If you thought allspice was a premade blend of spices, you’re not alone.

Allspice — also known as Jamaican pepper, pimienta, or newspice — is a single spice with a unique flavor profile described as a blend of up to four different spices, hence the name.

Since it’s a spice, it’s usually consumed in small amounts. However, allspice has also been used in folk medicine due to its potential health benefits (1).

This article explains all you need to know about allspice, including its benefits, potential downsides, and everyday recipes that’ll help you add it to your diet.

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Allspice is the dried, unripe berries of Pimenta dioica, a plant that belongs to the Myrtaceae family (1, 2).

It’s native to Jamaica, the tropical forests of South and Central America, and Southern Mexico, but it’s commercially grown in Honduras, Cuba, and Trinidad as well.

However, the name “allspice” comes from the British, who said that its flavor resembles that of cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg combined (1).

Allspice is produced by picking the berries from the plant’s small flowers and then drying them in the sun until they’re browned. It may be sold both ground or whole.

Today, allspice is mostly used as a seasoning for meats, desserts, and even liqueurs. Nevertheless, it has a history of use as a home remedy for colds, menstrual cramps, indigestion, headache, fatigue, and nasal congestion.

Its essential oil is also used in cosmetic manufacturing, perfumery, and candle making due to its pleasant aroma (1).

Summary

Allspice is the dried berries of the Pimenta dioica plant. Despite being a single spice, it tastes like cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg combined. Allspice is mostly used as a condiment, yet it has multiple uses in folk medicine.

Due to its multiple uses in folk medicine, the compounds in allspice have been studied widely.

Those behind most of allspice’s benefits include (1):

  • Eugenol. Eugenol is derived from phenylpropene. It’s lauded for its potential antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties (3).
  • Quercetin. Quercetin is a type of flavonoid, a potent antioxidant that may fight damaging molecules called free radicals. Its antioxidant capacity may have cancer-fighting properties, and it’s also known for its potential antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects (4).
  • Gallic acid. Gallic acid is yet another powerful antioxidant. As such, it may have cancer-fighting and antiviral effects. It has also been studied for potential protective effects on brain health, especially the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (5, 6).
  • Ericifolin. Ericifolin is a phenolic compound that may have antibacterial and cancer-fighting properties (7).
Summary

Allspice is rich in plant compounds that may have cancer-fighting, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Some of the most important compounds include eugenol, quercetin, gallic acid, and ericifolin.

Allspice is known for its many potential health benefits. Here are some of the most popular ones, which are all backed by science.

Menopause treatment

Menopause is the termination of the menstrual cycle in people ages 45–52.

It’s characterized by hormonal changes, namely a decline in estrogen and progesterone levels, that lead to symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood disorders, and unintentional weight gain (1, 8, 9).

While hormone therapy has traditionally been the primary treatment for menopause symptoms, complementary therapies are becoming more popular, especially herbal remedies (9, 10).

Studies show that allspice extract binds to estrogen receptors. As such, it may trick your body into believing that its estrogen levels are up, thus helping manage symptoms (1, 8).

Cancer-fighting properties

Most of allspice’s beneficial plant compounds have potential cancer-fighting properties.

For instance, test-tube and animal studies show that eugenol, quercetin, gallic acid, and ericifolin may prevent the spread of tumors, decrease tumor growth, and promote apoptosis — the programmed death of cancerous cells (1, 7, 8, 11).

Allspice’s anticancer effects have been studied on breast, prostate, gastric, duodenal, and colon cancers, and interestingly, its effect varies depending on the type of cancer (1, 7, 8, 11, 12).

For example, studies on breast cancer cell lines suggest that allspice extract leads to autophagy. Autophagy is your body’s way of clearing unnecessary or damaged cells, including cancerous cells, by degrading them (12, 13).

Prostate cancer cells also tended to be eliminated through apoptosis, while gastric cancer cell lines were affected by allspice extracts’ ability to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori — a bacterium that’s considered carcinogenic (8, 13).

