The Darker Side Of Eugenol Oil

There seems a clamor that’s building which is now become a low roar. Eugenol oil is peaking the interest of many a consumer for its quick knock down properties of insects, spiders and even weed control. This miracle product is fast becoming the talk of forums and soon to supplant bed bugs as the #1 question on my Ask The Bug Doctor feature of this website. Let’s face it, no one ever heard of this product really until a little TV show came around called Billy The Exterminator and now it seems to be all the rage. You can often see the star of the show sprit-zing Eugenol oil from a nondescript bottle and he often explains its virtues. The intranet is filled with references and websites that tout its goodness for the environment because of its natural ingredients. I mean who can argue with cloves mixed with water right? As is so often the case with this or any product there are downfalls or hidden side effects but for some reason very few people wish to speak up when it involves a environmentally safe product. This article deals with the darker side of Eugenol oil and I believe it’s something you should consider.

What is it and where is it used?

Eugenol oil is clove oil which is made up of the extract of dried flower buds, leaves and stems of the tree Syzygium aromaticum (Eastern Hemisphere) or Eugenia caryophyllata and Eugenia aromaticum (Western). So far so good. It is listed as a Minimum Risk by the FDA and is used for the purposes of food flavoring, cosmetic, dermal drug delivery, dental, aromatic, soaps detergents and many other well known things. It is considered SAFE by the FDA for everything except fish and humans consuming fish treated with Eugenol. It is also well known for its ability to kill weeds and even bugs. Eugenol is great for breaking down waxy coatings and fast absorption so plants treated dry out quickly and pests with their waxy outer coating also succumb to its effects when sufficient amounts are used. The residual of clove oil is short lived so its non persistent nature makes it ideal for many applications.

What we do know

Clove oil is toxic to human cells, if ingested in sufficient quantity or injected it has been shown to cause life-threatening complications, including Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Fulminant Hepatic (Liver) Failure, and Central Nervous System Depression. The lethal oral dose is 3.75 g per kg body weight and ingestion is the most common way for these severe consequences to occur. Clove oil is toxic to the liver and nervous system and there have been reported cases of acute sickness and deaths with as little ingested as 8 ml. Clove oil is highly cytotoxic to human skin cells at concentrations as low as 0.03 percent. Eugenol is rapidly absorbed and metabolized in the liver when ingested, and 95% of the dose is excreted within 24 hours.

What we don’t know

There are very few conclusive studies on the effects of clove oil (Eugenol) but both the FDA and the EPA say that it contains 5–15% methyl eugenol which the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) determined that methyl eugenol is “Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen.” This data has been deemed questionable since other studies have not come to this conclusion and as such Eugenol is not required to be listed as a carcinogen. This said, California still requires any product that has 8.5% Eugenol or higher place the signal word “Caution” on the label and a “Keep Out of the Reach of Children”warning as well. Gloves and eye wear requirements are also listed for mixing and use.

OK so does it kill insects?

The insecticidal properties of clove oil has been studied since the 1940s. Clove oil toxicity to different types of insects varies considerably. Very high application rates are needed to effectively control Coleoptera (weevils and beetles), moth caterpillars, lice and cockroaches. Some insects are affected quickly while others seem much more tolerant. Adding plant oils from mustard, coconut, seasame or sunflower seem to enhance the pesticidal properties. (Again no studies) German roaches seem to need the higher doses while American roaches do not, follow up studies found that Eugenol in high enough doses disrupts cell binding of octopamine which results in an insects death.

Conclusion

Eugenol is being used more frequently for everything from termites, beetles and even dust mites with water as the most common carrier. Its sudden rise in popularity can be attributed to peoples desire to use ‘green earth friendly’ products and the desire to be safe and get away from man made chemicals. Hopefully I’ve given no illusions in this writing, the LD50’s (Lethal dose rates) are well within desirable limits and Eugenol is used for many beneficial things. But Eugenol doesn’t come with any instructions and about the only conclusive studies of importance are that it takes HIGH DOSES to be effective in pest control and SMALL AMOUNTS to cause possible serious and harmful problems. With the publics propensity to over use things like pesticides and the fact that high doses of something so harmless sounding as clove oil I don’t think it’ll be long before studies will HAVE to be done not out of curiosity but due to mounting cases of The Darker side of eugenol oil.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Damien Lawrence

    what is the ratio of water to clove oil needed to be effective to cockroaches? And is that mixture harmful to humans?

