AskDefine | Define cloves

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of clove

Extensive Definition

This article is about the spice; for other meanings see clove (disambiguation).
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum, syn. Eugenia aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata) are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisine all over the world. The name derives from French clou, a nail, as the buds vaguely resemble small irregular nails in shape. Cloves are harvested primarily in Zanzibar, Indonesia and Madagascar; it is also grown in Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka.
The clove tree is an evergreen which grows to a height ranging from 10-20 m, having large oval leaves and crimson flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. The flower buds are at first of a pale color and gradually become green, after which they develop into a bright red, when they are ready for collecting. Cloves are harvested when 1.5-2 cm long, and consist of a long calyx, terminating in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the centre.


According to FAO, Indonesia produced almost 80% of the world's clove output in 2005 followed at a distance by Madagascar and Tanzania.
Cloves can be used in cooking either whole or in a ground form, but as they are extremely strong, they are used sparingly. The spice is used throughout Europe and Asia and is smoked in a type of cigarettes locally known as kretek in Indonesia. Cloves are also an important incense material in Chinese and Japanese culture.
Cloves have historically been used in Indian cuisine (both North Indian and South Indian) as well as in Mexican cuisine, where it is often paired together with cumin and canela (cinnamon). In the north Indian cuisine, it is used in almost every sauce or side dish made, mostly ground up along with other spices. They are also a key ingredient in tea along with green cardamoms. In the south Indian cuisine, it finds extensive use in the biryani dish (similar to the pilaf, but with the addition of local spice taste), and is normally added whole to enhance the presentation and flavor of the rice.

Medicinal uses

Cloves are used in Ayurveda called Lavang in India, Chinese medicine and western herbalism and dentistry where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller) for dental emergencies. Cloves are used as a carminative, to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis. Cloves are also said to be a natural antihelmintic. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming is needed, especially for digestive problems. Topical application over the stomach or abdomen will warm the digestive tract.
In Chinese medicine cloves or ding xiang are considered acrid, warm and aromatic, entering the kidney, spleen and stomach meridians, and are notable in their ability to warm the middle, direct stomach qi downward, to treat hiccough and to fortify the kidney yang. Because the herb is so warming it is contraindicated in any persons with fire symptoms and according to classical sources should not be used for anything except cold from yang deficiency. As such it is used in formulas for impotence or clear vaginal discharge from yang deficiency, for morning sickness together with ginseng and patchouli, or for vomiting and diarrhea due to spleen and stomach coldness. This would translate to hypochlorhydria.
Ayurvedic herbalist K.P. Khalsa, RH (AHG), uses cloves internally as a tea and topically as an oil for hypotonic muscles, including for multiple sclerosis. This is also found in Tibetan medicine. Ayurvedic herbalist Alan Tilotson, RH (AHG) suggests avoiding more than occasional use of cloves internally in the presence of pitta inflammation such as is found in acute flares of autoimmune diseases.
In West Africa, the Yorubas use cloves infused in water as a treatment for stomach upsets, vomitting and diarrhoea.The infusion is called Ogun Jedi-jedi.
Western studies have supported the use of cloves and clove oil for dental pain, and to a lesser extent for fever reduction, as a mosquito repellent and to prevent premature ejaculation. Clove may reduce blood sugar levels.


Large amounts should be avoided in pregnancy. Cloves can be irritating to the gastrointestinal tract, and should be avoided by people with gastric ulcers, colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome. In overdoses, cloves can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Severe cases can lead to changes in liver function, dyspnea, loss of consciousness, hallucination, and even death. The internal use of the essential oil should be restricted to 3 drops per day for an adult as excessive use can cause severe kidney damage.


Until modern times, cloves grew only on a few islands in the Maluku Islands (historically called the Spice Islands), including Bacan, Makian, Moti, Ternate, and Tidore. Nevertheless, they found their way west to the Middle East and Europe well before the first century CE. Archeologists found cloves within a ceramic vessel in Syria along with evidence dating the find to within a few years of 1721 BC.

Notes and references

cloves in Bulgarian: Карамфил (подправка)
cloves in Catalan: Clavell d'espècia
cloves in Czech: Hřebíček
cloves in Corsican: Viulaccia
cloves in German: Gewürznelke
cloves in Modern Greek (1453-): Γαριφαλόδενδρο
cloves in Estonian: Nelk_(vürts)
cloves in Spanish: Syzygium aromaticum
cloves in Esperanto: Kariofilo
cloves in French: Giroflier
cloves in Indonesian: Cengkeh
cloves in Italian: Eugenia caryophyllata
cloves in Hebrew: ציפורן (תבלין)
cloves in Haitian: Jiwòf
cloves in Latin: Syzygium aromaticum
cloves in Luxembourgish: Neelcheskapp
cloves in Lithuanian: Kvapnusis gvazdikmedis
cloves in Limburgan: Groffelsnagel
cloves in Hungarian: Szegfűszeg
cloves in Dutch: Kruidnagel
cloves in Japanese: クローブ
cloves in Norwegian: Kryddernellik
cloves in Norwegian Nynorsk: Nelliktre
cloves in Polish: Goździki
cloves in Portuguese: Cravo-da-índia
cloves in Kölsch: Jrovvötsnäähl
cloves in Romanian: Cuişoare
cloves in Russian: Гвоздика (пряность)
cloves in Finnish: Mausteneilikka
cloves in Swedish: Kryddnejlika
cloves in Tamil: கிராம்பு
cloves in Vietnamese: Đinh hương (gia vị)
cloves in Turkish: Karanfil (baharat)
cloves in Ukrainian: Гвоздика (пряність)
cloves in Walloon: Djirofe
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