Pleasantly aromatic, nutmeg is actually seed kernel of fruit-nutmeg. It is one of the highly prized spices known since antiquity for its aromatic, aphrodisiac, and curative properties. Nutmegs are evergreen trees, native to the rain forest Indonesian Moluccas Island; also known as the Spice Islands.
Botanically, the plant belongs to Myristicaceae family of medium to large trees. Its scientific name is: Myristica fragrans. Besides M. fragrans, several other species of Myristica grown all over the tropical regions including M. argentea, M. malabarica (Indian), and M. fatua. Although they are similar in appearance to M. fragrans, they, however, have less intense flavor and aroma and command less price.
This spice tree is a large evergreen plant that thrives well under tropical climates. A fully-grown tree may reach about 50-60 feet in height and is the source of nutmeg and mace, two invaluable spices. The nutmeg fruit, indeed, is a drupe about the size of an apricot which up on ripening splits-up to reveal single, centrally situated oval shaped hard kernel popular as "nutmeg spice." This seed kernel is closely enwrapped by crimson-red, lacy or thread like arils known as "mace." Both spices feature a similar warm, sweet aromatic flavor.
Health benefits of nutmeg ( jhaji kayalu )
Nutmeg and mace spice contains many plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
The spicy nut contains fixed oil trimyristin and many essential volatile oils such as which gives a sweet aromatic flavor to nutmeg such as myristicin, elemicin, eugenol and safrole. The other volatile-oils are pinene, camphene, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeniol.
The active principles in nutmeg have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative functions.
This spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
It is also rich in many vital B-complex vitamins, including vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A and many flavonoid anti-oxidants like beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin that are essential for optimum health.