  • Hi Damien,

    I’m sorry to say I do not know what is the recommended mix would be. Since it’s not labeled for pest control use and any site that sells it is not specific there is very little info available. I’m sure there are ‘home remedy’ recipes but I put very little trust in any such concoction. Also, cloves are usually not the only ingredient so what goes in it and how much is a mystery that you, me and many others can only guess at. This to me is not a safe way to mix any pest control product– natural or not– The ‘NOT KNOWING’ is indeed what makes this in my opinion unsafe.

    Thanks for reading

  • Amanda Lamy

    This abstract of a paper describes specific concentrations of eugenol used to kill American cockroaches, German cockroaches and carpenter ants:
    http://lib.bioinfo.pl/pmid:11701389

  • Thank you Amanda,

    That’s some good information- Eugenol is fast alright! I’m not a scientist but the 3 ingredients were listed as being equal ie; 1:1:1 but what was the mix ratio to the carrier or was there one? I could have missed it and I’d be interested to know.

    Either way that’s awesome stuff-Thanks again.

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  • SuziS

    I can tell you from personal experience that Eugenol causes respiratory distress. I used an organic insecticide in my yard called EcoSmart Granules because I felt it would be better for my kids & pets running around in the yard. I followed the application rate and then sprinkled some directly onto a “problem ant area”. Within a minute or so my chest began burning and I had trouble breathing. It seems that my trouble began when I poured an amount directly out of the bag for that problem area and must have inhaled some of the dust. I didn’t notice the respiratory trouble while I was using the rotary spreading.
    I came to the internet to find out what component of the insecticide caused my reaction. Most cautionary articles relate to dental procedures. Thank you for this article….it was very helpful to me!

  • I’m sorry you had ill effects from pesticides-organic or not. Granules seem very docile for most folks but that ‘dust’ can be just like inhaling a fine spray mist. It’s odd that the rotary action didn’t do just about the same because it really throws the granules around in a tizzy. It may have been that you leaned into the action when bending over to pour it- not sure. But hopefully you’re fine now with no lingering effects.

  • Anonymous

    I synthesized eugenol from cloves using steam distillation in my undergraduate organic chemistry lab…. Do you realize how much 3.75g / kg body weight actually is?  I was right there as it was being produced and I could smell it’s wonderful aroma, I wasn’t dying, and i’m certainly not afraid of getting cancer from it.  It’s an essential oil, like so many others, produced from a natural product.  Whether it kills bugs or not, I don’t know, but is it dangerous? Hardly. Yeah, if you somehow ingest a TON of it.  Did you mention injection earlier? Who injects eugenol, that doesn’t even make sense.  Eugenol oil, has an -O-H group (alcohol) functional group attached to it – meaning it’s an alcohol.  Hence it’s called EugenOL.  It has natural anaesthetic properties.  So yes, an EXTREME overdose can be dangerous, but don’t scare people with all this “Darker side of Eugenol” BS. 

    Now, somehow I doubt that a natural oil like eugenol will somehow be a great natural pest-repellant.  Doesn’t it seem like all the good ideas are already well known?  Why would people be JUST NOW figuring out Eugenol is the magic pest-control cure-all.

    If you are in the pest-removal business, just admit that the people advertising this Eugenol pest-control product are probably also bs’ing, but be honest about it and explain that it is the eugenol marketers, not the eugenol, are the ones to look out for.

  • Thank you for your thoughts Anonymous,

    You sound like an educated person so please don’t take offense but isn’t what you profess mostly anecdotal?  Because YOU handled it with no problem and YOU did undergraduate work and nothing happened then it must be Ok for the rest of the world. Tell that to the families of the people who died with just 8ml–and yes that is a VERY SMALL amount I’m sure you’d agree just as you agreed that an extreme overdose is dangerous– I guess you were in to much of a hurry to respond to what you thought was a hit piece on eugenol to read the purpose and focus of this writing. 

