Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Interested in exploring the benefits of cloves sexually? You’ve come to the right place.
Cloves: one of the final spices you can likely name off the top of your head before giving up a very boring guessing game. While these small dried flower buds are a semi-popular spice, they’re also a well-known traditional element of Chinese medicine used as a potential treatment for a number of health issues.
Some medicinal claims have even ventured into the world of sexual health, leading people to wonder if the secret to fighting erectile dysfunction (ED) or balancing testosterone is actually sitting in the back drawer of your grandmother’s kitchen.
So what gives? Can a sprinkle of cloves cure what ails you and your penis?
Cloves are being closely studied by a number of researchers, but the results we have so far are very modest.
Below, we’ll explain what cloves are, the benefits they may offer (according to scientific studies) and what you should probably do instead if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction or other sexual issues.
If you’re thinking about pouring yourself a cup of clove tea or soaking in a bath of ground cloves, you may want to hold up.
Cloves are a natural antioxidant, and that clove water you’re sitting in probably has some skin benefits. However, sexual benefits from the flowers of clove trees aren’t going to come from whatever you bought at Whole Foods.
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is an Indonesian species of tree that produces the small flower buds we commonly refer to as cloves. These flower buds — once dried and cleaned — have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various health conditions.
Over the centuries, they’ve been employed as alternatives to toothpaste, respiratory treatments, pain relief, skin health and wound healing.
But in many cases, these traditional treatments for things like asthma, colds, gut inflammation, nausea, increased sperm count and acne aren’t based on well-established science.
According to the National Library of Medicine, several uses for cloves can actually lead to just as many side effects as benefits (more on those in a minute).
But the advantages of cloves aren’t all hearsay. In fact, there have been substantial studies testing the waters to see whether the sexual health benefits claimed by these little flower buds will float.
Cloves for sex enhancement? Here’s everything you need to know about the potential benefits of cloves sexually.
Cloves haven’t been studied much in humans, so as much as we’d like to point you to relevant data, it doesn’t seem to exist just yet. Most of what’s out there for the sexual benefits of cloves is limited to rat testing, with a few rabbits sprinkled in.
Here’s the thing: both rats and rabbits are really good at sex, so if it’s helping them, it could one day help you too (maybe).
In terms of boosting the arousal process and improving sexual pleasure, cloves have been associated with enhanced blood flow, increased libido and performance and better erectile function. See why below.
A potential sexual benefit of cloves for men is that they may help to enhance blood flow to the genitals, which is the biological mechanism for treating erectile dysfunction.
Good blood flow is essential for achieving and maintaining an erection, and many sexual problems in men are related to poor circulation. A 2020 study showed that eugenol — clove essential oil — increased the erectile function of diabetic rats.
A 2003 study looked at the effects of combined nutmeg and clove extracts on male mice. The extracts stimulated the mice into “mounting behavior,” which means exactly what you think it means.
But the researchers also noted that the drugs increased performance, meaning the mice weren’t just horny but also better in bed — er…cage. Obviously, this isn’t a premature ejaculation treatment yet, but maybe one day?
Another study of rats (this one from 2004) using clove extract saw higher libido and potency, as well as sustained sexual activity. The results suggest that cloves may operate as both an aphrodisiac and a stamina booster. This study has yet to be repeated in humans, but we’ll let you know when they start asking for volunteers.
A 2013 study of mice looked at the effects of lipid-soluble clove extracts on sperm motility. It found that several drops of clove oil increased sperm motility, sperm mobility and even sperm count.
However, a big caveat was that a lower dose was more effective, while a higher dose actually had adverse effects on male fertility and performance. In other words, researchers for cloves did offer benefits, but there was such a thing as too much of a good thing.
The internet is well-populated with so-called benefits of cloves, honey and orange, sexually speaking. But we weren’t able to find much real research to show that the combination of these things could boost sexual performance or increase sexual stamina.
Still, honey and extracts of cloves are mentioned in at least one research paper on natural aphrodisiacs, with benefits not outlined in any detail. We also found one mention of honey for sexual health because of its benefits to vaginal microbiota.
Unfortunately, this combination — which sounds more like an old-fashioned whiskey drink — doesn’t seem to appear in any known medical literature. With that said, we’re comfortable calling this unproven for now (even if it has us thirsty).
While the internet claims many health benefits of cloves, the National Library of Medicine says there’s no scientific evidence to support the majority of common use cases in herbal medicine.
But a number of studies suggest that cloves and their component parts could one day offer benefits to certain people — that is, after more research is completed.
Cloves have potent antioxidant properties. They’ve been shown to offer antioxidant benefits in several studies, including one where they beat out several other dried spices like black pepper and cinnamon. The essential oil containing cloves performed as well as coriander in the battle against free radicals.
Cloves also have anti-inflammatory benefits. At least one dermal test focusing on eugenol found the antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial capabilities of cloves to be effective on top of the skin as well as internally.
One limited study from 2018 found that, alongside fermented ginger, cloves had positive effects on blood glucose, insulin and insulin receptor levels in diabetic rabbits. Obviously, this needs to be translated to research in humans, but the research is promising.
We found several studies mentioning the effects of cloves on tumor growth. One 2014 study went so far as to say cloves can inhibit growth and stop the cell cycle from continuing, leading to the potential for cloves to one day treat colorectal cancer.
Again, more research is needed, but eugenol seemed to be involved in the inhibition of cells that were otherwise growing out of control in tumors.
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So, what risks are you taking with that teaspoon of clove powder? Will a particular dose of cloves in your daily diet cause any problems? The answer is: it depends.
Cloves offer many potential health benefits. Still, it’s essential to use them in moderation and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, particularly in cases of existing health conditions or if you’re taking medications.
For example, clove oil mixed with ibuprofen may cause a higher absorption rate through the skin, worsening side effects.
Cloves are generally safe to consume (you’ve probably had small amounts of them in the last few months without realizing it). But experts say there are side effects associated with clove consumption, including:
Gum irritation and gum damage
Burning and itching
Lung damage and breathing problems when inhaled
Problems with clotting in people using blood thinners or dealing with bleeding disorders
Changes to blood sugar levels
Large amounts of cloves or clove oil shouldn’t be consumed if you’re on medications for the treatment of diabetes without first talking to a healthcare professional. The same goes for blood thinners and anticoagulants.
The aromatic spice known as a clove isn’t a cure for sexual dysfunction any more than demolishing a whole pumpkin pie is good for your sex life.
Cloves may offer a number of sexual and non-sexual benefits, and their most important internal component (eugenol) may one day be part of the solution for everything from ED to cancer. But we’re not there yet, and more research is needed on the potential advantages of cloves.
If you’re curious how cloves may figure into your health plans, the best advice we can give you is to consider the following:
Cloves have been tested in limited capacities for the treatment of ED, but the results are modest, with most in the form of animal tests.
Proven erectile dysfunction treatments already on the market can help people with ED regain erectile function.
Cloves aren’t actually going to cure anything like cancer, though essential oils derived from them may be one alternative for certain disease symptoms like inflammation.
The best treatments for medical conditions come from healthcare professionals, not the dried spice aisle of your local grocery store.