A very common and popular spice used all over the world, nutmeg is also known for its various health promoting benefits. In fact, it has been used since ancient times to improve overall health as well as a remedy for various diseases. Nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree, which is indigenous to the Banda Islands of Indonesia. Two different spices – nutmeg and mace can be obtained from the fruit of this tree. Nutmeg is the seed while mace is the outer cover of the fruit. Although both have similar taste, mace provides stronger aroma and flavor. Nutmeg is typically used in the powdered form. Many other products like essential oils and nutmeg butter is also obtained from this wonderful spice. Nutmeg plant popular species is Myristica fragrans, while other species like M. argentea, M. malabarica, and M. fatua are also found which are similar in appearance but differ in flavor and aroma.
Nutmeg is also known by various names like Jatipatri, Jaiphal, Jatiphal, jayapatri, javitri, mace, muscadier, muskatbaum, noz moscada, myristica, nuez moscada, nux moschata, Noix de Muscade, Macis, Muscade, Muskatbuam or Ron Dau Kou.
Nutritional value of nutmeg
Nutmeg is a low cholesterol food with high amounts of dietary fiber. It is rich in minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium and also has moderate amounts of zinc, copper, iron, manganese, and selenium. Nutmeg is also a good source of several vitamins like vitamin A, vitamins C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, choline and folate.
This nut contains fair amount of fatty acids and essential oils. Essential oil like myristicin, elemicin, eugenol, safrole, pinene, camphene, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, and terpeniol are present in nutmeg oil. Myristicin is responsible for its sweet aroma.
Health benefits of Nutmeg
Nutmeg has several medicinal properties that make it a great natural remedy for many ailments. In addition to being an aromatic spice, nutmeg is also a stimulant, sedative and relaxant with anti inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Some of the nutritional and health benefits of this spice are given below.
Skin benefits of nutmeg
Nutmeg offers numerous benefits to your skin and hence is a great addition to your skin care regimen. A scrub made from this spice is effective in cleansing your skin and removing dirt and dead skin cells. This helps in opening up clogged pores and thus prevents the growth of acne causing bacteria. This scrub is not only useful for preventing acne but is also good for eliminating blackheads. Applying a mixture of honey and nutmeg powder is helpful in getting rid of acne marks and scars. This will help you get smoother, softer and healthier skin. Studies indicate that nutmeg has anti-aging effects on the skin and helps in increasing the elasticity of your skin, keeping it free of wrinkles.
Nutmeg provides pain relief
Nutmeg is found to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The ancient Chinese people used this spice for treating pain and inflammation. Nutmeg oil applied to the affected areas can bring immense soothing effect. It can provide relief from arthritis, sores, and also pain in the joints and muscles. Nutmeg oil offers anti-inflammatory benefits over arthritis and rheumatism. This oil with mild sedative effect relaxes muscle and helpful in reducing muscle ache. Nutmeg oil contains eugenol and is used to relive toothache.
Nutmeg as a brain tonic
Nutmeg can stimulate your brain and improve your concentration by improving blood circulation in your body. It is also considered to be a good remedy for fatigue, depression, anxiety and stress. Myreisticin and elemicin present in nutmeg essential oil stimulates brain activity.
Nutmeg detoxifies your liver and kidneys
The food that you eat, stress, pollution, and several other factors can cause the accumulation of toxins in your body, especially in the liver and kidneys. Nutmeg has been found to be effective in getting rid of these toxins, thus cleansing these two organs. Nutmeg can be beneficial for preventing liver disease and kidney stones. They are found to be helpful in breaking down kidney stones.
Nutmeg for respiratory problems
The oil extracted from nutmeg is believed to help in relieving symptoms of cold and congestion. It is also used as a remedy for asthma. Nutmeg oil is an important ingredient in several cough syrups. Its anti-inflammatory action reduces inflammation in respiratory tract.
Nutmeg gets rid of bad breath
Bad breath is often caused by bacteria in your mouth. Nutmeg has antibacterial effects that helps in getting rid of these bacteria and hence in preventing bad breath (halitosis). It is because of this property that nutmeg is used as an important ingredient in various toothpastes. The antiseptic effects of this spice are also helpful in preventing infections and gum problems as well.
