The Spice Series: Nutmeg

This is continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information on Nutmeg!


Illustration by Christy Beckwith


**Nutmeg is like no other taste in the world. It has an intense, sweet taste that has made it a popular and universal spice for cooking and baking.

**Nutmeg is the seed inside the fruit of the nutmeg tree. The tree actually produces TWO culinary spices: nutmeg and mace, which is the sheath that surrounds the seed (nutmeg). Nutmeg is sweet, while mace is tart.

**Nutmeg is grown mainly in the Maluku Islands and on Grenada, and these two areas provide most of the world’s supply of nutmeg today.

**Growing Nutmeg is complex and takes a long time: you need multiple trees for the complicated male/female pollination to occur, and you finally start getting a good harvest after about 20 years. Also, these trees grow quite tall and can only grow in zones 10 or higher. For this reason, I am not including information on how to grow nutmeg.


**I hope you like this material, and, as always, if you have any questions/comments/additional sources for me, please post in the comment section below! Enjoy!


Medicinal Benefitsnutmeg

**If you take a trip to the Caribbean Island of Grenada, nutmeg trees are supposedly everywhere, and you can smell their fragrant spice in the air. People over there use nutmeg for folk medicine and traditional healing. They use it to massage arthritic joints, ease stomach cramps, aid digestive disorders, to calm anxiety, and many other ways. As it turns out, there is a truth to these traditions.


**Unfortunately, at this point in time, most scientific research about nutmeg’s medicinal benefits has been done only on animals and not humans. In the section below, I try to specify whenever possible if studies have been done on animals or humans. I think both are important to know, and I am eager to see more research done on nutmeg’s medicinal benefits for humans in the future.


**Nutmeg’s medicinal properties include: analgesic, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, expectorant, and stimulant.

**Nutmeg may help prevent and/or treat:

  • Anxiety: In an animal study, nutmeg was similar to common anti-anxiety drugs in alleviating anxiety-like symptoms, but without the side-effects.
  • Asthma: Some sources mentioned briefly that nutmeg can help reduce asthma, partly because it helps relax muscles.
  • Cancer: Researchers have found that the extract of nutmeg killed human leukemia cells.
  • Cholesterol problems: In animal studies, researchers have discovered that nutmeg gets rid of the “bad” cholesterol.
  • Depression: In an animal study, treatment with nutmeg was as effective as antidepressants but without the bad side-effects.
  • Diarrhea: In an animal study, researchers have found that the chemical compound called myristicin, which is found in nutmeg, killed 90 percent of rotaviruses, the most common viral cause of diarrhea.
  • Digestion: In small doses, it can reduce flatulence, improve appetite, and aid digestion. Add a few drops of the essential oil to some honey to treat indigestion issues.
  • Epilepsy: In an animal study, researchers have found that nutmeg possesses important anticonvulsant compounds that prevent seizures.
  • Joints: It helps aching joints and is often used to relieve painful muscles as well as rheumatism.
  • Memory loss: In an animal study, researchers have found that nutmeg greatly improved learning and memory. It is possible that it will help Alzheimer patients for this reason.
  • Sexual desire: Nutmeg is a central nervous system stimulant, and is considered an aphrodisiac in many parts of the world.
  • Stimulant: It is known to stimulate not only circulation but also the brain.
  • Toothaches: Like cloves, nutmeg contains eugenol, which means it helps numb toothaches as well as help with gum problems. Add a few drops of the essential oil to a cotton swab and apply to the toothache area for relief.
  • Wrinkles: Researchers found that nutmeg contains chemical compounds that could inhibit elastase, an enzyme that breaks down elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin youthfully taut and flexible.


**Do YOU use nutmeg for medicinal purposes? If so, how? Please tell me about your experiences in the comment section below!


Culinary Usesnutmegcloseup1x

**Nutmeg is used in different ways depending on the country. In the US and in England, it is mainly used for sweet dishes (especially pumpkin desserts) and beverages (like eggnog, mulled wine, etc.).

**In France, nutmeg is used to cut the richness in the French white sauce called ‘bechamel’ as well as in their potatoes au gratin.

**In Germany, nutmeg is used to cut the richness in potatoes, puddings, and dumplings.

**In the Caribbean, nutmeg is used in a large variety of dishes such as jerked meats, curries, and spice mixes. They also make nutmeg syrup with sugar and rum and put in on many things, both sweet and savory.

**In India, nutmeg is used for vegetable and dessert dishes. It is also used in the spice mix ‘garam masala’.


**Nutmeg pairs well with these spices: Allspice, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cocoa, Coconut, Coriander. Ginger, and Lemongrass.

**Nutmeg complements recipes that include: Avocadoes, Bananas, Lobster, Scallops, Soups, Tomatoes, Vegetables, and White sauces.

**In addition, nutmeg and dairy work wonderfully together. Nutmeg cuts through the fat of milk and dairy products. The Germans and French have a smart idea when they use it to cut through the fat and heaviness of white sauces, potato dishes, and other rich meals.


**Here are some other ways to put more nutmeg in your diet:

• Sprinkle nutmeg in thick soups, such as split pea, lentil, and black bean.

• Add a sprinkle of nutmeg to mask the sulfurous taste of cabbage.

• Add nutmeg to quiche.

• Grind a little nutmeg over slow-cooked stews.

• Sprinkle it in hot cocoa, or over ice cream, milkshakes, or smoothies.

• Sprinkle it in thick stews and in curries made with a coconut milk base.


**Nutmeg is available in whole form or powdered. Because it is high in oil, ground nutmeg keeps its flavor longer than most spices, and will stay fresh for at least a year if kept in the correct conditions (dark, dry, cool place). For this reason, you can buy ground nutmeg in small amounts and not worry about it losing any of its’ medicinal or culinary benefits.

**Whole nutmegs seeds are hard and you will need a grater to get the spice. There are special nutmeg graters, like this one, but all-purpose steel kitchen graters should work as well. Nutmeg’s flavor is the richest the moment you grate it. Whole nutmegs will keep in a tightly sealed jar in a dark and dry place for at least 5 years. There is a popular belief that nutmegs will last forever, but the truth is that they just last longer than most spices. If the whole nutmegs have black spots or dark brown spots, they are finally at the point where they need to be discarded.


Illustrated by Christy Beckwith


There you go! This is most of the information that I could find about nutmeg. Please click here for my introduction to my Spice Series.  Again, if you have any comments, questions, or extra information for me, please feel free to post in the comment section below!

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