Nutmeg comes from the nutmeg tree that originally grew in the Banda Islands of Indonesia. Opposed to what the name suggests, nutmeg is not a nut, but a seed. Today, nutmeg is grown in Africa, South America and South Asia, from where it is exported to Europe and North America. Nutmeg has an intense spicy aroma that makes it a special ingredient in Christmas dishes like gingerbread. Read on to know more facts about Nutmeg.
Used in various dishes
A pinch of nutmeg powder adds an intense aroma to dishes like mashed potatoes, Bechamel sauce or rice pudding. It is also used in combination with gin.
Nutrients in nutmeg
Nutmeg spice has a number of valuable nutrients like calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, folic acid and also vitamins A, B and C.
Nutmeg action on body
Nutmeg is known to strengthen the immune system, reduce flatulence, reduce inflammation and helps to get better sleep. It is also a recognized anti-depressant as it stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine – the happiness hormones. When released, these hormones alleviate depressive thoughts and help the mind feel satisfied. Nutmeg also has the reputation of producing some bad side-effects. Hence it should be consumed with reasonable precaution.
Dangers of Nutmeg
Only a pinch of nutmeg is recommended to get the best of nutmeg’s taste as well as benefits. More than 5 grams of nutmeg can be toxic to the human body. This aromatic spice, when taken in high doses can produce psychoactive effects. The active ingredient myristicin is transformed into amphetamine in the liver which causes hallucinations, dizziness, dry mouth, palpitations and nausea. However, no such effects are produced with a small dose of nutmeg.
It is easily mistaken that nutmeg is a fruit, but it is actually a seed. Nutmeg belongs to the family of Myristicaceae plants. Another spice, known as Mace is extracted from this family of trees. The seed that we use as nutmeg is surrounded by pulp and an outer shell. The fruit in which it is found looks similar to an apricot. The trees are evergreen, which means their leaves don’t shed nor change color in winters.
The natural color of a nutmeg is brown.
The Nutmeg trees are native to Banda Islands of the Indonesian archipelago. To this date, these trees are growing in Africa, Caribbean islands, Java, South America and Asia.
Various constituents of Nutmeg and their properties
Several constituents in nutmeg that give it a characteristic flavor and healing properties are Myristicin (a phenylpropanoid with hallucinogenic properties), Eugenol (a phenylpropanoid that smells like clove), Elemicin (hallucinogenic properties), Lignans (antioxidant, phyto-estrogen), and oils.
Traditional uses of Nutmeg
The indigenous Indonesians used nutmeg to treat rheumatism, cough, indigestion and, flatulence. It was also used as an aphrodisiac in early times.