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Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Botanical Description & Habitat

Myristica fragrans

Family
Myristicaceae

Common Names:

Mace
Muscade
Nutmeg
Nux moschada

Description:

The nutmeg tree provides 2 slightly different spices.

Mace is the outer seed cover of nutmeg. (This is not used for the debilitating spray!)


Habitat
Tropical areas, including West Indies, South Africa, Molucca Islands.

Medicinal Parts

Seed cover
Seed

Historical Properties & Uses

Here is a common spice, found in almost every household, and is potentially extremely toxic. In small quantities, nutmeg is one our most distinct flavoring agents. It is also an important part of certain curries.

The ingestion of as few as two nutmegs can be lethal. In between a little and too much are doses that can cause hallucinations.

Normal uses of nutmeg are good for the stomach, acting to increase appetite, dispel flatulence, cure indigestion. In some parts of the world, nutmeg is considered an aphrodisiac, emmenagogue and abortifacient, though these uses have not been confirmed by science.

This herb has not achieved approval status by the German Commission E. Either there was insufficient evidence in favor, or a contraindication.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

The Pharmacology of Nutmeg
Nutmeg contains substantial amounts of essential oil, including myristicin, elemicin, safrol, myristic acid, palmitic, oleic, linoleic and lauric acids. Whatever medicinal effect nutmeg may have resides in the action of the oil.

Many attempts to associate individual components with liver and malignant toxicity (such as myristicin and safrol) have been made by the medical community, but there exists no research to substantiate such action.

Since nutmeg is a curry herb, one would expect it to have certain beneficial action on the blood. At least one study has confirmed an anti-platelet aggregation action in nutmeg.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognizes nutmeg as a carminative, spasmolytic, antiemetic, orexigenic, gastric secretory stimulant and prostaglandin inhibitor, for use in the treatment of flatulent dyspepsia, nausea, diarrhea, and dysentery.

A topical application is also recognized, as an antirheumatic for rheumatic pain. Combined with camomile, lemon balm, marsh mallow and hops in nervous dyspepsia, with acorus, geranium, oak and black catechu in diarrhea and dysentery.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The antacid nature of nutmeg may decrease or delay the absorption of nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.

Due to the spasmolytic nature of nutmeg it may interact in unknown ways with CNS depressants or stimulants.

Comments
In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in nutmeg.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

On any list of toxic plants, nutmeg is right there at the top of the list, yet its everyday use is never questioned by the FDA. That's fortunate for those Americans with enough sense to use it correctly, and too bad for those who don't.

Nutmeg toxicity begins with mild hallucinations, often associated with severe stomach pain, double vision, delirium, weak pulse, hypothermia, clamminess of the extremities, giddiness, vertigo, etc., ending in severe physical collapse. 2 whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of commercial ground nutmeg is required. (Mack, 1982)

Death can occur if too much (two nutmegs) is used.

The German Commission E notes the possibility for psychoactive and abortifacient effect from large doses.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Be sure to read toxicity data before using.

Use three times daily.

Use 0.3-1g of powdered dried seed.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

References

Braun, H. & D. Frohne. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Duke, J.A. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida, 1985.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Sep, 1995.

Gupta, S et al., Int. J. Pharmacognosy, 1992, 30(3):179-183.

Hussain, SP & Rao, AR: Chemopreventive action of mace (Myristica fragrans) on methylcholanthrene-induced carcinogenesis in the uterine cervix in mice. Cancer Lett. 1991, 56(3):231.

Jannu, L et al., Chemopreventive action of mace (Myristica fragrans) on DMBA-induced papillomagenesis in the skin of mice. Cancer Lett. 1991, 56(1):59.

Janssens, J et al., J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990, 29(2):179-188.

Mack, RB: N. Carolina Med. 1982, Jun:439.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Rasheed, A, Lackerman, G.M., et. al. Pharmacological influence of nutmeg and nutmeg constituents on rabbit platelet function. Planta Medica, 50(3), 222-226, 1984.

Schauenberg, P. & Paris, F. Guide to Medicinal Plants, Keats Publishing, Inc., New Canaan, Connecticut, 1977.

Van Gils, C & Cox, PA: Ethnobotany of nutmeg in the Spice Islands. (Review) J. Ethnopharmacol. 1994, 42(2):117.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield Publishers, LTD, Beaconsfield, England, 1988.

Wills, S: Pharm. J. 1993, 251:227-229.

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