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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Volatile Oils

Clove consists of the dried flower buds of Eugenia caryophyllus Thumb., belonging to family Myrtaceae.






Clove buds, Clove flowers.


Biological Source


Clove consists of the dried flower buds of Eugenia caryophyllus Thumb., belonging to family Myrtaceae.


Geographical Source


Clove tree is a native of Indonesia. It is cultivated mainly in Islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, Brazil, Amboiana, and Sumatra. It is also found in Madagascar, Penang, Mauritius, West Indies, India, and Ceylon.


Cultivation and Collection


Clove tree is evergreen and 10 to 20 m in height. The plant requires moist, warm and equable climate with well-distributed rainfall. It is propagated by means of seeds. The seeds are sown in well-drained suitable soil at a distance of about 25 cm. The plants should be protected against pests and plant diseases. Initially it has to be protected from sunlight by growing inside a green house or by con-structing frames about 1 m high and covering them with banana leaves. As the banana leaves decay gradually more and more sunlight falls on the young seedlings and the seeds are able to bear full sunlight when they are about 9 months old. The seedlings when become 1 m high, they are transplanted into open spaces at a distance of 6 m just before the rainy season. The young clove trees are protected from sun even for a longer period by planting banana trees in between. The drug can be collected every year starting from 6 years old till they are 70 years old.


Clove buds change the colour as they mature. At the start of the rainy season long greenish buds appear which change to a lovely rosy peach colour and as the corolla fades the calyx turns yellow and then red. The buds are collected during dry weather in the month of August to December. The collection is done either by climbing on the tree or by using some ladders or with the help of mobile platforms. In some places the trees are even beaten using bamboo sticks for the collection of the bud. The drugs which are collected are then separated from the stalks and then placed on coconut mats for drying under sun. The buds loose about 70% of its weight, whereas drying and change their colour to dark reddish-brown. The dried clove is graded and packed.




Clove is reddish-brown in colour, with an upper crown and a hypanthium. The hypanthium is sub-cylindrical and tapering at the end. The hypanthium is 10 to 13 mm long, 4 mm wide, and 2 mm thick and has schizolysigenous oil glands and an ovary which is bilocular. The Crown region consists of the calyx, corolla, style and stamens. Calyx has four thick sepals. Corolla is also known as head, crown or cap; it is doineshaped and has four pale yellow coloured petals which are imbricate, immature, and membranous. The ovary consists of abundant ovules. Clove has strong spicy, aromatic odour, and pungent and aromatic taste.


            Clove bud 



The transverse section should be taken through the short upper portion which has the bilocular ovary and also through the hypanthium region. The transverse section through the hypanthium shows the following characters. It has a single layer of epidermis covered with thick cuticle. The epidermis has ranunculaceous stomata. The cortex has three distinct region: the peripheral region with two to three layers of schizolysigenous oil glands, embedded in parenchymatous cells. The middle layer has few layers of bicollateral vascular bundle. In the inner portion it has loosely arranged aerenchyma cells. The central cylinder contains thick-walled parenchyma with a ring of bicollateral vascular bundles and abundant sphaeraphides. The T.S. through ovary region shows the presence of an ovary with numerous ovules in it.



  (a) T.S. passing through hypanthium. (b) T.S. passing through ovary

    Transverse section of clove flower bud

Chemical Constituents


Clove contains 14–21% of volatile oil. The other constituents present are the eugenol, acetyl eugenol, gallotannic acid, and two crystalline principles; α- and β- caryophyllenes, methyl furfural, gum, resin, and fibre. Caryophyllin is odourless component and appears to be a phytosterol, whereas eugenol is a colourless liquid. Clove oil has 60–90% eugenol, which is the cause of its anesthetic and antiseptic properties.



Chemical Tests

1.     To a thick section through hypanthium of clove add 50% potassium hydroxide solution; it produces needle-shaped crystals of potassium eugenate.


2.     A drop of clove oil is dissolved in 5 ml alcohol and a drop of ferric chloride solution is added; due to the phenolic OH group of eugenol, a blue colour is seen.


3.       To a drop of chloroform extract of clove add a drop of 30% aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide saturated with sodium bromide; Needle and pear shaped crystals of sodium eugenate arranged in rosette are produced immediately.




Clove is used as an antiseptic, stimulant, carminative, aromatic, and as a flavouring agent. It is also used as anodyne, antiemetic. Dentists use clove oil as an oral anesthetic and to disinfect the root canals. Clove kills intestinal parasites and exhibits broad antimicrobial properties against fungi and bacteria and so it is used in the treatment of diarrhea, intestinal worms, and other digestive ailments. Clove oil can stop toothache. A few drops of the oil in water will stop vomiting, eating cloves is said to be aphrodisiac. Eugenol is also used as local anaesthetic in small doses. The oil stimulates peristalsis; it is a strong germicide, also a stimulating expectorant in bronchial problems. The infusion and Clove water are good vehicles for alkalies and aromatics.




The clove is generally adulterated by exhausted clove, clove fruits, blown cloves and clove stalks. The exhausted cloves are those from which volatile oil is either partially or completely removed by distillation. Exhausted cloves are darker in colour and can be identified as they float on freshly boiled and cooled water. Clove fruits are dark brown in colour and have less volatile oil content. These can be identified by the presence of starch present in the seed of the fruit. Blown Cloves are entirely developed clove flowers from which corolla and stamens get separated. While sepa-ration, sometimes the stalks are incompletely removed and the percentage of volatile oil in clove stalk is only 5%. As clove stalks contain prism type of calcium oxalate crystals and thick-walled stone cells which are absent in clove the clove stalk can also be detected.



Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparation known as Himsagar tail (Dabur).


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