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Allspice

Scientific Name(s): Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.
Common Name(s): Allspice, Clove pepper, Jamaica pepper, Pimenta, Pimento

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jul 8, 2019.

Clinical Overview

Use

Apart from use for spices and fragrance, allspice has been used traditionally for various GI complaints, rheumatism, and neuralgia. Extracts demonstrate antimicrobial properties; however, clinical studies are lacking.

Dosing

There are no clinical applications for P. dioica or clinical evidence to provide dosing recommendations.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

GRAS (generally recognized as safe) when used as food. Ingestion in excess of amounts found in food should be avoided because safety and efficacy are unproven.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Allspice can irritate mucosa. Clinical studies are lacking.

Toxicology

Allspice is not generally associated with toxicity, but eugenol can be toxic in high concentrations. Ingestion of extracts may produce toxicity and affect the CNS.

Scientific Family

  • Myrtaceae (myrtle)

Botany

P. dioica is a sturdy perennial tree that grows to 13 m. It has leathery, oblong leaves and is native to the West Indies, Central America, and Mexico. Dried, full-grown but unripe fruit and leaves are used medicinally. Commercially available allspice powder consists of the whole ground, dried fruit. Synonyms include Pulmonaria officinalis Lindl., Pimenta pimenta (L.) Karst., Pimenta vulgaris Lindl., and Myrtus dioica and Myrtus pimenta. The plant should not be confused with Lippia sidoides, commonly called "alecrim-pimenta" in Brazil.Botelho 2007, Duke 2002, Leung 2003, USDA 2011

History

Allspice is used as a food flavoring, odor reminiscent of a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It has also been used in cosmetics and toothpastes. Allspice has been used medicinally as a tonic, purgative, carminative, and antidiarrheal, as well as for rheumatism, neuralgia, and stomachache.Duke 2002

Chemistry

Allspice berries contain between 1% and 4% of a volatile oil, which contains between 60% and 80% eugenol and eugenol methyl ether (40% to 45%). The leaf oil contains more eugenol (up to 96%) and is similar in composition to clove leaf oil. Allspice oil also contains cineole, levophellandrene, caryophyllene, and palmitic acid. Enzymes released after harvesting appear to be responsible for producing many of the volatile components from chemical precursors. Small amounts of resin, tannic acid, and an acrid fixed oil are present. Other phenolic glycosides and flavonoids have been identified in the berries. Gas chromatography has been used to describe the chemical composition of the essential oil.Duke 2002, Kikuzaki 2008, Leung 2003, Martinez-Velazquez 2011, Padmakumari 2011

Uses and Pharmacology

Any pharmacologic activity associated with the plant is most likely caused by the presence of eugenol; however, clinical studies are lacking.Duke 2002 Antioxidant properties have been described for allspice, but studies evaluating this property in clinical applications are also lacking.Kikuzaki 2008, Padmakumari 2011, Tsai 2007

Antimicrobial effects

Animal data

Allspice essential oil has been evaluated for effect against nematodes and ticks.Martinez-Velazquez 2011, Park 2007 Activity has also been demonstrated against a limited range of bacteria including Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria monocytogenes, with possible applications in the food industry.Du 2009, Du 2009 Activity appears limited against Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli toxin.Masatcioglu 2005, Takemasa 2009

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of allspice for antimicrobial properties.

Other effects

A methanol extract from the plant leaves showed both prohibitory and inhibitory effects on estrogen receptors in vitro, supporting the traditional use of allspice in menopause in Costa Rica.Doyle 2009

An aqueous extract of allspice reduced the growth of prostate cancer cells in a laboratory experiment possibly via androgen receptor activity.Lee 2007, Marzouk 2007

Dosing

The essential oil of allspice has been used at doses of 0.05 to 0.2 mL; however, there is no clinical evidence to support this dosage.Duke 2002 Traditional uses of allspice have reported 5 to 10 mL per 240 mL of water taken 3 times a day.Duke 2002

Pregnancy / Lactation

GRAS when used as food. Avoid ingestion in excess of amounts found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven.FDA 2011

