Biblioteca de los Sistemas de Salud de la OMS
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WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants - Volume 2
(358 pages)

Índice de contenido
Ver el documentoIntroduction
Ver el documentoGeneral technical notices
Ver el documentoRadix Althaeae
Ver el documentoHerba Andrographidis
Ver el documentoRadix Angelicae Sinensis
Ver el documentoFlos Calendulae
Ver el documentoFlos Caryophylli
Ver el documentoRhizoma Cimicifugae Racemosae
Ver el documentoFolium cum Flore Crataegi
Ver el documentoRadix Eleutherococci
Ver el documentoAetheroleum Eucalypti
Ver el documentoFolium Eucalypti
Ver el documentoCortex Frangulae
Ver el documentoFolium et Cortex Hamamelidis
Ver el documentoSemen Hippocastani
Ver el documentoHerba Hyperici
Ver el documentoAetheroleum Melaleucae Alternifoliae
Ver el documentoFolium Melissae
Ver el documentoAetheroleum Menthae Piperitae
Ver el documentoFolium Menthae Piperitae
Ver el documentoFolium Ocimi Sancti
Ver el documentoOleum Oenotherae Biennis
Ver el documentoRhizoma Piperis Methystici
Ver el documentoCortex Pruni Africanae
Ver el documentoCortex Rhamni Purshianae
Ver el documentoFlos Sambuci
Ver el documentoRadix Senegae
Ver el documentoFructus Serenoae Repentis
Ver el documentoFructus Silybi Mariae
Ver el documentoHerba Tanaceti Parthenii
Ver el documentoRadix Urticae
Ver el documentoFolium Uvae Ursi
Ver el documentoAnnex: Participants in the Second WHO Consultation on Selected Medicinal Plants

Flos Caryophylli


Flos Caryophylli consists of the dried flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merrill et L.M. Perry (Myrtaceae) (1-5).


Caryophyllus aromaticus L., Eugenia aromatica (L.) Baill., E. caryophylla Thunb., E. caryophyllus (C. Spreng.) Bull. et Harr., Jambosa caryophyllus (Spreng.) Nied., Myrtus caryophyllus Spreng. (1, 5-8).

Selected vernacular names

Benefundi, choji, choko, chouji, choukou, clavero, clavo de olor, clous de girofle, clove, cloves, colve, ding huong, dingxiang, flores caryophylli, Gewürznelken, girofle, giroflier, glove, gurunful, harilik negipuu, kaan phluu, kaan pluu, kade, kanumfari, karafwu, karanho, kau-phlu, konofuru, koronfol, lauang, laung, lawang, Nägelein, osaragbogo-eze, qaranfal, qoranful, qronfel, szegfüszeg, ud-nuwwar (1, 6-9).

Geographical distribution

Indigenous to the Moluccas and southern Philippines, but currently cultivated in many tropical areas including Africa (e.g. Madagascar and United Republic of Tanzania), South America, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka (7,8).


Small evergreen trees, 10-20m high. Leaves opposite, petiolate, lanceolate, pinkish to dark green, with translucent, aromatic glands, have a pungent odour when young. Inflorescence occurs as racemose panicles and bears buds that take on the form of nails before blossoming. Flowers red with 4 concave, overlapping petals that drop off as soon as the flower opens; stamens numerous; 4 calyx lobes. Fruit dark red, fleshy drupe. Buds readily exude oil when pressed or scratched with a fingernail (7).

Plant material of interest: dried flower buds

General appearance

Flower bud 10-20 mm long, bright reddish-brown to dark brown; lower part (the hypanthium) solid, cylindrical, somewhat flattened, 4-sided, tapering towards the base and bearing at the apex 4 thick, triangular, divergent sepals, alternating with 4 rounded, fragile, unexpanded, membranous, imbricated petals forming a pale, nearly spherical head that encloses numerous stamens, curved inward and inserted on a small disc, and a stiff, slender, erect, single style arising from a depression in the centre. Externally wrinkled; internally, hypanthium contains in its upper portion a 2-celled inferior ovary with numerous ovules attached to the axile placenta; has very large outer zone with numerous shining, oval oil glands near the periphery, numerous vascular bundles in the centre and a dark, lacunose layer abutting on the central zone and columella (1).

