Nutmeg – a sweet spice with healing properties

April 22, 2011

Nutmeg is unlike any other taste in the world.  The sweet and intense flavor is from myristicin, a volatile oil found in plants such as celery, carrots and parsley, but it is most abundant in nutmeg.  On the CaribbeanislandofGrenada, nutmeg trees are prolific and the spice scents the salty sea air.  The nutmeg fruit is pictured onGrenada’s  national flag.  Most of the world’s nutmeg comes from the Maluku Islands (a.k.a. The Spice Islands) andGrenada

Nutmeg is used by traditional healers to ease stomach cramps, diarrhea, and other digestive disorders, relieve headaches, calm troubled emotions, stimulate menstruation and sooth hemorrhoids. 

The spice is the kernel of a nut-like seed housed in the fruit of the  nutmeg tree.  The tree actually produces two culinary spices – nutmeg, the kernel, and mace, the aril or sheath that surrounds the seed like a net.  Nutmeg is sweet, while mace is strong and tart.    

There are no human studies on myristicin that I could find, but scientists have conducted animal studies on nutmeg’s healing powers. Some of nutmegs potential healing uses are:    

High cholesterol.  Animal studies inIndiafound that nutmeg reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

Cancer.  Researchers inThailandfound that extract of nutmeg can kill human leukemia cells.

Anxiety.  Also in an Indian study, nutmeg alleviated anxiety-like symptoms similarly to anti-anxiety drugs.

Depression.  “In an animal study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, treatment with nutmeg was as effective as antidepressants in producing ‘significant antidepressant-like effects.’ “

Memory.  Indian researchers found nutmeg to significantly improve learning and memory.

Diarrhea.  Brazilian researchers found that myristicin killed 90% of rotaviruses, the most common viral cause of diarrhea. 

Nutmeg’s flavor is richest the moment you grate it, so grate it directly over the food when it’s time to add it to the dish. It can also be purchased pre-grated.  Nutmeg retains its flavor best when added toward the end of cooking.   It is a favorite for flavoring cakes, pie fillings, piecrust, but it’s also great in savory dishes.  A tiny bit sprinkled at the end of cooking in a slow cooking casserole imparts a sweet spiciness and a new layer of flavor.  Nutmeg and dairy work well together.  Nutmeg cuts through the fat of milk, cream, eggs, cheese and custards.  It goes well in rich, flour thickened white sauces.  It’s a natural in potato dishes, and with strong vegetables, like cauliflower, eggplant, brussel spouts and spinach.   

Here are a few ways to add nutmeg to your diet:

  • Sprinkle nutmeg in thick soups such as split pea, lentil and black bean
  • Add a sprinkle to mask the sulfurous taste of cabbage
  • Add nutmeg to quiche
  • Grind nutmeg over slow-cooked stews
  • Sprinkle over onion dishes
  • Sprinkle it in hot cocoa or over ice cream or smoothies
  • Add to cookie dough
  • Grind nutmeg with coffee beans for your personalized flavored coffee


Enjoy nutmeg. 

For more nutrition and health information, contact Dr. Wendy at 231-348-0838 or   Dr. Wendy is available for individual appointments, phone appointments, group sessions, speaking engagements and is now offering a Corporate Wellness Program.     

Also, please visit Dr. Wendy at the Holistic Health & Nutrition Booth at “For The Health Of It” Health Expo Saturday, April 30th 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey


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