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Myristica. U. S., Br. Myristica. Myrist. [Nutmeg]

Related entry: Mace - Oil of Myristica

"The ripe seeds of Myristica fragrans Houttuyn (Fam. Myristicaceae), deprived of the arilli and seed-coats. Preserve the kernels in tightly-closed containers, adding a few drops of carbon tetrachloride or chloroform from time to time to prevent attack by insects. Reject broken or wormy kernels." U. S. "Nutmeg is the dried kernel of the seed of Myristica fragrans, Houtt." Br.

Muscade, Fr. Cod.; Nux Moschata, Noix muscade, Fr.; Semen Myristicae, P. G.; Muskatnuss, G.; Noce moscata, It.; Nuez moscada, Sp.

The nutmeg tree is about thirty feet high, with numerous branches, and an aspect somewhat resembling that of the orange tree. The leaves are alternate, petiolate, oblong-oval, pointed, entire, bright green and somewhat glossy on their upper surface, whitish beneath, and of an aromatic taste. The staminate and pistillate flowers are upon different trees. The former are disposed in axillary, peduncled, solitary clusters; the latter are single, solitary, and axillary; both are minute and of a pale yellowish color. The fruit, which appears on the tree mingled with the flowers, is round or oval, of the size of a small peach, smooth, at first pale green, but yellow when ripe, and marked with a longitudinal furrow. The external covering, which is at first thick and fleshy and abounds in an austere, astringent juice, afterwards becomes dry and coriaceous, and, separating into two valves from the summit, discloses a scarlet reticulated membrane or arillus, commonly called mace, closely investing a thin, brown, shining shell, which contains the kernel or nutmeg. The nutmeg tree is a native of the Moluccas and other neighboring islands, and abounds especially in that small cluster distinguished by the name of Banda, whence the chief supplies of nutmegs were long derived. But numerous varieties of the plant are now cultivated in Sumatra, Java, Singapore, Penang, Ceylon, and other parts of the East Indies, and have been introduced into the Isles of France and Bourbon, Cayenne, and several of the West India islands. Various species of the genus Myristica, other than those which are official, yield commercial seeds or products:

The larger part of the nutmegs of commerce is said still to come from the Dutch Banda Islands. The Penang nutmegs are distinguished by not being limed. The tree is produced from the seed. It does not flower until the eighth or ninth year, after which it bears flowers and fruit together, without intermission, and is said to continue bearing for seventy or eighty years. Little trouble is requisite in its cultivation. A branch of the staminate tree is grafted into all the young pistillate plants when about two years old, so as to insure their early fruitfulness. J. H. Hart presented an interesting report (Bull. Bot. Dept., Trinidad, 1907, p. 202) showing that 16-year-old nutmeg trees growing in Trinidad bear both staminate and pistillate flowers. Indeed, he found both kinds of flowers on the same branch of the tree, and he therefore suggests that an attempt should be made to perpetuate this variety by grafting.

In the Moluccas the tree yields three crops annually. The fruit is gathered by hand, and the outside covering rejected. The arillode, constituting the mace of commerce, is then carefully separated, so as to break it as little as possible. It is flattened, dried in the sun, and afterwards sprinkled with salt water, with the view of contributing to its preservation. The nuts are dried in the sun or by ovens, and exposed to smoke until the kernel rattles in the shell. They are then broken open, and the kernels, having been removed and steeped for a short time in a mixture of lime and water, in order to preserve them from the attacks of worms, are now cleaned, and packed in casks or chests for exportation. Lumsdaine has found them to keep better if rubbed over with dry lime than when prepared in the moist way. (See Am. J. Sci., Nov., 1851.) Tschirch confirms the value of liming as a preservative against the attacks of insects. (Ph. Rev., 1898, 196.) This is, however, not sufficient protection, as the commercial nutmegs are sometimes "wormy." Nutmegs are brought to this country either directly from the East Indies or indirectly' from England and Holland. They are also occasionally imported in small quantities from the West Indies.

The amount of unground nutmegs imported into the United States averages about two million pounds a year.

Properties.—Myristica is officially described as "ovoid or ellipsoidal, from 20 to 30 mm. in length and about 20 mm. in thickness; externally light brown to dark brown, reticulately furrowed, the broad end with a large, circular upraised scar from which arises a furrow extending to the chalaza; easily cut, the surface having a waxy luster and mottled by reason of the light brown perisperm penetrating into the yellowish-brown endosperm; a longitudinal section through the endosperm above the large scar shows a small irregular cavity with the more or less shrunken remains of the embryo, and usually containing a growth of mold; odor and taste agreeably aromatic. The powder is dark reddish-brown; consisting of irregular, yellowish-brown or brownish-black fragments; fragments of perisperm yellowish-brown with large, circular or elliptical oil reservoirs containing a volatile oil, small, thin-walled parenchyma cells, and occasional spiral tracheae; parenchyma cells of endosperm more or less polygonal and filled with starch grains and aleurone grains; starch grains single or compound, the individual grains being spherical, plano-convex or polygonal, from 0.003 to 0.02 mm. in diameter and colored blue with iodine T.S. (distinction from starch grains in mace, which are colored yellowish-red); mounts in hydrated chloral T.S. show numerous globules of a fixed oil which later may separate in the form of rod-like crystals; mounts in fixed oil show the separation of spheroidal aggregates of crystals which polarize light strongly. The powder made from 'limed' nutmegs show under the microscope, upon the addition of water containing 25 per cent. of sulphuric acid, the immediate separation of crystals of calcium sulphate in the form of small needles or short rods which do not polarize light. Myristica yield's not more than 5 per cent. of ash." U. S.

