Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices to use around the holidays. It comes from the nutmeg tree, an evergreen that is native to the spice Islands of Indonesia. Nutmeg was immediately popular, thanks to its warm depth, in the sixth century when it was first brought to southern Europe. It was soon spread across the continent throughout the next 500 years. Nutmeg was being produced and Trinidad, Granada, and the west Indies by the 1800s and being exported all over the world.
A nutmeg seed is around the same size of a walnuts, is shaped like an egg, and has a lacy red covering that is another spice itself called mace. The nutmeg tree takes a minimum of seven years to produce these spices.
Nutmeg has historically been used as an oral medicine to help with digestive concerns like diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence. It is also known to treat insomnia, headaches, fever, and bad breath. Nutmeg can be used topically to help treat toothaches and mouth sores. There has not been much research done on the health benefits and safety of nutmeg when using for these applications, though.
Some people warn against using nutmeg orally in amounts that are considered medicinal for women who are pregnant or lactating. It is feared that nutmeg can be an abortifacient.
There are many antioxidant properties that have been proven in nutmeg. A small study was done to look at the effects of using nutmeg protect the liver and testicles when therapy requires radiation. When nutmeg is taken in doses considered extremely high, it can potentially cause hallucinations or other psychoactive effects.
Nutmeg is a sweet and pungent culinary spice. A little bit of the spice can go a long way. Nutmeg is usually seen as a spice that is associated with the holidays, since it is often used in eggnogs in baked goods. In Italy and the Netherlands, nutmeg is often added to preserves, meats, sausages, and vegetables as a popular spice.
Regardless of whether you use nutmeg in its powdered form or whole seed, it should be kept in a jar that is tightly sealed and away from heat and light. The powdered spice can last for one year while the whole seed can last around four years.