Nutmeg Essential Oil
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is a tree native to the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. This evergreen can grow to be 65 feet tall and takes eight years to begin producing fruit.1
Nutmeg spice is created when the seed of the nutmeg fruit is harvested, dried, and ground.1 Historically, this spice was used in ancient Rome as incense or perfume.1 In 12th century Europe it was introduced to food and then became a highly sought after spice for trade.9 Today, this fragrant spice is frequently used as a flavoring for baked goods, eggnog, vegetables, and many other foods.1
To create nutmeg essential oil, the nutmeg fruit is harvested and the seeds removed.1 Seeds are then dried in the sun, ground up, and oil is extracted through a process of steam or hydro-distillation.1, 2
Nutmeg Essential Oil Uses
Nutmeg essential oil is useful for a variety of purposes in every-day life. This energizing oil can be used for aromatherapy, massage, household cleaning, perfume, natural insect repellent, and as a sleep aid.
Due to nutmeg essential oil’s pleasant aroma, it is considered excellent for use in aromatherapy. Add 3 drops of essential oil to a bowl of steaming water or a diffuser. Breathe deeply and inhale the steam.
Nutmeg essential oil works well as a fragrant massage oil. Add 2-3 drops of nutmeg essential oil to a carrier oil such as jojoba or sweet almond oil and massage over the skin.
The anti-bacterial properties of nutmeg essential oil make it a useful household cleaner. Mix approximately 15 drops of nutmeg essential oil with water and add to a spray bottle. Spray over surfaces and wipe clean.
The uplifting, balancing scent of nutmeg essential oil is a great option for a natural perfume. Mix 2-3 drops of essential oil with a carrier oil and dab behind your ears and on your wrists.
Natural Insect Repellent
Nutmeg essential oil is useful as an insect repellent. Mix 3-5 drops of essential oil with water. Store the blend in a small spray bottle and mist onto your skin before going outdoors. Reapply every couple of hours or as needed.
The relaxing scent of nutmeg essential oil may also be inhaled to promote sleep. Before bed, mix 3 drops of essential oil with a cup of hot water, or put into a diffuser, and breathe in the steam.
Benefits of Nutmeg Essential Oil
Nutmeg essential oil has been observed to have diverse therapeutic benefits including anti-bacterial activity, anti-cancer properties, anti-depressant activity, insecticidal qualities, and sleep-promoting properties. While research is ongoing, we explain the latest, and most promising scientific research on nutmeg essential oil.
Nutmeg essential oil has been observed to have natural anti-bacterial properties. In one study, researchers examined the effect of nutmeg essential oil on the microorganisms Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi, Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus subtilis.3
Nutmeg essential oil was added to samples of each bacteria and allowed to culture. While the study found that nutmeg oil inhibited the growth of all the bacteria, it was most effective against Shigella dysenteriae.3 This bacterium is found in contaminated water, food, and stool, and it is responsible for the infection dysentery (bloody diarrhea).10
A 2012 clinical study tested the ability of nutmeg and mengkudu oil to inhibit oxidation (a cancer-promoting process) in linoleic acid. Nutmeg essential oil demonstrated higher levels of anti-oxidant activity than mengkudu oil in linoleic acid; nutmeg oil impeded oxidation by 86.6% while mengkudu oil impeded oxidation by 69.4%.4
This study also examined nutmeg and mengkudu oil’s ability to help stop the development of new blood vessels in animal tissues, a process that promotes the spread of cancer cells. The study observed that nutmeg oil was more effective than mengkudu oil at inhibiting the development of new blood vessels.4
Note: Further research is required before these methods can be considered complementary to traditional cancer treatments. Additionally, these tests were performed in a laboratory, and not on human subjects. Essential oils should not take the place of traditional cancer treatment.
