Botany: The nutmeg tree is an evergreen tree with spreading branches and dense foliage. It grows up to 20 m high. Leaves are coriaceous, elliptic-oblong and at times oblanceolate, cordate at tip, and acute at base. Flowers are bracteolate, fruits ovoid, subglobose or pyriform. The dried brown seed, after the shell is broken and discarded is the nutmeg.

The nutmeg tree originated in the East Indian archipelago. It is now cultivated widely throughout tropical areas. Indonesia is the main supplier of East Indian nutmeg, but it is also produced in Sri Lanka. The Federation of the West Indies are the main suppliers of West Indian nutmeg.

History and/or folklore: It is said that the scent of the Nutmeg Islands is so powerful that birds of paradise become intoxicated.

Products: Myristica fragrans essential oil (Myristicae aetheroleum; Nutmeg oil): Nutmeg oil is a volatile oil obtained by steam distillation or steam and water distillation of freshly comminuted, dried nutmegs. The nutmegs should preferably be free from most of their fixed oil before distillation. The fixed oil can be alcohol extracted to yield a small amount of essential oil which has been dissolved in the fixed oil during the expression.

Nutmeg oil is a strong antioxidant with antimicrobial and analgesic properties.

Myristica fragrans botanical extract (Nutmeg extract): Nutmeg extract is prepared from the dried, ripe seed of the fruit from Myristica fragrans. It is usually a dark orange, somewhat grainy, viscous mass of very warm, spicy balsamic and strongly aromatic odour. The flavour is slightly burning, warm and spicy, reminiscent of nutmeg.

Biochemistry: Nutmeg contains 2-16% (usually ca. 10%) volatile oil; 25-40% fixed (non-volatile) oils consisting of free myristic acid and triglycerides of lauric, tridecanoic, palmitic, stearic, and myristic acids as well as branched isomers of myristic and stearic acids; starch (ca. 30%); protein (ca. 6%); an oleanolic acid glycoside (saponin); sclareol; diarylpropanoides (dimeric phenylpropanoids) such as macelignan, meso-di-hydroguaiaretic acid, otobaphenol; catechins, proanthocyanidins and others


Myristica fragrans essential oil (Myristicae aetheroleum; Nutmeg oil):
Traditional use: Nutmeg oil is used for liniments, hair preparations, soaps and scented powders. It is one of the components used in liniments and analgesic rubs.

Nutmeg oil is widely used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes at concentrations from 0.005% to 0.8%. Maximum use level reported is 0.3% for East Indian oil in perfumes (West Indian nutmegs yield slightly more monoterpenes by distillation than do the East Indian nutmegs).

Myristica fragrans botanical extract (Nutmeg extract):
The extract is now and then used in old fashioned types of oriental perfume where it produces pleasing effects in combination with sandalwood, vetiver, clary sage, oakmoss, lavender absolute, tonka absolute, labdanum extracts, bergamot oil, patchouli oil and geranium oil. Minute additions of nutmeg extract can have very interesting effects in rose bases.


Myristica fragrans essential oil

Xi – irritant:
Irritating to skin and eyes.
May cause sensitisation by skin contact.
Avoid contact with skin.

Nutmeg oil is toxic if used in large quantities, and can be stupefying. Use with caution on the skin. No information on the long term toxicity of nutmeg oil is provided.