Nutmeg is a popular spice that has a long list of associated health benefits, including its ability to relieve pain, soothe indigestion, strengthen cognitive function, detoxify the body, boost skin health, alleviate oral conditions, reduce insomnia, increase immune system function, and prevent leukemia, and improve blood circulation.
Nutmeg is one of two spices that grow on an evergreen tree with the scientific classification Myristica fragrans, also known as common nutmeg. It is native to islands near Indonesia, but is now a globally used spice. These trees bear nutmeg, which is the seed of the tree, as well as mace, a less common spice derived from the dried reddish shell of the seed. This is the only tree which is the source of two distinct spices in the world. It is not commonly grown in the Caribbean, other tropical areas of the world, and in Southern India, in the state of Kerala.
Nutmeg is a delicate, slightly sweet spice that is widely used in cuisines around the world, including both Asian and western recipes. The tree is also highly valued because of the essential oils that are derived from the tree and leaves, and nutmeg butter is also a popular derivative food that packs a healthy punch. The essential oils from nutmeg extract are highly beneficial to health, and are frequently used in alternative and herbal medicine.
Nutritional Value of Nutmeg
While nutmeg is only a spice that is used sparingly in dishes, it can still impact your health in a variety of ways, mainly due to its nutritive content of vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds related to the essential oils. These beneficial components include dietary fiber, manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, copper, and macelignan. The many health benefits of nutmeg are explained in greater detail below.
Pain Relief: One of the components of nutmeg is a compound similar to menthol, which has natural pain-relieving characteristics. Therefore, by adding nutmeg as a spice in your cooking, you can reduce associated pain from wounds, injuries, strains, and chronic inflammation from conditions like arthritis.
Digestive Health: When you grind nutmeg into a powder, it retains its fiber content, which can stimulate the digestive process by promoting peristaltic motion in the smooth muscles of the intestine. Also, it induces the secretion of various gastric and intestinal juices that ease the digestive process. Since fiber can bulk up the bowel movements, it reduces the frequency and discomfort of constipation and other intestinal issues.
Brain Health: One of the lesser known benefits of adding nutmeg in any variety to your diet are the various components of its essential oil, called myristicin and macelignan. These compounds have been proven to reduce the degradation of neural pathways and cognitive function that commonly afflicts people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown myristicin and macelignan slow those effects, and keep your brain functioning at a normal, healthy level.
Detoxify the Body: Nutmeg acts as a tonic in many different ways, and therefore boosts the overall health of your body. More specifically, in terms of the liver and kidney where many of the toxins are stored and accumulated from the body, nutmeg can help eliminate them. It literally cleans those organs out of all the toxins that may be stored there from alcohol, drugs, pollution, food, or natural organic toxins. Furthermore, active ingredients in nutmeg help to dissolve kidney stones, and increase overall function and efficiency of the kidney and liver.
Oral Health: In traditional medical applications, nutmeg was considered the king of spices when it came to oral health. The active antibacterial components of nutmeg means that it helps to fight conditions like halitosis, also known as bad breath. It kills the bacteria that causes this embarrassing condition, and generally boosts the immunity of your gums and teeth. This is why nutmeg and its extracts are commonly found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, particularly in organic or herbal varieties.
Insomnia: For generations, nutmeg has been recommended as a home remedy for sleeplessness and insomnia. A pinch of nutmeg in warm milk always seemed to do the trick. Nutmeg has a high content of magnesium, an essential mineral in the body that reduces nerve tension, and even stimulates the release of serotonin which creates a feeling of relaxation or sedation. This serotonin is changed to melatonin in the brain, which is a sleep inducer, relieving people of their problems with insomnia and restlessness at night. Nutmeg also has trace elements of narcotics, which have no dramatic effect unless taken in massive quantities. However, even the small amount can help you release various neurotransmitters than induce relaxation and sleep.
Leukemia: Another of the lesser known qualities of nutmeg is its potential use against cancerous cells. Studies have shown that a certain methanolic compound in nutmeg and its essential oil can actually induce cell death (apoptosis) in leukemia cells, thereby stopping the spread and metastasis of this terrible variety of cancer that commonly afflicts children.
Skin Health: Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, herbal and traditional medicines have long used nutmeg to boost the appearance and health of your skin. Most commonly, it is applied as paste mixed with water, or even honey, which is also great for skin care. It can help to reduce inflammation and irritation of the skin, promote hydration and a smooth appearance, as well as reduce the signs and marks from pox, boils, and acne.
Blood Pressure and Circulation: The mineral content of nutmeg means that it is valuable in terms of maintaining organ function. Potassium is a vasodilator, which relaxes blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure and lowering the strain on the cardiovascular system. Furthermore, it facilitates the uptake of nutrients from food, making digestion and efficient and speedy process. The calcium found in nutmeg can boost the health of your bones by contributing to repair and growth, while relieving symptoms of osteoporosis. Finally, the iron content can boost your red blood cell count and reduce your chances of developing symptoms of iron deficiency, also known as anemia.
A Few Words of Warning: Nutmeg has come under considerable suspicion since the cases of accidental poisoning have increased in recent years. Once it was revealed that excessively consuming nutmeg can have psychotropic, hallucinatory, or narcotic effects on people, many people tried to duplicate those effects recreationally. Unfortunately, consuming a huge amount of nutmeg can seriously complicate your bodily processes, as it is a potent spice meant to be used in small quantities. Consuming too much nutmeg can result in seizures, irregular heart palpitations, and vomiting.
When used appropriately, as a spice, the benefits of nutmeg are obvious, but keep the amount under control, and find your thrills somewhere else!