Nutmeg is a spice made from the seeds of a tropical evergreen tree grown in Indonesia and the West Indies.
The seed is ground up and used on or in food as a flavoring agent. It gives a warm, sweet flavor to many dishes. Nutmeg can be used in pies, cakes, cookies, tea, coffee, potatoes, squash, and dark meats such as lamb or pork. It also works well in confections, puddings, sausages, sauces, and vegetables.
Beyond the flavoring, it contains trace amounts of potassium, calcium, iron, and manganese, and it also contains antioxidants, Vitamin C and some B vitamins.
Used as a spice, it helps with digestion and can help reduce gas, bloating and diarrhea. It is also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, so try adding it to your toothpaste to help freshen your breath or soothe mouth sores.
The amount used as a spice in food is safe.
However, did you know that nutmeg has been used in Chinese medicine for years for its medicinal uses? The amount used for medicinal purposes is higher than that used in food, so you need to speak to a professional herbalist as it can be toxic in extremely high doses.
Note-This is not meant to be a diagnosis or a treatment plan designed specifically for you; only your doctor can make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan. However, you can discuss with your doctor the use of nutmeg spice and nutmeg essential oil.
13 scientifically proven benefits of nutmeg
There have been several studies on nutmeg and its benefits. While there still needs to be more studies, so far, there are 13 scientifically proven benefits to nutmeg.
Research studies continue on the topic of nutmeg and the benefits it can provide the body. Before you start using nutmeg, speak to a professional herbalist and your doctor.
Aids Diabetes Treatment
In 2006, a study was done in India and nutmeg was found to be beneficial to diabetics.
Rahul Somani, Assistant Professor, Sinhgad College of Pharmacy, Pune, India, says that “Diabetes affects thousands of people all around the world and this research shows that nutmeg has a significant anti-diabetic effect and may offer a user-friendly, non-invasive way to manage the disease.”
The controlled tests on rats showed that extracts of the nutmeg:
- Considerably decreases blood glucose levels
- Picks up the lipid shape in the blood
- Arouses the beta-cells of the pancreas to discharge insulin
- Recovers body and organ (liver and pancreas) weight
To get the benefits of nutmeg, you need only a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half per day. Use it in foods and beverages. If you are feeling anxious and having a hard time sleeping, stir some into a glass of warm milk.
Do not be afraid to experiment with nutmeg on meats, fish, and in stews and sauces.
Aids in digestion
Nutmeg stimulates the secretion of the digestive enzymes that aid in the digestion of food. It also has fiber which can help regulate bowel movements. It can help reduce flatulence and relieve problems such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, and even bloating.
Provides pain relief
According to an article published in 2016 online through the National Institute of Health1, nutmeg oil alleviates chronic inflammatory pain; this was made evident by the ability of nutmeg oil to inhibit COX-2 expression, decrease blood substance P level, and produce relief of chronic pain from inflammation.
Nutmeg oil is to be used topically, not ingested. Nutmeg essential oil such as MegRelief can be massaged into the joint that is inflamed and painful for relief of both the inflammation and pain.
In an article in the National Institute of Health published in 2015 by Avicenna J Phytomed, the article states that nutmeg has analgesics and anti-inflammatory substances and can be used to treat arthritis, epilepsy, and gout.
In order to reduce inflammation, you should add nutmeg spice to food and drinks, but only use one to one and a half teaspoons a day while the inflammation is at its worse.
For pain relief, use the nutmeg essential oil and massage it into the area of the pain. Often, blending nutmeg and peppermint essential oil into one, such as is done with MegRelief, can reduce the pain level.
Anesthetic Agents of Plant Origin: A Review of Phytochemicals with Anesthetic Activity published online in August 2017 states that eugenol occurs in herbs and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and basil. Due to these terpenoid phenols that have antinociceptive and antibacterial effects, they have been widely used in dental procedures as a sedative or analgesic tool for pulpitis, toothaches and dental hyperalgesia. Also, thymol, eugenol and their physically -related compounds show general anesthetic activity.
Because of the antibacterial properties, nutmeg can help reduce or end bad breath. If you have periodontal disease, nutmeg will help reduce bad breath and some of the infection2; however, you need to see a periodontist and be treated with antibiotics and other measures to reduce or end the periodontal disease.
Detoxifier for liver
The Department of Pharmacology, S.M.S. Medical College in Jaipur, India shows that the ethanolic extract of nutmeg can significantly lower the levels of lipoprotein lipids in the liver and the heart. The toxicity studies showed the absence of any adverse effects on various hematological and biochemical parameters.
A study in the Journal of Zhejiang University published in 2011 shows that nutmeg is an antioxidant and due to those antioxidant powers, it will also help reduce the toxins in the liver and the rest of the body.
Kidneys can be damaged by several factors. One way to protect the kidneys is to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of foods that contain antioxidant powers as does nutmeg. The antioxidants will help detoxify the kidneys. Also, watch your intake of sodium, refined foods, alcohol, and other toxins for kidney health.
In a study published in 1994 in the National Institute of Health, researchers found that nutmeg has a calming effect. When you are having insomnia, a pinch of nutmeg stirred into some warm milk has been shown to help you sleep.
Why do we need antioxidants? Antioxidants fight off free radicals. Free radicals are toxic offshoots of oxygen metabolism that can cause substantial injury to living cells and tissues in a development known as oxidative stress.
Several studies, some of which have already been mentioned above, show that nutmeg is packed with antioxidants3 and that means it can flush free radicals from the body. Reducing free radicals can prevent many health issues including inflammation, a weak immune system, cardiac and pulmonary problems, and signs of aging. Free radicals have also been linked to certain cancers.
