What is Nutmeg ?
Nutmeg is one of two spices that grow on an evergreen tree, with the scientific classification Myristica fragrans, also known as common nutmeg.These trees bear nutmeg, which is the seed of the tree, as well as mace, a less common spice derived from the dried reddish shell of the seed.
Nutmeg is really a delicate, somewhat sweet spice which is traditionallyused in cuisines around the globe, which includes both Asian and westernrecipes. The tree is additionally highly valued due to the essential oils which are produced from the tree and leaves, and nutmeg butter can also be a well-known derivative food which packs a healthy punch. The essential oils from nutmeg extract are extremely good for health, and are commonly used in alternative and herbal medication.
Nutmeg has many health benefits which includes its ability to relieve pain, soothe indigestion, and improve cognitive function. It extends its ability to detoxify the body, boost skin quality, alleviate oral conditions, and reduce insomnia. Nutmeg strengthens the immune system, prevents leukemia, and improves blood circulation as well.
History Of Nutmeg
Until the mid-19th century, the small island group of the Banda Islands, which are also known under the name “Spice Islands,” was the only location of the production of nutmeg and mace in the world. The Banda Islands are situated in the eastern part of Indonesia, in the province of Maluku. They consist of eleven small volcanic islands, called Neira, Gunung Api, Banda Besar, Rhun, Ai, Hatta, Syahrir, Karaka, Manukan, Nailaka and Batu Kapal, with a total approximate land area of 8,150 hectares.
Nutmeg is known to have been a prized and costly spice in European medieval cuisine as a flavouring, medicinal, and preservative agent. Saint Theodore the Studite (c. 758 – 826) allowed his monks to sprinkle nutmeg on their pease pudding when required to eat it. In Elizabethan times, because nutmeg was believed to ward off the plague, demand increased and its price skyrocketed.
Nutmeg was known as a valuable commodity by Muslim sailors from the port of Basra (including the fictional character Sinbad the Sailor in the One Thousand and One Nights). Nutmeg was traded by Arabs during the Middle Ages and sold to the Venetians for high prices, but the traders did not divulge the exact location of their source in the profitable Indian Ocean trade, and no European was able to deduce its location.
The Banda Islands became the scene of the earliest European ventures in Asia, in order to get a grip on the spice trade. In August 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca, which at the time was the hub of Asian trade, on behalf of the king of Portugal. In November of the same year, after having secured Malacca and learning of Banda’s location, Albuquerque sent an expedition of three ships led by his friend António de Abreu to find it. Malay pilots, either recruited or forcibly conscripted, guided them via Java, the Lesser Sundas, and Ambon to the Banda Islands, arriving in early 1512. The first Europeans to reach the Banda Islands, the expedition remained for about a month, buying and filling their ships with Banda’s nutmeg and mace, and with cloves in which Banda had a thriving entrepôt trade. An early account of Banda is in Suma Oriental, a book written by the Portuguese apothecary Tomé Pires, based in Malacca from 1512 to 1515. Full control of this trade by the Portuguese was not possible, and they remained participants without a foothold in the islands.
In order to obtain a monopoly on the production and trade of nutmeg, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) waged a bloody battle with the Bandanese in 1621. Historian Willard Hanna estimated that before this struggle the islands were populated by approximately 15,000 people, and only 1,000 were left (the Bandanese were killed, starved while fleeing, exiled or sold as slaves). The Company constructed a comprehensive nutmeg plantation system on the islands during the 17th century. It included the nutmeg plantations for spice production, several forts for the defense of the spices, and a colonial town for trading and governance. The Dutch were not the only occupants of this region, however. The British skilfully negotiated with the village leaders on the island Rhun to protect them from the Dutch in exchange for a monopoly on their nutmeg. The village leader of Rhun accepted King James I of England as their sovereign, but the English presence on Rhun only lasted until 1624. Control of the Banda Islands continued to be contested until 1667 when, in the Treaty of Breda, the British ceded Rhun to the Dutch in exchange for the island of Manhattan and its city New Amsterdam (later New York) in North America.
As a result of the Dutch interregnum during the Napoleonic Wars, the British temporarily took control of the Banda Islands from the Dutch and transplanted nutmeg trees, complete with soil, to Sri Lanka, Penang, Bencoolen, and Singapore. (There is evidence that the tree existed in Sri Lanka even before this.) From these locations they were transplanted to their other colonial holdings elsewhere, notably Zanzibar and Grenada. The national flag of Grenada, adopted in 1974, shows a stylised split-open nutmeg fruit. The Dutch retained control of the Spice Islands until World War II.