Preliminary research shows that nutmeg essential oil may also be found to have benefits for depression. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, the effects of nutmeg extract on depression in mice were examined.6
Mice were given nutmeg extract orally for three days, and their movement was studied through a forced swim test and a tail suspension test. This study observed that by administering 10 mg of extract per kg of body weight, immobility (an indicator of depression in mice) was significantly reduced in the subjects, and was comparable to the effects of traditional prescription treatments for mice with depression.6
Note: Further research is required before these findings could be applied to humans. Additionally, ingesting essential oils is not recommended, as they can be harmful. Never ingest essential oils unless a health care professional advises you to do so.
Nutmeg essential oil has also been reported to have natural, but effective insecticidal properties. A 2014 study tested nutmeg essential oil and its separate components as an insecticide against the cigarette beetle. After a 24-hour period, it was found that a dose of 19.3mcg per adult proved to be an effective insecticide against the beetle.7
The separate components of the oil were also tested. Eugenol, methyleugenol, elemicin, and myristicin compounds were found to be as effective as DEET at repelling these particular insects.7
A 2011 clinical study examined the sedative effects of nutmeg essential oil on animal subjects. The test found that inhaling 0.001 fl. oz. per cage caused a 68.62% decrease in subject movement.8
Researchers also noted that several of the volatile oils’ compounds were detected in blood samples, suggesting it helped inhibit locomotion and promote sedentary behavior. While these findings are promising, they were done only on mice, and further research is needed to indicate the effects of nutmeg essential oil on human sleep.8
Side Effects of Nutmeg Essential Oil
Nutmeg essential oil is generally considered safe for topical use and aromatherapy when it is used as specified by directions on the label.5
Essential oils can be dangerous to ingest, and it is not recommended that they be used internally unless you are under the direct supervision of a healthcare practitioner.
Healthcare professionals recommend that nutmeg essential oil be avoided by children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2016, December 12). Nutmeg. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/nutmeg – View reference
- Hang, X., & Yang, X. (2007). [GC-MS analysis of essential oil from nutmeg processed by different traditional methods]. [Abstract]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi,32(16), 1669-1675. Retrieved March 3, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18027665.
- Mahmud, R., Pia, S. P., & Perumal, S. (2012). Determination of Antibacterial Activity of Essential Oil of Myristica fragrans Houtt. using Tetrazolium Microplate Assay and its Cytotoxic Activity Against Vero Cell Line. International Journal of Pharmacology,8(6), 572-576. doi:10.3923/ijp.2012.572.576
- Piaru, S. P., Mahmud, R., Majid, A. M., & Nassar, Z. D. (2012). Antioxidant and antiangiogenic activities of the essential oils of Myristica fragrans and Morinda citrifolia [Abstract]. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine,5(4), 294-298. doi:10.1016/s1995-7645(12)60042-x
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2016, April 1). CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.20
- Dhingra, D., & Sharma, A. (2006). Antidepressant-Like Activity of n -Hexane Extract of Nutmeg ( Myristica fragrans ) Seeds in Mice [Abstract]. Journal of Medicinal Food,9(1), 84-89. doi:10.1089/jmf.2006.9.84
- Du, S., Yang, K., Wang, C., You, C., Geng, Z., Guo, S., & Liu, Z. (2014). Chemical Constituents and Activities of the Essential Oil from Myristica fragrans against Cigarette Beetle Lasioderma serricorne [Abstract]. Chemistry & Biodiversity,11(9), 1449-1456. doi:10.1002/cbdv.201400137
- , Subarnas, A., Apriyantono, A., & Mustarichie, R. (2010). Identification of Compounds in the Essential Oil of Nutmeg Seeds (Myristica fragrans Houtt.) That Inhibit Locomotor Activity in Mice. International Journal of Molecular Sciences,11(11), 4771-4781. doi:10.3390/ijms11114771
- UCLA Biomedical Library: History & Special Collections. (n.d.). Medicinal Spices Exhibit. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm?displayID=19
- Public Health Agency of Canada. (2010, September). Shigella spp. – Pathogen Safety Data Sheets – Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/lab-bio/res/psds-ftss/shigella-eng.php