Nutmeg is a popular spice used across the world for its flavor. This spice has been used for thousands of years, primarily for its health benefits. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and secondary metabolites and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and psychoactive properties (1).
Nutmeg is useful in managing cholesterol, blood sugar, and high blood pressure due to the presence of many bioactive compounds. The psychotropic nature of the spice helps in reducing stress and anxiety. In this article, we have discussed the benefits, nutritional profile, and side effects of nutmeg in detail.
Table Of Contents
What Is Nutmeg?
Nutmeg is a nutrient-dense, aromatic spice that is made from the seeds of the nutmeg tree (scientifically called Myristica fragrans). It is native to Indonesia (1). It has a warm and spicy flavor, which is why it is popularly used in desserts (like apple pie), beverages (like mulled wine), and as a garnish on certain coffee drinks. It goes quite well with creamy and cheesy dishes.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Nutmeg?
1. May Help Reduce Cancer Risk
Sources state that the essential oil of nutmeg can act as an antioxidant and may assist in preventing cancer in the process. The oil has powerful free radical scavenging activity and can be used to develop anti-cancer drugs.
2. May Aid Diabetes Treatment
Nutmeg is a rich source of antioxidants. In rat studies, nutmeg, along with other spices, was found to decrease blood glucose levels significantly. The extracts of nutmeg were found to have beneficial effects on blood glucose levels.
However, more studies are needed to project nutmeg as a potential treatment for diabetes (4). Studies also show that oil may relieve symptoms of chronic inflammatory pain, which could be a serious concern for people with diabetes (5).
3. Nutmeg May Control High Blood Pressure
Studies on nutmeg have shown that it contains several essential oils, such as linalool. Linalool is a strong vasodilator of smooth muscles, including blood vessels, and can help in lowering high blood pressure.
Animal studies confirm the linalool’s ability to reduce overall blood pressure (6). These effects need further experimental validation on humans.
4. May Relieve Arthritis Pain And Inflammation
Nutmeg has shown to ease chronic inflammatory pain, which is the primary characteristic of arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties of nutmeg can reduce joint pains and inflammation associated with arthritis (5).
The seed contains high quantities of myristicin, elemicin, and eugenol, which could be the reason for its anti-inflammatory properties (7).
5. May Treat Insomnia
Nutmeg may also help with stress relief, and this may aid insomnia treatment (8). This seed contains myristicin and elemicin. These prominent compounds in nutmeg work together to relax the human brain. The seed itself also can act as a mild sedative.
A product containing nutmeg as one of the primary ingredients was found to improve mood and help treat insomnia (1). The spice was also used in ancient medicine as a way to de-stress and calm one’s mind.
6. May Improve Digestion
According to some studies, the essential oils in nutmeg have a carminative effect, which may assist in reducing flatulence. Nutmeg can relieve issues like diarrhea (9). It also contains fiber, which may help with bowel movements (9).
7. May Ease Pain
Nutmeg oil is often used to treat spasms and pain. It is topically applied to relieve pain, particularly in the muscles and joints. Another volatile oil in nutmeg, eugenol, has anti-inflammatory properties and may help alleviate pain associated with inflammation (5).
8. May Lower Cholesterol Levels
According to a rat study, nutmeg possesses cholesterol-lowering potential and protective ability (10). The study also suggests that nutmeg extracts could help reverse liver toxicity caused by high cholesterol diets.
9. May Improve Dental Health
Nutmeg is a powerhouse of antibacterial properties that potentially contribute to oral health. The spice is known to treat dental issues, including dental caries. It fights pathogens like Streptococcus mutans that can cause oral infections (3).
10. May Treat Depression And Anxiety
Rat studies showed that nutmeg might also work as an antidepressant, potentially assisting in reducing symptoms of depression by boosting serotonin (11). However, it is important to note that nutmeg does not replace medical treatment that may include medications, therapy, or both.
The spice is basically a brain tonic that stimulates your brain. It also helps eliminate mental fatigue and stress and boosts mental activity (12). In addition, nutmeg has the ability to promote the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. This could help the human body and brain fight depression and anxiety biochemically.
11. May Help Fight Acne
Nutmeg exhibits strong antibacterial and antifungal activities – and this may help in reducing acne. Nutmeg has been used externally to treat skin infections, rheumatism, and paralysis (1).
The spice has traditionally been used as a skin whitening agent, and a patent is underway that uses the extract of nutmeg in its chemical formulas (13). The lignan found in nutmeg evens the pigmentation in the skin by inhibiting melanin production.
These are the benefits of nutmeg. Below is a detailed nutritional profile of nutmeg.
What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Nutmeg?
