Thursday, April 10, 2014
Also known as: nutmeg flower, small fennel flower, flower seed, bishop's wort, black cumin, nigella seed
Parts Used: seeds
Meridians/Organs affected: spleen, stomach, colon
Properties: astringent, stomachic, carminative, expectorant, deobstruent, emmenogogue, sialagogue, aromatic
Nutmeg is a member of the Myristicaceae family. It is a fascinating plant. Nutmeg is part of a series of evergreen trees native to the Spice Islands. They require a tropical climate in order to thrive. The trees can get up to 80 feet tall and are either male or female-but that can't be determined until it flowers when it reaches 8 or 9 years of age. At that time they are put into groups of one male tree to every 10-12 female ones-thus they are called harem trees. A nine year old tree will produce about 100 fruits; by the time they are 30 they will produce about 3-4000 fruits a year and will keep producing into their 70th year. Now that is what you call a long-term investment!
Nutmeg trees produce a yellowish flower followed by large yellow apricot-like fruits that split open when ready to reveal a black seed (nutmeg) wrapped in red lace (mace). The spices are separated and dried. The United States imports about 2000 tons of nutmeg each year. It is less expensive than mace and slightly more pungent.
Nutmeg has been used for millennia by Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, praised for its cardiac and digestive effects. However, there are toxic ones apparently, as the School of Salerno listed that too much nutmeg is poisonous in large amounts saying, "unica nux prodest, nocet altera, tertia necat" which when translated means, "one nut is good, another is less good, the third kills."
It was once believed that if you carried nutmeg in your pocket it would help with rheumatism and lower back pain. It was strewn about the streets of Rome in Emperor Henry VI's time as a fumigant. It was first mentioned in Chinese medicine around 600 AD as a digestive aid and in England it was recorded in 1576 that a pregnant woman ingesting about a dozen nuts became 'deliriously inebriated'.
The essential oil from the leaves is what is commonly used as medicine today-aside from the spice itself, and the nutmeg butter which is steam-extracted from the shells is used for candies, soaps and perfumes. The fixed oil (from the seed) which is different from the essential oil, is used topically for toothaches, eczema, labor and abdominal pains, rheumatoid conditions and ringworm. According to the 'Medical Book of Malay Medicine' in India-it can also be used to treat madness and act as an aphrodisiac. It prevents gas and fermentation in the intestines, improves digestion and appetite, and helps with nausea and vomiting. It also is said to help with diarrhea, colic, insomnia and menstrual issues. A small amount (the size of a pea or less) can be taken daily to help with heart problems and chronic nerve disorders.
Myristicine-which is a component of nutmeg, is a narcotic and hallucinogenic and potentially toxic in large amounts. Too much can cause a miscarriage so it is not recommended for pregnant women.
In 18th century France, nutmeg was considered to be a tonic for the heart and a stimulant for general fatigue. It was also classed as a brain stimulant. Nutmeg is an herb that is best used in minute amounts. It is safer to use the spice than the oil for those who are not familiar with using it.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them as you deem necessary.