My patients like to tell me about ‘home remedies’ passed down from parents and grandparents – many of them that contain kitchen spices – 2 in particular, cinnamon and cloves. I have my own memories of holding boiled clove water on a recently extracted tooth that developed a dry socket. The mixture took away the pain and kept the area clean until I could get into the dentist the following Monday. Many common kitchen spices have been formulated as “therapeutic” or “food grade” essential oils that are very concentrated forms of everyday kitchen spices. The health benefits of these essential oils are amazing, however. I’d like to tell you about two of my favorites – cinnamon and clove oil.
Cinnamon – An Ancient Antibiotic
Modern science is just now re-discovering the uses of natural healing substances that had been used for centuries, cinnamon being one of them. Cinnamon has been around for centuries and, in fact, was one of the most valuable and highest priced spices of traders around the world. No wonder, as cinnamon has both incredible food enhancement and medicinal qualities.
The Chinese used cinnamon bark to treat diarrhea, menstrual issues and fever. Old Egyptian medical texts describe the use of cinnamon for many ailments – including asthma and cancer. They also used it for embalming. Cinnamon was also used in the Middle Ages in a concoction called Thieves Vinegar, or “Marseilles Vinegar”, that is reputed to have protected people in France against the plague. This could likely be due to the high antioxidant level of cinnamon.
Interestingly, the International Journal of Food Microbiology lists cinnamon as capable of killing 92% of gram negative and positive bacterial strains out of 25 tested. Saraushtra University in India rated cinnamon bark as being twice as effective in killing fungus as hexaconazole, a common agricultural fungicide! Cinnamon is also used in natural household cleaners.
Recent medical research credits cassia-derived cinnamon, or cinnamon bark, as being of benefit to diabetics – 1,000 mg (1 gram) dry cinnamon a day, or 1 drop of GRAS essential oil in your food, can help decrease blood sugar levels and keep insulin secretion at even levels. Also reputed to help decrease belly fat as a result. Note: Cassia type cinnamon contains cinnamon-aldehyde which can cause liver toxicity in high doses. In the oil form, do not exceed 1 drop a day to your food. With dry type, do not exceed 1,000 mg, or 1 gram, a day.
Another form of cinnamon oil is derived from its leaf – Cinnamon osmopholuem. This type does not contain the ‘aldehyde’ compounds that Cinnamon cassia has. Essential oils derived from this type of cinnamon have been research proven at National Taiwan University as having anti-inflammatory properties. Other research has shown that smelling cinnamon improves memory and the performance of many tasks.
Clove – An Antioxidant Workhorse
Cloves have an ORAC (oxygen radical absorbency capacity) that is off the charts in the millions. ORAC values determine the antioxidant value of a given substance (see Healthy Answers article on ORAC values of foods). Cloves contain eugenol oil, which has been used for eons in dentistry for alleviating dental pain from a variety of conditions for improved dental health. Rubbing a few drops of clove oil on sore joints helps relieve pain. It also helps relieve sore throat pain with a few drops in warm water and used as a gargle.
A few, 1-2 drops of GRAS essential clove oil diluted in tea, or water and added to your food, can provide extra antioxidant protection in addition to eating a healthy diet. Clove essential oil is very concentrated, so do not use more than a drop or two diluted.
Other health benefits of using clove essential oils include:
- Helps insomnia
- Helps relieve bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory ailments
- Fights infections with its excellent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
- May even be beneficial in preventing cancer due to its high antioxidant levels.
How To Take/Use Essential Oils For Their Health Benefits
Essential oils are basically the “plant blood” that keeps the plant/tree healthy and able to resist damage from fungus, bacteria and sun. Most of them are very high in antioxidant value. These oils confer many of the same health benefits to humans. However, essential oil versions of spices like cinnamon and clove are very concentrated. You want to be sure you do not use too much to avoid toxicity. Here are some other things to know:
- Choose a reputable manufacturer of GRAS (FDA’s generally recognized as safe label) grade essential oils. Most kitchen spices, including clove and cinnamon, that have been processed, as essential oils are GRAS – they can be taken internally as well as used externally.
- Dilute before using. Both cinnamon and clove essential oils should be diluted using a 1 drop to 4 ounce oil-soluble liquid ratio before taking them internally or applying externally to the skin.
Mother Nature has created some incredible plants, trees and flowers from which we get our basic kitchen spices and their essential oils. Modern medicine is just now starting to turn back to these ancient medicine forms to research the scope of the health benefits they can offer us. In the meantime, you can tap into these ancient health boosters by making use of essential oils regularly in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
20 Health Benefits of Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, http://www.rejuvinstitute.com/health-benefits-essential-oils
The Health Benefits of Cinnamon, http://www.experience-essential-oils.com/health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html
Health Benefits of Clove Oil, http://www.aromatherapies.net/blog/health-benefits-of-clove-essential-oil.html
How To Use Therapeutic Essential Oils, http://www.yleo-oils.com/gras-safety.htm