Nutmeg induces sleep
Drinking a cup of milk to which nutmeg powder has been added can help in inducing sleep. This is a very effective remedy for people who have insomnia or difficulty sleeping.
Nutmeg aids digestion
Nutmeg is a wonderful spice that increases your appetite and also improves your digestion. It is also useful in easing digestive problems such as bloating, flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea. Nutmeg oil is a good remedy for stomach pain.
Nutmeg benefits for infants
Nutmeg is useful for infants and helps treating infant abdominal problems, bloating, flatulence and constipation. It also helps improve their digestive system. It has mild sedative action which relaxes babies and relives any abdominal pain.
Nutmeg benefits to heart
Nutmeg is highly beneficial for improving the health of your heart. It helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases and also in boosting the performance of your heart. Nutmeg is a good source of potassium that helps in balancing the effects of sodium in your body, which in turn is beneficial in maintaining normal blood pressure. Studies conducted on animals show that nutmeg is effective in lowering both bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol levels.
Nutmeg has antioxidant properties
Nutmeg contains antioxidants that are capable of destroying the free radicals and preventing the harmful oxidative stress caused by them. The antioxidant effect is helpful in preventing early aging and also in preventing many kinds of diseases like cancer.
Nutmeg may have cancer fighting benefits
Nutmeg has been found to contain chemicals that might help in preventing cancer growth. Studies show that certain compounds in this spice are capable of inhibiting the growth of blood cancer cells. Another study found that nutmeg promoted cell death of brain cancer cells.
Nutmeg may help in managing diabetes
According to research, nutmeg may help in managing and treating diabetes. Studies conducted on rats showed that nutmeg helped in decreasing blood sugar levels, increasing the production of insulin by stimulating the pancreatic beta cells, and in improving the lipid profile in blood.
Nutmeg is an aphrodisiac
Nutmeg is considered to have aphrodisiac properties which increase sexual desire and libido.
Nutmeg for strong bones
Nutmeg contains minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus which contribute to strong and healthy bones. The calcium in this spice can prevent the thinning and weakening of bones, thus may help in preventing osteoporosis.
Nutmeg increases red blood cell formation
Nutmeg is a good source of iron, which is helpful in increasing the count of red blood cells in your blood. As such it is beneficial for treating and preventing anemia.
Nutmeg relieves menstrual cramps
Most women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during their menstrual cycle. Nutmeg oil is a great remedy for menstrual cramps and is also found to be beneficial in easing other symptoms like depression, mood swings and hormone imbalance.
Other uses of nutmeg
In addition to its medicinal and therapeutic benefits, nutmeg has many other uses too.
- Nutmeg as a spice – Although not many people know the medicinal properties of this seed, nutmeg is very popular as a spice. Nutmeg is a versatile spice and can be used in making both sweet and savory dishes.
- Nutmeg as a flavor enhancer – Nutmeg is widely used as a flavoring agent while baking and also while making ice creams, sauces and even beverages. Nutmeg oil is used to blend tobacco and improve its flavor.
- Nutmeg is used as incense – Nutmeg gives out a pleasant aroma and hence is used in making incense. Nutmeg oil is also used as room freshner.
- Nutmeg in soaps and cosmetics – The antibacterial and antiseptic properties of nutmeg make it an active ingredient in the manufacture of soaps, cosmetics, and aftershave lotions or creams.
How to store nutmeg
In order to maintain the freshness, flavor and aroma, nutmeg should be stored in an airtight container away from heat direct sunlight and moisture. Avoid storing over the dishwasher, stove, sink or near the window. Do not store nutmeg in the freezer as it will lose its aroma and flavor very quickly.
A few words of caution
Nutmeg can cause certain side effects if used in large amounts. It has been found that excess consumption of nutmeg can cause narcotic or hallucinatory effects on people. Too much nutmeg can also lead to irregular heart palpitations, seizures, nausea and vomiting.
Wars have been fought over this precious spice in ancient history. It used to be an exotic spice in those days that the Dutch attacked and killed many innocent people in the Banda Islands to monopolize the trade of nutmeg. Nutmeg may be a small seed but it is a storehouse of nutritional benefits. Use of nutmeg in the right dosage can improve your general health and help in preventing many ailments.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Brocken Inaglory, Wikimedia - Nataraja, Wikimedia - Shailesh