It is estimated that almost a third of all American adults suffer from some form of insomnia. If you’ve ever suffered from a poor night’s sleep, you’ll have some idea of the symptoms: tiredness, inability to concentrate, falling asleep during the day, reduced energy, headaches…the list goes on. And 30 percent of Americans are experiencing these symptoms every single day.
This army of zombies is all around us. You might even be one of them. And it makes for an alarming statistic: 10 percent of adults admit that their insomnia has led to adverse consequences during the day. Personally, the thought of those people speeding to work on the highway every morning and evening gives me the shivers. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
Sleep medications on the rise
Unsurprisingly, with such a high rate of sleep deprivation in the population, sleep-related drug sales are soaring. Many people seek out sleeping pills and other pharmaceuticals in attempt to find that “quick fix” for their problem. Sure, these drugs may knock them out at night and prevent them from waking excessively, but they’re not a long-term solution. They also have a wide range of side effects. Over time, they can seriously impact hormone production in the body.
Luckily, there’s a much more beneficial natural alternative: nutmeg. It has been shown to be effective both as a cure for insomnia and mild forms of sleep deprivation. Not only that, nutmeg doesn’t cause the same range of side effects found in many sleep-related drugs. So if you’re suffering from a lack of sleep and need to find a short-term solution without the negative health effects, it might be time to make this seasonal spice a regular in your home.
Nutmeg for treating insomnia and sleep problems
Nutmeg has long been the subject of scientific study in the realm of sleep deprivation. It primarily acts on insomnia due to its strong sedative effect. It can help people fall asleep faster and help those who can’t sleep at all to achieve at least a reasonable night’s rest.
Next, nutmeg also improves the quality of sleep by helping to reduce stress. Nutmeg is a rich source of myristicin, a natural compound that acts to inhibit the release of certain enzymes associated with stress. Because stress not only acts to prevent a person from attaining sleep, but also from achieving a deep, restful sleep, adding a bit of nutmeg into your life may help your sleeping problem.
The research on animals looks promising
Curiously, most of the studies on the effects of nutmeg on sleep relate to chickens! One study, published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, found that oil of nutmeg increased the sleep duration of young chickens. Researchers also found that the length and quality of deep sleep was markedly improved.
Another study, this time published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, noted that “extract of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) caused a significant increase in the duration of light and deep sleep in the young chicken.” Interestingly, the extract didn’t contain any myristicin, the compound mentioned above that has been thought to cause some of nutmeg’s sleep-inducing effects. This suggests that nutmeg may contain other natural compounds that make a positive impact on sleep.
These studies may be on chickens, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that nutmeg may also be a viable solution for people suffering from sleep disorders. Just don’t go overboard!
Nutmeg is not a long-term sleep solution
While the short-term effectiveness of nutmeg in treating sleep problems cannot be denied, no one should be relying on any oral sleep treatment in the long term. Use of sleep drugs day after day can cause all manner of adverse side effects. Even natural treatments like nutmeg can reduce your body’s ability to naturally produce melatonin, widely regarded as the “sleep hormone.” With chronic use of artificial melatonin, your body decides that there’s no point making any itself, meaning you now have a total reliance on that drug (synthetic or natural) to get to sleep at night.
Clearly, this isn’t a long-term solution. Instead, if you struggle with sleep issues, look to yourself first. Observe the environment around you to determine what might be the problem. Here’s a few common anti-sleep habits that most people don’t even know they’re doing:
- Watching TV or staring at screens all evening, right up until they go to bed
- Not getting enough sunlight during the day, either because they don’t get outside enough or because they think sunlight is a bad thing
- Sleeping in a bedroom that is too bright or too noisy, and in many cases both
- Being too warm when they go to bed and sleeping in a bedroom that isn’t cool enough
We touch on all of these problems, and how to easily solve them, in this post. Suffice to say that making small changes in your life can make a big difference to how you sleep!
Other great benefits of nutmeg
Interestingly, nutmeg isn’t actually a nut at all: it’s a fruit! Historic references pinpoint nutmeg’s original ancestral homeland as the Spice Islands in Indonesia. Here, nutmeg grows on trees as a fruit with a single seed. As it matures, it produces another valuable spice: mace. After the nutmeg kernel splits from the mace, it is harvested and processed to take the form of the wintry spice we all know and love.
Beyond its aforementioned sleep benefits, and along with it’s obvious culinary uses, nutmeg can provide a wide range of other benefits. Here, we’ll examine them in a little more detail.
As we discussed earlier, nutmeg contains a powerful natural compound called myristicin. This compound, along with another called macelignan, have been shown to reduce the degradation of neural pathways in the brain. Additionally, both myristicin and macelignan have been found to impede the reduction in cognitive function that is commonly associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Nutmeg powder may provide significant digestive benefits. Grinding nutmeg into a powder ensures it retains its fiber content, which as we know promotes regular bowel movements. Nutmeg powder also stimulates the secretion of gastric and intestinal juices. This aids your gastrointestinal system in the breakdown of food proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
More efficient food breakdown means absorption of more nutrients from the food you eat, and a lower likelihood of stagnation in the stomach. This means that nutmeg may be a great choice for people who suffer from indigestion or stomach pains, gas and bloating after eating.
Research has shown nutmeg to act against carcinogenic activity in the body. Researchers indicate that a methanolic compound that naturally occurs in nutmeg can induce apoptosis of cancer cells. That’s otherwise known as cell death. This means that nutmeg may be able to halt the progress of leukemia, a cancer that commonly afflicts children.
A study published in the Journal of Food Chemistry examined the effect of nutmeg, along with a range of other botanicals, on a range of free radicals. Researchers noted that nutmeg had a significant effect against several types of free radicals that are associated with higher risk of cancer.
Another study published in the Journal of Proteome Research discovered that certain uremic toxins were associated with a form of colon cancer in mice. Researchers found that “nutmeg, which exhibits antimicrobial activity, attenuated the levels of uremic toxins and decreased intestinal tumorigenesis.” This role in reducing the action of toxins on the colon may that mean nutmeg presents a viable treatment for colon cancer.
Historically, many cultures considered nutmeg to be the king of spices with regard to oral health. The ancients may have been onto something, as nutmeg has been scientifically proven to contain certain antibacterial compounds. These compounds have been shown to reduce the incidence of bacteria in the mouth that are associated with gum disease and bad breath.
The high concentrations of essential vitamins and minerals in nutmeg mean it may be a great way to maintain robust cardiovascular health. For starters, the potassium found in nutmeg is a widely recognized vasodilator, meaning it relaxes your blood vessels. In this way, it reduces blood pressure. Essentially this means that your cardiovascular system can take a much-needed vacation! Not only that, nutmeg’s potassium stores also improve nutrient uptake from the food you eat. This ensures you gain more nutrition from every meal.
Next, nutmeg contains a significant concentration of calcium. This macronutrient can help to improve your bone health by contributing to their repair and growth. This means that nutmeg may be a great spice to consume for those suffering from osteoporosis.
Last but not least, there’s all that iron floating about in your humble nutmeg. As most people know, iron is essential for maintaining healthy red blood cell count. For this reason, including nutmeg in your diet can help to resolve iron deficiency, otherwise known as anemia.
How do you use nutmeg in the kitchen? We’d love to know how you incorporate it into your cooking.
— Liivi Hess