Connecticut received its nickname (“the Nutmeg State”, “Nutmegger”) from the claim that some unscrupulous Connecticut traders would whittle “nutmeg” out of wood, creating a “wooden nutmeg”, a term which later came to mean any type of fraud.
Nutrition Value of Nutmeg
While nutmeg is only a spice that is used sparingly in dishes, it can still impact your health in a variety of ways, mainly due to its nutritive content of vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds related to essential oils. These beneficial components include dietary fiber, manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, copper, and macelignan.
Amount Per 100 grams
- Calories 525
- Total Fat 36 g – 55% RDA
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 16 mg
- Potassium 350 mg – 10% RDA
- Total Carbohydrate 49 g – 16% RDA
- Dietary fiber 21 g – 84% RDA
- Sugar 28 g
- Protein 6 g – 12% RDA
- Vitamin A 2% RDA
- Vitamin C 5% RDA
- Calcium 18% RDA
- Iron 16% RDA
- Vitamin B-6 10% RDA
- Magnesium 45% RDA
Health Benefits of Nutmeg
1. Aids in Digestion
Nutmeg is rich in fiber content which can stimulate the digestive process by promoting peristaltic motion in the smooth muscles of the intestine. Also, it induces the secretion of various gastric and intestinal juices that ease the digestive process. Since fiber can bulk up the bowel movements, it also reduces the frequency and discomfort of constipation and other intestinal issues.
2. Brain Health
Nutmeg contains myristicin and macelignan which has been proven to reduce the degradation of neural pathways and cognitive function that commonly afflicts people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that myristicin and macelignan slow those effects and keep your brain functioning at a normal, healthy level.
3. Acts as a Detox
Nutmeg acts as a tonic and helps eliminate the toxins stored and accumulated in the liver and kidney. It literally cleans those organs of all the toxins stored from sources like alcohol, drugs, pollution, or food. Furthermore, the active ingredients in nutmeg help dissolve kidney stones and increase overall function and efficiency of the kidney and liver.
4. Oral Health
Nutmeg has antibacterial activities which fight conditions like halitosis, also known as bad breath. It kills the bacteria that causes the bad breath and boosts the immunity of the gums and teeth.
Nutrition Health Benefits of Nutmeg
5. Treats Insomnia
Nutmeg has a high content of magnesium, an essential mineral in the body that reduces nerve tension, and even stimulates the release of serotonin, which creates a feeling of relaxation or sedation. This serotonin is changed to melatonin in the brain, which is a sleep inducer, thus relieving people of their problems with insomnia and restlessness at night. Nutmeg also has trace elements of narcotics, which have no dramatic effect unless taken in massive quantities. However, a small amount can help you release various neurotransmitters which, in turn, help induce relaxation and sleep.
6. Reduces Cancer Risk
Certain methanolic compound in it and its essential oil can actually induce cell death (apoptosis) in leukemia cells, thereby stopping the spread and metastasis of this terrible variety of cancer that commonly afflicts children.
7. Regulates Blood Pressure
Nutmeg has potassium which acts as a vasodilator, which relaxes blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure and lowering the strain on the cardiovascular system.
8. Strengthens Bones
Nutmeg contains potassium and calcium which are essential for bone health. Calcium helps in the growth and repair of bones while relieving symptoms of osteoporosis.
9. Prevents Anemia
Iron content in nutmeg help boost the red blood cell count and reduce the chances of developing symptoms of iron deficiency, also known as anemia.
10. Relieves Pain
Nutmeg contains many essential volatile oils such as myristicin, elemicin, eugenol and safrole. According to the book DK Healing Foods, “Its (nutmeg) volatile oils have anti-inflammatory properties that make it useful for treating joint and muscle pain.”
11. Treats Leukemia
Another of the lesser known qualities of nutmeg is its potential use against cancerous cells. Studies have shown that a certain methanolic compound in it and its essential oil can actually induce cell death (apoptosis) in leukemia cells, thereby stopping the spread and metastasis of this terrible variety of cancer that commonly afflicts children.
