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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Nutmeg is one of the spice oils, the same as cinnamon essential oil is; although nutmeg is used as a culinary spice, it also has a number of properties and uses in aromatherapy.

Botanical Profile of Nutmeg

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) has been used for centuries, particularly as a remedy for kidney and digestive problems; nutmeg oil is obtained from an evergreen tree of the Myristicaeae plant family.  The tree grows up to sixty five feet in height with small, yellow flowers and fruit, shaped like a small peach; the bark of the tree is smooth and gray-brown in color.  It is native to the Molucca Islands and cultivated in the West Indies, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Historic Use of Nutmeg

Ancient Indian and Chinese royalty carried ground nutmeg in small, ivory boxes and added the substance to drinks for hallucinogenic reasons; in Malaysia, pregnant women used nutmeg in the final weeks of their confinement in the belief it would strengthen the uterine muscle for labor.  The Romans used nutmeg to make incense.

Nutmeg was a valuable spice for trading; both the British and the French smuggled nutmeg seeds in the eighteenth century.  By the nineteenth century, ground nutmeg was being used in many English recipes; it became a popular addition to Christmas eggnog in the United States.

Extraction of Nutmeg Oil

Nutmeg oil is obtained from the kernel of the fruit and the outer layer of the fruit also produces another spice called mace; nutmeg essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the kernel seed.  Nutmeg oil is primarily made up of the chemical component of monoterpenes hydrocarbons (including camphene, dipentene, pinene, sabinene and cymene) but also includes geraniol, borneol and linalol.

Nutmeg in Aromatherapy Use

Nutmeg oil has a warm, spicy, sharp aroma; it has a number of properties such as analgesic, antiseptic, digestive, an aphrodisiac, stimulant, tonic and anti-oxidant.  In aromatherapy, nutmeg is used in the treatment of a number of conditions; it is used to treat arthritis, gout, rheumatism, poor circulation, indigestion, constipation, flatulence, nausea, nervous fatigue and anxiety.

Other Uses of Nutmeg Oil

Nutmeg is also used as a flavoring agent in pharmaceuticals; it is used in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, detergents and lotions.  Mace oil is also used interchangeably with nutmeg and is found in many colognes and perfumes, particularly fragrances for men; mace is also found in many foods and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Cautions for Using Nutmeg Oil

Nutmeg is often described as a “winter” oil, due to its warming properties and can be used as an alternative to cinnamon essential oil; however, nutmeg is more powerful than cinnamon and care should be taken not to use it in large quantities. High toxicity levels may be fatal if used incorrectly in some situations.  Consult a qualified aromatherapist for further advice if you are unsure about the safety of using nutmeg essential oil with specific health conditions.


–Aromatherapy Today International Aromatherapy Journal Vol 43 December 2008
– Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
– Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Nutmeg Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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