Nutmeg is actually the seed of a tropical fruit thought to have originated in New Guinea (the same fruit that gives us mace, actually!). The seeds are light brown on the outside, oblong-shaped, and about an inch long. Inside, there are densely packed layers of starchy tissue and fragrant oil.
The spice tree is a large evergreen plant that thrives well under tropical climates. A fully-grown tree reaches about 50-60 feet in height and is the source of nutmeg and mace, two valuable spices. The nutmeg fruit, in fact, is a drupe, about the size of an apricot, which when ripen splits up to reveal single centrally situated oval shaped hard kernel known as "nutmeg spice." The seed is closely enveloped by crimson-red colored lacy or thread like arils known as "mace." Both spices have a similar warm, sweet aromatic flavor.
Nutmeg tree yields up to three times in a season. Once harvested from the tree, the outer coat or husk is removed and discarded. Just underneath the tough husk is the golden-brown color aril, known as "mace," enveloping nutmeg kernel. Mace is gently peeled off from the kernel surface, flattened into strips, dried, and sold either as whole or finely ground. The nutmeg kernels are then dried under sun for several days to weeks. At larger commercial set-ups, this process is done rather more rapidly over a hot drier machine until the whole nutmeg rattles inside the shell.
The shell is then broken and shriveled nutmeg kernel is taken out. Finally, nuts are dipped in limewater in order to prevent insect infestation and seed germination.
Health benefits of nutmeg
- Nutmeg and mace spice contains many plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
- The spicy nut contains fixed oil trimyristin and many essential volatile oils such as which gives a sweet aromatic flavor to nutmeg like myristicin, elemicin, eugenol and safrole. The other volatile-oils are pinene, camphene, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeniol.
- The active principles in nutmeg have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative functions.
- This prized spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
- It is also rich in many vital B-complex vitamins, including vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A and many flavonoid anti-oxidants like beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin that are essential for optimum health.
In fact, since ancient times, nutmeg has been used as a remedy for various ailments or to improve health in general. Here are some of the health benefits that nutmeg provides.
1. Brain Tonic
During ancient times, Roman and Greek civilizations used nutmeg as a type of brain tonic. This is because nutmeg can effectively stimulate your brain. As a result, it can help eliminate fatigue and stress. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, nutmeg may also be a good remedy. Nutmeg can also improve your concentration so you can become more efficient and focused at work or at school.
2. Pain Relief
Nutmeg is also an effective sedative. In fact, nutmeg is a staple in ancient Chinese medicine. The Chinese used the spice to treat inflammation and abdominal pain. Use nutmeg if you are suffering from aching joints, muscle pain, arthritis, sores and other ailments. To relieve the pain, apply nutmeg oil to the affected areas.
3. Indigestion Relief
If you suffer from digestion-related problems like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence and so on, nutmeg can effectively offer you relief. Nutmeg oil relieves stomachaches by removing the excess gas from your intestines. Nutmeg can also boost your appetite.
4. Bad Breath Treatment
Because of its antibacterial properties, nutmeg can also effectively treat halitosis or bad breath. As you probably know, bad breath is usually caused by a build-up of bacteria in your mouth. Nutmeg can rid your mouth of these bacteria. This is the reason why nutmeg is a common ingredient in many brands of toothpastes. Nutmeg can also be used to treat gum problems and toothaches.
5. Liver and Kidney Detox
Detoxification is an important factor of good health. Diet, pollution, stress, tobacco, medication and other external substances can lead to the build-up of toxins in your organs. The liver and kidney are two of the organs where this toxic build-up usually develops. As a tonic, nutmeg can clean your liver and kidney and remove these toxins. If you are suffering from a liver disease then nutmeg can also be beneficial. Nutmeg is also effective in preventing and dissolving kidney stones. When your liver and kidney are successfully detoxified, they can perform their function better.
6. Skin Care
If skin care is one of your priorities then you might want to incorporate nutmeg into your regimen. Nutmeg can actually help you achieve smoother and healthier skin by helping you treat several skin problems. A scrub made from nutmeg powder and orange lentil powder can help you remove blackheads, a type of acne characterized by pores clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. If you suffer from acne marks, nutmeg can also help make your scars less noticeable. What you need to do is mix some nutmeg powder with some honey to make a paste, which you will then apply to the acne marks.
7. Sleep Aid
If you have difficulty sleeping at night, drink a cup of milk with some nutmeg powder. This will help you achieve relaxation and will induce sleep.
Although nutmeg is said to counteract stomach distress from gas, do not try any home remedies without first consulting your physician. Nutmeg is also an astringent and stimulant, as well as a purported aphrodisiac.