Myristica fragrans

Nutmeg has long been lauded as possessing or imparting magical powers. A sixteenth century monk is on record as advising young men to carry vials of nutmeg essential oil and at the appropriate time, use to anoint their genitals for virility.

Nutmeg is not a nut and does not pose a risk to people with nut allergies. Allergy to nutmeg does occur, but seems to be rather rare.

There is much fraud in the nutmeg trade. The essential oil has often been extracted before they are marketed – a fraud which can be detected by the light weight. Concrete oil of nutmeg, often erroneously termed ‘oil of mace’ or ‘nutmeg butter,’ is made by bruising the nuts and treating them with steam. The best nutmeg butter is imported from the East Indies in stone jars, or in blocks wrapped in palm leaves – it should be softly solid, unctuous to touch, orange-yellow in color and mottled, with the taste and smell of nutmeg.

Holland prepares an inferior kind of oil sometimes offered for sale – it is said to be derived from nutmegs that have been deprived of their volatile oil by distillation.

Interesting Food Fact: The properties of mace are identical to those of the nutmeg.

Nutmeg as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

NutmegThe medicinal parts are the nutmeg seeds, which through various processes yield several therapeutic components. They include the essential oil of the seed; the compressed, dried aril; the mixture of fat, oil and color pigment from the pressed seeds; the dried seed kernels freed from the aril and shell of the nut; calcified seed kernels; and the dried seed kernels.

A small amount of nutmeg, about the size of a pea, can be taken once daily over a long period (6 months to a year) to relieve chronic nervous problems, as well as heart problems stemming from poor circulation.

Grated nutmeg mixed with lard makes an excellent ointment for piles.

Added to milk, baked fruits, and desserts, nutmeg aids in digestion, and relieves nausea.

Nutmeg is also known to be used for flatulence. Ground nutmeg is an agreeable addition to drinks for convalescents.

Nutmeg contains a mildly hallucinogenic chemical called myristicin.

Southern folk practitioners used nutmeg, or mace, as a medicinal before the antebellum period (Moss 1999). Folk practitioners have used nutmeg to stimulate digestion and treat infections in the digestive tract. Fleming (2000) reported nutmeg’s use in folk medicine for diarrhea, cramps, dysentery, rheumatism, and upper respiratory disorders.

A primary slave medical use of nutmeg was not to ingest it but to wear it around the neck to ward off medical problems.

Internal folk medicine uses of nutmeg include diarrhea and dysentery, inflammation of the stomach membranes, cramps, flatulence and vomiting. Externally, the oil is used for rheumatism, sciatica, neuralgia and disorders of the upper respiratory tract.

Chinese medicine: Indications include diarrhea, vomiting and digestive problems.

Indian medicine: Indications in Indian medicine include headaches, poor vision, insomnia, fever and malaria, cholera, impotence and general debility.

Homeopathic Uses: Among uses in homeopathy are nervous physical symptoms, digestive problems with flatulence and disturbed perception.

Culinary Uses of Nutmeg

Nutmeg is usually associated with sweet, spicy dishes such as pies, puddings, custards, cookies and spice cakes.

Nutmeg combines well with many cheeses, and is included in souffles and cheese sauces.

In soups it works with tomatoes, split pea, chicken or black beans. It complements egg dishes and vegetables like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, beans, onions and eggplant.

Nutmeg flavors Italian mortadella sausages, Scottish haggis and Middle Eastern lamb dishes. It is often included as part of the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout. It is indispensable to eggnog and numerous mulled wines and punches.

Nutmeg Salt

You can use nutmeg on so many things – even sprinkled on popcorn! If you’re a nutmeg lover, keep a shaker of nutmeg salt on hand and use freely!

  • 1/2 cup ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

Place the ingredients in a small lidded glass container and mix well. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Note: One whole nutmeg grated equals 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg.

A basic, affordable dish that a family with a few chickens and a cow could afford in Tudor times was called “Poor Knights Pudding. Here’s a recipe from Tudor times:

How to make Poor Knights Pudding. Cut two penny loaves in round slices, dip them in half a pint of cream or faire water, then lay them abroad in a dish, and beat three eggs and grated nutmegs and sugar, beat them with the cream then melt some butter in a frying pan, and wet the sides of the toasts and lay them in on the wet side, then pour in the rest upon them, and so fry them, serve them in with rosewater, sugar and butter.


One of the most frequently mentioned folklore practices was the wearing of nutmeg around the neck to ward off illness and promote health. For example, Rawick (1967, vol. 2: 242) contains a narrative reference to nutmeg being worn to ward off diphtheria.

Many of the African-American folklore narratives refer to wearing nutmeg around the neck to ward off children’s diseases and prevent illnesses such as asthma, colic, headaches, measles, whooping cough, and mumps, fever, small pox, chickenpox, and diphtheria. Sometimes it was combined with camphor or tar water or dipped in turpentine and used as a general preventive measure.

Tucking a nutmeg into the left armpit before attending a social event was believed to attract admirers. Nutmegs were often used as amulets to protect against a wide variety of dangers and evils; from boils to rheumatism to broken bones and other misfortunes.

Make a good luck charm by stringing together whole nutmeg, star anise, and tonka beans. Tonka beans contain a lot of coumarin and are not for ingestion. Add ground nutmeg or nutmeg essential oil to prosperity mixtures.


Large doses can be poisonous, and may cause miscarriage for pregnant women.

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