Clove Victims: Over-Indulgence in the Condiment Is Often Fatal

Straight from a 1920’s newspaper… farce or fact?

A Fair Girl’s Sad Fate–Too Much Clove Eating Actually Shrivels Up the Body

A physical wreck from eating cloves.

Odd as it may seem to the non-professional person, this condition is not at all uncommon in those who carry this foolish habit to excess.

Comparatively harmless as is the use of cloves in the beginning, the system soon feels a craving for the stimulating effect produced by them, and slowly and insidiously the habit grows until they become as much an absolute necessity to the victim as does brandy to the dipsomaniac or opium to the morphine fiend.

It is in their supposed harmlessness that the danger of acquiring the clove habit lies. School-girls, whose taste has been perverted by over-indulgence in sweets, turn naturally to the spice canister in search of a change for the organs of taste with the almost invariable result that they finally discard the candies for the pungent little bud.

The habit once acquired, the unconscious victim begins to find that what was once a pastime, has now become a necessity, and instead of being satisfied with a small quantity, as at first, two or three ounces a day are found necessary to satisfy the system’s craving. Then follows a gradual but certain breaking down of the constitution, beginning at the nerve centres, which finally brings the victim to a pitiable condition.

A Peculiarly Pathetic Case

A full report of an exceptionally pathetic case has been given to a representative of the Morning Journal by a famous local specialist in nervous diseases who, for obvious reasons, desires that neither his own name nor that of his fair patient shall be made public.

The young woman who is now on her deathbed was once beautiful, fascinating and the acknowledged belle of her social circle. Ever since she can remember she has been a clove-eater, she tells the physician, and attributes the formation of the habit to the fact that her early life was passed in one of the extreme Southern States, where the use in cooking of large quantities of heating condiments was considered a necessity.

About the time that the habit had gained a complete mastery over the girl her parents died. This blow completely prostrated her for a time, and as soon as she had sufficiently recovered to do so, she came to New York, where she found the employment that the loss of her parents had made indispensable to her support.

Already the deleterious effects of the cloves, which she daily consumed in ever-increasing quantities, had begun to make themselves apparent in her shrunken cheeks, lack-lustre eyes and generally debilitated appearance. Her appetite for wholesome food grew less and less as time went on, and the little that she did eat was so highly seasoned as to have been unpalatable to even an East Indian native.

Her nervous system, which had become affected through the continued over-stimulation of the digestive organs, began to show signs of serious impairment, and she became cross and fretful, often flying into a passion over the most trivial incident connected with her daily duties.

These outbursts would be followed by periods of depression, from which nothing seemed to rouse her, and she went about her work in such a listless fashion that her employers found it necessary to warn her that her position was in jeopardy.

At last she became so disagreeable as to be utterly unbearable, and she was discharged. Her little savings were soon consumed, and as her broken health became rapidly worse, she was removed to the Bellevue Hospital.

Her friends in the South were communicated with, and before the hospital physicians had had time to discover the cause of her condition funds arrived and the suffering girl was placed in the private sanitarium presided over by the physician who tells her sad story.

In spite of all that can be done for her, the poor girl continues to sink, and her death is but a question of a few weeks.

“Her nervous system is completely shattered,” said the physician, “and the mucous coating of the stomach has been so completely destroyed that the simplest food is instantly rejected. In short, she is slowly starving to death, and all that science can do is to keep her free from pain by the hypodermic injection of narcotics until the end comes.”

A complete technical history of the case is being prepared, and will soon be published in one of the leading medical journals.

The symptoms which follow an overindulgence in the clove habit may be easily discerned, as they are almost invariably the same in every case. Freed from all professional technicalities, they may be described as a general shriveling up of the entire body.

The eyes become dull and heavy, the cheeks lose their color, the skin grows sallow and drawn, and the victim’s general appearance is that of one who is suffering from some wasting disease. As the amount of cloves consumed is increased the appetite for food decreases, and frequent fainting fits occur, as the result of the lack of proper sustenance.

In the last stages the victim suffers intense pain in the stomach and abdominal regions, on account of the inflammation, caused by the constant presence of the irritating agent. Last stage of all are convulsions, followed by long spells of delirium, and finally death.

While such cases as the one above described are by no means common, others of a less serious nature are being constantly found in the practice of the leading specialists.