CLOVE (Syzygium aromaticum): Origin: native to southern Asia, probably the Molucca Islands in Indonesia. . This spice is symbolic of dignity and restraint. Called ‘”little nails” by the Byzantine Romans, cloves first were brought to Europe between the 4th-6th centuries of the Common Era, but probably reached England only by 1797.

The Gerarde herbal states that cloves strengthen the stomach, liver, and heart; is a digestive aid; and provoke urine. The oil from cloves when dropped into the eyes sharpen sight and cleans away any cloud or web. If four drams of clove powder is mixed with milk then drunk, this will result in the act of generation [result in pregnancy]..

The Culpeper herbal contains the following comments: cloves improve digestion, stop looseness [in the bowels], provoke lust, and quicken the eyesight. A Culpeper medical aphorism regards the use of cloves to treat scurvy …

For a Scurvy in the gums …

Take Cloves, and boil them in Rose-water, then dry them, and beat them to powder, and rub the gums with the powder, and drink the decoction in the morning fasting an hour after it. Use red Rose-water, for that is the best.

Through the years cloves have been prescribed to help memory and eyesight; thought useful against the Black Plague, heart, liver, stomach, and intestinal disorders; and chewed to make the breath sweet; and to stop vomiting. A preparation called “Vinegar of the Four Thieves” emerged in the 17th century during an outbreak of bubonic plague in southern France. It is said that four thieves were arrested for “plundering dead bodies” and that they used the herbal mixture as protection against infection, the ingredients being: clove, lavender, marjoram, and rosemary mixed with distilled vinegar. Oil of cloves was recognized since antiquity for its medicinal properties against toothache. Traditional Europeans today believe that cloves prevent paralysis of the tongue and loosening of the teeth.

(Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 1351-1353; Culpeper, 1653, p. 248, and 397; Colin, 1962, p. xiii; Lehner and Lehner, 1962, p. 116; Powell, 1977, p. 61; Grivetti, 2004, p. 95).

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