There was no reported epidemic on the island of Ternate (in eastern Indonesia) until the 16th century. Then, Dutch conquerors destroyed the spice-producing trees that flourished on the island.
Killer epidemics soon followed.
Interesting story, but I find another legend from history even more intriguing. . .
The spice from the same type of tree is also reputed to be part of the “Four Thieves Vinegar,” the concoction bandits used to protect themselves as they robbed the dead and dying during the 14th century Black Plague.
You probably use this spice yourself… though only once or twice a year. Keep reading for the full story on this potent disease-fighter. . .
Special Message from Lee Euler
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Cloves are a key ingredient in a Thanksgiving favorite, pumpkin pie. And for me the scent always brings to mind mulled cider, colorful leaves and chilly fall temperatures.
But cloves do a lot more than just add spicy flavor to your autumn treats… they also kick up your protection against cancer.
That’s not all. Cloves have also been used to relieve tooth, gum, and muscle pain, kill bacteria, relieve asthma, aid sleep, and – unlikely as it may sound — sharpen creativity and mental focus.
Cloves are the sun-dried unopened flower bud of a plant called Syzygium aromaticum. Commonly used in holiday treats in the US, they’re also a staple in Thai and Asian diets.
The “Anti” Spice
Cloves are one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories and best natural antioxidants. They also have anti-aging, anti-tumor, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties. You get the idea.
The Journal of Medicinal Foods found that spices and herbs that contain antioxidants help prevent heart disease and premature aging.
And which spice took the top spot on their list? You guessed it… Cloves.
In his book The Antioxidants, Dr. Richard A. Passwater notes that humans live longer than almost any other species in the animal kingdom because we produce our own antioxidants.
But even though your body can produce some antioxidants, loading up on foods high in antioxidants – like cloves — is a smart plan.
Death Sentence for Cancer Cells
Cloves are known for their benefits against these cancers. . .
Cloves contain a powerful natural compound called eugenol, which fights environmental toxins and inflammation. It also kills colon cancer cells in lab cultures, according to a study published in Cell Biology International.
Because of this, researchers believe that eugenol can prevent or slow the development of colon cancer.
Gastric (Stomach) Cancer
Cloves also help prevent Helicobacter pylori from growing. This bacterium wreaks havoc on your digestive system, causing gastritis, dyspepsia, ulcers, and gastric cancer.
By stopping the growth of this bacterium, cloves reduce your risk of getting gastric cancer. We all have some H. pylori in our guts. The microbe only becomes a problem if out-of-control and unchecked. The evidence suggests that cloves can help prevent that.
The people of Thailand have fewer cases of gastric cancer than those of any other developing nation. It’s likely that the Thai diet — rich in spices, especially cloves — contributes to their low cancer rate.
Studies show that cloves may be effective in treating other digestive cancers, too.
Cloves may successfully slow or prevent lung cancer, too.
In a study published in the journal Carcinogenesis, researchers used cloves to treat lung cancer in mice. They found that cloves both slowed the growth and accelerated the death of cancer cells.
According to the study, cloves increased the production of two proteins, p53 and Bax. Both help kill cancer cells.
At the same time, cloves decrease production of a protein called Bcl-2. This protein enables precancerous cells to live longer.
Researcher Suktta Das, from India’s Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, also studied the effects of cloves on lung cancer in mice.
He said, “Cloves caused malignant cells to commit mass suicide and even stopped pre-malignant cells from progressing.”
Research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention suggests that cloves help slow and prevent skin cancer.
In the study, researchers fed cloves to mice with skin cancer. Mice that consumed cloves did not develop papillomas (small wart-like growths on skin or mucous membranes) as quickly as those in the control group, and also developed fewer of them in total.
These test results “suggest a promising role for cloves in restriction of the carcinogenesis process,” according to researchers.
Cooking With Cloves
Adding cloves to meat and other main dishes helps protect you from harmful free radicals and deadly cancer cells.
In one study, researchers added a blend of cloves, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, ginger, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder to hamburgers before cooking. After cooking, they measured the levels of a chemical called malondialdehyde — a chemical marker of oxidation. The higher the levels, the more free radicals are in the meat.
The spice-herb blend was amazingly effective at attacking free radicals in the meat – it reduced malondialdehyde levels by a stunning 71 percent in the meat, and by 49 percent in participants’ urine.
In another study, conducted at Pennsylvania State University, overweight but otherwise healthy men ages 30 to 65 ate two nearly identical meals of coconut chicken, cheese bread, and a dessert biscuit. The first meal was plain; the second meal used herbs and spices.
The spices and herbs:
- Increased antioxidant activity 13 percent.
- Decreased post-meal insulin levels 21 percent.
- Decreased post-meal triglyceride levels as much as 31 percent.
Both studies showed the same thing… that spices reduce toxic compounds created during cooking and neutralize harmful free radicals in food.
And a side benefit is the treat the spices offer to your taste buds.
A Little Goes a Long Way
Add powdered or whole cloves to recipes. Use the spice as a dry rub or marinade for meat, or experiment with sprinkling it on your favorite meals.
You can also apply clove essential oil – diluted at a ratio of 1 part of cloves to 4 parts carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil – directly to your skin or on acupressure points.
Caution: if you’re taking Warfarin or aspirin, talk with your doctor before eating lots of cloves, as the spice can have blood-thinning effects. A wide range of foods and supplements have a blood-thinning effect; this is not particularly alarming unless you’re on blood-thinning medications.
In our last issue, we published a report (second of two) on this year’s proceedings of the Cancer Control Society. This may be the most important annual meeting on alternative and integrative approaches to cancer. If you missed the article, we’re rerunning it just below.