Let’s Talk Food: Cloves, a wonderful spice

In my CSA box from OK Farms, I received a handful of fresh cloves. I removed the buds from the stems and dried them in the sun for a day.

Clove trees are an evergreen and are the flower buds of Myrtaceae Syzygium aromaticum, and they are native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. The name cloves come from the Latin word “clavus,” meaning “nails,” which is the shape dried cloves look like.

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When I went to Southern India with my son, Neil, nine years ago, I became very intrigued with Ayurvedic medicine and spent a day with an Ayurveda instructor. At that time, I seriously thought that if I were much younger, I would love to spend six years in India training in Ayurvedic medicine.

Like Chinese herbalists, Ayurveda has been around for centuries and was an important source of healing. Cloves are an important ingredient and are considered a kaphahar, with the ability to balance kapha dosha.

Kapha governs structure and fluid in the body and its primary function is to improve digestion. Although hot to taste, cloves are cooling and soothing to the stomach.

This might seem Greek to you until you studied Ayurveda, but bear with me and discover the medicinal uses:

• Trushnapaha — relieves excessive thirst

• Vaktra kleda daurgandhya nashana — relieves bad breath and excessive sliminess of oral cavity. If kept in the oral cavity for a few minutes, it brings in clarity, relieves tastelessness and bad breath.

• Netra Hitam — good for eyes.

• Deepana and Pachana — improves digestion strength.

• Ruchya — improves taste.

• Pittasranashana — useful in bleeding disorders.

• Kshaya — helps with chronic respiratory disorders.

• Trishna — excessive thirst.

• Chardi — vomiting.

• Admana — bloating, gaseous distention of abdomen.

• Udara shula — abdominal colic pain.

• Kasa — cough and the cold.

• Shwasa — asthma, COPD, wheezing, breathing difficulty.

• Hikka — hiccups.

Dosages to help these ailments:

• Lavang powder — 1-2 grams per day.

• Clove oil — 1-2 drops.

I wonder if cloves are being used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat coronavirus? Ruchya (improving taste) and Kasa (coughing) are two of the symptoms cloves could treat.

Western medicine’s benefits of cloves are very limited to test tube and lab rat studies, so data is not proven for use in humans yet. It is known to be an ant repellent, mosquito repellent and easing toothache pain.

Some test tube results include:

• Eugenol stopped oxidative radicals five times more effectively than Vitamin E.

• Clove extract helped stop growth of tumors and promoted death of cancer cells.

• High concentrations of clove oil caused the death in 80% of esophageal cancer cells.

• Eugenol promoted death of cervical cancer cells.

• Its microbial properties help stop the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria. Cloves killed E.coli.

In lab rat and mice studies:

• Lab rats with fatty liver disease given mixtures containing either clove oil or eugenol saw improved liver function, reduced inflammation and decreased oxidative stress.

• A study with mice showed clove extract helped moderate blood sugar increase in mice with diabetes.

• Essential oil from cloves was shown to increase the production of gastric mucus in animals. The gastric mucus can help against stomach ulcers.

• Mice given clove extract lowered body weight and had less abdominal fat and less liver fat.

• Some compounds in cloves have been shown to help preserve bone mass in animal studies.

Cloves have been known as a wonderful spice, especially important during the holidays, like in pumpkin pies. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine, basil, onions, citrus peel, star anise and peppercorns.

But it is a common spice in Indian cooking, and you need not wait until the holidays to use it.

Indian Chicken Curry

From: Allrecipes

Serves: 6

8 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinless

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, peeled and quartered

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 tablespoon hot Madras curry powder

1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (10 ounce) can coconut milk

4 whole cloves

4 pods cardamom

1 cinnamon stick

Salt to taste

Rinse chicken, pat dry, season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute chicken until browned. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Saute onions in skillet until translucent, add ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant, stir in curry powder.

Return chicken to skillet and add tomato sauce, coconut milk, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Season with salt to taste and stir all together.

Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through (no longer pink inside), about 20-25 minutes.

•••

In Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom helps with those who belch, vomit and have a sluggish digestion system. Cardamom also relaxes muscle tissue and is an antispasmodic, making it great for colic, asthma and a throbbing headache (caused by spasms in the blood vessels).

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Cinnamon has warming properties that comfort, soothe and help clear out the airways. It also calms Kapha and is good for balancing Vata. (There is a test to figure out your body type).

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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