Nutmeg Essential Oil- Benefits, Uses, and Origin

Nutmeg is regarded as a mystical spice used from food to cosmetics to traditional medicines. This popular ingredient, though now a common spice in the kitchen, has a long history of use and even spawned conflicts and wars for between nations.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) originated from the islands of Banda, Indonesia. This tropical evergreen tree belongs to the family Myristicaceae. They can grow up to a height of 20 meters and bears an apricot-like fruit. The fruit contains the source of the nutmeg essential oil, which is from the seed, and the nutmeg butter, which is from the mace (seed covering). Upon maturity, the fruit bursts to reveal the seed covered by what looks like a soft mesh.

Nutmeg seeds are ground into powder. This spice has a distinct pungent aroma with a warm, sweet taste, making it a popular flavor for many kinds of baked goods and dishes. Nutmeg essential oil is extracted from the dried seeds of the plant. The seeds are dried for up to eight weeks until the seed kernels shrink away from the seed coat. It’s hard shell is then opened to reveal brown kernels which are then processed through steam distillation. The oil’s principal components are d-pinene, limonene, D-borneol,  l-terpineol, geraniol, safrol, and myristicin. Also present in nutmeg oil are α-Pinene and β-Pinene, both of which release a fresh, woody aroma.

Traditional Uses of Nutmeg Essential Oil

The island of Banda is the part of Indonesia where nutmeg originated. During this time, Indonesia was the only source of nutmeg in the world. It later spread to India and Constantinople through trading routes. But it was the Arabs who could pinpoint where the spice originated but kept it secret from European traders. Europeans were able to get hold of the original location and tried to monopolize the production and trade of nutmeg. Long story short, it started the Nutmeg War which resulted in the killing, slavery, and exile of almost 14, 000 Bandanese.

All these hassles were because nutmeg has been regarded as a potent cure to a number of diseases and was believed to possess some magical powers. In ancient China, nutmeg oil was used to treat stomach and liver problems. Ancient Egyptians used nutmeg oil in the embalming and mummification process because of its preservative property. In Ayurvedic practices, the oil is used to treat fevers and ease the symptoms that come with it. In several Asian countries, nutmeg essential oil was used as an aphrodisiac and a treatment for infertility. It was believed to possess hypnotic powers and bring good fortune.

During the Black Plague pandemic, medieval doctors considered nutmeg as the only source of treatment for the disease which caused the price of the oil to skyrocket.

Benefits of Using Nutmeg Essential Oil

For stress and tension relief

Nutmeg Essential oil’s warm, relaxing scent helps create a feeling of calm and promote sleep. It can ease nervous tension and induce a relaxing feeling. For people suffering from insomnia, nutmeg oil blended with lavender and orange oil creates a soothing and relaxing atmosphere which can help induce sleep. The oil’s limonene gives the oil both its fruity scent and its calming property.

Induce mental alertness

Although it creates a calming and relaxing atmosphere, nutmeg essential oil can also uplift the mood and increase the level of alertness. It also helps in lowering symptoms of depression. Diffusing a blend of nutmeg and grapefruit oil can help strengthen focus and concentration.

Alleviates pain

Nutmeg Essential oil’s analgesic property helps ease pain that is experienced during menstruation. To relieve menstrual cramps, a blend of nutmeg oil and lavender can be added to warm bath water to help soothe the body.

The oil is also useful for relieving muscle and joint pains caused by swelling and inflammation. It’s anti-inflammatory property helps ease the pain of swollen joints. It can also stimulate circulation, which reduces inflammation and the pain that comes with it. Α-Pinene and β-Pinene gave the oil its strong anti-inflammatory property.

As an aphrodisiac

Nutmeg oil has been used as an aphrodisiac since ancient times. It helps stimulate the nervous system and enhance libido. Traditional medicine also used it to treat sexual disorders and increase sexual drive.

Antibacterial

Nutmeg Essential oil has shown to have positive effects on certain strains of harmful bacteria such as Streptococcus mutants and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans which cause cavities and gum diseases. Sabinene, the oil’s component that gives it its spicy aroma, is also known to have antimicrobial property. The oil can prevent the growth of bacteria that can infect the gums. Nutmeg oil can also inhibit growth of E. coli which can cause serious illness.

For the skin

Nutmeg oil diluted in carrier oil can soothe the skin and help brighten dark spots giving the skin a glowing complexion.

For the hair

Nutmeg Essential oil can help prevent scalp itching. It can also be used for dry and brittle hair. The oil helps grow healthier-looking hair, making it shinier and stronger.

Safety Tips and Precautions

Although nutmeg oil is not harmful when taken in small doses, taking high quantities may have negative effects. Components of the oil, including myristicin and safrole, can induce symptoms of hallucinations and loss of muscle coordination. Ingesting nutmeg oil can cause rapid heartbeat, vomiting, nausea, and disorientation so it is not advised to do so.

For pregnant and breastfeeding women should seek the advice of a doctor before using nutmeg essential oil. It is not safe to use around children under 15 years of age.

It is recommended to dilute the essential oil in carrier oil before using it topically. It should not be used on sensitive parts of the skin such as those under the eyes and in the insides of the ears.

For people who have heart and hormone-related ailments, cancer, and skin allergies should seek advice from medical professionals before using this essential oil.

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