Cruising for Clove Control
When someone says “autumn,” it’s easy to start thinking of school years, maple leaves, and copious amounts of pumpkin spice. (And Pumpkin Spice)
Clove is the unsung hero of Pumpkin Spice. And not just this Pumpkin Spice, but any spice marked pumpkin-y that you may find on the shelves of a grocery store. Because if it doesn’t have clove in it, it’s not pumpkin spice. I promise you.
Consider the Pumpkin Spice ingredients:
What makes clove so special, and so integral to the structure of this blend?
For starters, before we get into the fun culture and medicinal aspects of it, clove as a flavor is dark and bright at the same time. It’s its own balancing act, accomplished by the way its smoky aftertaste is punctuated by the bitterness of the residing antioxidants that come forth as weird peppery-yet-sweet hits on your tongue, whenever you take a sip.
On their own, cloves are in fact bitter enough to send the unsuspecting taster into a prime coughing fit. (Makes for a great prank.) This is when you try them without adding hot water, which otherwise softens up all those peppery prickles against your mouth-bits, and further melds it more smoothly into other spices when working in a blend.
What clove does for a blend’s integrity is balance out the dark, bitter, sweet, and light components. Imagine that it ties all the surrounding flavors together with a big old bow, and gives them a hug to make sure that they stay friends. It’s a peacekeeper — culinarily, at least.t
In medicine, it’s even more than that. Cloves contain a powerful compound called eugenol, which is the source of that peppery aftertaste and also goes on to act as a mighty shield against environmental toxins and infection. As such, it’s easily used as a defense mechanism against unwanted pathogens, bacteria, and whatever other nasties come your way during flu season.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend missing out on the yearly flu shot— just from experience— but it may be worth your while to make a point of sipping on something with cloves in it during the sniffly season. And if Pumpkin Spice isn’t your thing, then you’ve got a whole slew of Chai Teas to indulge in. That Raja Oolong Chai looks like a dream fit for a prince — or a Maharaja!)
Some of the other delicious superpowers within this tiny bud are:
• Digestive Health: Who doesn’t love a smoothly functioning metabolism?
• Oral Care: Did you hear that sound of far-off clapping? That’s your dentist. Score for happy teeth!
• Blood Sugar Control: Now that’s even more score for diabetics, or anyone who suffers from crazy blood sugar swings during the day. Much better than reaching for a candy bar when the midmorning crashies hit. (You know the one. That why-am-I-not-napping feeling at around 10 AM, if you’re not somewhere climbing Mount Everest or powerlifting.)
But that can’t be all that clove’s got going for it. I mean, if it shows up in nearly all the Chai blends we see on Adagio, then there’s got to be something else in the mix.
Ayurvedic Medecine has the answer. Or at least, some of the answers we’re looking for.
It turns out that not only can cloves’ power be confirmed through Western science and medicine, but Ayurveda has known about its healthful properties for centuries before the modern terminology of “eugenol,” “antioxidants,” and whatnot:
• Warms Circulation: Widens blood vessels to encourage blood flow to the head, ears, chest, and abdomen. Also makes you sweat, which isn’t too horrible if you consider that the act thereof is going to assist getting toxins out.
• Controls Pain: Reduces nerve receptors to discomfort, but still maintains sensation. (Thank goodness. It’s nice to be able to feel things even with other things hurt, isn’t it?)
• Mitigates Gas: Awesome.
Most interesting are the associations of clove with eased stress, and more peace of mind with a reduction in overall anxiety.
Most interesting indeed.
I speak purely as a cultural anthropologist, at this point. It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that my generation of Millennials are notoriously anxious. Friends of Millennials, therefore, can also be anxious by proximity. And then we’ve got friends of friends of Millennials, as well as their dogs, mothers, and fathers, who might also find themselves starting to be anxious for entirely unrelated reasons.
We all suffer from this. Technology and daily stress isn’t helping.
Maybe that, at the end of the day, is why Pumpkin Spice is a thing.