Herbs & Botanicals

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Nutmeg (rou dou kou)

What is nutmeg? What is it used for?

Nutmeg is a type of seed derived from the nutmeg tree. Native to Indonesia, nutmeg trees are cultivated worldwide. Nutmeg trees yield fruit after approximately 8 years. When the fruit of a nutmeg tree ripens, it splits in half, revealing a bright red, netlike structure wrapped around a dark, brittle shell. Inside the shell is the nutmeg seed. The seeds are removed from the fruit and dried in the sun for herbal remedies.

In traditional Chinese medicine, nutmeg is associated with the Spleen, Stomach and Large Intestine meridians, and has pungent and warm properties. Its functions are to warm the spleen and stomach, promote the circulation of qi, and stop diarrhea.

The most common applications for nutmeg are diarrhea and gastroenteritis; according to traditional Chinese medicine principles, it helps stimulate the stomach and "bind" the intestines. Nutmeg also helps to reduce symptoms associated with digestive problems, such as nausea and vomiting, and can increase appetite. Externally, ointments created with nutmeg oil can treat rheumatic conditions and stimulate blood flow. Nutmeg is also used as a spice in cooking. In India, nutmeg is believed to act as an aphrodisiac and can increase sexual stamina.

How much nutmeg should I take?

The typical dose of nutmeg is between 3 and 10 grams, ground into powder and taken with a tea or decoction. Smaller doses (1.5-3 grams) are available in capsule or pill form.

What forms of nutmeg are available?

Nutmeg is available as a powder, pill, capsule or tablet. Nutmeg can also be found in some teas and decoctions; an oil made from nutmeg is a component in some soaps and cosmetics. Nutmeg is widely available, and can be purchased at most markets and grocery stores.

What can happen if I take too much nutmeg? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Nutmeg should not be taken in cases of dysentery, or in patients who have diarrhea caused by damp heat. There are no known side-effects or drug interactions associated with nutmeg (as of this writing). As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking nutmeg or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


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