Myristica fragrans is a tropical evergreen tree. The seeds of this tree are used in the making of nutmeg, a popular spice in the gustatory culinary world. The tree is native to Indonesia, but grows in tropical humid places with sandy soil. Nutmeg has a nutty fragrance and flavour, and is used as a condiment in sweet dishes such as cakes and porridges. It is also used to flavour certain wines and teas. It is available in two forms – whole seed and ground spice. Although nutmeg is used for flavouring food items, it has certain compounds that make it beneficial to health. For instance, nutmeg has the compound sabinene which has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal properties. These properties are utilised to treat skin inflammations. Nutmeg essential oil contains all the compounds of nutmeg in a concentrated form and used particularly to harness its health benefits. Before understanding the health benefits of nutmeg oil, here are some trivial facts about nutmeg.
Nutmeg scientific name – The scientific name of nutmeg is Myristica or Myristica fragrans Houtt.
Nuteg in Hindi – Nutmeg is called Jayaaphal or jaiphal in Hindi (also in Marathi and Gujarati). It is called Jaji kaya in Telugu, Jathika in Malayalam, Javitri in Bengali and Jaikai in Kannada.
Calories in nutmeg – 100gms of nutmeg contain 525 calories.
Is nutmeg a nut? The answer is no. Although there is the word nut in nutmeg, it is not a nut like peanut. Nutmeg is a seed that is used as a whole or as a ground spice.
Now, let’s focus on the health benefits of the oil.
Benefits of nutmeg essential oil
Benefit of Antioxidants
Don’t judge nutmeg by its size; it is rich in antioxidants because of the presence of several antioxidant rich compounds. Free radicals in the body are a cause of concern. Several investigations into severe diseases have helped scientists understand the etiology of diseases and most of it points to the excess freedom of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are always formed in the body as a byproduct of metabolic reactions, however, several other factors, both internal and external, cause a rise in the free radicals. This can hamper the cell membranes and alter the protein structures of the body. It results in oxidative stress which too is responsible for the growth of cancerous cells and tissues. Other ailments that are caused due to oxidative stress are Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Antioxidants serve the purpose of neutralising the free radicals and regulating its quantity. In an experiment on lab rats with induced oxidative stress, nutmeg essential oil showed that it can lower cellular damage due to the stress. One group of rats was deprived of nutmeg oil, and they, unfortunately, died due to cell damage. Nutmeg essential oil should be used regularly to boost up the presence of antioxidants in the body and eliminate excess free radicals.
Benefit of anti-inflammatory property
Nutmeg contains the compounds monoterpenes and pinene that are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation and chronic inflammation are linked with several underlying ailments including heart problems and arthritis. The compounds in nutmeg oil reduce inflammation in the body by inhibiting the enzymes that cause the inflammation in the first place. More studies are needed to understand how and where nutmeg can be used to lower the effects of inflammation, however, lab rats with induced inflammation showed better recovery when they consumed diluted nutmeg oil. People suffering from joint or muscle inflammation usually apply the oil on the surface and massage it with it.
Benefit of nutmeg essential oil on sexual health
In a control group of lab rats, male rats were given a high quantity of nutmeg for consumption. This test group of rats showed improved or increased sexual activities including better libido and sexual performance. Other animal studies have also shown improved sexual performance. Similar to other essential oils, nutmeg oil, too improves sexual health, however the exact way in which it does so is still unknown. Some doctors suggest that the presence of plant compounds arouse the nervous system into action. Furthermore, the soothing effect the oil has on the nerves and the improved blood circulation throughout the body are responsible for improved sexual health. There have been instances in traditional medicines where nutmeg has been used to improve performance.
Taste and other benefits
Nutmeg as a spice is used to prepare both sweet delicacies (including cakes, pastries and cookies) and spicy dishes (including non-vegetarian meals). It can be used as a standalone spice or it can be mixed with other spices such as cloves, garlic and cinnamon. Nutmeg essential oil can also be used in cooking, albeit in small quantities. The nutty flavor of nutmeg makes simple vegetables dishes unique and is used in restaurants throughout the world. It is also added to apple cider vinegar, which is used by many people for its health benefits. Now, how to use fresh nutmeg? Fresh nutmeg adds a wonderful flavor to breakfast food like fruits and oatmeal. It should be grated finely and sprinkled on the food to get its taste.
Benefits of nutmeg oil for skin
Nutmeg oil also has many Vitamins including B1 and B6 and when mixed with butter and rubbed on the skin, it provides a protection to the skin from sunlight and acts as an anti-ageing agent. Discolorations and pigmentations vanish when nutmeg is applied regularly. It is also used in exfoliating creams.
Substitute for nutmeg essential oil
Nutmeg essential oil is one of a kind, but there are many subs for nutmeg oil which give the same benefits. Some of the subs of nutmeg oil are – cinnamon essential oil, clove essential oil and ginger essential oil.
Now, nutmeg essential oil may have several benefits, but it should be used with caution.
Precautions while using nutmeg essential oil
Nutmeg in small doses does not cause any problems. But, if consumed in excess it can have some side effects. The compounds in the oil myristicin and safrole are used as recreational drugs; hence if nutmeg is consumed in excess it causes delirium. Experiments on lab rats showed that consuming high amounts of nutmeg can result in organ damage. The best precaution while using nutmeg essential oil, especially consuming it, is to use it in small quantities.