What is nutmeg?

Nutmeg is dried kernel of broadly ovoid seed of Myristica fragrans Houtt (Family: Myristicaceae) a bushy
evergreen tree about 10–20 m. in height native to India, Indonesia and Srilanka [1-3]. Nutmeg is
described as aphrodisiac [4,5] stomachic, carminative [6], tonic [7] and nervous stimulant [8].
Traditionally, nutmeg has been used in paralysis [9] and to increase blood circulation [10, 11]. Nutmeg
contains 30–40% fats; while nutmeg butter consists of 12.5% of volatile oil. The volatile oil contains
pinene and camphene (80%), eugenol and myristicin, etc [12].

Side Effects of Myristicin

Do not overeat nutmeg; it has unwanted side effects. Myristicin, or methoxysafrole, is the principal
aromatic constituent of the volatile oil of nutmeg. Several intoxications have been reported after an
ingestion of approximately 5 g of nutmeg, corresponding to 1-2 mg myristicin/kg body weight (b.w.). No
toxic effects were observed in rats administered myristicin perorally at a dose of 10 mg/kg b.w., while
amount of 6-7 mg/kg b.w. may be enough to cause psychopharmacological effects in man. [13] Myristic
acid (a 14-carbon, straight-chain saturated fatty acid) has been shown to have a low order of acute oral
toxicity in rodents. It may be irritating in pure form to skin and eyes under exaggerated exposure
conditions. [14]

Some Interesting Research Findings

Pakistani researchers found nutmeg oil showed a rapid onset of action and short duration of
anticonvulsant effect in a study of animal seizure models. They also found nutmeg oil possessed
significant anticonvulsant activity against electroshock-induced hind limb tonic extension, in the study.
The oil exhibited dose dependent anticonvulsant activity against pentylenetetrazole-induced tonic
seizures. It also delayed the onset of hind limb tonic extensor jerks induced by strychnine. The study
shows nutmeg oil may benefit people at risk of grand mal and partial seizures. [15]

Researchers from Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Germany, found that alcoholic extracts from
the tropical plant Knema laurina (Black wild nutmeg) exhibited highly anti-inflammatory and
neuroprotective effects in cell culture experiments, reduced NO- and IL-6-release from activated
microglia cells dose-dependently, and protected living brain tissue from microglia-mediated inflammatory
damage at a concentration of 30 microg/ml. Extract from K. laurina promotes also neurogenesis in living
brain tissue after oxygen-glucose deprivation. Researchers believe it may benefit people after stroke-like
injury. [17]

Korean researchers found that macelignan from Myristica fragrans might possibly inhibit melanin
biosynthesis from an in vitro study and thus, they use it as a skin-whitening agent. It is because
macelignan decreased the expression of tyrosinase, tyrosinase-related protein-1 and -2. These
enzymes are related to melanogenesis. [18] Another group of researchers found that machilin A and
other lignans extracted from Myristica fragrans stimulated osteoblast differentiation - an anabolic activity
in bone metabolism. [16]

Researchers from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, found that methanol extract of nutmeg induced
apoptosis of Jurkat leukemia T cell line in a mechanisms involving SIRTI mRNA downregulation. [18]

[1] Ghani N. Khazeenatul Advia. I. Vol. 2. Lucknow, India. Matba Munshi Nawal Kishore; 1921. pp. 241–
242. [2] Khory RN, Katrak NN. Materia Medica of India and their therapeutics. Delhi, India. Neeraj
Publishing House; 1985. pp. 532–524. [3] Chopra RN, Chopra IC, Handa KL, Kapur LD. Indigenous
Drugs of India. 2. Calcutta, India. UN Dhur and Sons Pvt. Ltd; 1958. p. 201. [4] Ainslie W. Materia Indica.
Vol. 1. Delhi, India. Neeraj Publishin House; 1979. pp. 249–252. [5] Antaki DZ. Tazkirah-ulil-Albab. 2. Vol.
1. Cairo, Egypt. Matba Aamirah Sharfyyah; 1930. p. 208. [6] Lindley J. Flora Medica. New Delhi, India.
Ajay Book Service; 1981. p. 22. [7] Samir EL-Gammal Yahia. Spices Throughout History. Hamdard
Medicus. 1993;1:25–52. [8] Isogai A, Suzuki A, Tamura S. Structure of dimeric phenoxypropanoids from
Myristica fragrans. Agar Biol Chem. 1973;37:193–194. [9] Khan MA. Moheet-e-Azam. Vol. 3. Kanpur,
India. Matba Nizami; 1893. p. 296. [10] Baytar Ibn. Kitabul Jame' Li-Mufradat il Advia wal aghzia. Vol. 5.
Cairo, Egypt. Matba Zahiyah Zaaherah Mutawafferah; 1869. pp. 7–9. [11] Nadkarni KM. Indian Materia
Medica. Vol. 1. Bombay, India. Popular Book Depot; 1982. pp. 835–837. [12] Attar HZ. Ikhtiyarat-e-
badiyee. Lucknow, India. Munshi Nawal Kishore; 1370. p. 381. [13] Hallstrom H, Thuvander A.
Toxicological evaluation of myristicin Nat. Toxins 1997;5(5):186-92. [14] Burdock GA, Carabin IG Safety
assessment of myristic acid as a food ingredient. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Apr;45(4):517-29. Epub
2006 Oct 24. [15] Wahab A, Ul Haq R, Ahmed A, Khan RA, Raza M. Anticonvulsant activities of nutmeg
oil of Myristica fragrans. Phytother Res. 2009 Feb;23(2):153-8. [16] Lee SU, Shim KS, Ryu SY, Min YK,
Kim SH. Machilin A isolated from Myristica fragrans stimulates osteoblast differentiation. Planta Med.
2009 Feb;75(2):152-7. Epub 2008 Dec 18. [17] Häke I, Schönenberger S, Neumann J, Franke K,
Paulsen-Merker K, Reymann K, Ismail G, Bin Din L, Said IM, Latiff A, Wessjohann L, Zipp F, Ullrich O.
Neuroprotection and enhanced neurogenesis by extract from the tropical plant Knema laurina after
inflammatory damage in living brain tissue. J Neuroimmunol. 2009 Jan 3;206(1-2):91-9. Epub 2008 Nov
22. [18] Cho Y, Kim KH, Shim JS, Hwang JK. Inhibitory effects of macelignan isolated from Myristica
fragrans HOUTT. on melanin biosynthesis. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 May;31(5):986-9.
What are the health
benefits of Nutmeg?
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