Clove oil in your sexual lubricant?

I am a big fan of do-it-yourself (DIY) personal care products. Body scrubs, hair conditioners, face masks – just a few things I’ve whipped up at home on the cheap.  Why? Perhaps because I’m a chemist. Definitely because I’m cheap.  I’m always on the look-out for recipes to review and try.  Enter Good‘s tweet from last night…

As a chemist, DIY fan, and writer on sexual lubricants (here and here), I was contractually obligated* to review this Good post.  It’s mildly chemophobic, makes some claims about marijuana that are dubious, and doesn’t include a warning about using this coconut oil lube with latex condoms. Oh, and I’m assuming the author assumes readers live in Colorado or Washington? Anywho, it was a casual suggestion that really caught my chemist’s eye….pot lube essential oils

Lavender, clove, lemongrass, or cinnamon oil for scent. Ohhhhhh… cinnamon oil is a warming… sounds intriguing… but let’s back up to clove oil.  I’ve used clove oil myself – and not just for scent.

A few years back, a bad toothache was causing me all kinds of trouble. Root canal trouble. Over-the-counter pain medicine helped, but clove oil that made the 3 days between dental exam and root canal manageable. Using a cotton swab, I’d dab a bit of clove oil on the gums surrounding the offending tooth. A short time later… ahhhhhhhh… lovely numbness.  That’s due to eugenol, a chemical that comprises 70-85% clove oil by weight.


eugenol (chemspider)

Eugenol is local analgesic agent – that lovely numbness. Well, “lovely” when we’re talking toothache.  Not so lovely when we’re talking sexual lubricant.  Unless, of course, one wants to numb one’s genitals. Say, in an attempt to manage premature ejaculation.

Good’s article didn’t mention any of this information about clove oil and that’s my problem with it.  You don’t have to be a chemist to cook-up such recipes, or to use them, but you’ve got to do your homework. Especially when you’re suggesting people smear your concoction all over their genitals.


To learn more about clove oil, check out Compound Interest‘s excellent ‘Guarding Against Toothache & Premature Ejaculation – The Chemistry of Cloves‘.  The isolation of clove oil from cloves is a classic organic chemistry experiment. Here’s a step-by-step guide to this experiment from San Jose State University.


*contractually obligated = simply compelled

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DrRubidium is an analytical chemist that spends her days finding needles in needlestacks. Also a science communicator, she focuses on the the science behind everyday stuff and pop culture.

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  1. Cool post, drrubidium!

    I can confirm anecdotally the effectiveness of clove oil for tooth pain.

    I had 4 wisdom teeth removed at once under general anaesthetic (they were growing at 90 degrees thru my gums) and they were triple rooted so there was considerable collateral damage and I was off work for a week with my face a big purple and yellow football.

    Panadeine Forte (acetoaminophen plus codeine) was the standard analgesic but nothing really worked for long until I was given a dab of clove oil in the sockets. Instant relief! That got me through the last few days and allowed me to stop the codeine, which was messing me up mentally and physically.

    I did not know about eugenol until this post, that is very interesting and good stuff to know. I do not know if I would want it all over my junk though.

    On another note, there used to be a local company that made clove essence for mixing in drinks. Rum and cloves was a good winter shooter back in the 70s.

    Never noticed any systemic effects, I suppose it depends on concentration and maybe the eugenol is reduced in flavoring essences?

    1. Clove has a very strong taste, I would suspect that those flavorings would need very little actual clove to taste plenty strong. But then I’m not a chemist (or either variety) so take that for what it’s worth.

      1. I think you’re right, bottom line is we all know that we can have strong clove flavor and aroma without anesthetic effect, otherwise our mouth would go numb every time.
        I was wondering though if the eugenol is or could be removed (in the same way as cocaine is removed from the cola leaves used for Coca-Cola) without reducing the flavor.

  2. Ok so here is what I have been thinking (without checking the recipes and in round figures):

    1 drop clove oil on tooth socket; define area tooth as A subscript t
    At = 0.25×0.25 square inch = 1/16 inch squared

    1 drop clove oil on junk; define area junk as A subscript j
    Aj = 6x1xpi square inch = 18 square inch

    (NB contact area same for both partners by definition iff full penetration)

    So that drop is spread over 300-400 times greater area.

    Question: is there a threshold point (femtomoles per square inch) below which eugenol has no effect?

  3. Eugenol is also a big reason clove oil tastes the way it does. There is certainly an amount of clove oil one could add to a solvent wherein the numbing effects would not be perceivable. This could be achieved if clove oil is was diluted. Say 3-4 drops of clove oil in 250 mL of coconut oil. Even then, I’d recommend a spot test before slathering that solution over any large area :D

    1. Well, I think you might be disappointed (compared to taking a Strepsil) unless you ramp up the concentration to liver toxic levels (5-10 ml of neat oil). After all that was the point of the clove shooters (for our winter colds) and the results were not very impressive beyond the effects of the rum. drrubidium may disagree.

      By the way, I’ve also smoked more than a few packs of kretek cigarettes in my times in Bali. These contain 20% cloves and soothe the throat to compensate for the rather crap tobacco used. Sure it works temporarily in the same way as menthol – but on reflection was it worth the health risk?

      1. Pretty interesting Jack. I just happen to have a cold I am getting over and my tea as I read the article and it was a loose leaf tea with cloves in it. I never thought about it in the cigarettes. Huh.

        By the way hi. :)

          1. Thanks for the article. I read it over and I had forgotten that a friend of mine was asked not ingest clove as he is on blood thinners and it can affect your ability to clot.

            I am sure that the whisky would be wonderful. I like spiced liquors. I have never tried Drambuie. Here in my northern state, I like maple crown royal and get it every Christmas season :) Bottoms up!

  4. Of course, those essential oils (Lavender, clove, lemongrass, or cinnamon oil) are also considered skin irritants, and most skin care companies wouldn’t dare put them in a formula. They contain compounds that are on the EU list of 26 allergens. You couldn’t sell this in the EU (even without the weed).

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