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Posted December 14, 2015: by Bill Sardi
Amidst a modern world where pharmacologists want the world to believe only high-priced synthetic molecules are safe and effective, and the Food & Drug Administration adds to this racketeering by limiting disease prevention/treatment/cure claims to drugs only, there is a growing body of science which shows clove bud oil and its primary active ingredient eugenol (yu-jen-all) could replace many over-the-counter and prescription medicines as a safer and equally or more effective topical anesthetic, pain reliever and fever reducer with anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and also holds the title as king of antioxidants. So why aren’t we using it?
The least we could be doing is brush our teeth with clove oil. It kills off the acid-forming bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) that causes tooth decay. [Asian Pacific Journal Tropical Medicine 2011]
Clove oil was used for decades as a dental anesthetic until synthetic molecules like benzocaine served as a replacement. A published study shows clove oil relieves dental pain as effectively as benzocaine. You can apply it to a painful tooth or gums with a cotton tip applicator in an emergency. [Journal Dentistry 2006]
Sadly, the Food & Drug Administration has downgraded clove oil and eugenol and believe there isn’t enough evidence to rate eugenol as effective for toothache pain, even though dentists used it for decades. [Medline Plus]
Clove oil is good for the brain. If your memory is fading a bit you might take a half-teaspoon of clove oil. When given to mice, clove oil reversed memory loss caused by scopolamine, a memory-erasing drug. [Planta Medica 2011]
Eugenol exhibits anti-depressant properties comparable to that of imipramine (Tofranil). [Brain Research 2004]
Eugenol was found to increase learning and memory ability in laboratory animals. [Journal Traditional Chinese Medicine 2013]
Eugenol reduces adrenal stress hormones (norepinephrine) and is considered a therapeutic agent for stress-related mental disorders. [Stress 2011]
Of interest, under sudden stress, norepinephrine releases iron from binding proteins which could be a trigger for heart attacks. Emotional upset is the most common trigger of arterial plaque ruptures in coronary arteries (18.4% of cases). [Natural Medicine Journal 2014] By virtue of eugenol’s ability to decrease stress hormones such as norepinephrine, it may serve to prevent heart attacks.
In an era of antibiotic resistance that may push humanity back to the dark ages, clove oil eradicates virtually every bacterium including Staph, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, E coli, H pylori and funguses like Candida. Among four spices found by University of Cornell scientists to kill off virtually very known bacterium was cloves. [Review Biology 1998] But that discovery was over 15 years ago and cloves still remain in the spice rack, not the medicine cabinet.
In fact, clove extract shows better kill off of Candida than nystatin, the popular drug used to quell yeast infections. [Journal Mycology Medicine 2014]
In another study eugenol was more potent at killing Helicobacter pylori than the antibiotic amoxicillin without inducing germ resistance. [Annals Clinical Microbiology Antimicrobials 2005]
H pylori is a bacterium that is harbored in the digestive tract of over half of the American population. It is potentially pathogenic, being the germ that causes gastric ulcers. H pylori shuts off cells that secrete stomach acid, which then leads to malabsorption of essential nutrients. Physicians are reluctant to treat every case of H pylori with antibiotics for fear of inducing widespread germ resistance.
When a sore throat occurs, a few drops of clove oil added to water for gargling is appropriate because it kills the bacterium that causes sore throat (Streptococcus pyogenes) and it numbs the area so it isn’t so raw. In one study the popular mouth rinse Listerine weakly inhibited oral bacteria such as Strep, Candida and Bacillus, but when a few drops of clove oil were added its effectiveness increased. [Chemistry Biodiversity 2012]
Recognize we live in an era where synthetic antibiotics are becoming more useless against resistant bacteria. While microbiologists desperately seek out new molecules to fight resistant germs, clove oil works against all bacteria without inducing resistance.
Take for example streptococci bacteria. Strep bacteria colonize mucus tissues in the nose, throat and oral cavity as well as the lungs, skin and gastric tract. Strep bacteria take hold in tissues to cause serious problems such as endocarditis (heart inflammation), meningitis and a flesh-eating infection called necrotizing fasciitis. Other bacteria such as Clostridium, Staphylcoccus, and Klebsiella can also cause necrotizing fasciitis, though these infections are usually from strep bacteria.
For everyday taming of potentially pathogenic bacteria that commonly reside in our mouth, skin and digestive tract, clove oil may be an ideal preventive.
It is said that 80% of humanity is infected with herpes family viruses. Eugenol has strong antiviral activity against herpes simplex and works synergistically with antiviral drugs. [Phytotherapy Research 2000]
Among 86 herbals screened for anti-influenza properties, eugenol from cloves was found to be the most active. [PLoS One 2013]
The idea of allowing infections to occur and then treat them must be abolished. Natural remedies like clove oil are poised to reduce vulnerability to infectious germs. Clove oil and eugenol is equivalent or superior to BHT, which is a synthetic antioxidant food preservative. [Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry 2006] Clove leaf oil is reported by exhibit significantly higher antioxidant activity (91%) compared to BHT (82%). [Bioactive Foods in Promoting Health, Google Books] A public health effort to prevent infections beyond hand washing and properly cooking foods is sorely needed.
