Cloves - you may know them from your kitchen, but how familiar are you with their health benefits? Cloves are actually flower buds of the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum), an evergreen tree native to the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. Animal studies suggest that the compounds found in cloves could have a number of health benefits, including supporting liver health and helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.
The Beneficial Compounds found in Cloves
These little flower buds contain fiber, along with key vitamins and minerals, so while they add delicious flavor, cloves can also provide some important nutrients. Fiber can help when it comes to preventing constipation and promoting regularity. When it comes to vitamins, cloves have both vitamins C and K. Vitamin C may help strengthen your immune system and vitamin K is an important nutrient for blood clotting. Manganese is also found in cloves, and is an essential mineral for maintaining brain function and building strong bones. Cloves also contain small amounts of calcium, magnesium and vitamin E, packing a powerful punch in all.
Not only do cloves contain these important vitamins and minerals, but they are alsothey are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that reduce oxidative stress, which can contribute to the development of the chronic disease. Cloves contain eugenol, a compound which has been shown to act as a natural antioxidant. In a test-tube study, eugenol was found to stop oxidative damage caused by free radicals five times more effectively than vitamin E, another potent antioxidant.
Eugenol isn’t the only part of cloves that acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin C also helps neutralize free radicals, which can build up and cause damaging oxidative stress. Between vitamins, minerals and antioxidant properties, including cloves in your diet alongside other antioxidant-rich foods can help improve your overall health.
Some research has also found that the compounds in cloves can help protect against cancer. In one test-tube study, clove extract was found to help stop the growth of tumors and promote cell death in cancer cells.
The Antibacterial Properties of Cloves
Stopping the growth of bacteria? Check. Cloves have been shown to have antimicrobial properties, helping stop the growth of microorganisms like bacteria. In one test-tube study, clove essential oil effectively killed off three common types of bacteria, including E. coli, a strain of bacteria that can cause cramps, diarrhea, fatigue and in extreme circumstances, even death. These antibacterial properties could also help promote oral health. A test-tube study found that the compounds extracted from cloves stopped the growth of two types of bacteria connected to gum disease.
In addition to stopping bacteria in its tracks, studies show that the beneficial compounds in cloves may also promote liver health, especially eugenol. In an animal study, rats were fed with fatty liver disease mixtures containing either clove oil or eugenol. Both mixtures improved liver function, reduced inflammation and decreased oxidative stress. In a separate animal study, eugenol helped reverse signs of liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.
Herbalists and natural medicine practitioners commonly use cloves as an effective medicine for treating parasites and fungal infections. A 2012 study published in Ethnopharmacology concluded that clove inhibited the development of biofilm Candida albicans, a common fungal condition in those suffering from Lyme disease. Another study from 2011 in Braz J Microbiology, showed clove to have antifungal effects against a variety of mold and fungi, including: Fusarium moniliforme, Fusarium oxysporum, Aspergillus sp., Mucor sp., Trichophyton rubrum and Microsporum gypseum. Confirmed by other studies, time and again clove has proven to be one of the most potent antifungal essential oils there is.
Cloves Help in Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
Both a test-tube and animal study looked at the effects of clove extract and nigericin, another compound found in cloves, on human muscle cells and in diabetic mice. Cloves and nigericin were found to boost the uptake of sugar from the blood into cells, as well as increase the secretion of insulin and improve the function of cells that produce insulin.
So, whether you are using cloves as a savory spice to season your food, or as a supplement for its medicinal properties, cloves have much to offer your body. From essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants, antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties, cloves are truly full of good things that come in small packages.
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