Fact or Myth: Can Cloves Numb Toothaches?

This is a FACT.

Hailing from India and Indonesia, cloves are a spice used to warm mulled drinks and chai. Cloves are also coveted for their medicinal properties. Both antiseptic and anesthetic in nature, cloves numb toothaches so that you don’t have to suffer on your way to the dentist.

Clove oilThe Numbing Powers of Eugenol

Long before modern dentistry, doctors were treating toothaches with cloves, which contain a numbing agent called eugenol. Eugenol is an antiseptic—which means it helps kill the germs causing infection—and an anesthetic—which means it helps dull the pain caused by infection. And it works just as well as over-the-counter numbing agents like Anbesol and Orajel, which feature benzocaine, an antiseptic that can cause allergic reactions among other side effects.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Dentistry and made up of 73 adults showed that cloves worked just as well as benzocaine at numbing the pain caused by toothache and infection. Volunteers were divided into four groups. One group received a clove gel; another was treated with benzocaine, a third with a placebo that resembled the clove gel, and another with a placebo that mimicked benzocaine. After five minutes, the placebos demonstrated no effect on numbing against the pain, but the clove gel and benzocaine worked equally as well.

How to Numb with Cloves

There are three ways cloves numb toothaches:

  1. Whole Cloves: Flush your mouth out with warm salt water. Hold two to three cloves in your mouth as close to the aching tooth as possible. As the cloves soften, chew lightly to release more eugenol into the mouth.
  2. Ground or Powdered Cloves: Either purchase whole cloves and grind them with a mortar and pestle, or purchase powdered cloves in the bottle. After rinsing your mouth with warm salt water, apply a dash of ground cloves to the area between your cheek and gums that is smarting. As your saliva mixes with the powder, the numbing will take effect.
  3. Clove Oil Compress: If you’re suffering from an extreme toothache, then this is the gentlest clove application. Mix three to four drops of clove essential oil with half a teaspoon of olive oil. Soak a cotton ball or cotton swab in the mixture and gently apply to your sore or toothache.

Keep in mind, that cloves numb toothaches but aren’t a replacement for treatment. They should be used to ease the pain until you can seek treatment from a qualified dentist.

Note: Cloves are a highly potent herbal medicine that is safe when ingested in small quantities. When ingested in consistently large amounts, they can cause liver and respiratory problems.