Since it has the name “allspice”, you could easily mistake this spicy essential oil for a blend of different oils. In reality, it’s a single essential oil – from the pimento (also known as the Jamaica pepper – Pimenta Officinalis). The plant gained the name “allspice” because its fruit tastes like a combination of cloves, juniper berries, cinnamon and pepper. (The high content of eugenol accounts for much of this similarity.)
The plant is indigenous to the West Indian Islands and South America, and extensively grown in Jamaica, where entire forests of allspice/Jamaica pepper grow wild. It is also grown as a cultivated crop in Central America. Interestingly enough, allspice berries will only germinate once they have passed through the digestive systems of the birds who commonly eat them; it is unknown whether this is due to acidity, warmth or other reasons. Experiments attempting to germinate the seeds using constituents of the bird droppings alone were unsuccessful.
The unripe berries of the trees are gathered in July and August (before ripening causes them to lose their flavor) and then air dried or oven dried for a couple of days to remove moisture before being packed up for export. The chief use of the allspice berry is as a condiment and spice. The berries are sold for use as a cooking spice, in barbecue sauce, in mulled wine and sausages, and they are also added to curry powder. They play a prominent role in Caribbean cuisine.
The essential oil is steam distilled from the berries, flowers and/or leaves. It is very strong, and has a high eugenol content. It should be used with caution on the skin, as it may irritate both skin and mucus membranes. Tisserand and Young recommend a maximum usage of 0.15% in applications that come in contact with the skin. Their safety profile indicates that allspice essential oil may interfere with blood clotting as well.
Like ginger, allspice is a very warming oil. It blends well with frankincense, bergamot, lavender, neroli, geranium, ylang ylang, ginger, lemon, and sweet orange essential oils.
* Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014), 393.