Nevertheless, keep in mind that while research is promising, studies in humans are lacking. More research is needed.

Antimicrobial and antifungal effects

The eugenol and ericifolin in allspice may also provide antimicrobial and antifungal effects (1).

Research on essential oils extracted from allspice berries shows antifungal properties against Candida albicans, a yeast that’s resistant to certain antifungal drugs (1, 14).

Similarly, the essential oil shows antibacterial properties against E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, S. aureus, and Salmonella. Its effects are mainly attributed to its eugenol content, which may damage bacterial membranes (14).

Other potential benefits

Allspice is a popular home treatment for multiple health conditions, including:

  • Aches and pains. Allspice is used to combat headaches, muscle cramps, and tooth pain. Research suggests that this may be due to its eugenol content, which is an analgesic or pain relief agent commonly used in dentistry. In addition, allspice essential oil may alleviate muscle pain and strains by promoting circulation (1, 11).
  • Anti-inflammatory effects. Allspice may help reduce inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory markers (14).
  • Weight management. Research shows that allspice extract may activate Takeda G protein-coupled receptor 5, a protein responsible for the secretion of hunger-reducing hormones glucagon-like peptide 1 and peptide YY. These hormones help reduce your appetite by increasing feelings of fullness (3, 15).
  • Gas and bloating. The eugenol in allspice may help treat indigestion by stimulating digestive enzymes and inhibiting H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for indigestion. It’s also associated with stomach ulcers (1, 8).
  • Blood sugar management. The eugenol in allspice may protect pancreatic islets — the cells responsible for insulin production — and improve their function, thus helping manage blood sugar levels and early stages of type 2 diabetes (16, 17).
Summary

Allspice may provide numerous health benefits, including complementary menopause therapy, anticancer, antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as blood sugar and weight management.

When used as a spice in small amounts, allspice is considered safe. Nevertheless, older research suggests that people with hand dermatitis may develop allergic reactions when cooking with it (18).

While anecdotal evidence suggests that larger quantities of allspice may trigger potential gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea or vomiting, no evidence backs these claims.

Similarly, drug interactions are not well documented. However, anecdotal evidence indicates a potentially negative effect when large amounts of allspice are consumed while taking blood clotting medication.

Given the lack of human studies on allspice’s health benefits, an appropriate dosage has yet to be determined.

You may find allspice berries — both whole and ground — in your supermarket’s spice aisle. Allspice essential oil is also available at stores and online.

Regardless of its presentation, allspice should be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a kitchen pantry.

Summary

Allspice is considered safe in small amounts. While anecdotal evidence suggests potential side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and drug interactions, when it’s consumed in large amounts, no scientific evidence supports these claims.

Allspice’s unique flavor profile makes it a highly versatile ingredient that provides a warm, peppery flavor to a variety of dishes.

Whole berries can be used in cooking the same way you’d use whole cloves, and ground allspice is mostly used in baking or as a seasoning for meats, poultry, veggies, and stews.

One way to add allspice to your everyday meals is by incorporating it into seafood or fish. Here’s a tasty allspice shrimp stew recipe that could help you get comfortable with adding allspice to your main dish.

Alternatively, if you feel like giving allspice a shot at the end of your meal, try this allspice crumb muffins recipe for a comforting dessert.

As you can see, allspice may be used in almost any dish, making it a great addition to your pantry.

Summary

Allspice is a versatile ingredient that can give almost any dish a warm and peppery flavor, from side dish to dessert.

Allspice is a single spice with a flavor profile that resembles a combination of four different spices: cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This characteristic makes it a versatile ingredient in cooking and baking alike.

Aside from its culinary uses, allspice is popular in folk medicine as a home remedy for multiple ailments, and research backs its beneficial effects against menopausal symptoms, inflammation, fungi, bacteria, and even cancer.

However, most of the research surrounding the beneficial effects of allspice and its plant compounds is based on animal and test-tube studies.

Thus, human studies are still needed to validate its potential benefits and determine its safety as a medicinal spice.