Allspice is the dried, unripe berries of the tropical plant Pimenta dioica, which is related to clove. Its fragrance is reminiscent of a combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and black pepper, which inspired its name. Allspice also goes by Jamaican pepper, pimento berry, and newspice.
Allspice is a prominent spice in sweet and savory foods and drinks all over the world. Folk remedies and modern research draw on its therapeutic potential as well.
Allspice owes its distinctive flavor to its aromatic and antioxidant compounds. These constituents help remove cellular waste called free radicals from the body. Scientists have isolated the polyphenols eugenol, quercetin, gallic acid, ericifolin, and pedunculigan from allspice berries and leaves. These components show well-documented antioxidant potential in clinical studies. Their free radical-scavenging activity may help reduce inflammation and DNA damage that contribute to aging and diseases.
Allspice contains powerful components that may help neutralize harmful bacteria and fungi. A 2019 study found that essential oil extracted from allspice berries could kill MRSA, C. albicans, A. baumannii, and P. aeruginosa. These pathogens have shown resistance to commonly used antibiotics and antifungal medications.
Eugenol, the major component in allspice, is likely the source of the spice’s antimicrobial power. Research suggests that this phenolic compound can inhibit the growth of microbes responsible for dental caries and periodontal disease.
Allspice has a long history of promoting cell death in oral and prostate cancers. A 2020 study states that extracts from the berries might be highly effective in targeting a cancer protein known to induce tumor growth.
Allspice demonstrated greater anticancer activity in clinical trials than extracts from mulberry, rosewood, or walnut, other reputed anticancer remedies. Researchers believe that the spice’s anti-infective and anti-inflammation properties can suppress the formation of blood vessels in tumors.
Research indicates that allspice can bring digestive comfort along with its distinctive flavor. A serving of allspice herbal tea may alleviate gastrointestinal issues such as cramps, bloating, and gas.
A 2020 article reports that the berries exhibited “antiulcer and cytoprotective activity” in animal studies. This study also suggested that allspice might help protect the liver in cases of food poisoning.
Menopause marks the end of menstrual cycles in people in their mid-40s to early 50s. A decline in the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone causes mood swings, hot flashes, and weight gain. However, allspice appears to bind to estrogen receptors. This seems to make the body feel as if estrogen levels are back to normal, which alleviates menopausal symptoms.
Studies show that allspice may help people with early-stage or advanced type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. Eugenol enhances the function of the pancreatic islets, the cells that produce insulin. The phenolic compound seems to improve the secretion of insulin and the content of the pancreatic islets.
Whole allspice berries can retain their freshness for up to four years. Ground allspice typically keeps its aroma and flavor for up to two years. Storing the spice in a cool, dark place will help preserve its benefits.
Handle allspice essential oil as any other oil by storing away from light in a dark bottle. This can slow the natural process of oxidation which may make the oil rancid over time.
Whole or ground allspice is readily available in grocery stores and online. Some recipes call for whole berries. while others use the pulverized form. The berries tend to lose some of their aroma and flavor when ground, so many people choose to grind them just before using the spice.
It’s easy to grind allspice berries with a high-speed food processor, spice or coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle. Grind only a few tablespoons at a time, because freshly ground allspice is usually stronger than the prepackaged version. Store any leftover powder in an airtight glass container.
People who are allergic to cloves or similar spices should avoid using allspice. The spices contain some of the same components, which may produce adverse reactions in some individuals.
Allspice essential oil can be irritating, so start with a small amount and mix it with a carrier oil. Check for a reaction before applying more. The oil may be toxic to ingest, so avoid internal use without medical supervision.
Since eugenol may slow blood clotting, individuals on blood-thinning medications should avoid this spice as well.
Many fall delicacies would not be the same without allspice, such as chili, pumpkin pie, and mulled apple cider. This spice is also a must-have in Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisine.
The berries are widely used in pickling brine to enhance the flavor of vegetables and fish. Try some in a homemade jerk seasoning or Swedish meatballs recipe. For an allspice substitute, use clove or combine some cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and black pepper.
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