Eugenol (Mmm, dentist)

Eugenol is a substance found in cloves. In addition to the distinct aroma of cloves, it's responsible for the numbness that clove oil can induce (dentists often swab your gums with it before giving you an injection of novocaine or lidocaine):

Sharp readers will notice the similarity to vanillin. The aromatic nucleus behind both these molecules is guaiacol.

Eugenol is one of those natural products that is sufficiently abundant it can be recovered by steam distillation (PDF).


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I lost my dental insurance and think I developed a cavity. The pain was unbearable and I was popping ibuprofen like candy. Finally, I purchased this Red Cross Toothache Kit which contained cotton pellets and eugenol. Yes, the taste is gross and it might burn/numb your lips/tongue but after a few applications, my pain has disappeared and it has been two weeks! Amazing...

By LaRufus Roosev… (not verified) on 03 Feb 2011 #permalink

Safe beyond the relatively rare allergy, as far as I know. It has a long tradition of use as an anaesthetic (and is found in many OTC preps, as either eugenol, or "clove oil").

MoTD, "Is it safe?" was Laurence Olivier's question in Marathon Man in the role of the Nazi dentist torturing Dustin Hoffman by drilling his teeth and using Oil of Cloves to stop the pain... one of the great movie villains and an excellent William Goldman movie. It was also the first thing that came into my mind when I saw Oil of Cloves along with a shiver. Recommended movie.

About thirty years ago, my dentist placed a clove oil pack in my mouth after a particularly painful procedure. I already had a mild dislike of cloves (they were my mother's favorite spice and perhaps my least favorite). It quickly became a strong dislike. I'll eat things with cloves in them, but it's one of the few ground spices that I never actually buy or use at home.

My husband also attempted to settle down a toothache with clove oil while awaiting a dental appointment. He used the clove oil full strength and wound up with a burn on his gums that was more painful than the toothache.

I've seen in the literature eugenol being used as both an attractant for some species of spiders and a repellant for others. I wonder if its similarity to neurotransmitters is the reason.

One of my Indian colleagues chews cloves now and then, once when I was working with eugenol. Alhough I knew what was going on, was disturbing to have a friend with breath like a compound I was using.

ho is eugenol relif the dental pain i mean what is the mechanism of action

By jalal jafar (not verified) on 20 Dec 2006 #permalink

i'm going to go and suck on a bag of cloves... can I expect to get high?

eugenol is the main constitutent in the ocimum sanctum( holy basil).

By lalit kumar (not verified) on 08 Feb 2008 #permalink

Four of my friends had uterus cancer operation. All of them look like 25/30 at real age 40/50. Two of them are working as technicians making dentures, one was working with some chemical. As I see some similarities,I\m trying to figure out what caused cancer and their young appereance. I smell eugenol in it as a main factor. Am I right?

Eugenol shares a chemical similarity to Capsaicin, which is the pungent constituent of chilli peppers that gives rise to the burning pain associated with eating chilli peppers. Believe it or not, despite the fact that clove oil is incorporated into many dental medicaments, its exact mechanism of action is still not known. Current scientific literature has suggested that Eugenol acts on Vanilloid receptor 1 (VR1), this is due to the fact that eugenol's mechanism of action is inhibited by capsazepine (VR1 antagonist). VR1 are the receptors located on nociceptors; these are the receptors that are responsible for pain sensation, thus blocking these receptors results in the inhibition of pain sensation.

A note to make on Eugenol is that it is associated with carcinogenicity due to structural similarity with alkenylbenzen.(classed as possible carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer). The eugenol derivative, methyleugenol has also been classed as highly carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The exact mechanism of Clove oil and its major constituents, Eugenol, methyleugenol and beta-carryophyllene are still under major scientific study.

Eugenol is quite safe.. Not only is it used by dentist as momentarily toothfilling (combined Zinkoxide)and local anaesthetics. Cloves has been used in China for hundreds of years and the region there about to cleanse teeth and to take away the pain in case of toothacne.. I tried some my self it didn't taste good at all but it did take away my bad morningsbreath and my toungue became a little numb.

By Tjalfe of Denmark (not verified) on 23 Apr 2008 #permalink

base on my knowledge,it is safe and can help us in many ways.all things have theire own disadvantage so if your allergic in perfumes it is better not to use it.

By jonalyn lelis (not verified) on 28 Oct 2008 #permalink

Is Eugenol a Therpen? Why? Thanks

I suggest you see for toxicity concerns. Also note that cloves and eugenol are two different things. Just because eugenol is found in cloves and other herbs doesn't mean that you can safely use it the way you would those herbs! In response to Tjalfe of Denmarkcloves, though cloves have been used to treat ailments throughout history, they are also toxic in high doses.