During the spice trade, allspice never really gained the same level of popularity as peppercorns, turmeric or cinnamon, despite its complex flavor, reminiscent of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorn, and cardamom.
While the aroma of allspice brings to mind autumn, winter baking and freshly pickled cucumbers because it is often used as a sweet pickling spice, allspice is perhaps best known for its use in jerk seasoning and other Caribbean cuisines, because the spice is indigenous to that region.
Allspice Essential Oil Fun Facts
A physician who was traveling with explorer Christopher Columbus is credited with giving allspice its name.
During the fifth Napoleonic war in 1812, Russian soldiers put allspice in their boots to keep their feet warm during the frigid Russian winter.
Allspice is one of the main ingredients in Cincinnati-style chili.
Allspice is often used to flavor toothpaste.
Much like bay leaves, which they closely resemble, fresh allspice leaves are also used in cooking to add flavor to dishes.
Native to Jamaica, allspice was first imported to England in the 16th century, where it was given the name allspice due to its intoxicating scent that brought to mind so many spices all at once.
Allspice essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves and fruits of the evergreen Pimenta Dioica, which is indigenous to the rainforests of South and Central America and is the only spice that grows exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. 1
Allspice can be found in Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, but Jamaica produces the most, and allspice grown in that island nation surrounded by the Caribbean Ocean is considered to be superior to than allspice grown elsewhere because the Jamaican spice has a higher oil content, and therefore, more flavor and more health benefits.
A warming spice, allspice blends well with floral essential oils including lavender, neroli, geranium and ylang-ylang, citrus oils including orange, bergamot, tangerine, lemon, lime and grapefruit, spice-based oils including cinnamon, clove and nutmeg and exotics including ginger, vanilla, patchouli, and sandalwood.
History of Allspice
Allspice is a pungent ground spice that’s used in various kinds of baking and cooking, but it was a Jamaican secret until Christopher Columbus, in search of peppercorns, discovered it during one of his expeditions and believed it to be pepper because the berries are so similar in appearance. When they discovered it was not pepper, the spice was given its name allspice by the explorer’s physician, Diego Álvarez Chanca.
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Because of the mistaken identity, allspice is often called pimento – or pimiento in Spanish.
But Columbus’s discovery was hardly the most important moment in allspice history.
The spice was used by the Mayans as part of the embalming process long before Columbus introduced it to the rest of the world, and it was also used to preserve meat.
Although allspice evergreens are considered shrubs, they can grow up to 55 feet tall, producing sweet berries that when dried – often under the sun – turn dark brown. Because the shade from the allspice shrubs protects plants that grow beneath, some coffee farmers plant allspice trees – known as Jamaican pepper trees – to surround their cash crop and prevent it from scorching in the sun.
The spice was imported to Europe soon after it was discovered, and although there were attempted to cultivate allspice in the east, they were largely unsuccessful. Because horticulturists in Europe and Asia were unable to grow allspice, allspice never became as popular as other spices that were much more coveted, despite its heady aroma and diverse flavor profile that suited both sweet and savory dishes.
In leaving allspice behind, however, they missed out on the health benefits the aromatic spice has to offer, including as an anesthetic and analgesic providing two types of pain relief, a powerful antioxidant, and an antiseptic able to kill harmful bacteria, to name just a few.
Allspice essential oil is packed with nutrients, making it one of the most nutritionally-dense essential oils available.
Compounds that can be found in allspice include vitamins A, C and many in the B family including B1, B1, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin, as well as the antioxidant beta-carotene and minerals including copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and manganese. It also offers skin-friendly malic acid and the tannin gallic acid, among many other important sesquiterpenes, terpenes and monoterpenes, each offering its own unique health benefits. 2
Some of the key volatile oils in allspice include:
Cineole, also known as eucalyptol, is one of the most important terpenes. An antioxidant, it is believed to offer memory-enhancing qualities that could protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 3 Cineole also acts as an anti-inflammatory and has been linked to cancer prevention. 4
Caryophyllene is a terpene that interacts with the cannabinoid CB2 receptors in the brain, which play a role in inflammation, particularly inflammation in the brain, making it a potential treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Caryophyllene also offers analgesic qualities, helps strengthen the immune system and helps relieve feelings of stress and anxiety. 5
An antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, eugenol is often used to help relieve dental pain naturally, but research has shown that eugenol has benefits far beyond dental health. Eugenol has been shown in studies to act as an antibacterial with the ability to inhibit the growth of certain pathogens as well or better than some pharmaceuticals. Eugenol also acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.
A flavonoid with potential anti-cancer properties, quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that not only protects against damage from free radicals but was also shown in a 2010 study by Italian researchers to help control inflammation, including inflammation associated with allergic reactions. 6
A monoterpenoid found in allspice essential oil, methyl eugenol acts as a natural insecticide, helping to keep bugs including termites at bay.
Myrcene is a monoterpene that is thought to help ease anxiety because it has molecules small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, so it can interact with neurotransmitters linked to feelings of tranquility and calm, including dopamine and serotonin.
