The Benefits of Allspice

This Jamaican jerk sauce ingredient may ease gas and muscle pain

Powdered spice and essential oil

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Allspice comes from the unripe, dried berry of a small tree called Pimenta diocia (Pimento officinalis). Allspice has a long history in folk medicine in the Caribbean and Central American. It is brewed into a tea to relieve colds, ease menstrual cramps, and calm an upset stomach. As a balm, allspice is applied to bruises, sore joints, and muscle aches.

Most people know allspice as something they cook with. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, allspice is the main ingredient in Jamaican Jerk sauce, used in Middle Eastern stews and desserts, and the key flavoring in liquors Chartreuse and Benedictine.

In addition to being sold in whole berry and ground forms, allspice is also available as an essential oil.

Also Known As

  • Clove pepper
  • Jamaica pepper
  • Myrtle pepper
  • Newspice
  • Pimenta
  • Pimento

Health Benefits 

Scientific research shows allspice has many medicinal properties. It relieves pain, eases stomach upset, and kills bacteria and fungus. Compounds in allspice are also being investigated for use in the treatment of cancer and hypertension.

Allspice essential oil can be diffused into the air, which may ease a headache or sinus pain.

The primary medicinal compounds in allspice include: 

  • Eugenol: Also found in clove oil, it has antiseptic properties and is used as a topical pain reliever.
  • Quercetin: A flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, quercetin may help reduce inflammation, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help prevent heart disease.
  • Gallic acid: A phenolic acid with antiviral and anti-cancer properties, it is being studied as a possible treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease. 
  • Ericifolin: A polyphenol with antioxidant properties, it is being studied as a possible treatment for prostate cancer.

Some of the main suspected health benefits for allspice include the following.

Gas and Bloating

Allspice's many antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties that may ease stomach cramps and aid digestion. Allspice is what's called a carminative herb—i.e., one that can help expel or prevent gas in the gastrointestinal tract.

Eugenol, in particular, is known to stimulate the release of digestive enzymes, which may help to ease diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and even constipation.

While allspice tea is used in many cultures to settle an upset stomach, research on its effectiveness is limited to anecdotal evidence and laboratory studies.

Aches and Pains

Allspice's anesthetic and analgesic properties can help relax muscles and ease muscle pain. In Guatemala, crushed allspice berries are made into a poultice and applied to bruises, sore joints, and aching muscles.

Precisely how allspice works to relieve pain is unclear, though the eugenol, gallic acid, and quercetin it contains are known anti-inflammatory compounds. The flavonoid quercetin, in particular, has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Research on eugenol shows it is also used as a numbing agent in dental procedures, though study authors note a potential for contact dermatitis when eugenol is applied to sensitive skin.

Despite allspice's widespread use as a pain reliever and the research on its individual components, there are no human trials confirming its effectiveness in this regard.

Menopause

Laboratory studies suggest methanol extracts from the Pimenta diocia plant may alter gene expression, boosting estrogen and reducing progesterone levels. 

This may relieve menopause symptoms by helping restore hormone balance. However, the research on this is limited and it is best to speak to your practitioner before starting on any hormone-balancing therapy.

Population studies of South and Central American women hypothesize the spice, which is used as herbal medicine, is responsible for cultural differences in menopausal discomfort. But allspice's effectiveness in preventing and treating menopause symptoms has not been specifically studied in humans.

Possible Side Effects

Consumed in normal amounts, such as those listed in recipes, allspice typically does not have any side effects. However, some people may have an allergic reaction to the spice.

People with gastric ulcers or ulcerative colitis should use caution with eating allspice as it may exacerbate the conditions.

Allspice may interfere with iron and other mineral absorption, so the tea is best sipped between meals.

Ingesting large amounts of ground allspice, berries, or tea could potentially cause stomach upset. In large doses, allspice may also slow blood clotting and should not be used with medications that impact clotting, such as aspirin, Plavix (clopidogrel), heparin, Coumadin (warfarin), Voltaren (diclofenac), Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxe), Fragmin (dalteparin), and Lovenox (enoxaparin).

Topically, allspice essential oil may irritate the skin. Never apply undiluted oil to the skin.

Poisoning Alert

Allspice essential oil should not be ingested unless under the supervision of a health practitioner as it may result in eugenol poisoning. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and slowing of the central nervous system (symptoms of which can include drowsiness, lack of coordination, and others).​

If you plan to use allspice for medicinal purposes, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider first. Mention all medications and supplements you take.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Allspice is found in the spice aisle of the grocery store and is available as dried berries or, more commonly, as a ground powder. Store allspice in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Allspice berries can be ground in a peppercorn grinder or with a mortar and pestle, or used whole in recipes. Substitute six whole allspice berries for 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons of ground allspice; remove and discard berries before serving.

To make allspice tea, steep a 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes and strain. You can drink the tea daily, but limit yourself to one serving a day until you know how it affects your digestive tract.

To make a poultice (plaster for topical application), mix ground allspice with just enough water to make a thick paste. Apply it to the painful area, cover it with a thin piece of gauze (to prevent a mess) and leave it on for about 20 minutes.

Allspice essential oil is available at natural food stores and online. It should be stored in an amber or cobalt bottle in a cooled, dry place.

Allspice oil should not be ingested. When using the essential oil topically, mix 2 to 3 drops with at least 3 tablespoons of a carrier oil (like grapeseed, coconut, or olive oil) and massage it into the treatment area. Wash hands thoroughly afterward and take care to not get any oil in your eyes or mucous membranes.

To use allspice oil aromatically, add it to an essential oil diffuser.

Common Questions

Where did the name allspice come from?
Explorers in the 16th century originally named this spice pimento (Spanish for pepper) because the dried berries are dark brown and wrinkled like peppercorns. The English renamed it allspice because it has hints of pepper, as well as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and juniper.

What do fresh allspice berries look like?
Fresh, ripe allspice berries look more like blueberries and have a rich blue/purple color. However, you're unlikely to find them easily. Allspice tends to lose its flavor quickly, so berries are usually picked when they are still green and then dried.

Is allspice the same as five spice?
No. Five spice is a mixture of star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Allspice is solely composed of the dried berry (in whole or ground form). However, they can be used interchangeably in savory dishes, if needed.

What's a good substitute for allspice in recipes?
If you can't find allspice or simply don't have it handy when you need it, you can make do by mixing equal parts of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. However, this combination will not confer the same health benefits.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend allspice as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using allspice for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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Article Sources
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