12. Skin Care
Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, herbal and traditional medicines have long used nutmeg to boost the appearance and health of the skin. Most commonly, it is applied as a paste mixed with water, or even honey, which is also great for skin care. It can help reduce inflammation and irritation of the skin, promote hydration and a smooth appearance, as well as reduce the signs and marks from pox, boils, and acne.
13. For Kidney Health
Like other organs, maintaining kidney health is essential too. Nutmeg is said to be a diuretic in nature and promote proper urination that results in healthy kidneys. Moreover, many studies have proved that adding nutmeg to your food or consuming a pinch of it can help dissolve kidney stones effectively. However, it is advised to consult with your primary care physician in case of severe kidney condition and to avoid self-medication.
14. A Powerful Antioxidant
Your body needs plenty of antioxidants not only to treat cancerous cells or free radicals but to prevent chronic inflammation and oxidative damage. Nutritionists encouraged to incorporating spices like nutmeg – in any form, to your daily life. Antioxidants, when combined with other nutrients like copper, potassium, iron, etc., can effectively combat factors that contribute to chronic diseases like asthma, Alzheimer, and even depression.
15. Proper Blood Circulation
Proper blood circulation can facilitate blood circulation in your body. When blood circulates through your heart and brain, both vital organs perform their function effectively. Moreover, nutmeg is widely used in herbal medicine to regulate high blood pressure levels. Nutritionists suggest that potassium found in the spice can relax your blood vessels and allow proper blood circulation.
16. For Psychological Diseases
Psychological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer often occur in old age where you frequently forget things and found it difficult to recall. Aging also affects your concentration and cognitive function. You can take precautions in young age to avoid age-related problems like these by incorporating nutmeg into your daily routine. The components like macelignan found in the spice are said to sharpen your brain improving your memory. Nutmeg has potential to alleviate risks associated with Alzheimer’s diseases and can prevent its occurrence in old age.
17. Acne Treatment
Acne occurrence can put you under severe stress that causes more acne If after laborious efforts, your acne vanishes, it leaves a scar. That is where nutmeg comes into the picture. Being an antibacterial, it can ward off acne-causing bacteria effectively. You apply a paste of powdered nutmeg on the acne scar, and it will begin fading within weeks. The spice can work fine for acne if you add it to your food regularly.
18. It Delays Aging
Fine lines, wrinkles, sagged skin, etc. are primary indicators of aging that is nothing less than a nightmare. Nutrients suggest incorporating some amount of nutmeg into your diet and let the properties found in it do the job for you.
19. Relieves Arthritis Pain
Nutmeg has shown to ease chronic inflammatory pain, which is the primary characteristic of arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties of nutmeg can reduce joint pains and inflammation associated with arthritis.
20. May Lower Cholesterol Levels
Though there is less information on this, some sources speak of the manganese levels in nutmeg. The mineral works as a catalyst for cholesterol breakdown, and this may help in lowering cholesterol levels.
21. Improves Dental Health
Nutmeg is a powerhouse of antibacterial properties, and that is how it contributes to oral health. The spice is known to treat dental issues like cavities, toothache, and even tooth decay in some cases. The antibacterial properties of nutmeg can also eliminate bad breath
Nutmeg tree yields up to three times in a season. Once harvested from the tree, its outer coat or husk is removed and discarded. Just underneath the tough husk is the crimon red color aril, known as “mace,” which firmly enveloping around the nutmeg kernel. Mace is gently peeled off from its nutmeg surface, flattened into strips, dried, and sold either as a whole (blades) or finely ground powder. Nutmeg kernel is then dried under the sun for several days to weeks. At the larger commercial setups, this process is accomplished rather more rapidly over a hot dryer machine until the whole nutmeg rattles inside the shell.
Its shell is then cut open and a single, shriveled nutmeg kernel is then taken out. Finally, nuts dipped in lime-water in order to prevent insect infestation and seed germination
Selection and storage
In the stores, one can get the nutmeg kernel as well as its fine powder. Try to buy whole nuts instead of its powder form since oftentimes it may be adulterated with other inferior quality nutmeg varieties. Choose well-sealed pack, from the authentic brands from reputable selling company, which mentions its package and expiry dates.
Once at home, store whole nuts as well as a ground powder inside an airtight container and place cold, dark and dry place, where it can stay for several months.
