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Pimenta. Allspice. Pimenta officinalis.

Botanical name:

Pimenta. N. F. IV (U. S. VIII). Allspice. Pimento. Semen Amomi. Piper Jamaicense. Pimento. Allspice. Jamaica Pepper. Piment de la Jamaique, Touteepice, Poivre de la Jamaique, Fr. Englisches Gewürz, Neugewürz, Nelkenpfeffer, G. Pimenti, It. Pimienta de la Jamaica, Sp.— "The dried, nearly ripe fruit of Pimenta officinalis Lindley (Fam. Myrtaceae), without the presence of more than 5 per cent. of stems or other foreign matter." N. F.

Pimenta was dropped from the U. S. and Br. Pharmacopoeias but admitted to the National Formulary IV.

The tree yielding pimenta is a native of the West Indies, Mexico, and South America, and is abundant in Jamaica, whence its fruit received the name of Jamaica pepper. The allspice plant is cultivated in Central America and the surrounding countries, but more than half the supply to the United States comes from Jamaica, where the tree is so abundant as to form in the mountainous districts whole forests, and to require no further cultivation than the clearing out of the under-brush. The berries are gathered after having attained their full size, but while yet green, and are carefully dried in the sun. When sufficiently dry, they are put into bags and casks for exportation. The fruits of four other species of the genus Pimenta, found in Venezuela, Guiana, and the West Indies, are employed in their native countries as spices.

It is described by the N. F. as: "Sub-globular, from 4 to 7 mm. in diameter, summits with four calyx teeth forming a minute ring; externally dark brown, somewhat rough and glandular-punctate; pericarp brittle, about 1 mm. in thickness; two-celled and two-seeded; dissepiments thin; seeds plano-convex, slightly reniform, externally reddish-brown, smooth, somewhat wrinkled and shiny. Odor and taste, particularly of the pericarp, aromatic and distinctive. The powder is reddish-brown or dark brown and, when examined under the microscope, shows irregular fragments and numerous starch grains, the latter being either simple or compound, the individual grains spherical, from 0.003 to 0.015 mm. in diameter, plano-convex or polygonal, and frequently with a central circular marking or cleft; stone cells numerous, of tabular, pyriform or variable shape and with thick, porous, and strongly lignified walls, the lumina frequently filled with a yellowish-or reddish-brown amorphous substance, fragments with oil secretion reservoirs containing globules of a yellowish-brown oil; parenchyma cells with reddish-brown tannin masses. Stem fragments very few, and characterized by more or less curved, thick-walled, non-glandular hairs, rosette aggregates of calcium oxalate, from 0.006 to 0.017 mm. in diameter, tracheid-like tissues of the wood and long narrow bast fibers. The yield of crude fiber does not exceed 25 per cent. when estimated as directed in the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. Pimenta yields not more than 6 per cent. of ash." N. F.

The odor of Pimenta berries is thought to resemble that of a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Hence the name of allspice, by which they are best known in this country. They impart their flavor to water, and all their virtues to alcohol. The infusion is of a brown color, and reddens litmus paper.

Pimenta yields a volatile oil by distillation having the sp. gr. of from 1.04 to 1.05 at 15° C. (59° F.). (See Oleum Pimentae.) Bonastre obtained from them a volatile oil, a green fixed oil, a fatty substance in yellowish flakes, tannin, gum, resin, uncrystallizable sugar, coloring matter, malic and gallic acids, saline matters, moisture, and lignin. The green oil has the burning aromatic taste of pimenta, and is supposed to be the acrid principle. Upon this, therefore, together with the volatile oil, the medicinal properties of the berries depend, and, as these two principles exist most largely in the shell or cortical portion, this part is most efficient. According to Bonastre, the shell contains 10 per cent. of the volatile and 8 of the fixed oil, the seeds only 5 per cent. of the former and 2.5 of the latter. Berzelius considered the green fixed oil of Bonastre as a mixture of volatile oil, resin, fixed oil, and perhaps a little chlorophyll. Dragendorff, in 1871, announced the existence of an alkaloid in allspice. It is present in exceedingly small quantity, and has somewhat the odor of coniine. W. W. Abell obtained from 448 Gm. of pimenta leaves one-half of one per cent. of volatile oil resembling oil of bay; he also found tannic acid. (A. J. P., 1886, 163.) A convention of hygienists at Vienna decided that ground allspice should not yield more than 6 per cent. of ash, of which not more than 0.5 per cent. should be soluble in hydrochloric acid.

Pimenta is sometimes adulterated by the larger and less aromatic berries of the Mexican Myrtus Tobasco Mocino.

Uses.—Pimenta is an aromatic spice, used in medicine chiefly as an adjuvant to tonics and purgatives. It is particularly useful in cases attended with much flatulence. It is, however, much more largely employed as a condiment than as a medicine.

It is one of the ingredients in compound tincture of guaiac of the National Formulary IV. Aqua Pimentae Br., 1898, was formerly official—it was a distilled water.

Dose, ten to forty grains (0.65-2.6 Gm.).

Pimento Water (Aqua Pimentae). Eau de piment de la Jamaique, Fr.; Nelkenpfefferwasser, G.—It was prepared by the Br. 1898 as follows; "Pimento, bruised, 8 ounces (Imperial) or 250 grammes; water, 2 gallons (Imp. meas.) or 10 litres. Distil one-half." Br., 1898. Pimento water is an agreeable aromatic water, used as a vehicle.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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