    I presented both sides and have facts to back up my writing and places like the state of California agree with me so please take it easy with slinging around your BS tags. 

    As stated I give no illusions in my writing both good and bad but I doubt even you had any idea that eugenol had these types of side effects… My work is out there for you and anyone else to decide based on facts–heck I even put my name and picture next to my work–& I don’t have to  hide behind an Anonymous identity.

  • Almaferrer159

    What product should I use to get rid of roaches. Considering I have kids and pets. Thank you.

  • There are many “chemical” approaches but also sanitation and other considerations as well. Check out my topic area of roaches http://pestcemetery.com/category/roaches/ I’m sure you’ll find some help there. One article that seems to help the most is… http://pestcemetery.com/3-easy-ways-rid-german-roaches/

    I hope this helps

  • Goffrulz

    Interesting article. I’ve been watching a bunch of “Billy” on Netflix and was wondering about his magic oil. Actually got to this site looking for info on yellow light bulbs (The black widow infestation episode on “Billy”)
    I do have a jargon quibble though, if you’ll tolerate a little geek OCD. Intranet and Internet are not interchangeable terms. An intranet is a network of computers usually within an organization (company, college, etc) . The Internet is the larger network that most people recognize as “the web.”

  • Larryisnumber1daddy

    I thought i was the only one to catch that.

  • Raisinbrandy73

    I rest my case…lol. Stated like a TRUE “researcher”. I have used it in my home as a bug be gone spray. Bought at Home Depot .I have dogs, cats, children and my family. And I would caution anyone to just be smart with this or any chemical used. Its been my experience that it works great, but it has only been a temporary solution to what has become a permanent  problem. 

  • You were able to by Eugenol at Home Depot? Wow– It is becoming mainstream. I guess I should prepare for more comments 😉

    Ps. What is the permanent problem for you now?

  • Lenawyss

    I wish it would have said where you can get the oil, I understand the consequences that would come w/it but if it can help with getting rid of insects then you should be able to get the oil.

  • This article was clearly written to get hits on the website. The author has no experience with the stuff. He’s just repeating what he has read on the internet. 

    Bottom line. If the stuff was as dangerous as the author states, Bill The Exterminator and his brother would be dead.

  • otjiggy

    8ml is a small amount? That’s a sip. A  sip, for god’s sake! Who on earth would be dumb enough to take a sip of something that kills living cells?
    Eugenol isn’t the problem, stupid people are.
    If something is concentrated because of its ability to kill bugs or weeds, it’ll kill you too in sufficient amounts.

    What insecticide DO you recommend people use, The Bug Doctor?
    Or would you prefer that we use nothing at all and just be polite enough not to scratch at our parasites in public like they did in Victorian days?

  • Very well said otjiggy,

    You hit the ‘problem’ on the head! As far as what to use I wouldn’t know where to begin. There are so many good products out there that really work well. Of course there use to be that many more until the ‘people problem’ you described got involved and acted out of ignorance and fear.

    Thank you for your comment

  • And if we are to follow your line of thinking then…… I and every other exterminator in the world would have the shortest careers of any profession. I think you missed the point somewhere but I appreciate your comment.

    I MISS ‘W’

  • Mel

    The real bottom line is you had an emotional reaction to the article because it was not in accordance with your thinking. You did not pay attention that eugenol is a suspected carcinogen. You do not understand the difference between acute toxicity and chronic toxicity. One does not have to die instantly from cancer or in order for a product to be dangerous. I happen to like the stuff for specific applications but I do not assume eugenol is “safe” where I can be careless with it.
     
    As Jerry stated, if synthetic products were as dangerous as botanical pesticide marketers lead the general public to believe, The Bug Doctor would be dead after 25 years of using the stuff. 

  • Anonymous

    The dose makes the toxin is a maxim of toxicology.  A lot of necessary nutrients are toxic if you take too much!  A lack of such substances is also fatal…so don’t get carried away when you read articles like this.

