A voice for
herbal medicine

We share traditional, scientific and practical insights written by experienced herbalists and health experts from the world of herbal medicine and natural health

Nutmeg is packed with pungent essential oils

Nutmeg

Myristica fragrans Myristicaceae

Jatiphala means ‘caste fruit’ and Madashauda means ‘intoxicating fruit’. Its aromatic quality gives Nutmeg its wonderful sedative properties that deeply relax the whole nervous system but also possess potent aphrodisiac qualities.

  • How does it feel?

    Nutmeg is the seed of an evergreen tree native to the Banda islands in the Spice Islands of Indonesia; it is now cultivated in tropical climates across the globe. Myristica fragrans is the latin for the most important commercial tree species to produce the nutmeg seed. The trees can grow to heights of up to 25 feet. Nutmegs are egg shaped and 2-5cm in diameter. The inside of the seed is a creamy white with characteristic dark brown veins running throughout. It is these dark veins that carry the essential oils which give this spice its distinctive taste and smell. It is the kernel of the fruit that is the ‘nutmeg’; the outer seed coating is classed as a completely separate spice known as ‘mace’. The two are separated after collection, whereby the kernel, or ‘nutmeg’ is left to dry before being ground into a powder.

  • What can I use it for?

    Nutmeg is packed with pungent essential oils, primarily myristicin. Myristicin is a stimulant to the gastrointestinal tract, where its pungency can help to clear pain and discomfort associated with bloating and indigestion. These volatile oils are also effective anti-inflammatories that encourage a healthy inflammation response within the digestive tract and also the nervous system.

    Nutmeg contains anti-spasmodic portions that relax agitation specifically within the nervous system, calming irritation and anxiety but also tension that may be affecting the functioning of the urinary and reproductive system.

  • Into the heart of Nutmeg

    Nutmeg is fantastically calming and soothing to a frayed and tense nervous system. It helps to relax whilst also tonify and restore its strength. It is particularly suited to those with excessive agitation, excitation or hyper-activity that is affecting sleeping patterns and concentration. The pungent essential oils also help to stimulate the blood flow to the brain and improve overall clarity and ‘peace of mind’. Nutmeg will help to relax but also tonify a weakened nervous system, making it effective where anxiety or tension has reduced the efficiency of a particular body system.

    Nutmeg is indicated in insomnia with waking in the night, agitated mind and lack of concentration. When there is excitation in the mind it draws the expansive nature inwards. It helps to relax the muscles and prevent pain associated with angina, fibromyalgia and arthritis.

    Nutmeg helps absorption in the small intestine; its astringency draws nutrients into the bloodstream. It can help to stop diarrhoea and dysentery whilst also calming intestinal spasms, pain, gas and bloating. It is also a useful anthelmintic.

    Indicated in male infertility, and premature ejaculation. It is considered a primary aphrodisiac. It also astringes a weak urinary flow and is used in prostatic disease and incontinence.

    The hot and penetrating properties of nutmeg can help to clear excess mucous and congestion from the lungs.

  • Traditional actions

    Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are

    • Pachana Digests toxins.
    • Deepana Enkindles the appetite.
    • Krimaghna Vermifuge.
    • Shula prashama Stops intestinal spasms.
    • Vedana sthapana Analgesic.
    • Stambhana (mala, rakta, shukra) Astringent, especially in diarrhoea, bleeding and premature ejaculation.
    • Vajikarana Aphrodisiac.
    • Rasayana Rejuvenative, especially to reproductive tissues and intestines.
    • Hridaya Heart tonic.
    • Nidrajnana Promotes sleep.
    • Madakari Intoxicating.
  • Did you know?

    The tree that produces the nutmeg, does not bloom or produce fruit for the first 7-9 years of its life and the tree will not reach its full production potential for another 20 years.

Additional information

  • Safety

    No drug herb interactions are known but caution with sedative, anti-hypertensive and anti-depressant medication.

  • Dosage

    0.5–6g/day or 1–6ml of a 1:3 in 45% tincture

nutmeg illustration
Aromatic
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitter
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Cooling
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Hot
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilaginous
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resinous
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
Salty
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
Sharpness
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
Sweet
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the very latest in herbal insights.

Sign up to our newsletter