Are cloves anti-inflammatory

The triumphant advance of the carnation in Europe

The approximately 15 meter high evergreen clove tree originally comes from the Moluccas, the spice islands that are now part of Indonesia. Today cloves are also grown in Zanzibar, Madagascar and the Antilles. All parts of the tree contain essential oil. However, it is mainly the unopened flower buds that are harvested, as they have the highest content of active ingredients. The buds are dried and then used as a spice. Various extracts and the essential oil obtained from the flower buds or leaves by distillation are important for medicine.

In use in China for 1700 years

Its use in dentistry is probably best known: clove oil helps with toothache and inflammation of the gums and is a popular oral care product. The exotic medicinal plant is also said to have appetizing, gas inducing, antispasmodic and digestive properties. Since the essential clove oil is irritating to the skin and mucous membranes, it may only be used in diluted form. Clove oil should also not be used during pregnancy as it can trigger labor.

The carnation tree is an old cultivated plant. Cloves were used in China as early as 300 AD. Those who spoke to the emperor put cloves in their mouths to have a pleasant breath, says Dumont's "Great Herbal Encyclopedia". Cloves have been known in Europe since the early Middle Ages. Since the dried buds look similar to nails, they were christened "Negelkin" (nails).

That has rubbed off into "carnations". In medieval Europe, spices were more valuable than gold. It was about pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and above all cloves, with which the rich and powerful like to spice up their wine. The exotic spices served as a means of payment and were sometimes even weighed in gold.

Initially, ships from northern Italian port cities such as Genoa and Venice brought the spices to Europe. But at the end of the 15th century, the flourishing Ottoman Empire saw an opportunity to get rich here. It brought the trade under its control - and in Europe the spices became 30 times more expensive.

You couldn't just accept that. So Portugal and Spain, which then dominated the oceans, decided to look for the Spice Islands and conquer them. So Columbus set out to the west (in his logbook he noted that he was looking for cloves) and Vasco da Gama to the east.

In 1521 the Portuguese and Spanish fleets met in front of the Moluccas. Nobody wanted to give in. Both were also incited against each other by the sultans of the different islands. And so it came to the "Carnation War". The Portuguese won. And until the beginning of the 17th century they had a monopoly on the spice trade.

Spice trade firmly in the hands of the Dutch

Then the trading power of the Dutch strengthened. In 1602 Dutch merchants founded the United East India Company, the world's first public limited company. The aim of the company was to expand the lucrative spice trade. Today the Moluccas belong to the state of Indonesia, which was proclaimed in 1945 and became independent from the Netherlands in 1949. Rotterdam and Amsterdam are still the main hubs for spices today.

By the way: The flower with the name carnation only became known in Europe much later. The first seed of the imperial carnation, for example, did not come to Paris from China until 1705. Because the flowers, which were initially called, for example, the divine rose, smell similar to the cloves, they were named after the spice.


Good quality fresh cloves can be recognized by the fact that they are greasy to the touch and that they secrete some oil if you lightly scratch the stem with your fingernail. Or you can do the swimming test: high-quality cloves sink into the water or at least stand vertically with their heads up. Old, more or less de-oiled cloves float horizontally on the surface of the water.