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Pimento

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.

Traditional Uses

Pimento

Scientific Name:
(Pimenta dioica - Myrataceae)
Other Names:
Allspice, Jamaican Pepper, Myrtle Pepper
Parts Used:
Leaves, Berries (ripe and dried), Oil

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.

Plant Chemicals

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.

Other Uses

Pimento
Pimento is mainly used as spice and was particularly important pre-refrigeration, when it was a key ingredient in preparations to preserve meats and vegetables. Pimento is still widely used in the in the food industry where it adds flavour to well known sauces and condiments. A liquor from the ripe berries is still made in Jamaica.

Caution!
Pimento oil should not be taken internally without professional supervision.
 

References

  • Asprey, GF & Thornton, P - Medicinal Plants of Jamaica Parts 1-4 - West Indian Journal of Medicine vol. 2-4 (1953-1955)
  • Ayensu, ES – Medicinal Plants of the West Indies – (1981) – Reference Publications Inc.
  • Brown, D - The RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses - (1995) - BCA
  • Chevalier, A - Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine - (1996/2000) - Dorling Kindersley
  • Honeychurch, PN Caribbean wild plants & their uses - (1986) - Macmillan Caribbean
  • Mitchell & Ahmad - A Review of Medicinal Plant Research at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica 1948-2001 - WI Med J (2006);55(4):243
  • Robertson, D - Jamaican Herbs: Nutritional & Medicinal Values - (1982) - Jamaican Herbs Ltd
  • Wren, RC - Potters New Encyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs & Preparations -(1998) - CW Daniel Company Ltd.