Interactions

None well documented. An in vitro experiment suggests allspice may upregulate cytochrome P450 3A4 activity; however, the relevance of this finding is unknown.Lee 2007

Adverse Reactions

Allspice and extracts of the plant can be irritating to mucous membranes.Duke 2002, Leung 2003

Toxicology

Although allspice has not been generally associated with toxicity, eugenol can be toxic in high concentrations. Ingestion of more than 5 mL of allspice oil may induce nausea, vomiting, CNS depression, and convulsions.Spoerke 1980 When the oil and eugenol were applied to intact, shaved abdominal mouse skin, no percutaneous absorption was observed.Leung 2003

References

Botelho MA, Bezerra Filho JG, Correa LL, et al. Effect of a novel essential oil mouthrinse without alcohol on gingivitis: a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. J Appl Oral Sci. 2007;15(3):175-180.19089126
Doyle BJ, Frasor J, Bellows LE, et al. Estrogenic effects of herbal medicines from Costa Rica used for the management of menopausal symptoms. Menopause. 2009;16(4):748-755.19424091
Du WX, Olsen CW, Avena-Bustillos RJ, McHugh TH, Levin CE, Friedman M. Effects of allspice, cinnamon, and clove bud essential oils in edible apple films on physical properties and antimicrobial activities. J Food Sci. 2009;74(7):M372-M378.19895483
Du WX, Olsen CW, Avena-Bustillos RJ, et al. Antibacterial effects of allspice, garlic, and oregano essential oils in tomato films determined by overlay and vapor-phase methods. J Food Sci. 2009;74(7):M390-M397.19895486
Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Food. Listing of Food Additive Status Part I. US Food and Drug Administration Web site. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/FoodAdditives/FoodAdditiveListings/ucm091048.htm. Last updated June 7, 2011. Accessed October 3, 2011.
Kikuzaki H, Miyajima Y, Nakatani N. Phenolic glycosides from berries of Pimenta dioica. J Nat Prod. 2008;71(5):861-865.18314960
Lee YH, Hong SW, Jun W, et al. Anti-histone acetyltransferase activity from allspice extracts inhibits androgen receptor-dependent prostate cancer cell growth. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007;71(11):2712-2719.17986787
Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience; 2003.
Martinez-Velazquez M, Castillo-Herrera GA, Rosario-Cruz R, et al. Acaricidal effect and chemical composition of essential oils extracted from Cuminum cyminum, Pimenta dioica and Ocimum basilicum against the cattle tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitol Res. 2011;108(2):481-487.20865426
Marzouk MS, Moharram FA, Mohamed MA, Gamal-Eldeen AM, Aboutabl EA. Anticancer and antioxidant tannins from Pimenta dioica leaves. Z Naturforsch C. 2007;62(7-8):526-536.17913067
Masatcioglu TM, Avsar YK. Effects of flavorings, storage conditions, and storage time on survival of Staphylococcus aureus in Sürk cheese. J Food Prot. 2005;68(7):1487-1491.16013393
Padmakumari KP, Sasidharan I, Sreekumar MM. Composition and antioxidant activity of essential oil of pimento (Pimenta dioica (L) Merr.) from Jamaica. Nat Prod Res. 2011;25(2):152-160.21246442
Park IK, Kim J, Lee SG, Shin SC. Nematicidal Activity of Plant Essential Oils and Components From Ajowan (Trachyspermum ammi), Allspice (Pimenta dioica) and Litsea (Litsea cubeba) Essential Oils Against Pine Wood Nematode (Bursaphelenchus Xylophilus). J Nematol. 2007;39(3):275-279.19259498
Pimenta dioica. USDA, NRCS. 2007. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 4 June 2011). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Spoerke DG. Herbal Medications. Santa Barbara, CA: Woodbridge Press: 1980.
Takemasa N, Ohnishi S, Tsuji M, Shikata T, Yokoigawa K. Screening and analysis of spices with ability to suppress verocytotoxin production by Escherichia coli O157. J Food Sci. 2009;74(8):M461-M466.19799674
Tsai PJ, Tsai TH, Yu CH, Ho SC. Evaluation of NO-suppressing activity of several Mediterranean culinary spices. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007;45(3):440-447.17074427

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