North Sulawesi’s rich and fertile land supports an abundance of spices, coffee, and even chocolate. Many of the spices that are grown here are what historically brought the Europeans to Indonesia. Manado in particular was a base for the Dutch and the Portuguese who traded in spices grown in North Sulawesi and who also used it as a stop-off point when traveling further east in both Indonesia and in South East Asia.
One of the most sought after spices was cloves, which grow throughout the North Sulawesi highlands and are known for a multitude of purposes and health benefits. Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree, an evergreen also known as Syzygium aromaticum. When picked from the tree the clove buds are green and yellow before being dried in the sun which turns them the rich dark brown color we are now accustomed to.
The drying process usually involves the clove buds being laid out in the sun (often at the roadside) on a tarp. It is common in all parts of Indonesia to see the local harvest being dried out in this way. Cloves are one of the most pleasant to see and they release a beautiful aroma during the process. The farmers will periodically rake the cloves to ensure even drying on all sides.
Cloves are best known as a sweet and aromatic spice, frequently used to flavor cookies, cakes, hot beverages and stews, and in Indian cuisine, they are often used in curries. Here are some of the medicinal, nutritional and health benefits of cloves which might surprise you!
1. Cloves contain important nutrients
Cloves contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so using whole or ground cloves to add flavor to your food can provide some important nutrients.
One teaspoon (2 grams) contains:
• Calories: 6
• Carbs: 1 gram
• Fiber: 1 gram
• Manganese: 55% of the Daily Value (DV)
• Vitamin K: 2% of the DV
Manganese is an essential mineral for maintaining brain function and building strong bones.
2. High in antioxidants
In addition to containing several important vitamins and minerals, cloves are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that reduce oxidative stress, which can contribute to the development of chronic disease. Cloves also contain a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to act as a natural antioxidant. In fact, a recent study found that eugenol stopped oxidative damage caused by free radicals five times more effectively than vitamin E, another potent antioxidant.
3. May help protect against cancer
Some research suggests that the compounds found in cloves might help protect against cancer. One (test-tube) study found that clove extract helped stop the growth of tumors and promoted cell death in cancer cells. Another study observed similar results, showing that concentrated amounts of clove oil caused cell death in 80% of esophageal cancer cells.
4. Cloves kill bacteria
Cloves have been shown to have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can help stop the growth of microorganisms like bacteria. The essential oil kills three common types of bacteria, including E. coli, which is a strain of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The antibacterial properties help promote oral health which is why they are often found in herbal mouthwashes. Cloves combat the growth of two types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease.
5. May improve liver health
Studies show that the beneficial compounds in cloves could help promote liver health. The compound eugenol may be especially beneficial for the liver by improving liver function, reducing inflammation, and decreasing oxidative stress. Eugenol is also thought to help reverse signs of liver cirrhosis or scarring of the liver.
6. May help regulate blood sugar
Research shows that they may help keep blood sugar under control and could be used to help diabetics. Cloves and nigericin have been shown to increase the uptake of sugar from the blood into cells, increase the secretion of insulin, and improve the function of cells that produce insulin.
7. Promote bone health
Low bone mass is a condition that affects an estimated 43 million older adults in the United States alone and it can lead to osteoporosis. Some of the compounds in cloves have been shown to help preserve bone mass in animal studies. This could be because they are rich in Manganese which is a mineral that’s involved in the formation of bone and incredibly important to bone health.
8. May reduce stomach ulcers
Some research indicates that they could help treat stomach ulcers by promoting the production of healthy gastric mucus which helps to protect the stomach lining.
9. Anaesthetic Properties
Essential oil also contains the active ingredient eugenol, which is a natural anesthetic. It helps numb and reduce pain and is known to ease a toothache. Eugenol also has natural anti-inflammatory properties. It may reduce swelling and irritation in the affected area.
Introducing Cloves into Your Diet
As with all dietary supplements, cloves should be used in moderation and in combination with a healthy and balanced diet. To gain the benefits of cloves, try integrating a few servings per week into your meals. You can easily incorporate ground cloves into many dishes. They’ll bring a warm, distinctive flavor to desserts, curries, or chutneys. You can also simmer whole cloves in boiling water for 5–10 minutes to make a soothing tea.
Here at Murex we use cloves in many of our traditional Manadonese dishes where they add a depth of flavor and we hope you gain some of the health benefits too!
For more information about diving, snorkeling, staying, or exploring North Sulawesi with us, contact us for more information! We look forward to hearing from you.