Both nutmeg, as well as “mace”, is used in cooking recipes. Mace has a delicate flavor and gives saffron- like color to the food items. The whole kernel generally preferred over its powder since it possesses higher essential oils, which thus, give rich flavor and freshness to recipes. In general, completely dried kernels are either grated or milled just before being added at the last minutes of cooking.
Here are some serving tips:
- Nutmeg and mace are being employed in sauces, soups, and in confectionary.
- Aromatic mace spice is especially used as a colorant and flavoring agent in sweets, pie, cakes, donuts, etc.
- It is also being used as one of the common ingredients in curry powder to marinate meat and vegetable dishes in many Asian countries.
How to Buy Nutmeg
- Nutmeg can be purchased whole or as grounded powder.
- When given an option, always buy whole nutmeg seeds since the powdered forms may be adulterated with other inferior quality nutmeg varieties.
- Whole nutmeg has a richer and stronger flavor compared to the ground spice.
- To check the quality of a good nutmeg, insert a darning needle a centimeter in the center of the seed; if a tiny drop of oil oozes out, it is fresh.
- Always buy nutmeg, whole or ground, in sealed packets from authentic brands of a reputable company, which has the date of production and expiry stamped on it.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 pounds fresh cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (pulse whole graham crackers in a food processor)
- Thickly brush a 9-inch springform pan with 1/2 of the melted butter and place in the freezer to harden, about 10 minutes. When hard, repeat to make a thick coating of butter.
- Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until fluffy and very smooth. Beat in the extracts, nutmeg, sugar, and salt. One at a time, add the eggs, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Pour into the prepared pan and place the pan on a double-layer sheet of aluminum foil, with at least 3 inches of foil all around the pan. Fold the aluminum foil up around the sides of the pan.
- Fill a roasting pan large enough to hold the cake pan with hot water to a depth of about 1-inch, then lift the foil-wrapped cake into the roasting pan, keeping the foil turned up so that it prevents water from overflowing or seeping into the cake. The foil should not be closed over the top of the cake. Be careful not to tear any holes in the foil!
- Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and dry to the touch, though still a bit soft in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. It should “shimmy” a bit when you shake the pan; it will firm up more as it cools.
- Remove the pan from the water bath, remove the foil, and let cool at room temperature 15 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, 2 hours before removing the cake from the pan.
- To remove the cake from the pan, first remove the sides. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Place a large plate over the cake, then flip the cake over and onto the plate, tapping if necessary to help the cake come away from the pan bottom. If tapping doesn’t do the trick, try a blow torch or stove burner to warm the bottom of the pan to loosen it.
- Remove the pan bottom and evenly sprinkle the exposed surface with graham cracker crumbs. Place a serving plate over the crumbs and flip the cake again so that the crumbs form the bottom crust and the top is covered with plastic. Refrigerate, lightly covered, at least 3 hours or overnight before serving.
Negative Effects Of Nutmeg
Nausea, Stomach Spasms and Vomiting
Eating nutmeg creates a short period of feeling high. The sensation of being high is typically accompanied by numerous unpleasant side effects. The nutmeg causes a feeling of nausea and stomach spasms. The stomach queasiness is often followed by vomiting, notes Health Services at Columbia.
Going into shock can occur after eating nutmeg. Another side effect of eating this spice is experiencing a psychotic episode, which can cause out-of-control behavior. The myristicin in nutmeg also causes euphoria and vision changes, notes WSBTV.com. If you experience these dangerous side effects after eating nutmeg, contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.
Dry Mouth and Fever
A dry mouth and a fever are other effects of eating nutmeg. These effects can be sporadic or can continue for several days. A fever while high can cause dehydration due to a lack of concern about the temperature increase.
Heart Palpitations and Flushing
Heart palpitations often occur after eating nutmeg to get high. Dr. Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center, told WSBTV.com that nutmeg causes the heartbeat to increase and the facial skin to flush. The heart palpitations can spark an episode of an undiagnosed heart problem to occur. Thus, eating nutmeg can lead to a fatal cardiac event.
Hallucinations and Sensation of Doom
A sensation of doom can occur simultaneously with hallucinations, notes the Health Services at Columbia. These serious side effects require immediate medical care. It is important you tell the doctor that you have eaten nutmeg and how much.
Consumption of nutmeg in large doses may cause lack of concentration, sweating, palpitations, body pain and in severe cases, hallucination and delirium. In very small doses, it may be used safely in pregnancy and lactation.
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