Nutmeg health benefits and side effects

Nutmeg health benefits


Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.) is one of the valued kitchen spices that belongs to the family Myristicaceae and used for centuries all over the world. Nutmeg’s flavor varies depending on its origin. Its flavor can vary from a sweetly spicy to a heavier taste. Nutmeg health benefits are due to its antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic, and hepatoprotective activity.

Uses of Nutmeg

Nutmeg is widely used in a variety of ways and for various purposes like flavoring agents in food, cosmetics, as components of teas, canned foods, soft drinks or mixed in milk and alcohol. Powdered nutmeg is rarely administered alone, but it is a constituent of numerous medicines such as aromatic adjuncts.

Geographical distribution

Nutmeg is native to India, Indonesia, and Srilanka but now available in Malaysia as well as the West Indies (Caribbean Grenada islands) where the tree was introduced in the 19th century

Nutritional value of Nutmeg

Nutmeg contains primary metabolites (carbohydrates, lipids/fatty acids known as nutmeg butter and proteins) that constitute up to 80% of the weight of dry nutmeg kernel and consist of 12.5% of volatile oil. The volatile oil contains pinene and camphene (80%), eugenol and myristicin, etc (1).

Compound                                                                                     Amounts per 100 g.
Water 6.23 g
Energy 525 Kcal
Protein 5.84 g
Total lipid (fat) 36.31 g
Carbohydrate 49.29 g
Fiber, total dietary 20.8 g
Calcium 184 mg
Iron, Fe 3.04 mg
Magnesium 183 mg
Phosphorus 213 mg
Potassium 350 mg
Sodium 16 mg
Zinc 2.15 mg
Copper 1.03 mg
Manganese 2.9 mg
Thiamin 0.34 mg
Riboflavin 0.06mg
Niacin 1.3 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.16 mg
Vitamin C 3 mg
Folic acid 0.2 mg
Vitamin A 102 IU
Fatty acids, total saturated 25.94 g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 3.22 g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.35 g

Nutmeg health benefits

Nutmeg health benefits are revealed through various pharmacological research including activities of nutmeg such as antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, and analgesic. Let’s take to look at some of these properties.

1. Treat seizure and epilepsy

Nutmeg oil plays an important role in delaying grand mal and partial seizures and preventing to spread (2). Moreover, the consumption of nutmeg reduces seizure behavior and decreases cell death thus may be used in the treatment of epilepsy (3).

2. Improve Sexual function

Intake of nutmeg treats male sexual disorders as it contains sterols, phenols, alkaloids, and amino acids, which possess a nervous stimulating property that increases the desire for sexual activity and potency thus enhancing sexual behavior (4).

3. Nutmeg helps in reducing depression

Oral ingestion of nutmeg induced an antidepressant-like effect due to a modulatory effect on central monoamines and treatment anxiety (5, 6). Nutmeg also protect brain cell from damage by its anti-cholinesterase activity thus useful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (7, 8).

4. Nutmeg oil Reduce pain

Nutmeg oil is beneficial in reducing inflammatory pain, joint swelling, allodynia (pain from non-painful stimuli), and heat hyperalgesia nutmeg oil is a potential chronic inflammation and pain reliever (9). Furthermore, intake of an herbal mixture of amaltas, nutmeg, and jaggery for 3 days before the expected start of menstruation reduces pain intensity, pain severity, and pain duration thus treating dysmenorrhoea (menstrual cramps) (10).

5. Appetite-enhancing properties of nutmeg

Inhalation of nutmeg oil enhances appetite due to the presence of myristicin and methyl eugenol. Therefore, useful for older people with dementia because many of these older people have hypophagia, which leads to frailty and becoming bedridden (11).

6. Reduce metal toxicity

Intake of garlic, ginger, and nutmeg at a culinary dose in the diet reduces cadmium toxicity thus protecting the liver and kidney from injury (12).

7. Antioxidant of nutmeg treats gout disease

Nutmeg contains various antioxidant that scavenges harmful radicals from the body and inhibits the xanthine oxidase enzyme responsible for the development of gout disease (arthritis) (13).

8. Gastro-protective properties of nutmeg

Nutmeg is very beneficial in treating dyspepsia, vomiting, and abdominal pain. It also shows a wonderful effect on the reduction of gastric lesions/ulcers (14).

