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Clove oil is the extract taken from the leaves and unopened flower buds of clove trees. This essential oil has been used for many years to help treat a variety of health problems, from tooth pain to stomachaches to sexual dysfunction. One of the most common uses still today, even in conventional medicine, is that of an oral analgesic. Many healthcare providers note that while clove oil is a natural substance, it is not without its potential side effects.
The trees that clove oil comes from grow mainly in warmer areas of the world, such as Indonesia, Africa and South America. They can be harvested for the small unopened flower buds, which are frequently dried to make whole spice cloves often used in cooking. While these buds do contain some oil that can be extracted, the main source is the leaves of the plants. Eugenol is the primary chemical found in the oil of these leaves and buds. It is the substance to which the extract owes many of its medicinal properties.
Cloves and clove oil have been used by humans for thousands of years. One of the oldest known uses was as a breath freshener in ancient China. Several other uses also relate to oral health, including its use as an anesthetic and antiseptic agent to help relieve tooth pain and prevent infections of the mouth. Many modern dental practices still employ the use of clove oil as a component of temporary fillings to help numb sensitive or inflamed nerves. It may also be found in commercially available over-the-counter treatments for toothaches, mouth ulcers and sore throats.
Medicinal uses for clove oil are not limited just to mouth discomforts. It has also been used to help treat stomach problems, such as ulcers, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Applied topically, it may be used as a natural remedy for ringworm and other fungal infections. Another formulation of clove and other essential oils applied to the skin has shown some possible benefit for use in preventing premature ejaculation in men.
While many people think natural treatments such as clove oil are likely to have few or no side effects, healthcare providers generally caution against this misconception. Topical applications put on the skin or surface of the mouth may cause an unpleasant burning, stinging or rash. When ingested, clove oil has the potential to cause bleeding problems due to the high amounts of eugenol, which has been shown in studies to slow blood clotting. Consuming large doses can lead to trouble breathing, liver and kidney damage, and seizures. Due to this, it is generally recommend following dosage instructions carefully and keeping the oil out of the reach of children.