Prized for its distinct flavour and aroma, and also for its medicinal qualities, cloves are the immature buds of the evergreen tree Syzygium aromaticum , also known as Eugenia caryophyllus of the Myrtaceae family. A fully grown clove tree is about 15-20 metres tall and has smooth grey bark. Ceylon Clove is notably richer in oil than the clove varieties produced elsewhere in the world.
HISTORY OF CLOVE TRADING AND CULTIVATION
Clove, one of the most prized and expensive spices from the ancient times, is native to the Maluku Islands or the Moluccas in the Indonesian Archipelago. Although the time and manner of introduction of cloves into Sri Lanka are not known, the general belief is that the Arabs or colonists brought the crop to the island as Sri Lanka was a major market for spices.
Along with nutmeg and pepper, clove was highly prized in the Roman Era. Cloves were traded by Arabs in the Middle ages but in the 15th century, Portugal took over the trade. The Portuguese brought large quantities of cloves to Europe mainly from the Maluku Islands and valued it at seven grams of gold per kilogram. Later on, the Spanish, and then the Dutch dominated the trade until the seventeenth century. The French introduced clove to Mauritius in the year 1770. Afterwards, clove cultivation was introduced to Guiana, Zanzibar, West Indies and most of Brazil.
PRODUCING CLOVE OIL
oil can be extracted from the plant leaves, stem, and buds of the tree, through steam distillation. Generally, clove oil is obtained by the distillation of flower buds, inflorescence parts, and the leaves. Clove oil obtained from the bud is colourless while oil manufactured by the stem is a slightly yellowish liquid which gets darker with age and exposure to the light. Meanwhile, clove leaf oil, a dark brown liquid obtained by the distillation of the dry leaves, is the main traded clove oil and is widely used to produce eugenol.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CLOVES
on the medicinal value of clove oil, it must be noted that it is an important natural antibacterial drug. It is used in many ﬁelds, including dentistry, pharmaceuticals, and aromatherapy. It is used as an analgesic, antiseptic, warming, disinfectant, and antibacterial because it inhibits the growth or kills most pathogens, such as E.scherichia coli, Mycobacterium phlei, Bacillus subtilis, Streptococcus aureus, Aspergillus niger, Penicillium chrysogenum. Clove oil is recommended for inhalation in the treatment of sore throat, colds, catarrh and inﬂammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth. It also helps in the treatment of any breathing problems, general weakness and neuralgia.
Clove oil also has antioxidant effects, which renders it a convenient and accessible source of natural antioxidants in food supplements and pharmaceutical preparations. Clove oil has anticonvulsant effects as well, which were already known in Persian folk medicine. The cloves were there used as a cure for epilepsy as narrated by the Arab physician Avicenna who lived in the late tenth and eleventh century.
Owing to its potent medicinal effects, clove oil is an ingredient of many pharmaceutical preparations, ointments and painkillers. It is also a substrate for the production of dental analgesic preparations. In combination with zinc oxide, it is used to ﬁll cavities in teeth. In addition, clove oil is included in mouthwash and gum liquids, toothpaste, and preparations for disinfection of hands.
Clove oil boosts concentration and efﬁciency of thinking. In addition, it revitalizes, energizes, exhibits analgesic and serves as an “aphrodisiac”. It’s also a natural food preservative due to its antibacterial and antifungal effects.
CLOVE CULTIVATION IN SRI LANKA
Clove grows well in a humid tropical climate from sea level up to an elevation of about 1,000m. Average rainfall of 1,750 - 2,500mm. per annum is sufficient for the crop. It is necessary, however for the dry periods to alternate with the moist ones for good flowering. Still, it cannot withstand prolonged drought. Clove is cultivated in the wet zones of the mid-country, that is, in the districts of Matale, Kegalle, and Kandy. However, cultivation of clove is also being considered in the low country.
Clove suppliers in Sri Lanka export a range of products to the global market including the finest clove buds and clove oil to the global market. The country is one of the top exporters of clove to the global markets and provides for nearly 8.5% of the global demand for clove whole fruits, buds, and stems, mainly exporting to India, the USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Germany.