9. Radioprotection properties of nutmeg

Intake of nutmeg enhances hepatic glutathione (GSH) and decreases testicular lipid peroxidation level thus protecting from harmful radiation (15). Furthermore, Nutmeg is also useful for the treatment of various intestinal diseases, including colitis (16).

10. Reduce drug side effects

Paracetamol is responsible for acute liver failure in humans at a high dosage. Nutmeg is rich in many phytochemical ingredients that are known for their ability to inhibit paracetamol-induced liver damage (17). It also helps as a hepatic-detoxifying agent for the protection of liver damage caused by alcohol consumption (18).

11. Help in weight loss

Nutmeg has strong pancreatic lipase inhibitory activity which decreases the gastrointestinal absorption of fats and antioxidant effect thus useful as an alternative for obesity treatment (19).

12. Treat diabetes

Nutmeg shows a wonderful effect by decreasing blood glucose levels and increasing the levels of serum insulin. A nutmeg also reduces oxidative stress and promotes the antioxidant activities and coagulation of blood in diabetic patients (20, 21).

13. Keep brain and heart-healthy

Nutmeg supplementation improves learning and memory function (22). Nutmeg also inhibits platelet aggregation thus preventing the risk of cardiovascular disease (23).

14. Nutmeg helps in treating mixed urinary incontinence

Mixed urinary incontinence is leakage of urine from the bladder with urgency and also with exertion, effort, sneezing, or coughing in humans, especially women.  However, the intake of nutmeg for 3 months improves symptoms and women’s quality of life (24).

15. Good for oral health

Nutmeg possesses high antibacterial activity against Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus salivarius, Aggregatibacter actin5. omycetemcomitans and Porphyromonas gingivalis. Therefore it helps in protecting against tooth decay.

Nutmeg gel is also beneficial as a natural pulpotomy agent that heals pulpal and may be incorporated into oral care products (25, 26). Furthermore, malabaricone C and neolignans found in nutmeg fight against Streptococcus pneumonia by blocking adherence and colonization (27).

16. Anti-cancerous effect of nutmeg

Lignans (meso-dihydroguaiaretic acid) found in nutmeg seeds show a wonderful anti-cancerous effect (28). It is also considered an anti-angiogenic food that stops tumors from growing their own blood vessels so cancer can’t easily spread. Thus nutmeg fights against lung, colon, prostate, head and neck, and breast human cancer cell lines (29).

Side effects of eating nutmeg

Although nutmeg is safe in its lower amount a higher amount and long-term intake may cause adverse effects.

1. Nutmeg cause cellular degenerative changes in the brain

High doses and long-term consumption of nutmeg may have an adverse effect on rat brains and affect hearing capacity (30).

2. Toxic during pregnancy

Excessive consumption of nutmeg causes anticholinergic hyperstimulation in a pregnant woman thus precaution should be needed before consumption (31).

3. Risk of hallucinations

Intake of less than one tablespoon sometimes causes hallucinations, palpitations, and feelings of impending doom due to the presence of myristicin thus take precautions before consumption (32).

4. Risk of nutmeg poisoning

Consumption of nutmeg develops neurological symptoms and anti-cholinergic-type symptoms (33).

5. Avoid nutmeg during breastfeeding

High doses (e.g., a spoonful) of nutmeg can cause intoxication that includes anticholinergic symptoms. Anticholinergics may reduce lactation because it contains antiprogesterone activity which affects lactation therefore higher dosages of nutmeg as a flavoring should be avoided during breastfeeding (34).

6. Presence of toxic compound in nutmeg

Nutmeg contains elemicin, myristicin, and safrole which is a toxic compound and gives psychotropic effects (35).

7. Risk of respiratory health problems

Nutmeg production industry workers experienced upper (asthma, sinusitis, and lung function impairment) and lower respiratory symptoms (dry cough and shortness of breath) due to occupational exposures with dust, mold, glucan, and endotoxin, and were widespread overall work areas (36).

8. Risk of kidney damage

Prolonged intake of higher doses of nutmeg may cause some deleterious effects on the kidneys causing disruptions and distortions thus precaution is needed (37).

Is nutmeg a nut?

Although because of its name Nutmeg, it looks like it is a nut but nutmeg is not a nut it is basically a seed. Therefore the person who is allergic to nuts can eat nutmeg as these are not categorized under nuts. The lemon-like yellowish fruit contains the ovoid seed which is enveloped in a reddish net-like spongy tissue known as the aril that gives its characteristic aroma and taste.

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati


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