Allspice

General Information

Allspice comes from a tree in the myrtle family that grows in Central and South America. It is an evergreen that grows to about 30 feet (9 meters) tall and its glossy, aromatic green leaves reach about 6 inches in length. The plant produces small white flowers, and later, the berries grow in clumps, green at first, then purplish-red.

The finest allspice is grown in Jamaica, but it also grows in several other Central American states, including Mexico and Honduras.

Varieties: Pimenta dioicaPimento officinalis, or Eugenia Pimenta

History and Folklore

Allspice was used by the Mayans as an embalming agent and by other native South Americans to flavor chocolate. The Arawaks used allspice to help cure and preserve meats. In the Arawak tongue, meat cured this way was known as boucans. Later settlers who cured meat this way became known as buccaneers, which eventually came to be the word ‘buccaneers’.

Allspice was one of the many things discovered by Spanish explorers when they landed in the West Indies. They thought it looked like black peppercorns, so they named it Jamaican Pepper or Pimento, from the Spanish word “Pimenta” which means pepper, hence the use of these words in allspice’s scientific names.

The English named it “Allspice” because it is said to have the aroma of many spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, and juniper berries. There were several attempts to grow allspice in Europe, but the transplanted trees never produced much fruit.

Propagation

You can only grow allspice in tropical areas.

Trees must be planted at least 30 feet apart (10 meters) to allow for a full canopy spread. There must be male and female tress for cross-pollination. Only female trees set fruit.

The tree begins to fruit at about three years of age. Flowers appear in June, July, and August, and the berries appear shortly thereafter.

Once the berries have attained their full size but are still unripe and green, they are harvested by breaking off small branches bearing clumps of berries. It is important to harvest them while they are still green because once they ripen, much of their aroma evaporates. They are then dried in the sun or in ovens until they turn a dark reddish-brown.

The leaves of the male plant can also be harvested and used, but the berries have a stronger concentration of essential oil and are thus much more fragrant.

Don’t despair if you don’t live in a tropical area. Allspice can be purchased at most major grocery stores and an even greater variety of preparations can be purchased online.

Magical Attributes of Allspice

Allspice is associated with the element of fire and the planet Mars. It is masculine in nature, very manly. Use to honor very virile and powerful male archetypes.

Allspice is very uplifting and increases energy and determination, making it useful in many different types of spells, especially healing spells.

The dried berries, oil, or allspice incense can be burned to aid in spells for attracting money and/or luck. The berries can also be added to sachets for attracting the same.

Allspice is useful in all healing mixtures.

Household Uses of Allspice

Allspice is very fragrant and can be used for perfuming soaps. It is frequently used in men’s toiletries.

Healing Attributes of Allspice

Allspice can be used in a paste to soothe toothache (much like cloves) and a mouthwash to freshen breath. It stimulates the gastro-intestinal tract, so it can be used in teas to encourage the appetite or aid in digestion. Allspice can also be added to tonics and purgatives. Two or three drops of the essential oil with some sugar has been used to cure flatulence.

Allspice is also listed as a rubefacient, which means that it increases circulation to the skin, so it can be used in treating acne and cold limbs. Allspice contains tannins, which provide a mild anesthetic making it useful for the treatment of arthritis and sore muscles either in a soak or a poultice.

Culinary Uses of Allspice

The ground, dried berry is very aromatic and has a robust, peppery taste. It is a popular component of jerk seasoning in Caribbean cooking. It is also very popular in English cooking and is often added to stews and sauces and used in pickling vegetables. Allspice can be used as a substitute for cinnamonnutmeg, or cloves.

In the countries where allspice originates, the leaves are also used in cooking or smoking meat and are known as ‘west Indian bay leaf’, though it doesn’t taste much like the other sort of bay leaf. The essential oil (West Indian Bay Oil) is also used in sausages.

5 thoughts on “Allspice

  • May 21, 2021 at 4:45 pm
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    Can a wand be made from its wood?

    Reply
    • September 8, 2021 at 12:49 pm
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      If you can get ahold of a suitably sized piece, I don’t see why not.

      Reply
  • December 1, 2021 at 2:11 am
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    I am a little disturbed by the insert about the Arawak using Allspice to cure the meat of their fallen enemies. I have spent a large part of my day, hunting down sources about cannibalism in Caribbean Island Natives that did NOT come from European sources. I have reached out to some friends of mine who have ties to Caribbean Island Natives still living today for their perspective. I am still waiting on their response.
    While it is possible that they could have participated in cannibalism, I think context is really important. Some South American Indigenous people did participate in what is called Endocannibalism: they ate the flesh of their dead village members and family: a custom that was believed showed kinship and respect to the recently deceased. I think it is possible they would have ate the flesh of their fallen enemies, but I am leery of jumping to such conclusions when historically colonizers have made such claims as a way of encouraging the further genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas. I also think it is a little odd to mention such a thing when the focus of the article is an herb and not a detailed description of Caribbean Island/Central/South American Indigenous customs pre-European contact.

    Reply
    • January 5, 2022 at 3:19 pm
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      Thank you for pointing that out. Upon review of this article, I find that there are a few very specific inclusions in this article that I, myself, would like more context for as well. I personally prefer to have more references for articles and this one does not have any (!) so it is definitely going on the list for review.

      There are many spiritual and cultural contexts for cannibalism and it is also true that colonizers and, indeed, many groups throughout history used the charge of cannibalism to demonize others. So, whether or not it is true that they cannibalized their enemies or their friends, more depth is indeed needed before that little tidbit is included. I would be interested in hearing what you find out from your sources.

      Reply
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