Spice essential oils are warming for the winter months. Essential oils such as ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon are commonly used for Holiday and winter blends but there are some “lesser-known” spice essential oils, too. Here’s a quick look at three spice essential oils that might not be as familiar as others.
Anise Star Essential Oil
Anise star (Illicium verum), also known as star anise, is becoming more popular in aromatherapy use. Anise star is an evergreen tree that is native to south-east China and Vietnam. It is the star-shaped fruit that the tree bears which gives the plant its common English name. The fruits are extracted by steam distillation to produce a spicy, aniseed-like essential oil.
Star anise has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, in particular for digestive and respiratory problems. It is also a popular ingredient for perfumers. Aromatherapists use star anise essential oil for problems such as muscle pain, indigestion, colds, and rheumatism.
Do not use star anise essential oil in pregnancy, or in large doses.
Cubeb Essential Oil
Cubeb (Piper cubeba) belongs to the same plant family as black pepper (Piper nigrum), that of Piperaceae. Therefore, it is similar in plant characteristics to the black pepper plant: an evergreen, climbing vine with heart-shaped leaves. The unripe fruits of the cubeb plant are steam distilled to produce a warm, woody, spicy essential oil with a hint of camphoraceous aroma.
Cubeb has traditionally been used as a domestic spice, like its close relative black pepper. As with many spice essential oils, cubeb essential oil is used in aromatherapy practice for respiratory and digestive complaints.
Allspice Essential Oil
Allspice (Pimenta officinalis), also known as pimento berry, belongs to the Myrtaceae plant family and is related to myrtle (Myrtus communis) and the eucalytpus spp.. Pimento (berry) is an evergreen tree that is native to the West Indies (Caribbean islands) and possibly central/south America; female trees bear berries from which the essential oil is distilled.
The name pimento is derived from the Spanish word pimienta, meaning pepper or peppercorn; the alternative English name of allspice refers to the aroma of the berries, reminiscent of cinnamon, pepper, clove, (juniper berries) and nutmeg – essentially “one spice.”
Allspice is also traditionally used as a domestic spice. Therapeutic properties for aromatherapy use include as an analgesic, muscle relaxant, carminative, and for various digestive complaints.
Use allspice essential oil in low dilutions as the chemical component eugenol may irritate the mucous membranes and cause skin irritation.
Learn More About Essential Oils with Sedona Aromatherapie
If you would like to study essential oils in aromatherapy practice and use in bath and body products, consider one of the Sedona Aromatherapie home study courses. Visit the courses home page to learn more.
Lawless, Julia, 1999, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons
The University of the West Indies website, Department of Chemistry, Jamaican Pimento, accessed January 26, 2014
Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, accredited aromatherapy educator, and aromatherapy business owner.