Common name: Nutmeg
Part used: Seed and aril
Habitat and Description: The nutmeg tree is a tropical evergreen tree native to the spice islands of Indonesia but cultivated widely for it's prized culinary use. The tree reaches to 15-20m tall, the flowers are pale, bell shaped and waxy with oval fruits containing both nutmeg (seed) and mace (lacy red aril around the seed). Here we talk exclusively about the nutmeg seed.
Folklore and History:
The tropical tree known as Myristica fragans it is the only plant in the world to produce *two* different spices at once. In this gorgeous photo by Terence Coombes you can see the nutmeg fruit with the seed enclosed in the lacy red aril which is mace. Nutmeg has been at the centre of many scandals and power struggles throughout history including recent scare stories about the hallucinatory effects of nutmeg overdose. Large amounts of nutmeg can cause intoxication, vomiting and hallucination, which may sound fun, but it can cause serious poisoning despite its deliciousness in everyday use.
The first recorded use of nutmeg and mace dates back over 3,500 years and became wildly popular in food and as a protection against plague in Medieval Europe and remains part of our modern kitchen and herbal dispensary.
Nutmeg originates from few small islands in western Indonesia which were once the only place where the precious aromatic nutmeg and clove trees grew. These islands became known as the Spice Islands as colonial business interests shone a fierce light on this region after nutmeg became a famous new spice in the West. In the 16th Century wars raged for these lands and their precious spice commodities, now known as the Spice Wars. In a bid to continue their hold on the global trade of beloved nutmeg, the Dutch government exchanged their island colony of New Amsterdam for the nutmeg rich island of Run, in Indonesia. In a turn of events, nutmeg seeds were sucessfully cultivated in the Caribbean and south Asia (Grenada even displayed nutmeg on its flag briefly), breaking the monopoly on the supply of this precious spice. And new Amsterdam they traded away for the beautiful nutmeg plantation island? It became modern day New York.
Constituents: 10% volatile oil (containing camphene, pinene, thujene, linalool, terpineol, myristicin and
eugenol), fixed oils (lignin, stearin), starch, gum, phenolic compounds
Actions: Strong antioxidant, antibacterial, diaphoretic, simulant to digestion and the brain, anti-inflammatory, sedative, carminative, anti-diarrhoeal, spasmolytic, PFA inhibitor, decreases prostaglandin levels in the colon, inhibits breakdown of elastin in the skin.
Traditional and current uses:
Nutmeg is a potent traditional remedy for calming the body and mind, with thousands of years of traditional use behind it. Medical Herbalists may add carefully measured amounts to bespoke blends for:
- Soothing anxiety, nervous palpitations, stress related headache and neck tension
- Aiding sleep
- Calming the stomach and aiding digestion
- Nausea, vomiting
- Flatulence, colic, diarrhea
- Nervous stomach (especially for children)
- Externally: mixed wwth other anti-inflammatory herbs for joint pain (compress)
- Externally: grated and mixed with coconut oil for haemorrhoids (ointment)
It is important to avoid large doses, but culinary use is fine.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is provided for educational use only, and is not intended as a replacement for the services of a qualified medical herbalist, doctor or licensed health practitioner. The information contained herein is not diagnostic, always consult a medical health professional before embarking on a treatment programme. Urban Fringe Dispensary disclaims any liability, loss, injury or damage incurred as a consequence of the use and application of the advice given herein.