This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Cultivated at Penang, and elsewhere, the Clove tree (Caryo-phyllus), belonging to the Myrtle family of plants, produces flower-buds, which whilst yet unexpanded, constitute our Cloves, these having been dried, and imported. They contain a fragrant volatile oil which has the property of lowering nervous irritability, whilst yet acting as a pleasantly stimulating cordial. This oil consists principally of "eugenin," and "caryophyllin." The eugenic acid gives the strong odour of Cloves, being powerfully anti-putrescent, and antiseptic; it will reduce the sensibility of the skin when applied externally, being mixed with lanolin, or sheep's wool oil, for such a purpose, to relieve eczema, and other eruptive disorders. Cloves also contain tannin, some gum-resin, and woody fibre. Among other reputed antidotes to cancer are Cloves, by reason of their germicidal essence; whilst a similar virtue has attached itself in the popular mind to Cinnamon, Clover, Celandine, Comfrey, and other plant-remedies, because of supposed cures, even in desperate cases, by one or another of these medicaments.
But the most recent authoritative pronouncement by experts engaged in persevering research as to the nature and arrest of cancerous disease, denies the existence of special microbes underlying cancer, and concludes that it is a perversion of cell-growth, beginning at first in some single organ, and presently multiplying throughout the system. How to alter the morbid tendency is the crux of the whole matter. Sir William Broadbent, in his address on Medicine at Manchester (1902), put the problem thus: "Nature will sometimes cure cancer spontaneously. How does she do it? This is for us doctors to determine, and to discover by patient research, and watchful observation. May not some particular endowment in common lie at the bottom of all the reputed remedies which have merited respect in their use? Heredity as to the dire disease seems now to be disproved; but hopelessness as to its cure still occupies the rustic mind; so it would appear, at all events in Devon: "Havee a yerd 'bout poor Liza Turner?" "No; what es et?" "Why, tha poor dear sowl hath abin foced tu 'ave 'er buzzum a tuked off, cuz 'er got a cancer in un." "Aw, poor blid! 'er won't live very long now then." "No, I rekkon".
Dr. Burnett has taught (1895) that a too free dietetic use of Cloves will induce albuminuria, like that of Bright's disease. When this disease comes on from other causes, Clove tea, rather strong, infused on the bruised Cloves, will sometimes act curatively, taking half a teacupful two or three times in the day. But if made use of too largely, Cloves will deaden the healthy tone of the stomach, lessen the appetite, and cause inactive constipation of the bowels. Half a tumblerful of quite hot water poured over eight or ten bruised Cloves, in a small muslin bag, (which should brew for a few minutes on the hob, and then be taken out) will sometimes secure a good night to an uneasy dyspeptic person, if taken immediately before lying down. Cloves are reputed to aid in preventing the deposition of scrofulous tubercle in any of the glands, in the lungs, and in joints. An essence of Cloves bruised in brandy may be prepared, and kept for steady use with this intention, giving a teaspoonful of the essence once a day, with a spoonful or two of water, after some principal meal. Clove tea is excellent for soothing a qualmish stomach, and nausea.
In Pickwick we read that Sam Weller and Job Trotter, at the Tap of the "Angel Inn,"
Bury St. Edmunds, "were soon occupied in discussing an exhilarating compound formed by mixing together in a pewter vessel certain quantities of British Hollands, and the fragrant essence of the Clove." Also in Love's Labour Lost "a Lemon stuck with Cloves "is told about with relish. Again, for its refreshing odour Miss Jenkyns (in Cranford, 1863) stuck an apple full of Cloves so as to be heated, and smell pleasantly in the sick chamber of Miss Brown, a sad sufferer; and "as she put in each Clove she uttered a Johnsonian sentence".