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Medicinal Herb: Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Content provided on this page is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. Information on this page should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. The claims made about specific products throughout this article are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


Nutmeg is a tropical evergreen tree native to Indonesia and cultivated in the West Indies, South Africa, the Molucca Islands, India and other tropical areas. It grows to about 60 feet and produces fruit fifteen to twenty years after planting. The brown, wrinkled, oval fruit contains a kernel which is covered by a bright red membrane. The membrane provides the spice mace, and the kernel the spice nutmeg.

The tree is about 25 feet high, has a greyish-brown smooth bark, abounding in a yellow juice. The branches spread in whorls - alternate leaves, on petioles about 1 inch long, elliptical, glabrous, obtuse at base - acuminate, aromatic, dark green and glossy above, paler underside and 4 to 6 inches long. Flowers dioecious, small in axillary racemes. Peduncles and pedicles glabrous. Male flowers three to five more on a peduncle. Calyx urceolate, thick and fleshy, covered with an indistinct reddish pubescence dingy pale yellow, cut into three erect teeth. Female flowers differ little from the male, except pedicel is often solitary. Fruit is a pendulous, globose drupe, consisting of a succulent pericarp - the mace arillus covering the hard endocarp, and a wrinkled kernel with ruminated endosperm. When the arillus is fresh it is a brilliant scarlet, when dry more horny, brittle, and a yellowish-brown colour. The seed or nutmeg is firm, fleshy, whitish, transversed by red-brown veins, abounding in oil. The tree does not bloom till it is nine years old, when it fruits and continues to do so for seventy-five years without attention. In Banda Islands there are three harvests, the chief one in July or August, the next in November, and the last in March or April. The fruit is gathered by means of a barb attached to a long stick. The mace is separated from the nut and both are dried separately. The nutmeg or kernel of the fruit and the arillus or mace are the official parts.



Biological Name:
Myristica fragrans

Other Names:
Nutmeg, nutmeg flower, black caraway, flower seed, black cumin, nigella seed, bishop's wort, small fennel flower, Jati, Jatikka

Parts Used:


Nutmeg and mace are different parts of the same fruit of the nutmeg tree. These spices have been appreciated since Roman times. It had been a prized spice. Portuguese and later Dutch tried to monopolize the trading on this spice.

Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:
Aromatic, carminative, hallucinogenic, stimulant, expectorant, deobstruent, sialagogue, emmenagogue. The tonic principle is Myristicin. Oil of Nutmeg is used to conceal the taste of various drugs and as a local stimulant to the gastro-intestinal tract.

In small quantities, nutmeg acts on the stomach to improve appetite and digestion. Nutmeg oil is sometimes used to dispel flatulence. It is use din perfumes and ointments. Nutmeg is commonly used for seasoning foods. It helps prevent gas and fermentation in the intestinal tract. It is good for nausea and vomiting. It is mildly hallucinogenic.

Nutmeg is a mild hallucinogenic drug, somewhat like marijuana. In addition to hallucinations and elation, however, eating nutmegs produces stomach pain, double vision, delirium, and other symptoms of poisoning.

CAUTION. Eating as few as two nutmegs can cause death.

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