This small botanical family comprises few genera and 380 species of trees in tropical forests, especially in the Indo-Malay region, Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea.
They are trees with evergreen, aromatic foliage and a pink or red colored sap. The nutmeg comes from the east of the Moluccas Islands in Indonesia (Banda, Ambon).
Nutmeg was already known to the Greeks and Romans; the Arabs ensured its trade towards Middle Ages in Europe, carefully hiding its geographical origin, as did the Portuguese and then the Dutch who tried to keep a monopoly on its harvest.
It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that industrial plantations developed in Malaysia, Sumatra, Grenada and the islands of the Indian Ocean.
The nutmeg tree grows well in fertile volcanic soils and tropical climates without a marked dry season; its main cultivation is currently confined to Indonesia and Grenada in the West indies.
The fruit is a drupe the size and shape of a large apricot, made up of several separate parts:
- the flesh, the EDIBLE PERICARP,
- opens into two valves when ripe showing inside the nutmeg itself, the nut is surrounded by a fleshy network, brilliant orange-red,
- this is the MACE ,
- finally a little thick woody shell protects an ALMOND, the nutmeg.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
NUTMEG AND MACE ESSENTIAL OIL
Nutmeg essential oil (5 to 15% by weight) contains:
- terpene carbides (sabinene, pinene, limonene), which gives it its sweet fragrance,
- a small amount of alkenylbenzenes (myristicin and elemicin 5 to 7%) which characterizes it,
- and eugenol (1 to 2 %) which is reminiscent of cloves.
The essential oil of nutmeg is:
- slightly analgesic by inhibiting the release of certain prostaglandins (involved in the inflammatory reaction),
- antiplatelet agent (therefore anti-inflammatory),
- tonic at low dose,
- but TOXIC at high dose, hallucinogenic (anxiogenic) and narcotic (myristicin), with symptoms reminiscent of intoxication by atropine.
- The essential oil also contains potentially teratogenic safrole.
The toxic effects of the essential oil or the nut itself can last for several hours (see days) with sedation (sleep), difficulty thinking, memory problems.
It can go as far as a coma leading to death.
Mace essential oil is similar in composition but sweeter, with less myristicin and more monoterpenes.
It is therefore easier to use: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic in local application, relaxing and soothing.
Nutmeg and mace essential oils are contraindicated in pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under 12.
BEURRE DE MUSCADE
Nutmeg is oleaginous, it contains a fatty substance whose triglycerides are mainly with a saturated fatty acid in C14 (myristic acid).
It is a semi-solid fatty substance with a nutmeg odor (myristicin) which can be extracted by cold or hot pressing or by using solvents.
Nutmeg is first and foremost a spice, in a very low dose, it is scraped a little to flavor cocktails, pastry, potato-based dishes, some traditional cooked dishes, it presents then stomachic and carminative qualities (it gives appetite and promotes the evacuation of intestinal gas).
Mace is widely used in pork delicatessens and in the preparation of various sauces or gravies.
THE NUTMEG IN PHYTO-AROMATHERAPY
Nutmeg is rarely used in Western medicine.
Traditionally, it was prescribed to fight cholera, vomiting, enteritis, but several cases of intoxication have been described by ingestion of small quantities of nutmeg (5 to 15g).
In aromatherapy, it can be used for its antibacterial properties and supposed effectiveness in gallstones, it is proposed in acute and chronic cholecystitis:
- 2 drops of essential oil of nutmeg 2 to 3 times a day mixed with milk, honey or bread.
- 30 to 60 drops of essential oil of nutmeg in 125 ml of alcohol at 60 °, 30 to 60 drops 3 times a day.
Chinese medicine also uses it as a stomachic and antidiarrhoeal.
Ayurvedic medicine uses mace for its digestive and carminative properties.
Aphrodisiac virtues are traditionally attributed to nutmeg and especially mace, example: "liqueur du parfait amour" (perfect love licor) by Dr J. VALNET:
2 liters of brandy + 15g of cinnamon + 40g of lemon zest + 30 mace + cane syrup;
let macerate for 1 month; 1 liqueur glass per day.
Other species of Myristica:
- M. malabarica from India,
- M. argentea from Papua
are sometimes sold instead of real nutmeg, they have neither the smell nor the taste of real nutmeg.
NUTMEG TREE CULTIVATION
The nutmeg is a dioecious tree (there are male trees without fruit and female trees which alone will give nuts).
The nutmeg grows well in humid tropico-equatorial zones (ie without a prolonged dry season).
It is propagated by seeds (nuts) but it will take 3 to 6 years to know the sex of the tree, or better by cuttings of female plants producing quality nuts.
Some planters plant one male tree for every 10 female trees.
You have to wait 5 to 7 years to have the first nutmeg.
In the production areas, the shell of the fruit (the pericarp) is used to make jams, jellies, marmalades or is dried or candied.
Nutmeg, an aphrodisiac spice, digestive but toxic in high doses
Very aromatic, nutmeg contains myristicin which is toxic to the nervous system.
In low doses the nutmeg and its essential oil help to digest and limit intestinal fermentation.
The essential oil is antibacterial and is recommended for gall bladder infections.
The mace that surrounds the almond, widely used in cooking, is considered an aphrodisiac
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel