Nutmeg (botanical name Myristica fragrans) is an evergreen tree found growing up to a height of 65 feet in the tropical climatic regions. Nutmeg trees are indigenous to Indonesia's Molucca Islands, but now they are cultivated extensively, especially in the tropical regions of the world.
The nutmeg tree produces a fruit that is fleshly and akin to an apricot. When the nutmeg fruit matures or ripens completely, it comes apart in two halves revealing a vivid red aril, which resembles a web and is covered by a fragile and dark reddish-brown shell which encloses a solitary seed. In effect, the aril which resembles a net is actually a mace, which changes color from red to yellow or orange brown when dehydrated. When the dark brittle shell is cracked open, it releases a dried out brown hued seed, which is nutmeg.
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The nutmeg tree yields nutmeg as well as mace and both of them possess extremely comparable therapeutic attributes. In the West, people rarely use nutmeg and mace owing to their noxiousness when used in large doses. Despite this, both are significant natural remedies, which are mainly used to encourage digestion as well as to cure contagions in the digestive tract. In addition, nutmeg has also been held in high esteem for a long period owing to is aphrodisiac properties and also as a medication for treating rheumatism and eczema.
Nutmeg as well as mace have been therapeutically employed for several centuries to cure gas problems, indigestion, vomiting, nausea as well as other stomach and kidney disorders. When traces of powdered nutmeg and mace are meticulously blended with 1.5 teaspoonfuls of pulverized slippery elm bark along with a small amount of cold water, it forms a soft paste that is not cumbersome. Subsequently, bring a pint of equal proportions to the boiling point, take it away from the heat immediately and rapidly add the pulverized herb as well as spice paste. Continue stirring using a spoon made with wood for roughly 30 minutes till the paste is blended comprehensively. Allow the paste to cool till it become lukewarm and then drink half a cup of the formulation. Continue this process thrice every day, every time drinking the warm mixture, as it will help to cure the stomach disorders.
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Seed kernel - nutmeg.
Aril - mace.
Nutmeg has numerous uses, including therapeutic and culinary, and they are familiar since the prehistoric times. Nutmeg is a vital herb that is beneficial to us in several ways and is also deemed to be a tonic for the brain, as it facilitates in getting rid of mental strain. Nutmeg is primarily employed in the form of a sedative. In addition, this herb is also employed for treating digestive disorders and held in high esteem as an aphrodisiac (any substance that enhances sexual desire). While the herb is effective in combating asthma, it is also employed in the form of a detoxifying agent.
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It may be noted that nutmeg oil or the whole nutmeg possess anti-inflammatory attributes and they may be employed for effectively treating rheumatism (joint pains). In addition, nutmeg oil is used to cure cold, cough, asthma and, hence, it usually forms an important ingredient in many cough syrups.
The essential oil yielded by nutmeg possesses anesthetic properties and, at the same time, has an invigorating influence on the stomach and the intestines, helping to enhance appetite and lessen nausea, vomiting as well as diarrhea. Nutmeg essential oil is also an effective medication for treating several digestive disorders, particularly gastroenteritis.
People in China especially use nutmeg for curing diarrhea, facilitating to bind as well as warm the intestines and, at the same time, ease abdominal pain and swelling owing to cold.
Nutmeg has been valued since long as an aphrodisiac in India. It is believed that nutmeg helps in augmenting sexual staying power. Several lotions that are based on fixed oil (also known as nutmeg butter) are employed to cure rheumatic problems. These ointments possess a counter-aggravation impact, encouraging the flow of blood to the affected area. People in India ground nutmeg to form a paste and apply it directly to areas that are affected by ringworm and eczema.
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Using nutmeg and mace in small therapeutic doses as well as culinary measures is considered to be safe. However, when used in surplus, these herbs are potently invigorating, intoxicating as well as noxious. It has been known that consuming merely two whole nutmegs may even result in death. In fact, myristicin, a compound present in nutmeg, is mostly accountable for the toxicity of the herb and this compound is also known to be intoxicant. Moreover, in isolation, safrole, another constituent of nutmeg, is carcinogenic (any substance that has a proclivity to produce cancer) when taken in high doses.