  • Anonymous

    The fatal dose would be about 10 oz for a 150 pound person, at 3.75 mg per kg.

  • That’s a good mantra (maxim) Here’s another. The professional handles pesticides like a pro & with respect- The home owner like glutenous fool. 

    It’s not unusual for me or any other exterminator to go out in the field and see vivid and scary examples of pesticide over use. It can be and most often is worse when the DIY er is under the illusion that something is all natural and (quote) safe. 

  • I wasn’t going to go there, so I am glad I read all the posts.  I like Billy, he’s fun and informative.  I like The Bug Doctor for the same reasons.  I also know that you cannot believe 100% of what you read on the Internet, nor even close to that on what you see on TV (except maybe Animal Planet and Discovery). 

    My tirade? : People, look it up for yourself.  Study it, if you want.  do experiments, follow the scientific journals. If you don’t want to go that far, read a few opinions and then decide, for yourself.  But remember, your decision is your own, maybe it’s not right for the next guy out there.  I didn’t see a single post on this article that was backed by PURE science.  And that includes the guy who did experiments in grad school.  You refer to short-term exposure and extrapolate long-term effects.  You also only have one person’s data by which you make these judgments.No, I know I’m not going to change the way people behave on the Internet, but maybe one or two of you will stop and think next time…(1) is this an opinion or a fact? and (2) will this sound harsh and if so, can I change the wording to sound less harsh?

    Let’s not use the Internet to push our ideas, but rather for the polite exchange of ideas and information.

  • Saml75

    “Sanitation” means nothing when the bug eats paper. Some of the worst places I’ve seen roaches in are Libraries. What do they eat in those buildings??? Paper.

  • Sorry Sami75, I’ll have to disagree with you here. Sanitation is HUGE when it comes to roaches- I’m sure you can find a book written about it in the science section of the library. 

  • Jesse

    I don’t know how much Eugenol is in the teething gel for babies called Naturals Orajel, but it is the key ingredient. So, babies are ingesting it obviously.

  • Well, it has been used for these kinds of purposes for eons but this is the 1st I’ve heard for direct ingestion for a baby— I do hope the amount is even more miniscule than what most accuse me of whining about. That would be one time I would hate to be proven right.

  • Torrentula

    I know this article is dealing with pesticide aspect but I came accross this page researching clove oil for internal use. From everything I’ve read its safe to consume this essential oil if you have even a minute amount of common sense. I take 5 drops throughout the day. Its don’t wonders taking away pain and infection so far. I think its safer and more effective then most medications a doctor would prescribe. Next on my list is oil or oregano.

    Dilute one drop in oil to ditulute or else it will burn. I use a drop with about 2 ml of propylene glycol. Its not an oil but acts as an emulsifier to mix with water. Can also use vegetable glycerin but it is thicker. Either one get USP grade. Pharmacy or online should sell it. I use these instead of oil since it mixes well with water vs adding oil to more oil. Try a drop in a cup of coffee. It tastes great.

    Some people are allergic to clove oil so don’t ingest any until you know your not. Take a dilutes among hold it on a side of your mouth for 10 seconds and spit it out. morrow if you don’t wake up to a swollen face your good to go. Don’t listen to FDA and who is for medical advice. They are corrupt looking to ban anything natural. People used herbs for thousands of years without needing a ruling body to say what is OK to do on your own. I’m sure that 90% people leave the hospital undiagnosted. They don’t know jack most of the time. We gave up our freedom to treat ourselves to doctors and big pharma.

  • Well if the FDA starts telling me to take something in my mouth and if I don’t get a swollen FACE it’s Ok- then yea, I might not listen to em. What kind of advice is that?. I’m sorry but you have zero “common sense” let alone the “minute amount” you say is needed to take eugenol or any such thing. Your home recipes and web research is dangerous–

  • Rrkiss

    what happen if domestic pets (dogs/cats) get eugenol on their feet and then lick it off, as all animals do?  would this result in poisoning the pet? 

  • I’d think it wouldn’t be very pleasing to the tongue- so even a dog might stop licking once his tongue started tingling- The bigger point is who is so sloppily spraying that this would be a problem? The answer- those who feel their “all natural” product is so safe that they don’t need to treat it with respect.

