Clove oil

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Area of dried cloves


An essential oil obtained from the dried flower buds of clove tree, (Eugenia caryophyllata or Syzygium aromaticum). The aromatic clove buds contain 15-18% eugenol along with carophyllin, tannin, gum, and resin. Clove plants are native to the Molucca Islands, Zanzibar, Sumatra, South America and the West Indies. Clove oil was used as an additive in oil paints and printing inks to slow drying rates and prevent the formation of a skin on the surface of the paint. For a short period in the 19th century, it was popular to spray the surface of paintings, particularly portraits with clove oil. It was also used as an odorant in watercolor paints. Clove oil is still occasionally used to prepare microscopic slides for viewing and as a local anesthetic for toothaches. Eugenol is used in germicides, perfumes, sweeteners, and mouthwashes.

Synonyms and Related Terms

caryophyllus oil; caryophil oil; eugenol; oil of cloves; amboyna; clou (Fr.); Eugenol aromatica; Eugenia caryophyllata; Syzygium aromaticum


  • Mild anesthetic properties.
  • Ingestion may cause vomiting.
  • Clove oil turns very brown with age.
  • Skin contact and inhalation may cause irritation.
  • Fisher Scientific: MSDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Optically active. Soluble in ether, ethanol.

CAS 8000-34-8
Density 1.0 g/ml
Boiling Point 482 C

Resources and Citations

  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 201
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • M. Doerner, The Materials of the Artist, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1934
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Kurt Wehlte, The Materials and Techniques of Painting, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1975 Comment: p. 517