Popular in Eastern medicine, the terpene phellandrene has been shown to serve as an antibacterial, but it also helps boost energy and offers potential defenses against the spread of cancer, making it a diverse, powerful compound.
Health Benefits of Allspice Essential Oil
If Columbus hadn’t ventured into the Caribbean, we might never know about the important essential oil that is allspice, which offers a wide range of health benefits.
Some of those benefits include:
Due to the tannins in allspice, the essential oil has a numbing effect, making it an effective anesthetic to treat the pain of joint and muscle aches, neuralgia, insect bites, and toothaches. It also acts as an analgesic, numbing nerves fibers so that they don’t send pain messages to the brain, making it an effective treatment for headaches as well as the joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. MONQ’s relieve blend helps you feel recovery with a natural solution to aches and discomfort.
The antiseptic qualities in allspice essential oil can prevent wounds from becoming infected. Allspice oil helps to control the growth of bacteria, allowing cuts and scrapes to heal faster.
Better Blood Circulation
The body’s red blood cells are responsible for delivering oxygen to all the cells of the body, but if blood is thick or blood vessels are stiff, it is more difficult for blood to reach the extremities. The copper and magnesium in allspice not only boost red blood cell levels but also help encourage blood flow by relaxing blood vessels, allowing blood to pass through more easily.
Protection Against Prostate Cancer
According to the results of a 2013 study, compounds in allspice may help slow the growth of prostate cancer by preventing the body from using androgens (male hormones such as testosterone), which contribute to prostate cancer’s growth, without the side effects of traditional medications.
Protection Against Breast Cancer
A 2015 study from the University of Miami found that allspice essential oil was effective at killing breast cancer cells in lab settings. The research also looked at whether or not allspice essential oil could improve the benefits of chemotherapy when used in conjunction with the traditional treatment. 7
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Allspice has properties similar to cinnamon, which helps lower blood glucose levels by improving insulin’s ability to remove glucose from the blood and transfer it into cells where it can be used for energy. High levels of blood glucose can damage blood vessels by collecting along vessel walls, causing them to stiffen and making blood stickier and less likely to flow easily through the veins.
Lower Blood Pressure
A 2000 study out of Costa Rica found that allspice essential oil may help lower blood pressure based on the results of rat studies. Scientists believe that the compounds in allspice relaxed the blood vessels, making it easier for blood to pass through. Those with more elastic blood vessels are less likely to experience high blood pressure because the heart has to do less work to send blood throughout the body. 8
Allspice is rich in antioxidants, which can erase signs of aging. Antioxidants have the power to neutralize free radicals, which target the skin proteins collagen and elastin. When collagen and elastin skin cells are damaged, it results in fine lines, wrinkles and a dull complexion. The antioxidants in allspice can not only prevent free radical damage but can also encourage the production of new collagen and elastin cells. Allspice essential oil also helps stimulate the flow of blood to the skin’s surface, bringing essential nutrients to the areas of the skin where they will offer the most benefits.
A Healthy Detox
A study appearing in a 2011 issue of the journal Natural Products Research found that in addition to being able to neutralize free radicals, allspice also was able to bind to toxic metals in test tube studies, suggesting that it could work as a detoxifying agent to rid the body of toxic metals including mercury and lead. 9
Less Risk of Dementia
The phenolic acid in allspice may play a role in the prevention of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2015 study. Researchers looked at the impact of phenolic acid on the proteins in the brain that become sticky and clump together as part of the disease, blocking signaling between cells. They found in test tube studies that the phenolic acid in allspice, combined with antioxidants, could help prevent damage to the brain’s white matter. 10
A Treatment for Asthma
A 2014 study that appeared in the journal Drug Research determined that cineole, one of the main compounds in allspice essential oil, could serve as a treatment for asthma by controlling the inflammation associated with the disease. An earlier study in the journal Respiratory Research studied cineole as an effective treatment for a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
A Better Sex Life
When used in a diffuser, the aroma of allspice essential oil is believed to be a natural aphrodisiac, making this spicy essential oil an excellent way to spice things up in the bedroom.
The compounds in allspice help stimulate the digestive system, increasing digestive enzymes including trypsin, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of protein. Allspice compounds also ease indigestion, gas and other digestive woes including nausea and vomiting, but also give the immune system a boost since most of the immune system lives in the gut.
The aroma of allspice essential oil can help calm feelings of stress and anxiety and can also help ease insomnia when used in a diffuser. The myrcene in allspice is believed to elevate the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, both of which elevate positive feelings, lifting symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is particularly nice during fall and winter months.11
How to Use Allspice Essential Oil
Allspice Essential Oil can be used in a diffuser as aromatherapy.
Allspice essential oil should not be used full strength, but it can also be diluted into a carrier oil to be used as a massage oil to help treat sore muscles.
Allspice oil can also be added to lotion to help heal dry skin.
For digestive and other benefits, allspice essential oil can also be consumed. A healing dose is three to five drops. It can be added to water or consumed on a sugar cube.
Pregnant women should avoid allspice essential oil, and because allspice can slow blood clotting, those who are scheduled to have surgery should avoid allspice essential oil at last two weeks prior to having surgery.11