Scientific Name(s): Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.
Common Name(s): Allspice, Clove pepper, Jamaica pepper, Newspice, Pimenta, Pimento
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 3, 2022.
Apart from use for spices and fragrance, allspice has been evaluated in in vitro studies for its antimicrobial, cytotoxic, and women’s health effects. However, clinical studies are lacking.
There are no clinical applications for P. dioica or clinical evidence to provide dosing recommendations.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
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.
None well documented.
Allspice can irritate mucosa. Clinical studies are lacking.
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.
- Myrtaceae (myrtle)
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. It is commercially grown in Mexico, Honduras, Trinidad, Cuba, and Jamaica. Jamaica is the world's largest producer of allspice, producing a product with a higher level of essential oils, making it more flavorful. Small, white flowers grow on the tree during the summer and produce berries. The berries are generally picked when they are green. When they are dried, they turn brown, becoming what is known as allspice. 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 2022, Zhang 2012)
Allspice is used as a food flavoring in pastries, pies, cakes, and gingerbread, as well as in jerk seasoning, mole sauces, and pickling. It has also been used in cosmetics, toothpastes, candles, and perfumes. Allspice has been used medicinally in Jamaica for colds, dysmenorrhea, and dyspepsia; in Costa Rica for dyspepsia and diabetes; in Guatemala for bruising, joint pain, and myalgias; and in Cuba for indigestion. It has also been used as a tonic, purgative, carminative, and antidiarrheal, as well as for rheumatism and neuralgia. Allspice was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his discovery of the Caribbean Islands and the New World and was later introduced to Europe following his exploration. He gave it the name of Jamaican pepper and the genus name of Pimenta, which comes from the Spanish word for peppercorn, pimiento. The selection of dioica denotes that male and female flowers grow on different plants. The name "allspice" was given by the British to describe the mixed aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper.(Duke 2002, Zhang 2012)
Most chemical extractions have been reported with leaves and berries from P. dioica. The most common components that have been investigated include polyphenols, lignins, and terpenoids.
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, Zhang 2012)
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, especially from compounds like eugenol, quercetin, and gallic acid, but studies evaluating this property in clinical applications are also lacking.(Kikuzaki 2008, Padmakumari 2011, Tsai 2007, Zhang 2012)
Animal and in vitro 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) P. dioica exerted antimicrobial effects against multidrug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii wound infections in a murine model.(Ismail 2020) Additionally, an essential oil extracted from P. dioica exerted activity against A. baumannii, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Candida albicans.(Lorenzo-Leal 2019)
In a rat model, rutin, chlorogenic acid, and gallic acid isolated from P. dioicashowed activity against SAR-CoV-2, and ferulic acid and rutin demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity. Further studies are needed.(El Gizawy 2021)
In vitro data
Extracts of P. dioica exerted cytotoxic effects in various lines of breast, cervical, hepatic, and gastric cancer cells.(Doyle 2018, Youssef 2021) An aqueous extract of P. dioica inhibited tumor cell proliferation and colony formation in prostate cancer cells. Specifically, it blocked cell cycle progression and induced apoptosis. It also attenuated androgen receptor (AR) activity in prostate cancer cells that were AR-positive. The majority of these effects were attributed to the bioactive compound, ericifolin, from the aqueous extract.(Shamaladevi 2013)
Women's health effects
In vitro data
A methanol extract from the plant leaves showed prohibitory and inhibitory effects on estrogen receptors in vitro, supporting the traditional use of allspice in menopause in Costa Rica.(Doyle 2009, Doyle 2018)
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
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
Allspice and extracts of the plant can be irritating to mucous membranes.Duke 2002, Leung 2003
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
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