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Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum Eugenia aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata) are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to Indonesia and India and used as a spice in cuisine all over the world. The English name derives from Latin clavus 'nail' (also origin of French clou 'nail') as the buds vaguely resemble small irregular nails in shape. Cloves are harvested primarily in Indonesia Madagascar Zanzibar Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Cloves can be used in cooking either whole or in a ground form but as they are extremely strong they are used sparingly. The spice is used throughout Europe and Asia and is smoked in a type of cigarettes locally known as kretek in Indonesia. Cloves are also an important incense material in Chinese and Japanese culture. During Christmas it is a tradition in some European countries to make a pomander from cloves and oranges to hang around the house. This spreads a nice scent throughout the house and the oranges themselves act as Christmas decorations.
Cloves have historically been used in Indian cuisine (both North Indian and South Indian) as well as Mexican cuisine where it is often paired together with cumin and cinnamon. In north Indian cuisine it is used in almost all dishes along with other spices. It is also a key ingredient in tea along with green cardamom. In south Indian cuisine it is used extensively in biryani along with "cloves dish" and it is normally added whole to enhance the presentation and flavor of the rice. In Vietnamese cuisine cloves are often used to season pho broth. Due to the Indonesian influence the use of cloves is widespread in the Netherlands. Cloves are used in cheeses often in combination with cumin. Cloves are an essential ingredient for making Dutch speculaas. Furthermore cloves are used in traditional Dutch stews like hachee. Dried cloves also play a major role in the production of chai tea an Indian spiced black tea made famous in the form of a 'Latte'. The tea is described by many as having a sweet cinnamon taiste.
Cloves are used Chinese medicine and western herbalism for dentistry where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller) for dental emergencies. Cloves are used as a carminative to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis. Cloves are also said to be a natural antihelmintic. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming are needed especially for digestive problems. Topical application over the stomach or abdomen are said to warm the digestive tract. Clove oil is used in various skin disorders like acne pimples etc. It is also used in severe burns skin irritations and to reduce the sensitiveness of skin. Cloves have been used internally as a tea and topically as an oil for hypotonic muscles including for multiple sclerosis. In West Africa cloves are infused in water as a treatment for stomach upsets vomiting and diarrhea.The infusion is called Ogun Jedi-jedi. Western studies have supported the use of cloves and clove oil for dental pain and to a lesser extent for fever reduction as a mosquito repellent and to prevent premature ejaculation. Clove may reduce blood sugar levels.