Both nutmeg and mace are known to possess comparable sensual attributes. However, nutmeg possesses a somewhat sweeter flavour compared to mace, which has a more delicate essence. Chefs usually have a preference for mace while preparing light dishes owing the vivid orange, saffron kind of hue imparted by it. On the other hand, nutmeg is employed in ground or grated form to add essence to several dishes. Nutmeg is most excellent when it is shred fresh using a nutmeg grater.
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In the cuisine of Penang, dehydrated, grated nutmeg crust along with sugar veneer is employed in the form of toppings on the exceptionally Penang ais kacang. In addition, the rind of nutmeg is also blended (to prepare a fresh, green, strong taste as well as a white hued juice) or it is boiled (bringing about an additionally sweeter and brown juice) to prepared iced nutmeg juice or lau hau peng, as the beverage is known in Penang Hokkien.
In India, nutmeg is made use of in several sweet and spicy dishes, mainly in the Mughlai cuisine. In most parts of India, nutmeg is known as 'jaiphal'. On the other hand, in the cuisine of the Middle East, frequently ground nutmeg is used in the form of a spice to prepare flavorful dishes.
In the original cuisine of Europe, both nutmeg and mace are utilized mainly in potato dishes as well as in processed meat products. In addition, nutmeg and mace are also used while preparing sauces, soups and baked items. In Dutch cuisine, people add nutmeg to vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and string beans. Nutmeg also forms a customary constituent in mulled cider, eggnog and mulled wine.
Several Japanese curry powders also comprise nutmeg in the form of an important ingredient.
People in the Caribbean islands frequently use nutmeg in beverages, for instance the Painkiller, Bushwacker, and Barbados rum punch. Normally, grounded nutmeg is simply strewn on the top of these drinks to add essence to them.
In Grenada, the pericarp (fruit or pod) of nutmeg is used to prepare a jam known as morne delice. In Indonesia, people use the nutmeg fruit to prepare a jam, which is locally known as selei buah pala. Alternately, they also cut the nutmeg fruit in fine slices, cook them with sugar and crystallize them to prepare an aromatic candy, which they call manisan pala (nutmeg sweets).
Nutmeg trees are grown from their seeds, which are sown when they are mature. Generally, nutmeg trees produce fruits roughly after 8 years and often continue to fruit till they are 60 years old. The fruits are collected when they have ripened completely and subsequently, nutmeg (seed) and mace (aril) are separated and dried out.
It may be noted that nutmeg trees flourish well in extremely warm and moist climatic conditions - typical characteristics of tropical regions. While nutmeg tree needs to be watered throughout the year, it loathes being in flooded conditions. Nutmeg trees comprise both male and female trees and they are both essential for pollination as well as setting the fruit. Usually, the ripened fruits crack open while they are on the tree, exposing the attractive netlike aril within. The seeds (nutmeg) are dried for a period of roughly two months and the shells are cracked open after this period. When the shells are cracked, a fragrance emits from inside the shells.
According to the findings of one research undertaken to ascertain the therapeutic properties of nutmeg, the compound called macelignan that is isolated from nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) possibly has the potential to put forth anti-microbial actions against Streptococcus mutans. However, currently, this compound is not employed in treatment.
In any case, since the 7th century nutmeg has been used therapeutically to cure a number of health conditions. In the 19th century, nutmeg was employed in the form of an abortifacient (a medical agent that causes forced abortions) and this had resulted in many recorded incidents of nutmeg poisoning.
Both nutmeg and mace are obtained from the fruits of the nutmeg trees and they include a number of natural compounds that are beneficial for our health.
Nutmeg: Nutmeg encloses a volatile oil (as much as 15 per cent of its total constituents), counting alpha-pinene, alpha-terpinene, beta-pinene, beta-terpinene, myristicin, safrole and elincin. In addition, it also contains a fixed oil called nutmeg butter, butyrin and myristine.
Mace: Chemical analysis of mace (aril) found in the nutmeg fruit has revealed that it encloses a volatile oil that is comparable to that of nutmeg, but compared to nutmeg, has an elevated concentration of the compound called myristicin.
The kernel and essential oil of nutmeg are used in various forms for therapeutic purpose. A brief account of their various applications is mentioned below.