  • anthony, physician

    glove oil has been used for over 5000 years for teething, these people who used it lived into there 90.s and they were way healthier than people today, i find it amusing to hear advice from people who have no clue about history or the past, the average male is carrying between 50 to 75 lbs more the a male in the 1940s pick up a 75 pound bag of flour carry it a while and then think about it

  • Was clove oil the only thing directly responsible for your claims of longer life? Does your information change any of the facts presented? What was the average life span of a man in the 40’s? It most assuredly is LESS than it is now– extra weight or not.

    There was something however that was much more prevalent in the past, I’ll give you that; Peoples attention span and comprehension of what was written was much higher then- not like today where people read 1/2 of what was written, form an opinion and then move forward thinking they have full knowledge of the subject– Thus the point of the article, but I’m sure you are aware of that.

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  • Zipper

    This is such trash…eugenol is the main ingredient  of Baby Orajel Naturals…they give it to babies during teething!  so, it’s quite harmless in small quantities.

  • Sorry

    The article says “The lethal oral dose is 3.75 g per kg body weight” – if you weigh 175 you need to ingest 10 ounces of it to die – thats a LOT of clove oil.

  • And a child’s weight is? And the amount mixed up and willy nilly sprayed all over a home because it has been deemed safe would be?

  • Anon

    @Thebugdoctor, I read the article and the comments below, and I must say that I wish you would have given a more direct answer to the person who asked what you would use, instead of being so general. I am willing to bet that although you make a good informative article about the unknown dangers of natural pesticides, that the stuff you prefer to use would be just as dangerous if not more so than clove oil. I am glad to know the info you posted and will take it to heart, but c’mon, what product out there doesn’t have some type of suspected carcinogen effect, or poisoning effect on humans and pets? If I had to choose between the synthetic products which are loaded with unpronouncable chemicals, and eugenol oil, well, you know where I am going with this. With caution of course… 

  • That stuff needs a Skull & Crossbones with it’s distribution whether on the box or on the bottle, it needs a very strong label..

  • Well, I wouldn’t go that far but a little enlightenment to those who feel it’s so safe they can you it by the gallon would be in order– Plus, natural ingredients aren’t scrutinized the same way as “synthetic” or man made. Safer or not.

  • Then at least you’d make your decision while being informed. This was as least part of my point of writing this. The other was the warning that – just because it’s natural people will tend to “over use” or apply and buy to much. Your point about unpronounceable products is well taken and I agree. Perhaps if you were a vet of pest control for 30 years as I have been and seen the pound (I mean POUNDS) of boric acid strewn about a tiny apartment to kill fleas or roaches or the dousing of a babies crib with cedar oil for preventative bug measures (no bugs-it’s just natural so it can’t hurt) etc. etc. etc. Then you might agree. Once millions of people see this wonderful product on TV and how great it works–what do you think they’re gonna do? My guess is, eugenol oil sales hit an all time high in the last year or so–I’d also guess, so has the associated health problems. We won’t know for a few years as a general rule as these things get tabulated–I’m hoping I’m wrong.

  • F150

    For people who enjoy eating the protein laden bugs as a great food source, the added flavor of cloves is comparable to the honey baked ham flavor, which taste wonderful and makes consuming the little critters more pleasant.

  • Two bugs with one stone?

  • Andfam

    It can be highly allergenic causing necrosis of the oral tissues.  Baby cries, Mom applies more:(  It is a common ingredient in dental practice as well, but its not harmless.  I think that was the author’s point and it is well taken.

  • Finally! Someone who reads what is written.
    Thank You

  • Gnodsmht

    I think your missing the point. your saying that it can be fatal and everyone should be careful and yet your reason for this is being trumped by a long haired alligator chaser who uses the stuff everyday and is not only alive but now rich because of it. who do you think the general public will listen to.

  • No, I don’t believe I’m missing the point but thank you.

  • Barrack Obama

    This isnt that serious. The amount it takes to become lethal is insanely large. I have the strongest feeling your one of those people that also believe weed is this horrible thing for you.