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Updated September 25, 2012

What is Allspice?

Other Names: pimento, Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, newspice, pimenta, clove pepper

Allspice comes from the unripe but dried berry of a small tree called Pimento officinalis or Pimento diocia.

It was first called "pimento", Spanish for pepper, by explorers in the 16th century because of the dark brown, wrinkled skin.

If you have tried allspice before and have tasted hints of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and juniper, you'll see why it was named "allspice" by the English.

Why Do People Use Allspice

Although we think of it as a cooking ingredient, allspice is also thought to have healing properties.

Allspice is about 4% oil. A compound in the oil, called eugenol, appears to have antiseptic and pain relieving properties. Preliminary studies suggest that allspice may also fight certain bacteria, viruses and fungi and improve digestion.

  • Toothache

    Alternative practitioners often suggest applying one drop to the painful tooth using a cotton swab one to three times a day for adults. The effectiveness of this remedy hasn't been studied.

  • Gas and Bloating

    Allspice can be made into a tea using one teaspoon of ground allspice powder steeped covered for ten minutes with 1 cup of hot water and then strained. The tea can be taken one to three times a day. It's thought to be best taken between meals, as it can interfere with the absorption of some minerals such as iron.

  • Muscle Ache

    Allspice is a traditional remedy for muscle aches and pain. To make sure it stays in contact with the painful area, herbalists often suggest making a poultice (plaster), by mixing ground allspice with just enough water to make a thick paste. It's applied to the painful area and left on for at least 20 minutes. A thin piece of gauze may be applied over the allspice paste to prevent it from drying out and preventing mess.

    Side Effects and Safety Concerns

    Although practitioners sometimes suggest applying very small amounts (no more than three drops a day) of the oil, larger amounts of the pure oil shouldn't be used on skin as it can cause irritation. Larger amounts could theoretically be absorbed through the skin and result in overdose.

    Allspice oil shouldn't be ingested unless under the supervision of a health practitioner. Even one teaspoon may result in eugenol poisoning, resulting in nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and slowing of the central nervous system.

    Certain people may be allergic to allspice.

    Notify your doctor immediately if you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or skin rash after taking allspice.

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