What The Hell is Nutmeg, And Why Do So Many Love It?

Ask most people what nutmeg is and you’re likely to get puzzled looks. However, nutmeg is a very versatile spice from a foreign land with a fascinating history. 

Myristica Fragrans is an evergreen tree that is native to Indonesia and is one of only a handful of plant species capable of yielding not one but two distinct spices: nutmeg, which is derived from the seed, and mace, which is extracted from the membrane or outer covering protecting the seeds. Indonesia's Spice Islands were the world's only source of these spices until the 19th century. As colonialism and international trade expanded, nutmeg eventually made its way to India where the climate is ideal for cultivating spices. The states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu grow the bulk of nutmeg that India produces. 

Nutmeg has a dark brown color and has a strong, earthy, spicy fragrance. Since its discovery in 1512, this spice has become an essential ingredient in many different types of dishes, desserts, beverages. In some cases, it is also used as a medicine.

There are a few reasons why so many people are drawn to nutmeg. A versatile spice, nutmeg used properly can be a great addition to almost any dish. It adds a very unique flavor that you cannot recreate with any other spice. Nutmeg also packs a real punch, health-wise. It is filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that fight aging and protect against serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and liver disease. The oil extracted from nutmeg has many dental uses. Many people love to sprinkle a bit of this spice in their tea or coffee for the added health benefits. But one can have too much of a good thing. Nutmeg in large quantities can cause hallucinations, anxiety and hypertension due to the presence of myristicin. Myristicin, when isolated, is used as an insecticide. It is found in small quantities in pepper, parsley, celery etc. Nutmeg and it’s sibling mace are used frequently in India. Mace, with its red or orange-ish hues, has a delicate flavor while nutmeg is a bit sweeter. This sweetness has led to its use in sweet dishes going back to the Mughal era. Small amounts of nutmeg are added to garam masala. 

For a low-profile spice, nutmeg has a large number of benefits

Boosts Metabolism 

The Myristicin in nutmeg, when taken in low to moderate quantities, is known to boost the metabolism and break down fat in the body. 

Relieves Headaches 

Nutmeg has a long history of being used to relieve headaches. It has, on occasion, been proven to be more effective than some prescription drugs. The exact reason for this is unknown, but studies indicate it really does work. 

Relieves Anxiety & Insomnia 

Nutmeg is a natural and safe way to reduce anxiety. Myristicin is has antidepressant properties and studies show it can be as effective as anti-anxiety medications. Warm milk with a dash of nutmeg is recommended as a bedtime drink for a good night’s sleep, per Ayurvedic tradition.

Treats Bad Breath 

Chronic bad breath may be a sign of internal toxicity. Toxins in the body can build up from an unhealthy lifestyle and bad diet. The liver and kidneys are said to benefit from nutmeg's ability to aid in detoxification. The antibacterial properties of its essential oils mean it can eliminate the bacteria in your mouth that are the actual cause of bad breath. Ayurvedic tooth and gum pastes often include it as an ingredient.

Great for Skincare 

Nutmeg's anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to eliminate blackheads, treat acne, and unclog pores, make it a useful ingredient in skincare products. Common home treatments for acne include applying a paste made from equal parts ground nutmeg and honey. Similar to oatmeal and orange peel, it can be used as a scrub.

Good for Blood Pressure 

Nutmeg's high mineral content makes it a useful component for controlling blood pressure and flow. Minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, etc., all required for different bodily processes, can be found in this spice.

If you love the strong, distinct taste of spices, you will likely love nutmeg. It has a very unique taste that can’t be replicated by any other spice. It is a great spice to add to your diet every now and then and is also inexpensive to purchase.