Clove Essential Oil

Clove Essential Oil

Freshly Harvested Clove Flower Buds

Source: The dried flowers of the Clove Tree, Syzygium aromaticum.

Type of Treatment: Essential Oil -Naturopathic Medicine
How it Works: Clove essential oil has potent antibacterial properties.  Clove essential oil may help improve acne symptoms by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that contribute to acne symptoms, particularly Propionibacterium acnes.


Clove Flowers

Cloves originate from a cluster of islands in Indonesia that were known historically as the “Spice Islands” (they are now called the Malaku Islands). Because of their desirability and rarity, cloves have been among the most prized (and expensive) spices throughout recorded human history.  Cloves are frequently referenced in historical texts from China, India and Europe, among others.

Cloves are an integral spice in the cuisines of many cultures and are used to flavor many dishes and beverages.  Chai tea derives it’s characteristic flavor from cloves.  Cloves are also frequently used to spice meat dishes and deserts.  In addition to cooking, cloves are an important part of many aromatherapy programs.

Clove essential oil is highly toxic to a wide range of bacteria.  It is also toxic to animals and humans, when it is ingested.  When applied topically, clove essential oil has natural anaesthetic properties.  Clove essential oil has a long history in dentistry, where it is used to numb the pain from toothaches and cavities.  Cloves and clove essential oil are essential components of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.  Clove essential oil has also been used as a sanitizer to disinfect surfaces and objects.

A mixture of clove and tobacco is the basis for clove cigarettes (kreteks), which are popular in many countries.  Inhallation of clove smoke numbs the respiratory tract and suppresses the gag reflex.

Composition of Clove Essential Oil

Chemical Composition of Clove Essential Oil

The primary component of clove essential oil is Eugenol.  Eugenol makes up 70-90% (by volume) of clove essential oil.  The second most abundant component is usually Caryophyllene, which represents 2-20% of the volume.

Several additional molecules are present at lower concentrations.  Many of these molecules (eg. Eugenyl Acetate) are structurally similar to Eugenol.

Clove Essential Oil in Acne Treatment

Clove essential oil is toxic to the bacteria that most often contributes to symptoms of acne vulgaris, Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).  However, it is not clear whether topical application of clove essential oil, is sufficient to inhibit the growth of P. acnes bacteria that are growing deep within follicles.

In laboratory tests, clove essential oil showed a similar level of antibacterial activity against P. acnes bacteria as erythromycin, which is a commonly used topical antibiotic in acne treatment.

Clove essential oil can be irritating to the skin when applied without dilution.  It is usually diluted into a carrier oil or blended with other essential oils prior to application.  Some people have an allergic response to clove essential oil.

Additional Information

Clove @ Wikipedia
Eugenol @ Wikipedia
Clove @ Plant Profiler


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