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The clove tree is the medicinal plant of 2010 – after all, it can do much more than provide us with flower buds to give our Christmas biscuits and mulled wine their distinctive flavour. In the world of medicine, the essential oil of the clove tree helps to combat toothache and is used in the treatment of diabetes and rheumatic conditions, and that is why the Naturheilverein (NHV) Theophrastus (Theophrastus Association of Natural Medicine) decided to award it this year’s honour.

Cloves have an analgesic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effect, whilst also being very invigorating for the body. This exotic medicinal plant combats halitosis, stimulates the appetite and aids digestion too. The clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum) originated in the Indonesian archipelago known as the Moluccas or Spice Islands. But today, cloves are cultivated mainly in Madagascar and Tanzania. All parts of this evergreen tree contain essential oils, but it is the unopened flower buds that are the most potent. The essential oils are primarily composed of eugenol, the compound with a slightly anaesthetic effect that is also found in cinnamon.

The spice is obtained by drying the buds, whilst in a medical context it is the essential oil extracted from the flower buds and leaves that is the most significant part of the plant. In the kitchen, cloves add a special touch to both sweet and savoury dishes.

This fiery, pungent spice makes side dishes that are hard to digest, such as red cabbage and sauerkraut, more digestible, and also gives stews, marinades, compotes, roast venison and fish dishes a little something extra. In addition, cloves are used in many different spice blends, such as Chinese five spice powder, curry powder and even good old Worcester sauce.

In Germany, cloves are primarily used in the winter months, when they appear in Lebkuchen gingerbread, pastries, punch and mulled wine. Cloves are available in stores either whole, ground or as an oil. The quality of a whole bud can be put to the test quite easily:

High-quality cloves are so full of essential oils that they feel greasy and will either float upright in water or sink. By contrast, lower quality buds will lie in the water horizontally.

Source: www.aid.de, Heike Kreutz