The second installment of Caribbean Beauty & Wellness Rituals is coming in hot, well actually, spicy. I’m sure you’ve heard of and or used Nutmeg. And if you haven’t, consider this your introduction. Featured photo via caribbeanandco.com
The nutmeg tree
Nutmeg is the seed of the tropical evergreen tree, (Myristica fragrant). It is encased within the mace, a red, mesh-like structure that wraps around the nutmeg seed. Note that the nutmeg and mace spices yield a noticeably different smell and taste.
The nutmeg tree is native to the Banda Islands or Spice Islands, of Indonesia. After the British took over the Moluccas in 1796, nutmeg cultivation began to spread to other neighboring East Indian islands, and arrived in the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1943. From Grenada, it made its way to other Caribbean islands.
Coupled with the humid climate and moist soil, the Caribbean provides the perfect environment for nutmeg to thrive with Grenada holding the title of best cultivator. In fact, to date, they are the largest nutmeg producer after indonesia, and the second largest exporter to Europe.
Grenada’s pride for its nutmeg (black gold) cultivation can be seen on their flag, which boasts the nutmeg colors; green, red and yellow, along with the depiction of a nutmeg on the left.
After planting, it takes a nutmeg tree seven to nine years to yield its first fruit and approximately twenty plus years to reach maximum production. One mature nutmeg tree can yield approximately two thousand fruits. Once the nutmegs are harvested and prepared, the nutmeg spice is then produced by grounding the whole nutmeg seed into a powder.
So, why do folks use nutmeg spice? Well, it has a pleasant, nutty and earthy aroma, which works as a wonderful enhancement and flavor additive in foods. However, aside from the sweet flavoring, nutmeg spice is also known to have several powerful health benefits.
Known benefits of Nutmeg Powder
- Has powerful antioxidants
- Contains antibacterial properties
- May improve heart health
- Has a pleasant aroma
- It boosts libido
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Contains anti-bacterial properties
- A mood enhancer
- Controls blood sugar
- Used to fragrance perfumes (Chanel No. 5. Dior Ferenheighight, Caro’s Daughter -Jamaican Punch, )
- For spicing up baking and cooking
- As a spice for smoothies
- To spice up coffees or hot chocolates
- For adding zest to cocktails drinks
- In desserts like ice-creams
- As an additive in cosmetics & pharmaceuticals
Cautions about nutmeg
- The nutmeg oil (not powder) contains two mild carcinogens
- Studies have shown that nutmeg also has anticancer properties
- Caution is advised for nutmeg oil if pregnant and depending on age.
- It is a psychoactive
In summary, I can say that nutmeg is an absolutely wonderful spice. One I grew up enjoying in baked goods and desserts. My grandfather grew nutmegs and my grandmother grounded them. Of course, as with everything, exhibit caution, know your body, get to know the spice and don’t over do. And, yes. Talk to your doctor, always.
Dixie Lincoln- Nichols is a biological science educator, health and wellbeing consultant and Qigong instructor. Her work has been featured in media outlets like, Oprah Mag, SELF, Yahoo and more. She is the founder of Inside Outer Beauty Market, a multi-cultutal retailer curating and creating products to support the body inside and out. Visit the site at www.iobeautymarket.com