Circulation is needed to provide oxygen and nutrients to all cells and organs in the body. A study by the National Institute of Health shows that nutmeg can help reduce blood pressure because of the eugenol which dilates cerebral arteries via multi-modal inhibition of voltage-dependent calcium-2 channels.
Reducing high blood pressure can prevent heart attack and stroke. It also helps transport vitamins and minerals to the body better when blood pressure is maintained at a safe level.
Aids immune system
The immune system fights off both bacterial and viral infections unless the immune system has been compromised or you have an autoimmune disease. For people with autoimmune diseases, the immune system not only fights infections, but it also attacks healthy tissue in the body such as joints. People who have a compromised immune system get sick more frequently and take longer to fight off the infection than those with a healthy immune system.
It is important to keep your immune system healthy and it is not hard to do. You can help your immune system by feeding your body healthy foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Nutmeg, with its antioxidants, aids the immune system and reduces the risk of major illnesses. If there is an infection, the immune system will fight it off as long as the immune system is in good working order. Aiding the immune system with nutmeg will help keep it protecting the body.
Aids mental health
Aging can be accompanied by conditions like dementia-you will find that is often a time when people frequently forget or find it difficult to recall things. An article in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine published in 2017 states that nutmeg has an effect on the levels of monoamine neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine4. When the levels of these neurotransmitters are disturbed, people find they have problems with memory and other cognitive functions.
Aids in reducing signs of aging
Because nutmeg is an antioxidant, it can reduce the signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.
By adding nutmeg to your diet, along with healthy fats, water, and essential nutrients, the skin will stay healthy and smooth instead of showing lines and wrinkles. It will also help it stay hydrated instead of becoming dry and flaky.
The Chinese have used spices and herbs for years as a medicine to help their people and now studies are showing what the Chinese have known for years.
Ways to add nutmeg to your diet
There are plenty of ways to add nutmeg to your diet. Do not be afraid to experiment with putting nutmeg on meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables.
When nutmeg is ground, it loses its flavor quickly, so you may wish to grind it yourself a little at a time.
You can add it to most hot drinks including coffee, lattes, and apple cider. Try adding to hot cocoa ¼ tsp nutmeg powder, cinnamon powder, clove powder and sea salt to get the health benefits and warming of the spices.
Nutmeg in butternut squash soup
1½ c. butternut squash
2 c. fat-free vegetable broth
1 medium onion
Place the first three ingredients in a soup pot, cover and bring them to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid and reduce the heat, then simmer until the squash is tender. Place in the blender and puree. Add the salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste.
Nutmeg-Coated Creamy French Toast
This recipe can be found on Epicurious and makes a wonderful French toast for breakfast.
Pork Loin Braised in Milk
This recipe calls for ½ teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. It can also be found on Epicurious.
Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Yukon Gold Potatoes
This recipe is also on Epicurious and calls for ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg.
Recipes with nutmeg found on Food and Wine
Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Yukon Gold Potatoes
Seared Spiced Duck Breasts
Recipes with nutmeg on Allrecipes
Pumpkin Pancakes with Nutmeg
Baked Haddock with Spinach and Tomatoes
Curried Pumpkin Soup with Chives
Don’t forget about using nutmeg in pumpkin pie and in snickerdoodles, cakes and breads.
Side effects of nutmeg
There are very few side effects to nutmeg, but you should use caution as ingesting it in doses of 120 mg or more daily can lead to:
- Dry mouth
- Irregular heartbeat
- Death (in rare instances)
So what are the benefits of nutmeg? There are plenty of benefits including:
- Aids in digestion
- Pain relief
- Antioxidant powers
- Aids circulation by helping to lower blood pressure
- Aids mental health
- Relieves inflammation
- Improves oral health
- Decreases insomnia
- Aids in maintaining a healthy immune system
Those are just a few of the benefits of nutmeg. As always, you should speak with your doctor and your pharmacist if you are on medications to make sure that the nutmeg will not interfere with those medications. Remember, there is a difference between the ingestible form as a spice and the topical form of nutmeg used in essential oils.
1 Nutmeg oil alleviates chronic inflammatory pain through inhibition of COX-2 expression and substance P release in vivo -Food Nutrition Research. 2016; 60: 10.3402/fnr.v60.30849. Published online 2016 Apr 26. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v60.30849 – used the CFA-injected rats as a sustainable pain model to test the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect of nutmeg oil, a spice flavor additive to beverages and baked goods produced from the seed of Myristica fragrans tree showed alleviate the CFA-injection induced joint swelling, mechanical allodynia and heat hyperanalgesia of rats through inhibition of COX-2 expression and blood substance P level, which made it possible for nutmeg oil to be a potential chronic pain reliever.
2 Antifungal response of or-al-associated candidal reference strains (American Type Culture Collection) by supercritical fluid extract of nutmeg seeds for geriatric denture wearers: An in vitro screening study- Meenakshi Iyer1, Anil Kumar Gujjari2, Vishakante Gowda3, Shridhar Angadi4 – The nutmeg extract displayed antifungal activity with the effective zone of inhibition ranging from 18.0 to 12.0 mm when compared with nystatin as positive control.
3 journal of Zhejiang University published 2011 antioxidant
4 journal of traditional and complementary medicine published 2017 Effects of K. parviflora rhizome ethanolic extract and M. fragrans nutmeg volatile oil on the levels of monoamine neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), and dopamine