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Definition: allspice from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1621) 1 : the berry of a West Indian tree (Pimenta dioica) of the myrtle family; also : the allspice tree 2 : a mildly pungent and aromatic spice prepared from dried allspice berries

Summary Article: ALLSPICE
from Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics

Source: Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr. (syn. P. officinalis Lindl.; Eugenia Pimenta DC.) (Family Myrtaceae).

Common/vernacular names: Allspice, Jamaica pepper, pimenta, and pimento.


Pimenta dioica, the source of allspice, is a neotropical tree 8-20 m high, with opposite, leathery, oblong leaves 5-15 cm long; fruit globose, about 6 mm in diameter; native to the West Indies, Central America, and Mexico. Part used is the dried, full-grown but unripe fruit; leaves are also used. Major producers include Jamaica and Cuba; also grown in India.1

West Indian allspice berries are smaller than Central American and Mexican berries, but they have stronger and smoother flavor. The relatively harsher flavor and aroma of Central American and Mexican berries are due to their relatively high content of monoterpene hydrocarbons, especially myrcene, in their essential oil.2


Allspice contains about 4% volatile oil, which is rather stable compared with those of tarragon and black pepper.3 However, there is evidence that storage of the undried berries under conditions that prevent rapid removal of moisture can increase the volatile oil content by up to 50%; it appears that enzymes released in the fruit after harvest are responsible for producing volatile components from their precursors.4 The major component of the volatile oil (known as pimenta, pimento, or allspice oil) is eugenol, present at 60-80%. Other constituents include methyleugenol, 1, 8-cineole, L-α-phellandrene, caryophyllene, epimeric 10-cadinols (2%),5 β-phellandrene, camphene, and guaiene.6 Total identified constituents number more than three dozen.5,7

Other constituents of the berries include pimentol, gallic acid, galloylglucosides,8 phenylpropanoids, vanillin,9 quercetin glycosides,10 catechins, proanthocyanidins,11 protein, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins (A, C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin), and minerals.12

The leaf oil (pimenta leaf oil) contains more eugenol (up to 96%) than the berry oil and is similar in composition to clove leaf oil.13,14 Annual leaf oil production exceeds that of the oil of the berries.


Eugenol, the major component of both all spice berry and leaf oils, has local antiseptic and anesthetic properties. It is considered anticon-vulsant, antimitotic, antioxidant, and spasmolytic. Eugenol has shown central nervous system a depressant activity and inhibits prostaglandin synthesis in human colonic muscoa (HARBOURNE AND BAXTER). Oral administration of an aqueous suspension of allspice to rats and mice produced anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiulcerogenic, analgesic activities and on ex vivo gastric mucosa, a protective effect.15

When pimento oil and eugenol were applied on intact shaved abdominal skin of the mouse, no percutaneous absorption was observed.16

Eugenol, aqueous extracts of allspice, and allspice oil, along with numerous other spices and their volatile oils, have been demonstrated to enhance trypsin activity;17 they also exhibit larvicidal properties.18


Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Cosmetic. Allspice oil has been used medicinally as an aromatic carminative at dose of 0.05-0.2 mL. It is also used in cosmetics as an ingredient in fragrance formulations, for spicy, clovelike notes. Eugenol is used as a dental antiseptic and anesthetic.

Food. Allspice, its oil, and its oleoresin (less so) are currently extensively used in food products, including alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and puddings, meat and meat products, condiments and relishes, and others. The leaf oil is also used for flavoring in food products. The highest average maximum use level of the berry oil is in candy (ca. 0.025%).

Traditional Medicine. Formerly, the berries were used as an appetite stimulant, for stomachache, and for painful menstruation; leaves used for pain, fever, cold remedy, toothache, anodyne, astringent, and carminative. In Jamaica, the fruit is used to treat influenza and stomachache; used in Guatemala to treat rheumatism. In the Dominican Republic, the fruits, decocted with salt, are also used as an antiemetic (weniger and robineau). Other uses in Middle Eastern, South American, and Asian countries include the treatment of obesity, hyperglycemia, menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, digestive ailments, inflammatory conditions, and high blood pressure.15

Others. Solvent extracts of allspice have shown potent in vitro antioxidant activity9,19 and antimutagenic activity.19 Radical scavenging activity was found from various constituents of the berries including gallic acid, galloylglucosides,8 phenylpropanoids, eugenol, and vanillin.9 A fluid extract of the berries has shown in vitro antibacterial and antifungal activities.20


Crude, oleoresin, berry, and leaf oils. Allspice and allspice oil were formerly official in N.F.; allspice oil and pimenta leaf oil are official in F.C.C.

Regulatory Status. Herb as natural flavoring or spice (§182.10) and essential oil, natural extractive, and solvent-free oleoresin are GRAS for use in foods (§182.20).



  • 1. Ilyas, M., Econ. Bot., 30, 273 (1976).
  • 2. Green, C. L. and Espinosa, F., Dev. Food Sei., 18, 3 (1988).
  • 3. Chinenova, E. G. et al., Konserv. Ovoshchesush. Prom., 24, 31 (1969).
  • 4. Ashurst, P. R., An. Acad. Bras. Cienc., 44 (Suppl.), 198 (1972).
  • 5. Hogg, J. W. et al., Am. Perfum. Cosmet., 86, 33 (1971).
  • 6. Pino, J. et al., Nahrung, 33, 717 (1989).
  • 7. Nabney, J. and Robinson, F. V., Flav. Ind., 3, 50 (1972).
  • 8. Kikuzaki, H. et al., J. Nat. Prod., 63, 749 (2000).
  • 9. Kikuzaki, H. et al., Phytochemistry, 52, 1307 (1999).
  • 10. Voesgen, B. et al., Lebensm, Z.. Unters. Forsch., 170, 204 (1980).
  • 11. Schulz, J. M. and Herrmann, K., Z. Lebensm. Unters. Forsch., 171, 278 (1980).
  • 12. Teotia, M. et al., Indian Food Packer, 41 (5), 49 (1987).
  • 13. Calderon Gomez, E. et al., Rev. Colomb. Cienc. Quim. Farm., 2, 37 (1974).
  • 14. Veek, M. E. and Russell, G. F., J. Food Sei., 38, 1028 (1973).
  • 15. Al-Rehaily, A. J. et al., Pharm. Biol., 40, 200 (2002).
  • 16. Meyer, F. and Meyer, E., Arzneim.-Forsch., 9, 516 (1959).
  • 17. Kato, Y., Koryo, 113, 17, 24 (1975).
  • 18. Oishi, K. et al., Nippon Suisan Gakkaishi, 40, 1241 (1974).
  • 19. Ramos, A. et al., J. Ethnopharmacol., 87, 241 (2003).
  • 20. Rodriguez, M. et al., Alimentaria, 34, 107 (1996).
Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

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