Leishmaniasis consists of a complex spectrum of infectious diseases with worldwide distribution of which visceral leishmaniasis or kala-azar caused by Leishmania donovani is the most devastating. In the absence of vaccines, chemotherapy remains the mainstay for the control of leishmaniasis. The drugs of choice are expensive and associated with multiple adverse side effects. Because of these limitations, the development of new antileishmanial compounds is imperative and plants offer prospects in this regard. The present work was conducted to study the antileishmanial potential of oil from Syzygium aromaticum flower buds (clove). The S. aromaticum oil was characterized by gas chromatography and GC-MS and eugenol as well as eugenyl acetate were found to be the most abundant compounds, composing 59.75 % and 29.24 %, respectively of the oil. Our findings have shown that eugenol-rich essential oil from S. aromaticum (EROSA) possesses significant activity against L. donovani, with 50 % inhibitory concentration of 21 ± 0.16 µg ml(-1) and 15.24 ± 0.14 µg ml(-1), respectively, against promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes. Alterations in cellular morphology and growth reversibility assay substantiated the leishmanicidal activity of EROSA. The leishmanicidal effect was mediated via apoptosis as confirmed by externalization of phosphatidylserine, DNA nicking by TdT-mediated dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL) assay, dyskinetoplastidy, cell cycle arrest at sub-G0-G1 phase, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and reactive oxygen species generation. EROSA presented no adverse cytotoxic effects against murine macrophages even at 200 µg ml(-1). Our studies authenticate the promising antileishmanial activity of EROSA, which is mediated by programmed cell death, and, accordingly, EROSA may be a source of novel agents for the treatment of leishmaniasis.