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||36.31 g||180%|
|Dietary Fiber||20.8 g||55%|
|Vitamin C||3 mg||5%|
*values sourced from Scientia Agriculturae
Nutmeg sure contains some powerful nutrients. But this doesn’t mean you can consume as much as of it as you want.
How Much Nutmeg Is Safe Per Day?
Prolonged use of nutmeg, in doses of more than two spoons per day (15 g), may cause hallucinations, dizziness, acute nausea, dry mouth, and agitation. Cases of overdose have been reported in the literature (14), (15).
Here are the side effects of nutmeg.
What Are The Side Effects Of Nutmeg?
- Hallucinations And Other Mental Side Effects
Chronic consumption of nutmeg is associated with tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, agitation, and hallucinations (14). This toxicity has been attributed to the myristicin oil present in nutmeg. Studies have suggested keeping the spice out of children’s reach due to safety concerns.
- Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
Excess consumption of nutmeg can cause miscarriages or birth defects (16). There are no studies reporting the effects of nutmeg consumption on breastfeeding. Hence, avoid nutmeg in both instances.
In rare cases, excess consumption of nutmeg can lead to death.
Nutmeg can be enjoyed in versatile ways.
How To Use Nutmeg
Apart from using it as a spice, you can also consume nutmeg tea to enjoy its health benefits. Nutmeg can also be incorporated into skin and oral routines in the following ways.
- How To Prepare Nutmeg Tea
Add nutmeg powder (less than 3 g) to boiling water along with a piece of ginger. Allow it to steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain and sip on the tea.
You can also add a pinch of nutmeg to a glass of warm milk and drink it before bedtime to aid better sleep.
- How To Use Nutmeg To Treat Acne
Using it for treating acne is simple. You need to crush two to three nutmeg seeds and add a little milk to make a paste. Wash your face with warm water and then apply it to your face. Leave it on for a couple of hours before washing your face with cool water.
- How To Use Nutmeg For Oral Health
You can brush your teeth with a mixture of a little nutmeg powder and a small amount of oregano oil. Repeat this several times per week.
Nutmeg is a popular spice used the world over and has its share of benefits. Apart from being an integral part of many cuisines around the world, nutmeg is used in different recipes to enhance beauty and health.
Including moderate amounts of nutmeg in your diet can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. It can aid better sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. However, make sure you consult your doctor before consuming nutmeg for any of these purposes.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What is a good substitute for nutmeg?
Mace is the closest substitute for nutmeg. Mace is nothing but the outer membrane of the nutmeg seed before it is harvested, which is why it has a similar flavor.
How long does nutmeg high last?
It can also lead to a high, often called ‘nutmeg high.’ Nutmeg high has been reported to last for two days with symptoms similar to that of a hangover. Caution should be taken when operating heavy machinery or other activities like driving while under the influence of nutmeg because of its psychoactive nature.
Can you smoke nutmeg?
Yes, but you shouldn’t do it as smoking nutmeg is dangerous.
- Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of the secondary metabolites of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.), Phytochemistry Reviews, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Modulation of colon cancer by nutmeg, Journal of Proteome Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Anticariogenic activity of macelignan isolated from Myristica fragrans (nutmeg) against Streptococcus mutans. Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- A Comparative Study of the Anti Diabetic Effect of Oral Administration of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Peppermint in Wistar Albino Rats, International Journal of Health Sciences and Research, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
- Nutmeg oil alleviates chronic inflammatory pain through inhibition of COX-2 expression and substance P release in vivo, Food & Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Cardiovascular effects induced by linalool in normotensive and hypertensive rats. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung. C, Journal of Biosciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- A Review on Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Phenylpropanoids Found in Essential Oils, Molecules, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Phytochemistry and pharmacologic properties of Myristica fragrans Hoyutt.: A review, African Journal of Biotechnology, ResearchGate.
- Health and nutritional benefits of nutmeg (Mystica fragrans houtt.), Scientia Agriculturae.
- African Nutmeg (Monodora Myristica) Lowers Cholesterol and Modulates Lipid Peroxidation in Experimentally Induced Hypercholesterolemic Male Wistar Rats, International Journal of Biomedical Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Evaluation of the anti–depressant activity of Myristica fragrans (Nutmeg) in male rats, Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Antidepressant-like activity of n-hexane extract of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) seeds in mice, Journal of Medicinal Food. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Use of lignan-type compounds or extract of nutmeg or aril of nutmeg comprising the same, Patent No. US8969408B2, Google Patents.
- Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001–2011, Journal of Medical Toxicology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Nutmeg (myristicin) poisoning-report on a fatal case and a series of cases recorded by a poison information center. Forensic Science International, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Nutmeg intoxication in pregnancy. A case report, The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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