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Nutmeg, popularly known as Jaiphal, is the seed of several species of Myristica fragrans. The tree is majorly cultivated for two spices which are extracted from its fruits, i.e. mace and nutmeg. The seed of the fragrant nutmeg tree is ground to powder to create the spice called nutmeg.  The nutmeg tree produces yields thrice in a season. After harvesting, the kernel is sun-dried for several weeks. After it is dried completely, the shells are opened to remove the nutmeg skin.

The spice has a sweet taste and a peculiar pungent fragrance. It is a widely popular spice and is famous for its usage in baked goods, puddings, beverages, vegetables, meat and potatoes. The essential oils derived from leaves and barks of the tree and nutmeg butter are also widely used. The essential oils from nutmeg are used in the cosmetic industry, in toothpaste and also are used as an ingredient in some cough syrups. On the other hand, nutmeg butter is used as an industrial lubricant and as a substitute for cocoa butter.

The tree of nutmeg is an evergreen and native to the Moluccas or the Spice Islands of Indonesia. In India nutmeg is grown in certain areas in southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also known as Malabar region in ancient times. Apart from Indonesia and India, nutmeg is also grown in many tropical regions that include China, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Caribbean Islands, Sri Lanka and South America. 

About three-quarters of overall nutmeg produced in the world come from Indonesia making it the largest producer of nutmeg in the world. Did you know that the national flag of Grenada which was adopted in 1974 shows an open nutmeg fruit? Also, the nickname for Connecticut is "The Nutmeg State" or "Nutmegger" based on the belief that the traders there extracted nutmeg from wood.

Nutmeg is considered as one of the treasures of Mother Nature.  It is an exotic spice and can take the dish to a whole new level by adding just a pinch of it. Apart from this, nutmeg has various other benefits for health, skin and is known for its medicinal properties. Indian Vedic literature recommends nutmeg for bad breath, headaches and fever. Arabian literature mentioned its use as an aphrodisiac and a stomach medicine. Nutmeg is also believed to boost immunity and keep infections away. It is also good for nerve and blood vessel health.

Some basic facts about Nutmeg tree

  • Botanical Name: Myristica fragrans
  • Family: Myristicaceae
  • Sanskrit Name: Jatiphala
  • Parts used: Fruits, seeds
  • Native Region: Nutmegs originated in the Indonesian rainforest. It is also produced in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Caribbean Islands, etc. 
  1. Nutritional facts for Nutmeg (Jaiphal)
  2. Health benefits of nutmeg
  3. Use of nutmeg as a spice
  4. Dosage
  5. Side effects of nutmeg
  6. Takeaway

Nutmeg contains various other nutrients important for human body like Manganese which helps in forming tissues, bones and hormones; Copper and Magnesium which help in repairing cells and reducing oxidative stress. It also contains vitamin A, B and C along with antioxidants.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of nutmeg contains the following values.

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Energy 525  Kcal
Water 6.23 g
Carbohydrate 49.29 g
Protein 5.84 g
Fats 36.31 g
Fibre 20.8 g
Sugar 2.99 g
Minerals Value per 100g
Calcium 184 mg
Iron 3.04 mg
Magnesium 183 mg
Phosphorus 213 mg
Potassium 350 mg
Sodium 16 mg
Zinc 2.15 mg
Vitamins Value per 100g
Vitamin A 5 µg
Vitamin B1 0.346 mg
Vitamin B2 0.057 mg
Vitamin B3 1.299 mg
Vitamin B6 0.160 mg
Vitamin B9 76 µg
Vitamin C 3 mg
Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Total saturated 25.940 g
Total monounsaturated 3.220 g
Total polyunsaturated 0.350 g

Nutmeg has been traditionally used in Asia, Africa and other countries for its health benefits. The current trend of looking for natural supplements has initiated research in this spice as well. However, as with many other natural spices and herbs, the studies on nutmeg are not substantial. Traditionally, it has been used for stomach ailments and also to control blood pressure. It is also believed to be effective against cold, infections, pain and inflammation.

Being a super food which is able to do so much good to the human body, it contains zero cholesterol. Owing to the presence of healthy minerals and vitamins, consuming little quantity nutmeg regularly can help keep diseases at bay. The various health benefits of nutmeg have been discussed below. 

Nutmeg for the brain

Consumption of nutmeg can be beneficial for the brain as it is aids brain stimulation. The essential oils present in nutmeg help in combating fatigue and stress thus, fuelling mental activities. Consumption of nutmeg has been suggested to improve blood circulation in the brain which improves concentration and data assimilation ability and improves memory. Myristicin, a compound found in nutmeg has been shown to inhibit an enzyme in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease and is used to improve memory

Nutmeg for pain relief

The essential oils present in nutmeg are found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can be used to relieve pain. Traditionally, nutmeg oil has been used to massage joints and muscle pains to alleviate pain. The phytosterols present in nutmeg help to reduce inflammation. It also helps to reduce inflammation of the joints and relieve rheumatic pains. According to a study conducted, chloroform extract of nutmeg that possesses anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties was effective in relieving inflammation and swelling in patients with rheumatic pain.

Nutmeg for toothache

The essential oils in nutmeg are effective in relieving toothache due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, nutmeg essential oil is also anti-bacterial in nature. This property of nutmeg is believed to relieve a toothache and preventing tooth decay. Application of nutmeg oil is also found to be very effective against bad breath. The bioactive compound, eugenol found in nutmeg has been found to contribute to its toothache relieving property.

Nutmeg for digestion

Nutmeg is a wonder spice when it comes to aiding in digestion. It is rich in fibre content. This makes nutmeg an excellent remedy for curing digestive disorders such as constipation. Nutmeg has also been found to be effective against flatulence, diarrhoea and other stomach ailments. It helps to improve digestion and appetite as well. Drops of nutmeg oil can also be mixed with honey to treat nausea, gastroenteritis, and indigestion. Nutmeg has also been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to cure gastrointestinal diseases.

Nutmeg for blood pressure

Another nutrient abundantly present in nutmeg is copper which helps in balancing blood pressure in the human body and also helps in maintaining the heart rate. Nutmeg also hosts another important nutrient, potassium. Potassium helps in lowering the strain on the cardiovascular system. It acts as a vasodilator that can relax the blood vessels and in turn, reduces the blood pressure. Thus, the inclusion of nutmeg in an everyday diet can help in regulating blood pressure.

Nutmeg for the skin and hair

What can be better than to achieve a beautiful skin at home with simple home remedies? The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of nutmeg make it a simple yet great ingredient for skin care. It can be used to treat acne and open pores. Equal quantities of black pepper and nutmeg can be ground together and applied as a paste to get rid of pimples. It can reduce the problem of blackheads, which are difficult to manage. It can also reduce wrinkles and fine lines due to its analgesic and antibacterial properties. Essential oils in nutmeg are also found to be effective for healthy hair due to their specific activity against lice.

Nutmeg as an antioxidant

Antioxidants are important for the body to make its functions smooth, nutmegs contain Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to boost the immune system is abundantly present in nutmeg. The formation of free radicals can be prevented by the antioxidants present in nutmeg, which can otherwise trigger severe reactions in the body. Nutmeg, has thus, been used in ancient treatments due to its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Nutmeg for a healthy heart

Nutmeg contains the compound eugenol, which has several beneficial effects on the heart. Consumption of nutmeg is suggested to improve blood lipids and reduce oxidative stress. According to a recent study, it was found that the consumption of nutmeg reduced the levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol.

(Read more: High cholesterol symptoms)

Nutmeg for cancer

The bioactive compounds called phytosterols protect against colon cancer by slowing down the reproduction of cells in the large intestine. This compound has been found to be present in sufficient quantities in nutmeg. Also, myristicin, a food flavouring active compound in nutmeg is found to have chemoprotective properties. However, in vivo, clinical trials are required to establish this property of nutmeg. 

Nutmeg for insomnia

Nutmeg contains magnesium in large quantities, the mineral is essential to control stress and anxiety in the body and is responsible for releasing serotonin that relaxes and sedates the body and mind. It can be added in your tea, coffee or herbal tea, A few seeds of nutmeg can also be sprinkled in desserts to help induce sleep.

Nutmeg is an immensely delicious yet rare spice. As it grows only in tropical regions, its production is limited. The popularity of nutmeg is due to its aroma and taste. It has a sweet but slightly bitter flavour which adds a distinct taste to the vegetables. It is popularly used in vegetables, puddings and stews in Italy and the Netherlands. It is also widely used in many sweet dishes like kheer, Puran poli etc. It also has been equally used in savoury dishes like potatoes, meats etc. It is one of the key ingredients of the béchamel sauce. 

There is no recommended dosage for consuming nutmeg. A pinch is added to various preparations to enhance flavour and taste. Care should, however, be taken to avoid consumption in excess. 

Anything taken in excess may prove to be harmful to the body, for each body reacts differently to each product and can be allergic to any given item. It is best advised to consume anything with the prescription and permission of a doctor so as to lower the risk of any kind of health-related problems in the future. Even after being such a useful and amazing product, nutmeg may cause some problems if taken in excessive quantities. Such side effects of nutmeg have been discussed in detail below. 

  • Nutmeg is found to have intoxicating effects on humans. Overconsumption of nutmeg may sometimes cause delirium
  • Nutmeg may also cause a dry throat and excessive sweating in some people.
  • Myristicin is one of the most active components in nutmeg. However, an excessive amount of myristicin may result in death. In the decade from 1998 to 2008, seventeen nutmeg poisoning cases were reported to Texas Poison Center Network.
  • Nutmeg can also cause heart problems in people with a heart ailment. Consumption of a high dosage of the spice may lead to irregular rhythms of the heart.
  • The antigens present in nutmeg can be a cause of asthma, they may prove allergic to some extent as well. They may also cause allergy in lungs.

As per the popular belief, no food is a perfect food and too much of anything has side-effects, and so does nutmeg. So, consume this in moderation to reap the full potential of a nutmeg.

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References

  1. Agbogidi, Azagbaekwe. health and nutritional benefits of nut meg (mystica fragrans houtt.) . Sci. Agri. 1 (2), 2013: 40-44
  2. Olajide OA et al. Biological effects of Myristica fragrans (nutmeg) extract. Phytother Res. 1999 Jun;13(4):344-5. PMID: 10404545
  3. Ehab A. Abourashed, Abir T. El-Alfy. Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of the secondary metabolites of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.) . Phytochem Rev. 2016 Dec; 15(6): 1035–1056. PMID: 28082856
  4. Jamie E. Ehrenpreis et al. Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001–2011 . J Med Toxicol. 2014 Jun; 10(2): 148–151. PMID: 24452991
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  6. U. S Food and Drug Association. [Internet]. Whole and Ground Nutmeg - Adulteration with Insect Filth; Mold; Rodent Filth
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