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Notes from the Apothecary

June, 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 Arthur 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