Cloves, Eugenia caryophyllata, are a popular spice derived from the dried flowerbud of the clove tree. For thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Chinese, cloves have been used for spice, for fragrance, and for medicine.

Most researchers attribute cloves health promoting attributes to eugenol. Eugenol is a polyphenol. Similar to other polyphenols like the flavonoids and catechins found in fruits and green tea, eugenol possess potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Eugenol is also responsible for the pleasant odor and distinct taste of cloves.

Potential Benefits of Cloves for Musculoskeletal Health*

1. Eugenol is an anti-oxidant* 6,7,8

Oxidative damage is a key mechanism that causes pre-mature aging of joint, muscle, bone, and tendon tissue. Eugenol combats oxidative damage through multiple pathways:

  • Eugenol can deactivate highly reactive metals, such as iron and arsenic, that attempt to steal electrons form vital proteins, DNA, and good fats. This theft of electrons can cause irreparable harm to these important structures. 
  • Eugenol can shield cell walls from free radical attack. If the cell wall is damaged by the free radical onslaught all the contents inside the cell may leak out, causing the cell to undergo programmed cell death.
  • Eugenol disarms high energy oxygen molecules that injure cell proteins and DNA.

Indian investigators examined the influence of an extract rich in eugenol on a rat model of osteoporosis. The results suggested that the treatment group’s bone density and bone tensile strength was improved compared to the non intervention group. The authors concluded eugenol’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties likely contribute to their findings. (Clove extract rich in eugenol and eugenol derivatives shows bone-preserving efficacy. Nat Prod Res. 2012;26(6):500-9. )

2. Eugenol is a natural pain killer* 9,10,11,12

Pain is a devastating symptom of musculoskeletal disease. Eugenol potentially inhibits pain by weakening the transmission of pain signals from nerves within joints to the nerve receptors in the spinal cord and brain. Research suggests eugenol alters the conduction potential over nerves; thereby, decreasing the intensity and frequency of pain signals.

Investigators at the University of Montreal explored the antinociceptive effects of eugenol on a rat model of arthritis. The findings indicated eugenol improved the rats gait pattern and reduced the level of neuropeptides that correlate to pain generation.(Ferland et al. Antinociceptive effects of eugenol evaluated in a monoiodoacetate-induced osteoarthritis rat model. Phytother Res. 2012 Sep;26(9):1278-85.)

3. Eugenol is an anti-inflammatory* 13,14,15,16

Chronic low grade inflammation is a driving force behind chronic joint, bone, tendon, and muscle injury. Eugenol inhibits the same inflammatory pathway targeted by commonly prescribed NSAIDS.

Investigation implies eugenol reduces:

  1. The synthesis of inflammation inducing signaling molecules, like cytokines and interleukins.
  2. The activity of the pro-inflammatory enzymes, like COX-2.
  3. The production of  pain inducing substances, such as prostaglandins. 

Brazilian researchers used a rat model of arthritis to assess the effect of eugenol on clinical signs of arthritis. The results suggested eugenol was able to reduce the signs of inflammation such as swelling, redness, and pro-inflammatory cytokine levels. (Grespan et al. Anti-arthritic effect of eugenol on collagen-induced arthritis experimental model. Biol Pharm Bull. 2012;35(10):1818-20.)

Precautions 17,18

Eugenol is generally recognized as safe when consumed in usual culinary and herbal doses.

As with any consideration of any form of supplementation consult your healthcare provide prior to use if you are pregnant, nursing, taking any medications or have any medical conditions. Discontinue use and consult your doctor is any adverse reactions occur.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



  1. Chomchalow, N. Spice production in Asia–An overview. Presented at IBC Asian Spice Markets Conference, Singapore, 27–28 May 1996. 

