What is Nutmeg?
Nutmeg (rou dou kou, 肉豆蔻) is a type of seed derived from the Nutmeg Tree (Myristica fragrans), a tropical evergreen tree that is native to Indonesia and cultivated worldwide today. This tree is the only tropical tree in the world that is credited for bearing two distinct spices— Nutmeg and Mace. Nutmeg Trees usually yield fruit only after approximately eight years. Once the fruit ripens, it will split into half, revealing a bright red net-like structure wrapped around a dark, brittle shell. The nutmeg seed lies inside this shell. These seeds are then removed from the fruit and dried in the sun for herbal remedies.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world consumes 9,000 tons of nutmeg annually. Nutmeg has a warm, slightly nutty flavour, and is often used in desserts, curries, mulled wine and chai tea. While it is more commonly used for its flavour than its health benefits, Nutmeg offers a large range of medicinal uses too.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Nutmeg falls under the category of ‘Herbs that stabilize and bind’. Such herbs are used to treat abnormal discharges and displacement of organs. For example, it can help to treat conditions such as diarrhea, abnormal discharges from the vagina, penis or rectum, as well as prolapse of the uterus or rectum.
Warm in nature, Nutmeg can help individuals who have too much ‘Cold’ in their body, such as those experiencing Yin Excess or Yang Excess, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance. Pungent in taste, Nutmeg can help to promote the circulation of qi and body fluid. In particular, Nutmeg targets the Large Intestine, the Spleen and the Stomach.
Functions and Benefits of Nutmeg
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Nutmeg has the following health benefits.
Nutmeg can help to relieve diarrhea and dysentery caused by Cold. Not only can Nutmeg help to astringe the intestines, it can also warm the middle burner and tonify the Spleen. Also, Nutmeg can promote the flow of qi, alleviate distending pain in the Stomach and abdomen such as gastric pain, vomiting and anorexia. Nutmeg could be combined with other herbs to check the adverse rise of qi as well. Other than promoting the circulation of qi, Nutmeg can also promote the movement of blood.
TCM also believes that other Nutmeg benefits include aiding poor digestion and increasing one’s appetite as an aromatic stimulant.
Modern studies showed that Nutmeg contains powerful antioxidants which can help to fight signs of ageing, prevent cellular damage and many chronic conditions, such as certain cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. This herb also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which can help to prevent heart disease, liver disease, gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, arthritis and protect against harmful strains of bacteria. Its antibacterial properties have been proven particularly effective against oral pathogens that cause disease and bad breath.
While research is limited, studies also suggest that Nutmeg may help to improve one’s mood, reduce one’s blood sugar levels, and boost one’s libido to enhance sex drive and performance. Nutmeg may also help to aid sleep, both in duration and quality.
Nutmeg is also a popular ingredient in skincare products as it can help to remove blackheads, treat acne and clogged pores.
How to Use Nutmeg
The recommended daily dosage of Nutmeg is 3 – 10g. You can ground Nutmeg into powder and take it with tea or decoction. Alternatively, Nutmeg is also available in various forms such as powder, pill, capsule or tablet. Nutmeg oil can also be found in some soaps and cosmetics.
Nutmeg is widely available, and can be purchased at most markets and grocery stores. While it can be found in whole-seed form, it is most often sold as a ground spice. Nutmeg supplements can be found in many herbal stores.
Other than taking it as a form of health supplement or medicine, Nutmeg can be added to our dishes to add flavour too. For example, it is commonly added to desserts such as pies, meat-based dishes such as pork chops, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes. You can also add Nutmeg to beverages such as chai tea and turmeric lattes. Freshly grated nutmeg is also delicious on fresh fruit, oatmeal, or yogurt.
Cautions and Side Effects of Nutmeg
Nutmeg should not be used by individuals who are experiencing dysentery or diarrhea caused by Damp Heat.
Though Nutmeg is unlikely to cause harm when consumed in small quantities, taking it in high doses may cause adverse side effects. As Nutmeg contains myricitrin and safrole, when ingested in large amounts, it may cause symptoms such as hallucinations and loss of muscle coordination.
Other potential side effects of consuming large amounts of Nutmeg include rapid heartbeat, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, and agitation.
Hence, it is important to not over-consume Nutmeg, and to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Nutmeg into your diet.
Here is a summary for Nutmeg:
- Herb name (Chinese): 肉豆蔻
- Herb name (Pin Yin): ròu dòu kòu
- Herb name (English): Nutmeg
- Herb name (Botanical): Semen Myristicae
- Origin of species: Myristica fragrans Houtt.
- Part(s) of herb used: Kernel
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, as well as Malaysia, Indonesia
- Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent; Warm; Administrates the Spleen, Stomach and Large Intestine Meridians
- Actions: Relieves chronic diarrhea; Eases digestion; Good for those suffering from lack of appetite or nausea
Olajide, O. A., Ajayi, F. F., Ekhelar, A. I., Awe, S. O., Makinde, J. M., & Alada, A. A. (1999). Biological effects of Myristica fragrans (nutmeg) extract. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 13(4), 344-345. [Accessed on 15 October 2022]
Weil, A. T. (1965). Nutmeg as a narcotic. Economic Botany, 19(3), 194-217.[Accessed on 15 October 2022]
Share this article on