A Natural Painkiller, Aphrodisiac, and Sleep Inducer: 6 Reasons To Add THIS Spice to Your MealsLuke Coutinho
Known as jaiphal in Hindi, nutmeg is native to a cluster of 10 small volcanic islands known as Moluccas or Spice Islands in the Banda Sea to the northeast of Indonesia. It gets its name from the Latin word nux (meaning nut) and muscat (meaning musky). It translates to musky nut.
Nutmeg is the seed of the evergreen tree Myristica fragrans. The fruit that bears the seed at first glance somewhat resembles a peach. The nutmeg seed or kernel is enveloped in a reddish net commonly known as the nutmeg mace. Each of these has a distinct flavor and use.
While most of us now find nutmeg as a part of our culinary heritage in the desi kitchen, one question that may plague your mind is – where was nutmeg first mentioned in history? Well, there are several theories.
Some trace it back to the writings of Roman author Pliny in the 1st century A.D when he spoke of a tree bearing nuts with two flavors. Another bizarre theory states it was in the 15th century when Emperor Henry VI fumigated the streets in Rome with nutmegs before assuming the throne. Yet others date it back to the 6th century stating Arab merchants brought it to Constantinople and some to the 1600s when nutmeg waged wars. Yes, you read that right. More precious than gold, just half a kg of nutmeg was worth three cows in barter. The conquest to control nutmeg production led to the massacre and enslavement of the Banda inhabitants by the Dutch.
It was a highly valued commodity. From an exotic spice in the kitchen to a natural remedy in folk medicine, it continues to find a unique place, even today.
What does scientific research say?
Did you know that carbohydrates, lipids/fatty acids, and proteins constitute up to 80% of the weight of dry nutmeg kernels or seeds? The nutmeg seed contains essential oils, phenolic and polyphenolic compounds, and pigments. It is super rich in magnesium, manganese, copper, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, calcium, and potassium. From acting as a natural painkiller to an aphrodisiac, here are the top 6 reasons to add it to your meals.
Nutmeg as a natural pain-killer
Nutmeg has a fantastic ability to reduce pain because it works as an analgesic or natural pain reliever. I say with confidence because once I hurt my ankle while skating. I usually try not to rely on painkillers. So during my research, I found that mixing nutmeg essential oil with a carrier oil (coconut/sesame) and applying it to the affected area could reduce muscle soreness and swelling within 24 hours of doing it. Before sleeping, I used 4 to 5 drops of pure nutmeg oil mixed with coconut oil and applied it to my ankle. When I woke up, voila! I did not feel any pain. It goes on to prove that nutmeg has anti-inflammatory properties that you can use externally to manage joint pain, muscle pain, sores, and swelling. Several athletes use oils infused with nutmeg oil to deal with pain. Remember, never apply nutmeg EO directly. Always use a carrier oil and do a patch test to rule out allergies.
Nutmeg contains essential volatile oils like myristicin, elemicin, eugenol, and safrole, and anti-inflammatory compounds like monoterpenes that help reduce inflammation and aid relief. Scientific studies also link its external use to treating skin infections, toothache, rheumatic pain, and paralysis.
Nutmeg as an aphrodisiac
Nutmeg also comes under the category of an aphrodisiac spice that can stimulate desire and sexual instinct and help with low libido. This, in turn, can help in cases of infertility. Certain civilizations in the Middle East used nutmeg powder mixed with honey as a stimulant for people with low libido or sexual performance.
Try this Natural Aphrodisiac Mix
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek or methi powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- 3 to 5 pure saffron strands
- 2 cloves
- Boil all the above ingredients in 2 cups of water or a cup of pure hormone-free Indian cow (desi) milk.
- Add 1/2 to 1 tbsp raw and unpasteurized honey.
- Sip slowly as a bedtime drink.
Disclaimer: Those under specific medications or treatments must discuss them with their healthcare expert before consuming this concoction.
