This morning a friend posted a picture of pumpkin spice latte, that seasonal drink that so many coffee drinkers crave during the fall months. One of the key components of a pumpkin spice latte – and a pumpkin pie, for that matter – is allspice. And it turns out that besides making these treats smell and taste good, allspice may have some important health benefits.
But first, let’s identify what this spice is. According to the Great American Spice Company, allspice is a highly aromatic dried berry. The name allspice was selected because the flavor resembles a combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. This berry also is referred to as Jamaican Pepper. You can purchase allspice as a berry or in the ground version. The whole berry, which is the fifth pepper that is included in five peppercorn blends, is often used in pickling, meat broths and gravies.
And this spice may be our ally in the battle against cancer. A new study out of the University of Miami created a solution of allspice extract and distilled water which they used on human prostate-cancer cells. Their analysis found that the solution significantly slowed the growth of these cells within a two-day period. Furthermore, the solution destroyed more than 50 percent of the cells. The researchers found that a 10-day treatment protocol using this solution caused a significant interference with the formation of colonies of the prostate-cancer cells.
The researchers also studied four groups of mice over a 42-day period. Three of the groups received implants of the human prostate tumors, while one group served as a control group. The control group drank plain water. One of the mice groups drank the allspice solution. The third group was injected with allspice while the fourth group with the tumors was injected with saline solution. These last two groups received the injections three times a week for six weeks.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that tumor growth was discouraged by 62 percent in mice that consumed allspice orally and 58 percent in the mice that were injected with allspice, as compared with the two other groups. Furthermore, the allspice groups had 58 percent lower levels of prostate-specific antigen, which is a protein that is made by the prostate-cancer cells.
The University of Miami researchers also identified a compound, ericifolin, which is part of allspice extract. This compound suppresses a hormone that is needed to stimulate prostate-cancer growth. The researchers used a concentration of ericifolin in the allspice they gave to the mice that was approximately 10 times greater than the amount in freshly ground allspice. That amount is equivalent to consuming 3-5 grams of whole allspice on a daily basis.
Allspice also offers some other health benefits. For instance, the spice contains eugenol also seems to ease digestive maladies such as nausea, diarrhea, and gas, while also stimulating digestion. Allspice also is believed to numb pain, thus helping to ease arthritis and sore muscles when used as bath oil or applied to the skin in a poultice. Allspice oil also has been found to kill salmonella enteriac, Escherichia coli and listeria monocytoges, which are disease-causing germs that are sometimes found on food. Allspice’s essential oil also helps protect foods from being contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. Allspice also has been used to treat bacterial and fungal infections, coughs, chills, bronchitis and depression. Applying allspice oil to the skin also warms the skin by expanding the blood vessels, thus increasing the flow of blood to the skin.