The history of nutmeg essential oil is wildly rich and compelling. It triggered wars and massacres, and was the critical negotiating point during the “Spice Wars” of the 17th century between the British and Dutch; The deal ultimately negotiated: The Dutch traded the island Manhattan for nutmeg!
It’s hard to imagine how a spice that conjures images of cozy fireplace gatherings over winter holiday desserts and warm spiced drinks, was the focus of such impassioned international strife and violent struggle over economic power.
My fascination with Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) essential oil started a couple of weeks ago when I made myself a winter salve with the essential oils of nutmeg, cardamom and eucalyptus: the intention: to bolster my immune system and give me energy- I had been exhausted and honestly, at the time I blended it, I was only thinking of its energizing and germ-fighting properties, not about its amazing and dynamic history.
But now that the holidays are fast approaching and the scent of nutmeg is everywhere – I was drawn to dig deeper into its astonishing story.
Centuries ago, nutmeg grew in only one place in the world: The Banda Islands, a small cluster of islands off the coast of Indonesia. Today it is grown in Sir Lanka, Indonesia as well as in the West Indies. The Nutmeg tree is a mid-size evergreen tree that produces a small fleshy peach-like fruit that splits when ripe, revealing a beautifully red-webbed encased nut. The red webbing when peeled off and dried is known as the spice mace. And the actual nutmeg is the fragrant seed inside the hard nut. It’s this brown sweet and mysteriously spicy seed that is grated into the familiar spice we use to flavor food and beverages, and that is steam distilled to yield an incredibly powerful and versatile essential oil.
Loaded with strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antiseptic properties, the essential oil can effectively support and strengthen the body’s own innate ability to heal itself. Its analgesic and therapeutic properties span the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and musculoskeletal systems, soothing muscle aches and pains, calming digestive upsets, and battling germs and viruses that invade our upper respiratory tract.
In Medieval times nutmeg was not only a status symbol of wealth and sophistication, but it was also touted to have protected against the plague and used as an aphrodisiac. Nutmeg slices were even worn around the neck to attract mates and ward away evil spirits and illnesses. And because it also contains narcotic-like chemical components, that when ingested in quantity it can induce hallucinations, and was often carried in small snuff-like boxes and considered a magical amulet.
I like to use nutmeg as a warming and mind-sedating alternative to more cooling and stimulating essential oils like rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree and the citruses, that help me fight against colds or flus. Nutmeg essential oil warms up my circulation and gently energizes me when I’m feeing overwhelmed and over-extended. The subtle undertones of spicy and sweet, dark and bright, subtly protect and empower me.
Here are some suggestions of other essential oils that blend well with nutmeg.:
For an aphrodisiac:
Sweet Orange or Mandarin
For upper respiratory and immune boosting:
For muscle aches and pains: