Cloves are an aromatic spice known for many years for benefits in oral health used, for instance, to relieve toothaches. The oil extracted from cloves is used as an essential oil. (We use clove oil for its antifungal effects for small intestinal fungal overgrowth, SIFO, in the Undoctored Inner Circle.) The primary component of the essential oil of clove is a compound called eugenol.
In an interesting series of experiments, a University of British Columbia group demonstrated that eugenol has the unique ability to increase the thickness of the intestinal mucus lining, doubling its thickness. Recall that intestinal mucus is a critical barrier between microbes, digested food, bile and other factors and the intestinal lining. Any breakdown of the intestinal mucus barrier is bad news, as it encourages intestinal inflammation, endotoxemia, i.e., the entry of bacterial breakdown products into the bloodstream, and undesirable shifts in microbiome composition.
Even more interesting, this effect appears to be due to eugenol’s stimulation of Clostridia species of bowel flora that regulate mucus production. (Clostridia species are an example of how there can be desirable healthy species as well as undesirable pathogenic species. Clostridium difficile and Clostridium perfringens, for example, are known aggressive pathogens, while emerging evidence suggests that some instances of autistic spectrum disorder may be due to lack of several crucial Clostridia species.) The increase in intestinal mucus thickness also provided protection against intestinal infection in these experiments.
We are surrounded by factors that disrupt the intestinal mucus lining such as emulsifying agents in ice cream and salad dressings, chlorinated drinking water, the food additive maltodextrin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and many others. People who have inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, small intestinal bacterial and fungal overgrowth (SIBO, SIFO) also have a disrupted mucus barrier. So something that strengthens the mucus barrier can be beneficial for health.
It’s autumn and a terrific time for recipes that incorporate cloves, such as pumpkin pie that incorporates ground cloves. (Ground cloves are not as potent as clove essential oil, but are better suited for frequent consumption. The essential oil is extremely potent and cannot be ingested directly but diluted. For SIFO, for instance, we start with 1-2 drops of clove oil diluted in a tablespoon of olive or avocado oil.) You can also push cloves into a baked ham, add them to beets, or make gingerbread cookies. However, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie spice muffins, and gingerbread cookies typically use only small quantities of clove.
So here is a way to make a tea out of cloves for a more potent effect. There are many variations for this recipe. Rather than use the orange tea that I specify, you could instead add a dash of cinnamon or drink plain with your choice of safe sweetener.
The cloves are quite potent, so I reused them up to three times with hardly any reduction in flavor intensity.
Orange Clove Tea
Makes 2 cups
2 cups water
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 teabag orange tea (I used the Tazo Wild Sweet Orange)
Sweetener (I used liquid stevia)
In medium saucepan, combine water and cloves and bring to boil, then reduce heat to maintain low boil for 10 minutes.
Add teabag the last 1-2 minutes, then discard.
Sweeten to taste. If the flavor is too strong for you, you can of course dilute further by adding more boiling water.