Nutmeg Forms
  • Nutmeg With Shell
  • Nutmeg Without Shell
The nutmeg seed is encased in a mottled yellow, edible fruit, the approximate size and shape of a small peach. The fruit splits in half to reveal a net-like, bright red covering over the seed. This is the aril which is collected, dried and sold as mace. Under the aril is a dark shiny nut-like pit, and inside that is the oval shaped seed which is the nutmeg. Nutmegs are usually sold without the mace or hard shell. They are oval, about 25 mm in length, lightly wrinkled and dark brown on the outside, lighter brown on the inside. Whole nutmeg may be coated with lime to protect against insects and fungus, though this practice is giving way to other forms of fumigation.

Pharmaceutical Name - Semen Myristicae

Used plant part
Nutmeg is not a nut, but the kernel of an apricot-like fruit. Mace is an arillus, a thin leathery tissue between the stone and the pulp. it is bright red to purple when harvested, but after drying changes to amber.

In the nutmeg trade, broken nutmegs that have been infested by pests are referred to as BWP grade (broken, wormy and punky). BWP grade nutmegs must be used only for distillation of oil of nutmeg and extraction of nutmeg oleoresin. For the very real danger of molds producing aflatoxines on BWP nuts, consumers should buy their nutmegs as a whole, and grind for themselves. Whole nutmegs will also keep their flavour much longer.

The pulp of the nutmeg fruit is tough, almost woody, and very sour. In most Asian countries, it is used to make a delicious jam with pleasant nutmeg aroma.

Plant family - Myristicaceae (nutmeg family)

Sensory quality

Both spices are strongly aromatic, resinous and warm in taste. Mace is generally said to have a finer aroma than nutmeg, but the difference is small. Nutmeg quickly loses its fragrance when ground therefore, the necessary amount should be grated from a whole nut immediately before usage.

Main constituents

Nutmeg contains about 10% essential oil, which is mostly composed of terpene hydro¬carbons (sabinene and pinenes; further¬more camphene, p-cymene, phell¬andrene, terpinene, limonene, myrcene, together 60 to 80%), terpene derivatives (linalool, geraniol, terpineol, together 5 to 15%) and phenyl¬propanoids (myristicin, elemicin, safrol, eugenol and eugenol derivatives, together 15 to 20%). Of the latter group, myristicin (methoxy-safrole, typically 4%) is responsible for the hallucinogenic effect of nutmeg.

Nutmeg is only weakly hallucinogenic; therefore one needs large dosage (typically, one half to one nut is used for a trip). The large dosage may give rise to very unpleasant side-effects caused by other components of nutmeg, which include prolonged extreme nausea and long-term hypersensitivity to nutmeg. The hallucinogenic phenylpropanoids themselves are hepatotoxins and far from harmless for frequent users.

Oil of mace (up to 12% in the spice) contains the same aroma components, but the total fraction of terpenoids is increased to almost 90% at the cost of the phenylpropanoids (10%).

Both nutmeg and mace contain about 2% of lignanes (diarylpropanoids), which are nonvolatile dimers of phenylpropanoid constituents of the essential oil, e.g., dehydrodiisoeugenol.

Health Benefits

12 Health Benefits from Nutmeg!
  1. Nuttmeg has strong antibacterial properties. It is effective in killing a number of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth.
  2. Like cloves, nutmeg contains eugenol, a compound that may benefit the heart.
  3. Myristicin found in nutmeg has been shown to inhibit an enzyme in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease and is used to improve memory.
  4. It is used in small dosages to reduce flatulence [excessive stomach or intestinal gas, aid digestion and improve appetite.]
  5. In Arab countries, nutmeg is valued as an aphrodisiac [substance believed to increase sexual desire.]
  6. Nutmeg can help to combat asthma.
  7. It is also used to relax muscles.
  8. Nutmeg contains 10 per cent essential oil which is a colourless or light yellow liquid. The oil is obtained by the steam distillation of ground nutmeg. Besides being used in toothpastes, cough syrups, perfumes and cosmetic industry, externally nutmeg oil is mixed with almond oil and is used to relieve rheumatic pain.
  9. Nutmeg oil is used to treat toothaches. Drops of essential oil are put on cotton swab and applied to the gums around an aching tooth, sometimes also used to control bad breath.
  10. Drops of nutmeg oil can also be mixed with honey to treat nausea, gastroenteritis, chronic diarrhoea and indigestion.
  11. In homoeopathy, nutmeg is used to treat anxiety and depression.
  12. In Chinese medicine, it is used to treat impotence and liver disease.