Indigenous to the Maluku Islands, once known as the Clove Islands, Clove is now extinct there. Clove was imported into China more than 2000 years ago, and was later introduced and extensively cultivated on the East African coast. Today it grows throughout the East and West Indies, Brazil, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Mauritius, Ternate, Tidore and in Indonesia. The flowers are harvested in June and December each year, when they become bright-red before they are mature.
Cloves are an ingredient in kreteks, the aromatic Indonesian tobacco cigarettes. They are so widely smoked that Indonesian producers have to import cloves from Africa to supplement its own crop.
Clavus, Latin for nail, as the unopened clove flower bud resembles a nail and are quite hard once dried.
In 16th and 17th century Europe, Clove and Nutmeg were worth more than their weight in gold. During Magellan’s global expedition from 1519-1522, 50 tons of Cloves and Nutmeg were considered to have made the expedition a financial success, while most of the voyage was wrought with mishaps. In Han Dynasty China, 206 BCE - 220 CE, visitors to the court were only permitted to address the emperor if their breath had been sweetened with clove. The spice was introduced by Arab traders in the 11th century, who controlled the trade to Europe.
Aromatic, stimulant, and an irritant. Internally used to stimulate the digestive functions, as well as suppress nausea and vomiting. They are used to add pleasant flavor to foul tasting medicines. A potent ingredient, eugenol is an effective local anesthetic, and has long been used in dentistry to relieve tooth pain, though caution should be used in that the oil may cause some gum damage if used for many days in a row. Other constituents include salicylic acid, a powerful anti-inflammatory both internally and externally. Clove oil increases circulation in the small capillaries by being mildly irritating to the skin and should always be used diluted. It can be used to plump the lips in a balm as well as sooth sore muscles in a massage oil.
Clove burned as an incense is used to ward off negative energies and purify the atmosphere around the home.
“There was the blue sky above her and all those many roses, the ones that gave off the scent of cloves in the rain and the ones that left a trace of lemon on your fingers, the ones that were the color of blood, and those that were as white as clouds. Each one was sweeter than the next and as red as gemstones.”
- Alice Hoffman