Nutmeg is a spice that might help to relieve pain, regulate digestion, improve sleep, and boost brain health. It can also help relieve stress and lower LDL(bad) cholesterol levels. It extends its ability to possibly provide hepatic protection, relieve depression, regulate blood pressure levels, and alleviate oral conditions.
What is Nutmeg?
Nutmeg is a spice that comes from the seed of the evergreen nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans). This tree, interestingly, is a host to one more incredibly potent and unique spice, mace, which is the dried reddish seed covering. Nutmeg has a distinctly strong fragrance. It has a nutty flavor and it is slightly sweet in taste.
The tree is native to the Maluku or Spice Islands of Indonesia and is the only tree that is the source of two distinct spices in the world. It is commonly grown in the Caribbean, other tropical areas of the world, and also in Southern India in the state of Kerala.
Click here to know how mace is different from nutmeg and what are its benefits.
Uses of Nutmeg
Nutmeg spice is widely used in cuisines around the world for its unique flavor and taste. It is used and found in many forms like essential oils, powder, and extracts. While ground nutmeg is used in preparations like baking, puddings, confections, eggnog, pumpkin pie, and apple pie, it is also used to make nutmeg butter. Ground nutmeg is also a key ingredient in creamy and cheesy dishes like alfredo.
You can also use nutmeg in these amazing preparations.
Serving Size : Nutrient Value Water [g] 6.23 Energy 525 Energy [kJ] 2196 Protein [g] 5.84 Total lipid (fat) [g] 36.31 Ash [g] 2.34 Carbohydrate, by difference [g] 49.29 Fiber, total dietary [g] 20.8 Sugars, total including NLEA [g] 2.99 Calcium, Ca [mg] 184 Iron, Fe [mg] 3.04 Magnesium, Mg [mg] 183 Phosphorus, P [mg] 213 Potassium, K [mg] 350 Sodium, Na [mg] 16 Zinc, Zn [mg] 2.15 Copper, Cu [mg] 1.03 Manganese, Mn [mg] 2.9 Selenium, Se [µg] 1.6 Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg] 3 Thiamin [mg] 0.35 Riboflavin [mg] 0.06 Niacin [mg] 1.3 Vitamin B-6 [mg] 0.16 Folate, total [µg] 76 Folate, food [µg] 76 Folate, DFE [µg] 76 Choline, total [mg] 8.8 Vitamin A, RAE [µg] 5 Carotene, beta [µg] 28 Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg] 66 Vitamin A, IU [IU] 102 Tocopherol, gamma [mg] 0.53 Fatty acids, total saturated [g] 25.94 12:0 [g] 0.37 14:0 [g] 22.83 16:0 [g] 2.26 18:0 [g] 0.17 Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g] 3.22 16:1 [g] 1.4 18:1 [g] 1.59 Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g] 0.35 18:2 [g] 0.35 Phytosterols [mg] 62 Sources include : USDA
Nutmeg Nutrition Facts
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 essential oils. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, these beneficial components might include dietary fiber, manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and copper.
Health Benefits of Nutmeg
The health benefits of this amazing spice are explained in greater detail below.
Might have Antioxidant Properties
Multiple research trials have shown that nutmeg and its extracts may have antioxidant potential. It may contain powerful compounds like flavonoids, alkaloids, and myristicin, which might help in free radical scavenging activity in your body. This may help to reduce oxidative stress in your body.
Researchers have also found that the possible presence of macelignan in nutmeg may have an anti-photoaging effect on human skin. Macelignan is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that protects your skin from UVB irradiation.
May Relieve Pain
People with inflammatory diseases and diabetes often suffer from persistent pain. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, nutmeg oil, derived from the seed of the nutmeg tree, has been proven to be an analgesic and a chronic pain reliever.
Published in the Food and Nutrition Research journal, a 2016 animal study showed that topical application of nutmeg oil, when compared to other pain alleviators like diclofenac, may have a better effect on inflammatory pain. The same study also shows that this oil may help alleviate joint swelling as well as mechanical allodynia, which is an intense pain caused by even a light touch.
May Relieve Insomnia
An uncontrolled trial was conducted on 251 patients, who were administered with a nutmeg-containing herbal capsule. The patients received the capsule for 4 weeks regularly. All the people who participated in the research apprised that they witnessed an improvement in the overall weakness levels and insomnia. One animal study also suggested that nutmeg extracts helped in increasing the duration of deep sleep.
May Promote Digestion
According to the book Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor, and Safety, nutmeg is known to have medicinal properties. It might have been used to treat digestive issues such as indigestion and stomach ulcers. These medicinal properties come from the unique scent of the nutmeg seed.
Might Improve Brain Health
Nutmeg is often connected with neuroprotective properties.
In a 2017 research, these effects of nutmeg volatile oil are tested on rats. Results of the study show that nutmeg may contain volatile oils like myristicin, eugenol, and elemicin, all of which helped in increasing the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the hippocampus of the rats. The hippocampus is the organ located in the brain that is mainly associated with memory and spatial navigation, which is the part of memory responsible for recording and retrieving all the information in the brain.
The study concluded suggesting that the oils in nutmeg may help in the prevention as well as the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.
A 2012 study suggests that nutmeg may have antibacterial properties. It has the potential to inhibit the activity of bacteria like Porphyromonas gingivalis and Streptococcus mutans that cause periodontitis and tooth decay.