Organoleptic properties

Odour: characteristic, strongly aromatic; taste: pungent, spicy, followed by slight numbness (1, 3, 5).

Microscopic characteristics

Hypanthium epidermis of small, thick-walled isodiametric cells with very thick cuticle, with stomata with no special subsidiary cells. Parenchymatous layer containing numerous large (up to about 200µm long), oval, radially elongated, schizo-lysigenous oil glands, arranged in 2 or 3 more or less intermixed layers. Layer of parenchyma and collenchyma containing clusters of calcium oxalate crystals, and traversed by small, irregularly arranged vascular bundles consisting of delicate, spiral vessels (up to 20µm in diameter), usually accompanied by isolated fusiform, pericyclic fibres (200-650µm long and up to 40µm in diameter), having strongly thickened lignified walls. Lacunous layer formed of thin-walled parenchyma. The columella consists of a parenchymatous strand with numerous closely arranged, small vascular bundles. Sepals, with epidermis resembling that of hypanthium and having numerous stomata on outer surface; mesophyll with rounded or stellate cells, numerous ovoid oil glands and clusters of calcium oxalate crystals, and traversed by a few slender vascular bundles. Petals, with epidermis formed of cells with straight, thin walls; stomata, absent; mesophyll, undifferentiated, containing oil glands and cells with clusters of calcium oxalate crystals, and traversed by small vascular bundles. Stamens, with filaments having a central vascular strand and oil glands beneath the epidermis; connective tissue, with a large oil gland in the apex of anther walls, with fibrous layer and minute clusters of calcium oxalate crystals along the line of dehiscence. Pollen grains, triangular, tricolpate, 10-20µ in diameter. Style, with epidermis similar to that of hypanthium, and consisting of small collenchyma cells, with clusters of calcium oxalate crystals, radially elongated oil glands, and traversed by 2 narrow vascular strands (1).

Powdered plant material

Dark brown; abundant fragments of collenchyma and parenchyma with clusters of calcium oxalate crystals, fragments of epidermis with thick-walled cells and few stomata; fragments of vascular or parenchyma tissue showing broken or entire oil glands; numerous fragments of vascular bundles with delicate spiral vessels, ranging from 6 to 45µm in diameter, mostly 6-10µm; occasional fusiform, rather thick-walled fibres, 4-20µm wide; numerous pollen grains, appearing either as equilateral triangular, with truncated, emarginate apices, or oval in outline, 10-20µm in diameter; fragments of the fibrous layer of anther wall; clusters of calcium oxalate crystals, 10-15µm in diameter (1, 5).

General identity tests

Macroscopic and microscopic examinations, and thin-layer chromatography for the presence of eugenol and β-caryophyllene (1, 3-5, 10).

Purity tests


Tests for specific microorganisms and microbial contamination limits are as described in the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (11).

Foreign organic matter

Not more than 4% open buds, peduncles and fruits; not more than 2% deteriorated buds; not more than 0.5% other foreign matter (5).

Total ash

Not more than 7% (4, 5).

Acid-insoluble ash

Not more than 0.5% (4).

Sulfated ash

Not more than 8% (12).

Loss on drying

Not more than 12% (3).

Pesticide residues

The recommended maximum limit of aldrin and dieldrin is not more than 0.05mg/kg (5). For other pesticides, see the European pharmacopoeia (5), and the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (11) and pesticide residues (13).

Heavy metals

For maximum limits and analysis of heavy metals, consult the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (11).

Radioactive residues

Where applicable, consult the WHO guidelines on quality control methods for medicinal plants (11) for the analysis of radioactive isotopes.

