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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Volatile Oils

Nutmeg is the kernel of the dried ripe seed of Myristica fragrans Houtten., belonging to family Myristicaceae.






Semen myristicae, Myristica, Nux moschata, Myristica aromata.


Biological Source


Nutmeg is the kernel of the dried ripe seed of Myristica fragrans Houtten., belonging to family Myristicaceae.


Geographical Source


A native of Molucca islands in Indonesia. It is also cultivated in West Indies, Banda Islands, Archipelago, Malayan, Sumatra, and in Guiana.


Cultivation, Collection, and Preparation


Nutmeg grows well in well-drained loamy soil, in hot and humid climate but requires protection from wind. It is cultivated using seeds and they are protected from wind using banana plantation in between. Nutmeg is a dioecious tree bearing male and female flowers separately. As the drug is obtained only from female plant, the male trees are removed with a proportion of 1:7 (one male for seven female plants). The tree is about 25 feet high, has a greyish-brown smooth bark, abounding in a yellow juice. The branches spread in whorls. Male flowers have three to five more on a peduncle, female are similar to that of the male but their pedicel is solitary. The tree does not flower till it is nine years old, but once it starts to flower it continues to do so for 75 years without any attention. The fruits are harvested twice or thrice a year, that is, in July or August the next in November and finally in March or April. The fruit is collected in the morning by means of a barb attached to a long stick. Fruit is a pendulous, globose drupe, consisting of a pericarp with light yellow colour with the mace arillus covering the hard endocarp. The arillus are stripped off and forms a mace. The arillus when fresh is a brilliant scarlet and when dry becomes more horny, brittle, and yellowish-brown in colour. Seeds are dried in trays kept at a height of about 3 m on charcoal fire during night, and during day they are kept under sun to have a continuous drying process. The testa is removed by crack-ing the seeds using a wooden mallet and the kernels are removed. The drug is graded and packed.




Nutmeg is the kernels consisting of outer and inner perisperm, endosperm and embryo; it has an ovoid or broadly elongated shape with a size of 2 to 3 cm length and 1.5 to 2 cm wide. The kernels are greyish brown in colour, with numerous reddish brown spots on them. One end of the nutmeg has a small depression indicating the position of micropyle and slightly by its side it has the position of hilum. The line of raphe extends to opposite end of the kernel to the depression called chalaza. The embryo is present in a small cavity inside the endosperm.


                        Myristica fragrans

Chemical Constituents


Nutmeg contains of 5 to 15% volatile oil, lignin, stearin, starch, gum, colouring matter, and 0.08% of an acid substance. The volatile oil contains clemicine, myristicin, geraniol, borneol, pinene, camphene, and dipentene. It also contains eugenol, safrol, p-cymene and isoeugenol in small quantity.





Nutmeg is aromatic, carminative, flavouring agent. Both nutmeg and mace are used for flatulence, in allay nausea and vomiting. Graded nutmeg along with lard is used in ointment for piles. It has narcotic action and peripherally it irritates and produces anesthetics action, since it irritates intestine and uterus it can cause abortion. Oil of Nutmeg is used to conceal the taste of various drugs and as a local stimulant to the gastrointestinal tract.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Diakof, Geriforte, Mentat, Lukol (Himalaya Drug Company), and Kumaryasava (Dabur).


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