  2. Bulbeck, D.; Reid, A.; Tan, L.C.; Wu, Y. Southeast Asian Exports Since the 14th Century: Cloves, Pepper, Coffee, and Sugar; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies: Singapore, 1998.
  3. Zheng, G.Q.; Kenney, P.M.; Lam, L.K.T. Sesquiterpenes from clove (Eugenia caryophyllata). J. Nat. Prod. 1992, 55, 999–1003.
  4. Bedoukian,P.Z.PerfumeryandFlavouringSynthetics,3rded.;AlluredPublishingCorporation: Carol Stream, IL, USA, 1986.
  5. Yogalakshmi, B.; Viswanathan, P.; Anuradha, C.V. Investigation of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and DNA-protective properties of eugenol in thioacetamide-induced liver injury in rats. Toxicology 2010, 268, 204–212.
  6. Ito, M.; Murakami, K.; Yoshino, M. Anti-oxidant action of eugenol compounds: role of metal ion in the inhibition of lipid peroxidation. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2005, 43, 461–466.
  7. Leem, H.-H.; Kim, E.-O.; Seo, M.-J.; Choi, S.-W. Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of eugenol and its derivatives from clove (Eugenia caryophyllata Thunb.). J. Korean Soc. Food Sci. Nutr. 2011, 40, 1361–1370. 

  8. Chogo, J.B.; Crank, G. Chemical composition and biological activity of the Tanzanian plant Ocimum suave. J. Nat. Prod. 1981, 42, 308–311. 

  9. Li, H.Y.; Park, C.-K.; Jung, S.J.; Choi, S.-Y.; Lee, S.J.; Park, K.; Kim, J.S.; Oh, S.B. Eugenol inhibits K+ currents in trigeminal ganglion neurons. J. Dent. Res. 2007, 86, 898–902. 

  10. Inoue, M.; Fujita, T.; Goto, M.; Kumamoto, E. Presynaptic enhancement by eugenol of spontaneous excitatory transmission in rat spinal substantia gelatinosa neurons is mediated by transient receptor potential A1 channels. Neuroscience 2012, in press. 

  11. Lee, M.H.; Yeon, K.-Y.; Park, C.-K.; Li, H.-Y.; Fang, Z.; Kim, M.S.; Choi, S.-Y.; Lee, S.J.; Lee, S.; Park, K.; et al. Eugenol inhibits calcium currents in dental afferent neurons. J. Dent. Res. 2005, 84, 848–851. 

  12. Ferland, C.E.; Beaudry, F.; Vachon, P. Antinociceptive effects of eugenol evaluated in a monoiodoacetate-induced osteoarthritis rat model. Phytother. Res. 2012, doi:10.1002/ptr.3725. 

  13. Leem, H.-H.; Kim, E.-O.; Seo, M.-J.; Choi, S.-W. Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of eugenol and its derivatives from clove (Eugenia caryophyllata Thunb.). J. Korean Soc. Food Sci. Nutr. 2011, 40, 1361–1370. 

  14. Daniel, A.N.; Sartoretto, S.M.; Schmidt, G.; Caparroz-Assef, S.M.; Bersani-Amado, C.A.; Cuman, R.K.N. Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activities of eugenol essential oil in experimental animal models. Rev. Bras. Farmacogn. 2009, 19, 212–217. 

  15. Kim, S.S.; Oh, O.-J.; Min, H.-Y.; Park, E.-J.; Kim, Y.; Park, H.J.; Han, Y.N.; Lee, S.K. Eugenol suppresses cyclooxygenase-2 expression in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated mouse macrophage RAW264.7 cells. Life Sci. 2003, 73, 337–348. 

  16. Bachiega, T.F.; de Sousa, J.P.B.; Bastos, J.K.; Sfrocin, J.M. Clove and eugenol in noncytotoxic concentrations exert immunomodulatory/anti-inflammatory action on cytokine production by murine macrophages. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 2012, 64, 610–616. 

  17. Expert Committee on Food Additives. Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants; WHO Technical Report Series 683; WHO Press: Geneva, Switzerland, 1982; p. 20. 

  18. Hartnoll, G.; Moore, D.; Douek, D. Near fatal ingestion of oil of cloves. Arch. Dis. Child. 1993, 69, 392–393. 






 Lucas J. Bader MD

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