Beyond its delicate and slightly sweet flavor — accenting dishes throughout the world — nutmeg offers an abundance of health benefits. In fact, thanks to its dense nutritive content, nutmeg health benefits include relieving pain, helping digestion and improving the libido, among others.
Nutmeg health benefits
Nutmeg comes from the evergreen nutmeg trees, which are native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. When the fruit (Myristica frangrans) is ripe, it splits open to reveal a black nutmeg seed inside. This seed is covered with vein-like threads, known as mace, which is also edible. Nutmeg comes whole but is most often used in powder form or essential oil — obtained by steam distillation.
It contains more than 50 chemical compounds. Just a dusting of nutmeg adds aroma and enhances the taste of food. It also provides key minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and manganese to help keep your immune system strong. Let’s have a closer look at the many health benefits of nutmeg and why you should use it more often.
Relieves chronic pain
Those who suffer from chronic or persistent pain from conditions such as inflammatory diseases, cancer or diabetes have a reduced quality of life. Clinical researchers, therefore, are continually challenged to discover safer, more effective and better-tolerated painkillers. For centuries, nutmeg has been a staple in ancient Chinese medicine for inflammation and abdominal pain.
An animal study published in the Journal of Food and Nutrition injected rats with nutmeg oil to test its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects on chronic pain. Researchers found that nutmeg oil could potentially alleviate joint swelling and pain associated with chronic inflammation. Additionally, nutmeg oil was effective on pain caused by increased sensitivity, making it an ideal pain reliever.
By adding nutmeg as a spice to baked goods and savory dishes, you can help reduce chronic inflammation. One of compounds in nutmeg is menthol, which has natural pain-relieving characteristics. If you suffer from painful joints, muscle pain and arthritis, ease pain naturally by rubbing nutmeg oil over affected areas.
Nutmeg can help provide relief from chronic insomnia or sleeplessness. An animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that inhaling nutmeg essential oil reduced nighttime body movement. In fact, when comparing the aromatherapeutic potency of nutmeg to lavender oil — often used to induce sleep — nutmeg was even more potent.
Add a pinch of nutmeg to warm milk or a nondairy alternative. Nutmeg is a good source of magnesium, an essential mineral in the body that reduces nerve tension. It even stimulates the release of serotonin, which creates a feeling of relaxation or sedation.
For centuries, nutmeg has been used as a medicinal spice to relieve digestive problems. In fact, nutmeg is probably most often administered to treat stomach issues. Widely used in South East Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe, nutmeg treats stomach aches and cramps. In addition, it is said to aid digestion and dispel gas from the body.
Grate a small amount of nutmeg into your soups and stews to boost flavor and improve gut health. Grinding nutmeg into powder retains the fiber content. Fiber also stimulates the digestive process by contracting smooth muscles of the intestine.
Relieves bad breath
Like millions of other people, you may suffer from bad breath, thanks to bacteria buildup on your tongue and teeth. Thankfully, there are other more natural remedies that can help alleviate bad breath and even halitosis.
Commercial toothpastes — and even some natural brands — contain a cocktail of nasty chemicals. Fluoride, for instance, is linked to weakened bones, thyroid suppression, lowered metabolic and more. Try nutmeg instead. Due to its anti-bacterial compounds, it works to treat bad breath as well as halitosis naturally.
Nutmeg also boosts the immunity of your gums and teeth. That’s why nutmeg and its extracts are often found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, particularly in organic or herbal varieties.
Detoxifies the kidneys and liver
Detoxification is essential for optimum health. Harmful substances enter your body daily — through foods, medication and the environment. Over time, a buildup of toxins in the kidneys and liver can lead to health disorders and illnesses. Detoxification is necessary to cleanse the body of toxins.
Nutmeg in powder or oil form works effectively to flush out toxins in the kidneys and liver. In addition, nutmeg helps dissolve and stop kidney stones from forming. When the liver and kidney are detoxified, they can perform their functions better.
Improves the male libido
Certain spices are sexual invigorators, and nutmeg falls under this category. An animal study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that nutmeg may be a suitable and natural remedy for increasing male libido. The study suggests that nutmeg stimulated the mounting behavior of male mice. It also significantly increased their mating performance. Because of its vasodilator and smooth muscle-relaxant properties, the compound eugenol may be responsible for some of the aphrodisiac effect.
One of the lesser known benefits of nutmeg is its potential for helping treat cancer. A study conducted by The National Cancer Institute of Maryland screened the Myristicaceae plant family for activity against selected leukemia lines. Of the tested extracts, more than 18 percent exhibited antileukemic activity, meaning nutmeg extract may kill human leukemia cells.
Helps with diabetes
When the body is unable to break down sugar in the blood due to a deficiency of insulin, diabetes develops. Those with diabetes often have raised fat levels in the blood, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In parts of India, where access to conventional medicine is limited, nutmeg is used to treat diabetes.
According to Medical Life Sciences, the traditional use of nutmeg led pharmacists in Pune and Sagar, India, to study it scientifically. Their controlled animal tests showed that nutmeg extracts:
- Significantly decreased blood glucose levels.
- Improved the lipid profile in the blood.
- Stimulated the beta-cells of the pancreas to release insulin.
- Improved liver and pancreas weight.
Controls stress and depression
Three-hundred and fifty million people suffer from depression globally, according to the World Health Organization. Nutmeg may help relieve stress and depression by stimulating the brain. It also improves concentration and helps with focus.
One of the reasons why nutmeg is so effective at improving mood has to do with how it helps controls stress in the body. Nutmeg helps the body and mind cope with stress by restoring neurotransmitters in the brain just like drugs. The main difference, though, is the nasty side effects that come with antidepressants. Nutmeg is free from side effects and is a completely all-natural treatment for anxiety and depression. Simply add nutmeg to more of your meals, year-round. You’ll notice the benefits of an improved mood.
A little goes a long way
When it comes to nutmeg, you don’t need to use a lot to reap the benefits. Overusing nutmeg or ingesting large quantities is known to cause palpitations, sweating, vomiting and even hallucinations. While it may be difficult to overdose on nutmeg, remember, a little goes a long way to provide numerous health benefits.
— Katherine Marko