- Question: [Motzei Shabbos, 19th Teves 5781]
I suffer from dull tooth pain. May I bite on a clove on Shabbos for the sake of relieving it?
You should only do so in the process of eating such as to add cloves to a salad or other food and eat it within that food, however you should not need it plain. If, however, the pain is so strong that you feel weak in your entire body, then you may chew the clove regularly and even take medicine, as is the law of allowance by anyone who is sick.
Explanation: It is forbidden to take medicine on Shabbos even if one is in pain unless one is sick, which is defined as feeling weakness throughout the entire body. This restriction applies even against eating foods for medicinal purposes if it is being done in a way that is evident to all that its purpose is for medicine. However, the restriction does not apply if one consumes the food in the regular way of eating even if its true intent is for medicinal purposes, being that this intent is not apparent to others. Accordingly, we concluded above that while certainly one may eat the clove as part of an ingredient of his food or salad, even if his intent is for medicinal purposes being that there are plenty of healthy people who do so, and it is hence not apparent to others that is being done for medicinal purposes, nonetheless, he should not chew it plain being that, as far as I’m aware, this is not normally done by even a minority of healthy people for eating purposes and will hence be viewed by others as being done for medicinal purposes.
Sources: Admur 328:1 [regarding general medicine prohibition]; Admur 328:38 [regarding the permitted and forbidden ways of treating toothache based on the intensity of the ache and on whether the treatment appears like medicine to others]; Admur 328:43 and Ketzos Hashulchan 134 footnote 16 [regarding if the general prohibition of medicine applies to foods]; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:61 footnote 485 that while it is permitted to eat garlic in salad for medicinal purposes, it is not permitted to eat garlic plain for medicinal purposes being that not even a minority of people do so