Other purity tests

Chemical, water-soluble extractive and alcohol extractive tests to be established in accordance with national requirements.

Chemical assays

Contains not less than 15% (v/w) essential oil (1, 12), determined by distillation (5).

Major chemical constituents

The major constituent (up to 20%) is an essential oil, which is characterized by the presence of eugenol (60-95%), eugenol acetate (2-27%), and α- and β-caryophyllene (5-10%) (6, 8, 9, 14, 15). The structures of the major constituents are presented below.

eugenol R = H
eugenol acetate R = CO-CH3



Medicinal uses

Uses supported by clinical data


Uses described in pharmacopoeias and in traditional systems of medicine

External or local applications for the treatment of toothache, and minor infections of the mouth and skin (7, 14, 16). Also used as an antiseptic for dressing of minor wounds, and, in the form of lozenges, for sore throats and coughs associated with the common cold (7). The essential oil (1-5%) is used in mouthwashes (16).

Uses described in folk medicine, not supported by experimental or clinical data

Treatment of asthma, bleeding gums, dyspepsia, fevers and morning sickness (9).


Experimental pharmacology

Antimicrobial activity

Ethanol (95%) or aqueous extracts of Flos Caryophylli inhibited the growth in vitro of Staphylococcus aureus (17). The juice of the flower bud inhibited the growth in vitro of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (minimal inhibitory concentration [MIC] 1:160) (18). The powdered crude drug inhibited the growth in vitro of Yersinia enterolitica when added to the medium at a concentration of 1-3% (w/w) (19, 20). An aqueous extract of the flower buds inhibited the growth in vitro of Bacillus subtilis (21). A chloroform extract of the flower buds inhibited the growth in vitro of Cladosporium werneckii (22). A 50% ethanol extract of the flower buds inhibited the growth of Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus niger, Botrytis cinerea, Fusarium oxysporum, Penicillium digitatum, Rhizopus nigricans, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Candida albicans and Saccharomyces pastorianus at a concentration of 500mg/ml (23).

Eugenol, one of the active constituents of the flower buds, inhibited the growth in vitro of Staphylococcus aureus, Propionibacterium acnes and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with an MIC of 0.05, 0.05 and 0.80mg/ml, respectively (24, 25). In other studies, eugenol had a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity in vitro, inhibiting the growth of Clostridium sporogenes, Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella pullorum, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus faecalis and Comamonas terrigena at various concentrations (26, 27). Eugenol also had a broad spectrum of antifungal activity in vitro, inhibiting the growth of Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, Cladosporium werneckii, Cladosporium cucumerinum, Colletotrichum capsici, Helminthosporium oryzae, Microsporum canis, Penicillium expansum, Phytophthora parasitica, Rhizopus nodosus, Trichophyton mentagrophytes and T. rubum at various concentrations (27-30).

Antiviral activity

An aqueous extract of the flower buds suppressed the replication of herpes simplex virus (HSV) in vitro at a concentration of 50µg/ml (31). An aqueous extract of the flower buds had antiviral activity against HSV-1 in vitro (IC50 60µg/ml), and in mice (250mg/kg body weight by gastric lavage) (32). A hot aqueous extract of the flower buds suppressed the replication of HSV-1, measles virus and poliovirus-1 in Vero cells in vitro at a concentration of 0.5mg/ml (33). Intragastric administration of a decoction of the flower buds (750mg/kg body weight) decreased HSV-1 genome titres and the severity of HSV infection in mice with recurring herpetic lesions induced by ultraviolet light (34). Eugenol at a concentration of 0.1-10µg/ml demonstrated antiviral activity against HSV and adenovirus-6 in vitro (35). Eugeniin isolated from the flower buds exhibited anti-HSV-1 activity in mice (36).

