"The nearly ripe fruit of Pimenta officinalis, Lindley"—(U. S. P.). (Eugenia Pimenta De Candolle; Myrtus Pimenta, Linné; Pimenta vulgaris, Wight and Arnott.)
COMMON NAMES: Allspice, Pimenta, Pimento, Jamaica pepper.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 111.
Botanical Source.—This tree, the Eugenia Pimenta of De Candolle, is an evergreen, reaching to the height of 25 feet, or more. The trunk is erect, with many round branches toward the summit; twigs compressed, the younger and the pedicles downy. The leaves are opposite, entire, oblong or oval, with pellucid dots, and somewhat opaque and smooth. The flowers are small, in axillary and terminal, trichotomous panicles; some flowers are fourfid and subsessile in the forks of the panicle. Calyx-tube is nearly globose, the limb being divided down to the ovary into 4 roundish segments. Petals 4, greenish-white. Stamens numerous, distinct; ovary 2-celled. Berry globose, 1-seeded, black, the size of a pea. Embryo roundish, with the cotyledons consolidated (L.).
History.—The allspice, or pimento tree, is a native of South America and the West India Islands, especially Jamaica. The tree completes its growth in about seven years, though fruit may be had from it in its third year; it flourishes best in a limestone soil. The unripe berries are the official part, and are more generally known by the name of Allspice. Other names, as Jamaica pepper, Bayberry, etc., have been given to them. They are gathered just before maturity, thoroughly dried, and then packed for foreign markets. When these trees are in blossom they emit a most delicious fragrance. The pimento tree is not improved by cultivation. After the old groves, or walks, as they are called, are exhausted, a clearing is made in the forest near the old groves, and, through the agency of birds and the winds, seeds are scattered in this open area, and a new grove springs up. When the young trees are two or three years old the weaker ones are cut down. After thus thinning the grove, it requires no further attention. The fruit is gathered in July and August, the young fruit-laden tips of the branches being broken off (which benefits the trees) and thrown upon the ground, where they are stripped of the berries by women and children and placed in bags, carried to a sunny exposure and dried, either by solar or artificial heat, and again bagged for the market. The stems of young pimento trees at one time were exported from Jamaica to England and the United States, to be used for umbrella sticks. They came in bundles, containing from 500 to 800 sticks, each representing a young pimento tree (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1882, p. 11, from Scient. Amer., 1881).
Description.—Pimento, or allspice, also known as Piper Jamaicense, and Semen Amomi, when dried, becomes brownish-black, round, wrinkled, and umbilicate at the apex. Its odor and taste combines that of cinnamon, nutmegs, and cloves; hence its name, allspice. Boiling water takes up the aroma, and alcohol all the active properties. The infusion is brown, and has an acid reaction on litmus paper. The U. S. P. describes pimenta as being "about 5 Mm. (1/5 inch) in diameter, nearly globular, crowned with the short, 4-parted calyx or its remnants, and a short style; brownish or brownish-gray, granular and glandular, 2-celled; each cell containing 1 brown, plano-convex, roundish-reniform seed; odor and taste pungently aromatic, clove-like"—(U. S. P.).
Chemical Composition.—Two-thirds of the fruit consists of the shell, and one-third of the seeds. The berries contain a volatile oil (see Oleum Pimentae), which may be obtained by distillation, a green, soft resin, of a burning aromatic taste, a concrete fatty substance, tannic acid, gum, sugar, malic and gallic acids, etc. (Bonastre). They also contain starch (Braconnot). Dragendorff (1871) found a minute portion of an alkaloid in the fruit. The latter, upon incineration, leaves 6 per cent of ash. W. W. Abell (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1886, p. 163) obtained from the leaves 1/2 per cent of an essential oil bearing a close resemblance to oil of bay (Myrcia acris.. The leaves also contain 0.4 per cent of tannin and 11.25 per cent of ash.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Pimento is a hot, aromatic stimulant, and carminative, and may be used where such agents are indicated. It is seldom employed in medicine, but is used largely as a hot aromatic in cookery; and sometimes it is added to other medicines to render them more agreeable. A tincture has been advised as a local remedy in chilblains. Dose of the powder, from 10 to 30 grains; of the tincture, from 1 to 2 fluid drachms; of the oil, from 2 to 5 drops.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.