effects (2).
Eugenal is well recognized for its antimicrobial, anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties and is even found in pharmaceuticals (3).
Eugenol acetate exhibits antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-virulence activities (4).
Gallic acid has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic properties (5).
Let’s dig into the when and why of clove versus clove essential oil.
Clove Essential Oil
According to aromatherapist Wendy Robbins, essential oils should never be taken internally or applied undiluted. Clove essential oil has a moderate risk for mucous membrane irritation, may inhibit blood clotting, and pose a drug interaction hazard. It may cause embryotoxicity. There is a moderate risk of skin sensitization, and it should be diluted at the recommended dermal maximum of 0.5%. Additionally, it is advised not to use clove essential oil topically on children younger than two years old (6).
Let’s go back to eugenol quickly. In high concentrations, it can be dangerous. The undiluted essential oil contains approximately 89% eugenol (2), which is why it’s not recommended for children under the age of 2. Even diluted to 2% (equivalent to just six drops in a 10-ml roller bottle) is 1.7% eugenol and is too powerful, even for adults. I will share the percentage of eugenol in the herb form below. Sneakpeak – it isn’t anywhere near dangerous!
I highly recommend Plant Therapy’s Organic Clove Essential Oil, but keep in mind it is not safe for children or pets or during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Contrarily, whole cloves are safe to consume orally. It can be used to create herbal remedies such as tinctures or teas that are meant to be consumed. Clove tincture combines clove and sometimes other complementary herbs, like catnip, with vegetable glycerin and water, creating an amazing baby-safe teething remedy.
A teething tincture can be easily made but has a 6-week waiting period before it’s ready to be used, which you can learn how to do here.
Like the idea of a teething tincture but not ready to make your own? Earthley’s Teeth Tamer naturally soothes pain, drooling, and irritability due to tooth pain. Instead of using harmful medications or synthetic gels with unsafe ingredients and potential side effects, experience the relieving power of herbs.
You may wonder why clove essential oil is unsafe, but the herb isn’t. Well, it’s because of the eugenol content; let’s discuss it.
Firstly, a study found eugenol in therapeutic doses is safe in normal whole herb consumption and in low doses of oil. This study compares the effects of higher doses to the overdose of acetaminophen (7).
Let’s dig deeper into this.
Whole cloves contain, on average, just 9-14% of the oils (2). This means just 8-12.5% eugenol. In the recipe mentioned above, it calls for just 3 oz. (85 g) of whole cloves per gallon of liquid. Once that liquid is finished, the amount of eugenol in the final tincture is under 0.2%.
So, you can see that the amount of eugenol in a tincture is 1/10th what it would be in diluted essential oil. That’s why the tincture and herb are safe, and the essential oil isn’t.
Still, worried? Well, eugenol isn’t just found in cloves. It’s also found in cinnamon bark and leaves, tulsi leaves, turmeric, pepper, ginger, oregano, and thyme (8). Eugenol is also found in peaches, plums, raspberries, and bananas (9). The concentration of eugenol in these things isn’t much different than in a clove tincture. If you’re not worried about giving your child a banana to eat, you shouldn’t be worried about clove tincture, either.