Anti-inflammatory activity

Topical application of a methanol extract of the flower buds (2mg/ear) suppressed ear oedema in mice induced by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (37). A methanol extract of the flower buds inhibited interleukin-8 production induced by lipopolysaccharide in rat macrophages in vitro at a concentration of 0.1mg/ml (38). Administration of eugenol (100mg/kg body weight by gastric lavage or 50mg/kg body weight intraperitoneally) inhibited carageenan-induced footpad oedema in rats (39-41). Intragastric administration of eugenol to rats (33mg/kg body weight) suppressed footpad and knee oedema induced by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (42). Administration of eugenol to rats (50mg/kg body weight intraperitoneally or 100mg/kg body weight by gastric lavage) inhibited carrageenan-induced footpad oedema (39, 41). Topical application of eugenol to mice and rats at a dose of 0.2-2.0mg/ear suppressed ear oedema induced by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate and ethyl phenylpropiolate (43-45). Topical application of eugenol inhibited carrageenaninduced footpad oedema in rats and reversed passive Arthus reaction in rabbits (46). Eugenol inhibited the activities of cyclooxygenase (IC50 12-82µmol/l) and lipoxygenase (IC50 20-100µmol/l) in vitro (41, 46-48). Eugenol also inhibited the biosynthesis of prostaglandin and thromboxane in various biological systems (27, 44, 49-51) and both eugenol and isoeugenol inhibited platelet aggregation (IC50 1.8µmol/l) (46).

Antioxidant activity

A petroleum ether or ethylene chloride extract of the flower buds exhibited strong antioxidant activity in vitro at a concentration of 0.1% (52, 53). A methanol extract of the flower buds inhibited lipid peroxidation induced by carbon tetrachloride, ADP plus arachidonic acid, and ADP plus NADPH (IC50 1.7, 2.6 and 6.4µg/ml, respectively) (54). The antioxidant activity of eugenol has been demonstrated in a wide range of in vitro systems (55-59).

Miscellaneous activities

The essential oil had spasmolytic activity in vitro on isolated guinea-pig trachea and intestine (60, 61). Eugenol and caryophyllene had a narcotic effect after intravenous administration of high doses (200-400mg/kg body weight) (27, 62), and a sedative effect after intragastric administration of low doses (1-100mg/kg body weight) to mice (60).

Clinical pharmacology



Flos Caryophylli is contraindicated in cases of known allergy to plants of the

Myrtaceae family.


No information available.


Carcinogenesis, mutagenesis, impairment of fertility

An aqueous or chloroform-methanol extract of the crude drug was not mutagenic in the Salmonella/microsome assay at concentrations up to 100mg/ml (63, 64). A hot aqueous extract was not mutagenic in the Salmonella/microsome assay using S. typhimurium strains TA98 or TA100 at a concentration of 50mg/disk (63, 65). However, a 95% ethanol extract was mutagenic in the Salmonella/microsome assay using S. typhimurium strain TA102 at a concentration of 10mg/plate (66). Eugenol was not mutagenic in vitro (Salmonella/ microsome assay; up to 600µg/plate) or in vivo (in mice; 200mg/kg body weight, by intramuscular injection) (67-69). Local application of eugenol reduced the carcinogenic activity of benzopyrene (70).

Other precautions

No information available on general precautions or precautions concerning drug interactions; drug and laboratory test interactions; teratogenic and nonteratogenic effects in pregnancy; nursing mothers; or paediatric use. Therefore,

Flos Caryophylli should not be administered during pregnancy or lactation or to children without medical supervision.

Adverse reactions

Allergic contact dermatitis has been reported in patients who were regularly exposed to Flos Caryophylli or who already had dermatitis of the fingertips (71).

Dosage forms

Crude drug, extracts, tincture (1:5, 25% ethanol), lozenges and mouthwash. Store in a well-closed container, protected from light (1, 5).


(Unless otherwise indicated)

Daily dosage: crude drug 3-5g as an infusion (preferably taken hot), three times daily; 25% ethanol extract (1:1) 3-5ml; tincture (1:5, 25% ethanol) 10-25ml (2).


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