Clove belongs to those spices available throughout the whole year, but in Christmas time it is often used for making different holiday treats. Native to Indonesian islands this spice is not solely used in cooking, but has a wide spectrum of health beneficiaries as well. Cloves are actually immature, unopened buds of the evergreen tropic tree in the family of Myrtaceae. First they are pink but as they dry they gain their characteristic brown colour resembling to the little nails. As far as their medicinal properties, cloves are multifunctional since they possess antimicrobial and antioxidant characteristics, and can also serve as a mild anaesthetic. They are an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin K, but also water-soluble vitamins like B group vitamins and vitamin C, as well as minerals: iron, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium. Cloves also contain eugenol, widely used chemical compound in cosmetic industry for the production of perfumes and essential oils, and in medicine it is used as an antiseptic and anaesthetic. Combined with zinc it creates zinc-oxide eugenol paste that is applied in dental medicine after oral surgery. It alleviates pain and disinfects a root canal of the tooth with caries. Furthermore, eugenol reduces blood sugar levels which is very useful finding for diabetics. Consummation of cloves also stimulates secretion of the digestive enzymes thus significantly improving and easing digestion and defecation. Moreover, it is an excellent aid for treating cold. Famous home-made remedy is a beverage made of mulled wine and cloves, very efficient for cold precisely.
Cloves have been used in cooking for centuries long, usually to complete the taste of various sauces, soups, marinades, but deserts too. However, it should be carefully dosed since they are extremely aromatic and by that intense, so it is easy to overdose on this spice.
And finally, a tip for discovering how fresh cloves in your kitchen cabinets are: put clove into a glass of water; if it is fresh, it will float vertically on the surface, and if it falls down to the glass bottom or it flows horizontally, then it is not fresh.