There is no safe prescription or over-the-counter pain reliever on the market today, not even aspirin. Aspirin induces bleeding gastric ulcers and brain hemorrhages, ibuprofen has gastric side effects and acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a liver toxin.
Clove oil is reported to relieve chronic nerve pain following repeated use. [European Journal Pharmacology 2007] Maybe skip the acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, even morphine. Clove oil stacked up well against these tried-and-true pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, even reducing fever almost on par with acetaminophen. [Libyan Journal Medicine 2015] And clove oil isn’t a liver toxin as is acetaminophen. In fact, eugenol from clove oil protects the liver. [Journal Cancer Prevention 2014]
Eugenol has been shown to inhibit rheumatoid arthritis in animal experiments and “could be useful as a beneficial supplement in treatment human arthritis.” [Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2012] Eugenol has no damaging effects upon the gastric mucus lining as aspirin and ibuprofen do. [Food Chemistry Toxicology 2012]
Clove oil is a very effective insecticide. It repels mosquitoes, even fire ants. [Journal Economic Entomology 2015] Eugenol is effective against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis. [Parasitology Research 2015]
An overactive immune system results in autoimmune reactions and uncontrolled inflammation. Clove oil calms the immune response (macrophage production of inflammatory cytokines) and may be useful as an anti-inflammatory agent. [Natural Product Research 2009]
Eugenol limits oxidation by virtue of its ability to control copper. [Food Chemistry Toxicology 2005] Eugenol controls iron. Iron is stored in the liver. Eugenol has been found to reduce elevated liver enzymes induced by excess iron. [Toxicology 1996]
OK, as a folk remedy, good for sore throats, brushing your teeth, but does clove oil step up to the plate and offer therapeutic benefits against life threatening maladies like diabetes and cancer?
Eugenol, the primary active ingredient in clove oil, was only recently found to be as effective as ondansetron (Zofran), a drug used to calm nausea and vomiting caused by cancer drugs. [Pharmaceutical Biology 2015] But clove oil and Eugenol should not be relegated to quell side effects of cancer treatment.
A drawback of chemotherapy drugs for cancer is that they may induce heart failure. This often leads to an oncologist to painfully explain to a family of a loved one that chemotherapy shrunk the tumor but unfortunately the patient died of a weak heart. Eugenol has been found to be effective in blocking heart toxicity from chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin (Adriamycin). [Archives Pharmacal Research 2011]
The most frequently altered gene in human cancers is the p53 tumor suppressor gene. It seems nearly impossible for a normal cell to become a malignant cancer cell unless the p53 gene is inactivated. [Nature.com] Eugenol induces programmed cell death (called apoptosis) even in cells lacking an active p53 tumor suppressor gene. [Asian Pacific Journal Cancer Prevention 2015] Apoptosis is the ideal way to quell cancer. Researchers now believe clove seed extract should be explored as a cancer drug. [Pakistan Journal Pharmaceutical Science 2014]
Eugenol’s direct application in the digestive tract makes it a potential agent against colon cancer via its ability to induce apoptosis. [Cell Biology International 2011]
A recent published report says: “the common treatment for cancer is unfavorable because it causes many detrimental side effects, and lately, there has been a growing resistance toward anticancer drugs, which worsens the future of cancer treatment. Therefore the focus has now shifted toward natural products to save the future of cancer treatment.”
Clove oil exhibits demonstrably better cancer inhibition than water or alcohol extracts. [Asia Pacific Journal Cancer Prevention 2011]
Clove oil was investigated and found exhibit excellent ability to kill cancer cells (water and alcohol extracts were less effective). Researchers say: “Cloves are being hailed the future of cancer treatment because of their ability to induce apoptosis and work in various types of cancer.” [Pharmacognosy Research 2014] That is strong talk from usually conservative researchers.
Sadly, human studies involving clove oil are lacking. Fault the National Institutes of Health that funds most medical research and is predisposed toward synthetic drugs rather than natural remedies. So we only have animal laboratory data to examine when it comes to diabetes and eugenol.
Diabetics commonly experience nerve problems, in particular sciatic nerve pain. In laboratory mice, diabetes reduced blood flow to the sciatic nerve by 49% but this was completely corrected with eugenol. [Planta Medica 2006]
Diabetic mice given the human equivalent of 1400-2800 mg of clove bud powder experienced reduction in blood sugar levels and liver enzymes with elevation of internal antioxidant enzymes (glutathione, catalase, SOD) and vitamin C. [Journal Science Food Agriculture 2014] Clove extract or preferably clove oil would produce a similar effect at a much lower dose. Fresh cloves contain 9-15% eugenol but clove oil is roughly 89% eugenol. So a dose of 140-280 mg of eugenol would be equivalent to the clove powder in the above-mentioned study.
