Pimento is native to the West Indies, mainly Jamaica and Cuba. The tree can reach up to 10m in height and has an unusual whitish bark, with shiny green, oval leaves. The tree flowers from June-August and the berries these produce are dried before they ripen. Pimento got the name 'allspice' because of its smell, which is a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.
In Jamaica both the ripe and dried pimento berries are used traditionally in healing. The unripe berries are soaked in rum and used with ginger both internally and externally to relieve pains, including stomach aches and menstrual pains. A tea made from the leaves is said to be good for the blood.
Modern Research & Uses
Pimento is still used today in much the same way it has been used traditionally. Identification of the active plant chemicals confirm that pimento is aromatic and carminative and is useful in the treatment of digestive problems, such as diarrhoea and flatulence and as an aid to digestion.
Eugenol, one of the main plant chemicals in both the berries and the oil, has local anaesthetic, analgesic and antiseptic properties. Pimento can stop chills, improve circulation, and is useful for colds, flu and for menstrual pains. Pimento oil, which can be extracted from both the unripe berries and the leaves is used in similar ways to clove oil to treat toothache, rheumatism and muscular pains and is antioxidant.
Unripe pimento berries contain 3-4.5% oil, tannins and alkaloids. Oil made from the unripe pimento berries contains 70% eugenol and oil from the leaves 96% eugenol, cineol, methyleugenol, a-phellandrene, caryophyllene, and cadinols. The leaves also contain lipids, protein, Vitamins A, C and some B vitamins and minerals.
Pimento oil should not be taken internally without professional supervision.