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Subheshaja (सुभेषज) – Hot and Sweet Spice:Clove

“Here, Preethi, I got some payasam for you,” said Dr. Radha, holding out a small container.

“Wow, Aunty! I love payasam, thank you so much!”squealed Preethi as she opened the box. A few seconds later, she sniffed at the contents and hesitatingly said, “Err…is that the smell of clove, Aunty? I don’t like that smell.”

Dr. Radha smiled. “Yes, I did add in some clove powder into the payasam, Preethi. It’s good for health!”

“When I was younger, my mother always made me stuff one or two cloves into the corner of my mouth whenever I complained of a toothache. And yes, the pain did seem to reduce after a while.”
“Ayurveda has been using clove as a painkiller for toothache since ages, Preethi. Researchers have found that flavones compounds in clove such as myricetin and kaempferol showed a strong ability to curb the growth of bacteria that cause gum disease. (1)Another study found that using a herbal mouthwash containing clove with basil and tea tree oil for 21 days led to reduction of bacteria and plaque in the mouth, and improvement in gum health. (2)

“I see. But why did you put it in the payasam, Aunty? Not to kill bacteria in the mouth, right?” laughed Preethi. 

“Of course not,” smiled Dr. Radha, “I added it to give a mild aromatic flavor to the sweet and also because I know it has some ingredients that are necessary for our body. For example, do you know that clove is a rich source of the mineral Manganese which is essential for building strong bones and to maintain brain function?”(3)

“Oh! I never heard about that!”

“Remember, I told you about tulsi containing eugenol? Well, clove too has eugenol, and this compound makes it a strong antioxidant and research is showing this to be reason why clove can help in some forms of liver disease as well as certain types of cancer. (4) Studies are also going on to check the potential benefits of clove in reducing blood glucose levels and promoting bone health.”

“My grandma has a habit of adding a few cloves to boiling water, allowing it to steep for some time, and then drinking that water. What could be the benefit of that, Aunty?”

“Ayurveda recommends clove as a carminative – an agent that expels gas from the stomach. Your grandma must have learned this remedy from her elders. Some animal studies have now found that clove can probably help to reduce ulcers in the stomach.” (5) These experiments have shown that clove tends to increase production of mucus which is present as a lining of the stomach. This mucus has a protective role because it acts as a barrier between the stomach lining and the acid in the stomach. In people who have stomach ulcers, the stomach lining has been damaged, so this protective effect of clove can be really useful.”

 “Oh, wow! So our Ayurveda practitioners knew so many things!”

“Yes, indeed, they did, Preethi. And that’s why clove has always been used in our daily life. Just as I added it into the payasam, it is also added into teertha or holy water that is used to worship God and then distributed to the devotees. I’m sure your mother must be adding it into the masala powders she uses to make sambar or pulao, right?”

“Yes, I’ve noticed her using it for these dishes.”

“There are some reports of eugenol in clove being harmful in very high doses. But we don’t really need to worry about it because in the quantities that we use of clove, the amount of eugenol we consume is very, very low.”

“So, ok, Aunty, I’m going to try to enjoy your clove-flavoured payasam after learning all these things about it,” said Preethi with a sigh.

References

1. Cai L, Wu CD. Compounds from Syzygium aromaticum possessing growth inhibitory activity against oral pathogens. J Nat Prod. 1996;59(10):987-990. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8904847/ 

2. Kothiwale, S. V., Patwardhan, V., Gandhi, M., Sohoni, R., & Kumar, A. (2014). A comparative study of antiplaque and antigingivitis effects of herbal mouthrinse containing tea tree oil, clove, and basil with commercially available essential oil mouthrinse. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology18(3), 316–320. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4095623/ 

3. Takeda A. Manganese action in brain function. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2003;41(1):79-87. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12505649/ 

4. Dwivedi V, Shrivastava R, Hussain S, Ganguly C, Bharadwaj M. Comparative anticancer potential of clove (Syzygium aromaticum)–an Indian spice–against cancer cell lines of various anatomical origin. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2011;12(8):1989-1993. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22292639/ 
5. Agbaje EO. Gastrointestinal effects of Syzigium aromaticum (L) Merr. & Perry (Myrtaceae) in animal models. Nig Q J Hosp Med. 2008;18(3):137-141. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19062476/

Disclaimer: The article is not a medical prescription. It is only for information. The opinion expressed are of the author.

Anusuya Kashi

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