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Clove is thought to be more of a “toxic” oil, compared to other essential oils, so should be used with care; however, clove oil does have beneficial properties and uses in aromatherapy, when used safely and correctly.

Historical Use of Clove

Clove has been in use for thousands of years in many shapes and forms, before its use as an essential oil in aromatherapy today; clove was one of the most valuable commodities in 16th and 17th century Europe.  It was used as a culinary spice and in tinctures for skin problems, digestive complaints, toothache and childbirth.

Clove oil was used in Chinese medicine for bronchitis, diarrhea and hernia.  Clove has powerful antiseptic properties and was used in the outbreak of the Plague in Europe; clove has also been used in perfume, liqueurs, mulled wine, dental products and love potions.

Botanical Profile of the Clove Tree

Clove is an ancient tree that has been cultivated for over 2,000 years; it is thought to be a native tree of Indonesia.   The clove tree is a tall, evergreen tree, belonging to the Myrtaceae plant family.  It grows up to 39 feet in height.  It has a gray trunk, which is smooth, and paired, large leaves on short stalks.  The cloves of the clove tree are produced from the mature, red buds that appear in the rainy season; the cloves are “beaten” from the tree and dried. 

Types of Clove Essential Oil

There are a number of varieties of clove (Syzigium aromaticum) essential oil available; clove is distilled into clove bud, clove leaf and clove stem essential oil.  Clove bud essential oil has the greatest value in aromatherapy use, as it contains the lowest percentage of the chemical component eugenol.  To add to the confusion surrounding clove essential oil, all three clove essential oils share the same Latin name, so it is important to identify which part of the plant the oil was extracted from.

Distillation of Clove Oil

Clove essential oil is distilled in the following ways:

–clove bud essential oil is water distilled from the buds of the clove tree
–clove leaf essential oil is water distilled from the leaves of the clove tree
–clove stem essential oil is steam distilled from the stalks or stems of the clove tree.

Clove bud essential oil is yellow in color with a sweet-spice fragrance; clove leaf essential oil is brown in color with a wood fragrance.  Clove stem essential oil is a “combination” of both clove bud and clove leaf characteristics; clove stem oil is also yellow in color but with a wood fragrance.  Today, the main producers of clove essential oil are Indonesia and Madagascar, although the clove tree is cultivated in the Philippines and the Molucca Islands too.

Use of Clove Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Clove essential oil is antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-biotic, a stimulant, an expectorant and an aphrodisiac.  It is used in aromatherapy to treat digestive problems, exhaustion, infection, burns, cuts, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and colds.  Clove oil is also used as an insect repellent, especially for mosquitoes.

Cautions for Using Clove Essential Oil

Clove essential oil can cause, or irritate, skin problems such as dermatitis; clove essential oil should not be used in cases of hemophilia, alcoholism, prostrate cancer, kidney problems, liver problems and in conjunction with the use of anti-coagulants.  Clove essential oil should be used in less than 1% dilution due to its active chemical components.

All varieties of clove essential oil can cause reactions but clove bud essential oil is considered to be the least irritable due to the chemistry of the essential oil (i.e. lesser eugenol content). Consult a qualified professional for further advice, if you are unsure about the use of clove oil in aromatherapy.


– Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Colour UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd
– Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Clove Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

CopyrightSharonFalsetto2010 All Rights Reserved
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