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Myristica fragrans


Myristica fragrans  

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Nutmeg, gemnut, oil of mace, muskatbaum, muscadier, myristica

Original Habitat

M. fragrans, or Nutmeg, is native to the Indonesian Moluccan islands and surrounding areas and is presently cultivated in the East Indies and parts of the West Indies as well as in other parts of the world where it has been introduced.[1] The Nutmeg tree takes several years of careful attention for proper development. Seedlings must be planted in shaded areas and the amount of shade provided must be reduced each year until the plant is fully established.[2]

Plant Part Used



The essential oil of M. fragrans is commonly used in the foods and beverages industry as a flavouring and to mask unpleasant odors from some food products.[3] It is also regularly used in the fragrance industry to impart a deeper or more masculine fragrance. In therapeutic Aromatherapy, it is primarily used as a single oil and less often in targeted formulations.


Preparation of the essential oil of M. fragrans requires that the seed be dried, with limited amounts of carbohydrates and proteins, and either steam or water distilled. When steam-distilled, nutmeg oil is clear in colour and has a strong earthy, spicy aroma. It is watery in consistency.

M. fragrans is an evergreen tree that grows to heights of 20 metres, has numerous branches and produces small yellow flowers and fleshy red fruits which hold the egg-shaped seeds from which the nutmeg oil is obtained. The red fruits are roundish and approximately the size of a lemon with strongly astringent juice and flesh from which mace is obtained. The seed is contained within the fruit in a thin, brown waxy shell.

This is a long-growing tree that does not flower until the eighth or ninth year, after which it bears flowers and fruit for up to seventy or eighty years.[1]

Chemical Constituents

Beta-phellandrene [4][5][6]

Medicinal Uses


Antioxidant: Using different assays, including the TBARS and –carotene agar diffusion, it was shown that nutmeg essential oil exhibits some antioxidant activity.[7]

Anticonvulsant: Nutmeg essential oil was shown to have anticonvulsant activity in an animal setting.  Using strychnine and electroshock test methods, among others, nutmeg inhibited and delayed seizures.  Due to the anticonvulsant activity across many seizure models, nutmeg may be important in grand mal and partial seizures.[8]

 Liver Enzymes: Animal studies have concluded that nutmeg essential oil increases the liver enzyme cytochrome p450.[9][10] This may produce detoxification action in the liver.

Antimicrobial: Several small laboratory studies have noted anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of Nutmeg oil.[3]

Traditional Use

Stress and nervous tension+++
Pain from arthritis, rheumatism and inflammation++
Muscle aches and pains+++

Fumigant: Seven essential oils from spices were tested against pulse beetle (Callosobruchus chinensis).   Results showed fumigant activity for all seven oils, including nutmeg essential oil without completely destroying the grains.[11] Nutmeg oil also showed anti-feed, fumigant and grain protection against pests Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) and Sitophilus zeamais Motsch.[12]

Contraindications and Precautions

Nutmeg oil is considered to be toxic due to the myristicin content which affects the central nervous system.[3]

Based on pharmacology, not to be used with drugs metabolized by the cytochrome p450 enzyme.

Not to be used by individuals with liver or kidney disorders.

Ingesting Nutmeg oil has reportedly caused adverse side effects including, nausea, vomiting, seizures and psychopharmacological effects.[6]

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Not to be used with children.


[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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  1) Botanical Info

  2) Safety


1.     New Zealand Herb Data Library Website: Available from: [Accessed on 28th September 2009].

2.     Food and Agriculture Assoc. of the United Nations. Website: Available from: [Accessed on 29th September 2009].

3.     Lis-Balchin M., Aromatherapy Science. Great Britain: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.

4.     Qiu Q. Study on chemical constituents of the essential oil from Myristica fragrans Houtt. by supercritical fluid extraction and steam distillation. [Article in Chinese] Zhong Yao Cai. Nov 2004;27(11):823-826.

5.     Wang Y. GC-MS analysis of essential oils from seeds of Myristica fragrans in Chinese market. [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Apr 2004;29(4):339-342.

6.     Hallström H. Toxicological evaluation of myristicin. Nat Toxins. 1997;5(5):186-192.

7.     Damien D. In vitro evaluation of antioxidant activity of essential oils and their components. Flav Frag J. 2000;15(1):12-16.

8.     Wahab A. Anticonvulsant activities of nutmeg oil of Myristica fragrans. Phytother Res. Feb 2009;23(2):153-158.

9.     Zhao R. Effect of volatile oil from nutmeg on liver microsomal cytochrome P450 in mice. [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Feb 2009;34(4):447-449.

10.  Banerjee S. Influence of certain essential oils on carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes and acid-soluble sulfhydryls in mouse liver. Nutr Cancer. 1994;21(3):263-269.

11.  Chaubey MK. Fumigant toxicity of essential oils from some common spices against pulse beetle, Callosobruchus chinensis (Coleoptera: Bruchidae). J Oleo Sci. 2008;57(3):171-179.

12.  Huanga Y. Toxic and antifeedant action of nutmeg oil against Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) and Sitophilus zeamais Motsch. J Stored Prod Res. Oct 1997;33(4):289-298.

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