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Clove tea is an herbal tea brewed with cloves, thought to have beneficial medicinal properties. Most of the benefits derived from drinking the tea are due to the presence of an organic compound found in cloves and other aromatic herbs and spices called eugenol. The tea may be used to treat a variety of minor digestive complaints, such as diarrhea and flatulence. It also has antiseptic, antifungal, and analgesic properties. Clove tea can also be applied topically in the form of a hand cleanser or a compress, or taken internally as a douche or enema.
Aromatic cloves are obtained by drying the buds of an evergreen flowering tree called a clove tree. The name of the spice comes from the Latin word for nail, "clavus," as the shape of a dried clove bud somewhat resembles a nail. Cloves are primarily harvested in their native country of Indonesia, as well as in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.
The main ingredient of clove tea is whole or ground cloves. Both whole and ground versions of the spice are quite pungent in taste and aroma, but grinding cloves makes their flavor even more powerful. Clove tea is brewed by pouring boiling water over either whole cloves or ground cloves in a tea sachet, and allowing the liquid to steep briefly. The longer the tea steeps, the more overwhelming the clove flavor will be. Milk, honey, or other sweeteners may be added to the tea.
One of the active compounds in clove tea is a yellowish aromatic oil called eugenol, which makes up 72-90% of clove oil and gives cloves their characteristic spicy smell. Eugenol is found in the essential oils of many other spices and herbs, including cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, and bay leaves. The oil is an antiseptic and an antifungal, which is why clove tea is sometimes used to sanitize hands, or taken as an antifungal douche by women suffering from vaginal yeast infections. It is also an analgesic that soothes stomach pains and indigestion when taken orally, and reduces pain from muscle injuries when applied as a cold compress. Although there are many health benefits associated with eugenol ingestion, in sufficient amounts the oil is toxic, with possible side effects of ingestion including liver damage, blood in the urine, diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.
Other active compounds in clove tea are methyl salicylate and tannin. Methyl salicylate, also known as oil of wintergreen, has warming properties that have led to its use as a rubefacient and a painkiller. Tannins are naturally occurring plant chemicals that have both astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties contribute to the effectiveness of clove tea as both an antiseptic and a digestive aid.