The 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.
Flower and Fruit
Myristica fragans is either male or female, although there are male trees with female flowers and fruit. The flowers are unisexual. The male flowers are in sparsely flowered inflorescence; the female ones are solitary and inconspicuous. The flowers have a simple 3-lobed involucre; the filaments are fused to a tube. The fruit ripens 7 to 10 months after flowering. The fruit is fleshy, almost round, acuminate at the stem end, 3 to 6 cm long and 2.5 to 5 cm thick. The fruit is light yellow and about the size of a peach. The fruit flesh bursts open when ripe and exposes the bright red seed's aril that surrounds the dark brown seed. Within the aril, the seed kernel is covered in a hard brown testis that shows the marks of the aril.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
Nutmeg is an evergreen tree up to 15 m in height. The smooth bark is green on the young branches, then turns grayish-brown. The alternate leaves are dark green, entire-margined, sharp edged, short-petioled, ovate-elliptical, and up to 8 cm long.
The plant is indigenous to the Molucca Islands and New Guinea and has spread to Indonesia, the West Indies, and other tropical areas, where it also is cultivated.
Nutmeg is the seed of Myristica fragrans. After harvesting, the nut is shelled and dried (maximum 45º C), and the seed is opened after 4 to 8 weeks. The lacy, fleshy covering of the nut, which is scarlet when fresh and dark orange when dried, yields Nutmeg and Mace. After being separated, both parts are dried slowly. The nut is ground and then distilled. Nutmeg butter is made by pressing and steaming the nuts to extract the fatty and essential oils from the seeds.
Not to be Confused With
Several other nuts are often given the name nutmeg. Confusion may occur with calabash nutmeg (Monodora myristica), Papua nutmeg (Myristica succedanea) and Myristica malabarica, Laurelia sempervirens, Atherosperma moschatum, Ravensara aromatica, Cryptocarya moschata, and Torreya californica. Nutmeg oil is sometimes confused with the oil from the green leaves of Myristica fragrans.
Actions & Pharmacology
Volatile oil (7-16%)
Fatty oil (30-40%): fatty acids including among others lauric, myristic, pentadecanoic, palmitic, heptadecanoic, stearic, oleic acid
Sterols: including among others beta-sitosterol, campesterol
Compounds: Nutmeg Oil
Monoterpene hydrocarbons 80%): including sabinene (39%), alpha-pinene (13%), beta-pinene (9%)
monoterpene alcohols (5%): including 1,8-cineole (3.5%)
phenyl propane derivatives (10 to 18%): including myristicin (2 to 5%), elemicin (1 to 2.5%)
Fatty oil (30 to 40%) in the nutmeg oil rendered through pressing
In animal experiments, the eugenol in the essential oil inhibits, dose-dependently, medicinally induced diarrhea and slows down the transport of active carbon in the gastrointestinal tract. An effect on prostaglandin synthesis and an antimicrobial effect have also been demonstrated. The use of the drug for dysentery and rheumatic complaints seems plausible.
Indications & Usage
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.
Indications include diarrhea, vomiting, and digestive problems.
Indications in Indian medicine include headaches, poor vision, insomnia, fever and malaria, cholera, impotence, and general debility.
Among uses in homeopathy are nervous physical symptoms, digestive problems with flatulence, and disturbed perception.
The drug is not to be used during pregnancy.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Should be used only under expert supervision. No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages. However, the drug can trigger allergic contact dermatitis.
Nutmeg Seed and Oil
Ingestion of 1 to 3 “nuts” (or even fewer) can produce amphetamine derivatives through bioconversion of the phenylpropane derivatives in the human body. This eventually leads to intense thirst, nausea, reddening and swelling of the face, and alterations of consciousness from mild changes, such as anxiety or lethargy, to intensive hallucinations. The stupor can last from 2 to 3 days. The therapy for poisonings consists of gastrointestinal emptying (inducement of vomiting, gastric lavage with burgundy-colored potassium permanganate solution, sodium sulfate), and installation of activated charcoal. That is followed by treating spasms intravenously with diazepam; treating colic with atropine; electrolyte substitution; and treating possible cases of acidosis with sodium bicarbonate infusions. In case of shock, plasma volume expanders should be infused. Monitoring of kidney function is essential. Intubation and oxygen respiration may also be necessary.
Mode of Administration
Nutmeg oils, extracts, powders, syrups and butters are used internally. The oil also is used externally as a liniment 10%
There is no information in the literature.
- Infusion/decoction: 1%, 50 to 200 mL daily.
- Liquid extract: 1 to 2 times daily.
- Oil: 1 to 3 drops internally 2 to 3 times a day.
- Powder: 0.3 to 1 g; not to exceed 3 times daily.
- Syrup: 10 to 40 mL daily.
- Tincture: 2 to 10 mL daily.
5 drops, 1 tablet, or 10 globules every 30 to 60 minutes (acute) or 1 to 3 times daily (chronic); parenterally: 1 to 2 mL sc acute, 3 times daily; chronic: once a day (HAB1).
Nutmeg should be stored in tightly sealed containers and kept cool and dry. The oil should be protected from light in containers that are tightly sealed, completely filled and kept at a temperature not to exceed 25º C.