Furthermore, research also shows that myristic acid and trimyristin found in nutmeg may have exhibited good antibacterial activity. The methanol extract found in nutmeg may have anti-cariogenic properties and helps prevent tooth decay and dental caries. Macelignan, another antibacterial agent found in this spice, may help inhibit the activity of bacteria that cause the cavity.
Moreover, a study published in the Food and Nutrition Research journal suggests that topical application of nutmeg oil may relieve a toothache.
Might Protect the Liver
Nutmeg may be useful in treating liver disorders.
An animal study published by the American Chemical Society suggests that because nutmeg is rich in myrislignan, it may help in relieving liver injuries.
In the study, mice were administered with thioacetamide (TAA), which is a chemical compound that causes chronic liver disease like fibrosis and cirrhosis, and treated with nutmeg. Its extracts may have helped lower the hepatic inflammation and also the free radical activity in the liver.
Another study suggests that myristicin, found in nutmeg oil, may have hepatoprotective properties. However, further studies are required to explain the benefits of nutmeg for the liver.
May Contain Anti-depressant Properties
In Ayurvedic medicine, nutmeg has been treasured for a long time for its medicinal properties when it comes to depression. In a 2012 study, it was found that its extracts demonstrated possible antidepressant activity. Moreover, it may have fewer side effects than conventional allopathic drugs.
In a comparative study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, it was found that the extract of nutmeg seeds may have antidepressant effects.
May Regulate Blood Pressure
A comprehensive guide to lowering blood pressure by the National Institutes of Health suggests adding spices like nutmeg to the diet. The guide also mentions and emphasizes using less sodium in the food to keep blood pressure levels healthy.
Studies also show that nutmeg extracts may not have a significant effect on blood pressure levels. However, more scientific evidence is required to prove its effects on the blood.
Herbal and traditional medicines have long used nutmeg to boost the appearance and health of the skin. Most commonly, it is applied as a paste mixed with water, or even honey, which is also great for the skin.
According to a 2016 research, nutmeg has shown a positive response in treating skin infections. Interestingly, another research found that nutmeg, and the bioactive compounds it might contain like macelignan, may have helped in delaying premature aging caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Nutmeg oil is also known for its skin-enriching properties.
May Lower LDL Cholesterol
In an animal study, nutmeg extracts might have shown hypolipidemic effects. This means that there was a significant reduction in the LDL cholesterol levels in this population. Another animal study showed that nutmeg seed extracts may help lower LDL cholesterol along with total cholesterol levels.
Even though most of this research is animal-based and more scientific evidence is needed, preliminary studies show nutmeg’s potential to lower the bad lipoproteins in the body.
May have Antidiarrheal Effect
It can be either applied topically on the stomach or consumed with ginger and cold water.
A study conducted and published in Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology showed that nutmeg could decrease loose stools. Therefore, nutmeg extracts can be touted as containing a good antidiarrheal effect.
May have Anticonvulsant Properties
A 2009 study suggests that the use of nutmeg oil may help prevent the spread of seizures. It is also indicated that this oil may be effective against both grand mal and partial seizures.
As this research was conducted on animal models, more research is needed to confirm the benefits.
How Much Nutmeg is Safe to Consume?
A very small amount of nutmeg in cooking is generally considered safe. On average, a recipe cooked for 2-4 people calls for about ¼ – ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, so it helps in minimizing the negative effects of the spice.
However, when it comes to regular or excess use of nutmeg, there are few things you should be aware of. The harmful effects of nutmeg are because of myristicin, which is a toxic compound if taken in excess. Research shows that even 5g of ground nutmeg with 1-2 mg of myristicin is enough to cause hallucinogenic effects. The National Library of Medicine (US) also shows that high doses of this spice (eg. 1 spoon) may lead to intoxication and anticholinergic symptoms, which can affect lactation in breastfeeding women.
Buying and Storing Nutmeg
You can find nutmeg in supermarkets and local stores near your house. It is available as a whole spice as well as in the pre-ground form. While the powdered form is convenient to use, some people complain that it loses its flavor over time. Whole nutmeg is the size of a plum pit and one pack generally contains 6-7 pieces. You can grate and use it as required. It is believed to have more flavor and it also lasts longer.
Use an airtight container to store nutmeg. Keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place to ensure it has a long shelf-life.
Many people use it to get high, which is why nutmeg has come under considerable suspicion since the cases of accidental poisoning have increased in recent years.
The Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, USA has published research on nutmeg poisoning taking in observations for the years 2001 to 2011 from the Illinois Poison Center. The 10-year review suggested that nutmeg has come under considerable suspicion since the cases of accidental poisoning have increased in recent years. The myristicin oil in it is a major reason behind the toxic effects of the spice. It may cause tachycardia, which is an increase in normal heart rate and triggers agitation when consumed without moderation.
Moreover, the same study shows that consuming it in excess can have psychotropic and hallucinatory effects on people. It is also used as a narcotic by many people. Consuming too much of it can result in seizures, irregular heart palpitations, and vomiting. Elemincin, found in nutmeg, can lead to a decrease in muscle coordination and activity.
One study also shows findings wherein long-term consumption of nutmeg can hamper hearing abilities.
When used appropriately, as a spice, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Be sure to speak with a medical professional before using it.