Notes from the Apothecary

June 1st, 2019

Notes from the Apothecary: Allspice

Allspice is the fruit of pimento dioica, a type of myrtle tree. It was discovered by Columbus on the island of Jamaica, but is also native to many more islands in the Caribbean plus much of central America. P. dioica is now cultivated around the world wherever the climate is warm enough.

Allspice is also known as the Jamaica Pepper, the Myrtle Pepper, or pimenta.

The Kitchen Garden

Growing allspice yourself can be tricky if you don’t live in a climate similar to that of the West Indies. It’s possible to get the tree to grow in cooler climates, but often it will not bear fruit. A solution to this can be to grow the plant indoors, or in a greenhouse.

The allspice tree is dioecious, which means at least two plants are needed for pollination and fertilisation in order to get fruit. The plant can be grown from seeds or cuttings.

The name allspice was first coined by the English in the 1600s, due to the flavour which is reminiscent of a combination of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. Today, allspice is used in a variety of cuisines, from Jamaican, to Greek, to Middle Eastern. A little goes a long way- this berry-like spice has a strong and unique flavour, so use sparingly. Used in sauces, pickles, stews, and in sweet dishes like cakes.

The Apothecary

Allspice has been used historically in Western medicine to help with a range of ailments and complaints. Properties of allspice include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiseptic
  • Anaesthetic (the chemical eugenol is present, used by dentists as local anaesthetic)
  • Carminative
  • Rubefacient
  • Aromatic
  • Antifungal
  • Antimicrobial

This is just scratching the surface of the myriad ways allspice has been used medically throughout the ages.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, allspice is known as Duo Xiang Guo and is used to ease painful menstrual cramps, arthritic joints, digestive problems and nausea.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Unsurprisingly, allspice is associated with fire, most likely due to its spicy and fragrant nature. Cunningham associates the plant with healing, luck and wealth, and suggests burning it as an incense to attract money and good fortune.

Allspice is thought to enhance the mood, so can be used in magic to ward off negativity and improve self-confidence, or simply to raise one’s spirits.

Allspice is associated with chance and gambling, so if you like cards or play the lottery, allspice could give you the edge. Combine it with other financially lucky herbs or spices such as chamomile or nutmeg.

In Mayan culture, allspice was one of the herbs used for embalming the dead. This connection to the dead or the transition to the next world could make allspice a key ingredient for incense when communing with ancestors or others who have passed beyond.

Allspice is generally considered masculine, so may be used in the honouring of fiery, male presenting deities such as Mars, Aries, Horus, or Nergal.

Home and Hearth

In hoodoo, allspice can be used to bring success to a business. Start outside the business premises, with a bucket full of water mixed with a mixture of allspice, saltpetre and sugar. Move the mop across the boundary of the business premises, and go right through the building until you come out the back, if possible. The combination of magical herbs and ingredients will draw money, luck, and protect from mischief.

I Never Knew…

Allspice trees can grow up to 18 metres in height, and are sometimes used to shade and protect coffee plants growing beneath the canopy.

Images: Pimenta Dioica, public domain; Allspice Seeds by Brian hur shared with kind permission under the GNU Free Documentation License.


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

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