The ingredients in this concoction are natural aphrodisiacs that may improve your sex drive, stamina, and energy levels. Have this an hour or two before bedtime. Do this for a couple of days. Since it is natural, it takes time to get into your system and help you. But remember, this will never work alone. Address your nutrition, stress levels, anxiety, movement, and sleep deprivation, too.
Nutmeg as a sleep inducer
One of the most incredible benefits of nutmeg is to induce sleep. Use only a dash of nutmeg, less than 1/4 teaspoon. In the olden days, parents would mix nutmeg powder in milk and give it to their children for improved sleep. It works well for adults too. If you are lactose intolerant or vegan, you can use almond milk too.
All you need to do is:
Take a pinch of elaichi (cardamom) powder and a dash of nutmeg powder, mix it in your A2 milk/almond milk and drink it an hour before bed.
Another sleep potion that you can try is this:
- ¼ tsp nutmeg powder
- 5 strands of saffron/kesar
- 2 tsp poppy seeds/khus khus
- 5 black raisins (soaked)
- 1 glass of water
Mix all spices and steep them in a cup of warm water for a couple of hours. Let the contents seep well. Have this with 6 soaked raisins.
Now, none of these sleep potions will work if you are constantly stressed out. Nutmeg doesn’t work alone. Practice your meditation, disconnect from your gadgets an hour before sleep, and unclutter your mind. Practice your nighttime rituals to sleep deeper.
Nutmeg as a digestive tonic
Another favorite nutmeg drink that works as a brain and digestive tonic is this. Take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix it in 200ml of warm water. Add a dash of dry ginger powder, nutmeg powder, and black pepper. This works brilliantly to stimulate your digestive enzymes, helps you break down food better, works as a prebiotic, and even induces sleep. Consume 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
In folk medicine, nutmeg was also used to treat gastrointestinal and gut issues like flatulence, colic, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, and urinary incontinence. Scientific studies also showcase its benefits for irregular bowel issues, dysentery, vomiting, and abdominal distension (swollen abdomen). Adding nutmeg powder to your food preparations can be powerful.
Nutmeg as an adaptogen
Nutmeg also works as an adaptogen to soothe your nervous system. Ayurveda speaks of its benefits of stimulating energy and acting as a sedative to calm you down. So if you struggle with anxiety, depression, and cluttered thoughts, it works at a cellular level to relax you. Studies suggest that the lignans and neolignans from the nutmeg plant can aid antidepressant activities. Now can it replace your therapist and medications? Certainly not. But it can help you in your journey over and above these. Keep your doctor in the loop before adding it to your lifestyle.
Nutmeg for blood pressure
Every time you get angry or stressed, your blood vessels constrict. It is why your blood pressure rises. Nutmeg can also be beneficial because it can relax your blood vessels. It is also rich in calcium and potassium which makes it fantastic for those with BP issues when consumed in minute quantities.
This is not to say that adding nutmeg to your diet will heal you of your blood pressure issues. You must address your root cause, take your medications, manage your stress levels, and make lifestyle changes.
A word of caution
Consume nutmeg in very small quantities, less than 1/4 teaspoon, preferably. Because consuming it in a high quantity can lead to serious side effects like rapid heartbeats (palpitations), hallucinations, loss of muscle coordination, nausea, rage, disorientation, or intense and weird dreams.
Did you know that in Zanzibar back in the day, teenagers, sailors, and inmates would chew nutmeg as a cheap alternative to smoking marijuana? When ingested with other drugs (illegal), in some cases, it may even lead to death.
The bottom line
You can add a pinch of nutmeg powder to your milk, water, meal preparations, and desserts. Just ensure you do not exceed the quantity. If it does not work for you the first night to sleep, it DOES NOT mean you increase your quantity. Start with a pinch or a little less than 1/4 teaspoon. But never more than that.
Your kitchen is full of spices that have medicinal value. Even pharmaceutical companies use these in many drugs that they manufacture. Yet, it is unfortunate that not many of us acknowledge the healing properties of these when we consume them in the right and balanced way.
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