Eugenol at a human equivalent dose of 700 mg (160-lb adult) was found to inhibit the memory-erasing acetacholinesterase enzyme and calcium influx into brain cells in lab animals and therefore may allay brain inflammation among diabetics. [Neurochemistry International 2015]
What about clove oil for obesity? We don’t know yet. But we do know that clove extract inhibits fat accumulation in mice fed a high-fat diet. [Experimental Therapeutic Medicine 2012]
What about the heart? Clove extract has been shown to improve mitochondrial function (the mitochondria are the power plants within heart muscle cells) via activation of AMPK (a cell energy-sensing molecule) and Sirtuin1, known as a survival gene. In other words, its biological action is similar to resveratrol, a red wine molecule known for its heart-protective properties. [Journal Medicinal Food 2014]
When laboratory animals were intentionally given a chemical (isoproterenol) to induce enlarged heart, administration of eugenol (human equivalent of 1 milligram/kilogram(2.2 lbs) body weight, or 70 mgs) twice a day reversed heart enlargement in laboratory animals. [Indian Journal Clinical Biochemistry 2006]
The use of eugenol clearly improved measurable cardiac markers following a chemically-induced heart attack in lab animals. Eugenol increased protective antioxidant enzymes (glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase). [Cardiovascular Toxicology 2015]
Clove oil is a potent blood clot inhibitor (platelet aggregation inhibitor). [Journal Pakistan Medical Association 1994] Eugenol is more potent than aspirin in regard to inhibition of blood clotting. [Prostaglandins Leukotrienes Essential Fatty Acids 1993] Eugenol has dual action against blood platelet aggregation via its ability to inhibit platelet-activating factor and arachidonic acid, an inflammatory fatty acid. [Phytomedicine 1995]
Clove oil is very pungent. Only its anesthetic properties dull its initial bitterness. But it is bitter, pungent herbs like garlic and cloves that activate internal antioxidant defenses. In one recent study it significantly activated endogenous antioxidant enzymes (catalase 33%; superoxide dismutase 66% and glutathione 167%). [Food & Function 2015]
Vitamin E can be oxidized as it expends one of its electrons to counter oxygen-induced free radicals. Various antioxidants such as vitamin C can regenerate vitamin E. Eugenol is highly effective at vitamin E regeneration. [In Vivo 2006]
Finally, by far, cloves exhibit the greatest antioxidant properties as measured by ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity). Clove buds hold the top ORAC rating at 290,283; the next best ORAC rating was dried oregano at 175,295, so ground cloves were by far the king among antioxidant herbs and spices). [US Dept Agriculture]
Oddly, the US Department of Agriculture has chosen to remove its online table of antioxidant capacity of selected foods because it says “food and dietary supplement companies misuse ORAC values.” [USDA.gov]
Source: USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, May 2010
|Spice or herb||ORAC per 1 teaspoon||ORAC per 100 grams|
Clove oil is regarded as safe even at extremely high doses (105,000 milligrams). The daily amount of clove oil considered acceptable by the World Health Organization is 175 milligrams for a 160-pound (70 kilogram) individual. [Asian Pacific Journal Tropical Biomedicine 2014]
A guide for healthcare professionals on the safe use of clove oil can be located online [Google Books] Clove oil and eugeneol are not totally without side effect and modest doses should be employed. Potential side effects are listed at WebMD. [WebMD] Concomitant use of clove oil and blood thinners is not recommended at the present time. [American Journal Health System Pharmacy 2000] The antidote for eugenol over-dosage and subsequent liver failure is N-acetyl cysteine. [European Journal Pediatrics 2005]
Clove oil is frequently included in cosmetics, perfumes and skin creams but a survey shows it is provided in such low concentrations that it has a very low potential to produce side effects (skin rash). [Food Chemistry Toxicology 1983]
Not to condone tobacco use, the inclusion of cloves in Indonesian cigarettes reduces toxicity and lung irritation. [Regulatory Toxicology Pharmacology 2014]
Will cloves move from the kitchen spice rack to the family medicine chest and then on to use as a world-class medicine? Researchers in Indonesia, where clove trees are native, say: “Until this very moment, most of us still do not fathom the benefit and medicine values of spices; in our opinion, their usage is merely meant to add aroma and taste to food.”
If for all of the above reasons readers are still not convinced enough to add clove oil to their home medicine cabinet, believing cloves to be nothing more than witches brew, the masses may run to buy clove oil when they learn that it is a true aphrodisiac.
According to an authoritative report, cloves are endowed with molecules that improve libido for males and females, increasing “mounting frequency” as well as sustained mating activity and compares favorably with sildenafil (aka Viagra). [Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2004] — ©2015 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.