"Broadly oval or rounded, rarely more than twenty-five millimetres long; greyish-brown externally, marked with reticulated furrows, and minute black points and lines; internally greyish-red with darker brownish-red veins. Transverse section marbled. Strong aromatic odor; taste aromatic, warm and somewhat bitter." Br.

The microscopical structure of nutmeg and mace have been well illustrated by Winton and Moeller in the "Microscopy of Vegetable Foods." Spaeth has recently made an interesting contribution to the pharmacognosy of nutmeg and the detection of the prevalent adulterations in Ph. Zentralh., xlix, p. 627. It has been stated that much of the ground nutmeg of commerce has been made from small, stunted and worthless nutmegs, so-called "grinding nutmegs." The powdered drug is sometimes adulterated with corn meal, powdered beans, curcuma and various nut-shells.

Under the names of long, female, or wild nutmeg, Macassar nutmeg, Papua nutmeg, New Guinea nutmeg, horse nutmeg, certain seeds have long been known in European commerce; they have finally become an important article of trade, nearly 77,000 kilos of them having been sold in Holland in the year 1894. These seeds have been variously ascribed to M. fatua Houtt. (M. tomentosa Thunb., M. macrophylla Roxb.), and other species of the genus Myristica, but by Bassermann and Warburg have in all their varieties been traced to the M. argentea Warburg, of New Guinea, from which country they are often taken to Macassar to finally enter commerce as Macassar nutmegs. (P. J., 1898, 97.) The numerous varieties of these false nutmegs are readily reducible to two, which differ chiefly in size, the larger being commonly known as the Papua nuts, the smaller as the Macassar nuts. They are distinguished from the nutmeg by their greater length, their elliptical shape, their comparatively feeble odor and disagreeable taste, and by the absence of the dark brown veins. (Holmes, P. J., lxxxii, p. 459.) Heckel has described two new so-called wild nutmegs from Madagascar. (Rep. d. Pharm., 1909, p. 49.)

Clifford Richardson (Bulletin U. S. Dept. Agriculture, No. 13, 1887) gives as the average of three analyses of imported nutmegs: water, 5.56 per cent.; ash, 2.88; volatile oil, 3.23; fixed oil or fat, 34.22; starch, etc., 39.62; crude fiber, 9.21; albuminoids, 5.28; total, 100.00. The volatile oil is obtained by distillation with water. (See Oleum Myristicae.) The virtues of nutmeg are extracted by alcohol and ether.

Nutmegs have been punctured and boiled in order to extract their essential oil, and the orifice afterwards closed so carefully as not to be discoverable unless by breaking the kernel. The fraud may be detected by their lightness. They are also apt to be injured by worms, which, however, attack preferably the parts least impregnated with the volatile oil. The Dutch were formerly said to heat them in a stove in order to deprive them of the power of germinating and thus prevent the propagation of the tree. The largest nutmegs now command the highest prices. They should be rejected when very light in weight, with a feeble taste and odor, worm eaten, musty, or marked with black veins.

The concrete or expressed oil of nutmeg (Oleum Myristicae Expressum, Br., 1885), often called oil of mace, or nutmeg butter, is obtained by bruising nutmegs, exposing them in a bag to steam, and then compressing them strongly between heated plates. A liquid oil flows out, which becomes solid when it cools. Nutmegs are said to yield from 10 to 12 per cent. of this oil, but Flückiger and Hanbury obtained as much as 28 per cent. (See analyses of Richardson, quoted previously.) A process for obtaining it by means of carbon disulphide has been proposed by Lepage, of Gisors, in France, and has received the sanction of the Society of Pharmacy of Paris. It consists in treating the nutmeg, thoroughly comminuted, with three times its weight of the well-rectified liquid referred to, agitating the mixture frequently for 24 hours, expressing, repeating the process with two parts only of the menstruum, mixing the products of the two macerations, filtering in a covered vessel, and then distilling off the disulphide until the residue is entirely deprived of the solvent. (J. P. C., 3e ser., xxxi, 28.) It .would seem difficult to prevent the retention of a little of the solvent. The best nutmeg butter is imported from the East Indies in stone jars, or in rectangular blocks 10 inches long by 2% inches wide, wrapped in palm leaves. It is solid, soft, unctuous to the touch, of a yellowish or orange-yellow color, more or less mottled, with the odor and taste of nutmeg. It is composed, according to Schrader, of 52.09 per cent. of a soft oily substance, yellowish or brownish, soluble in cold alcohol and ether; 43.75 of a white, pulverulent, inodorous substance, insoluble in these liquids; and 4.16 of volatile oil. The pulverulent constituent, which received from Playfair the name of myristin, has a silky luster, melts at 31° C. (88° F.), and yields on saponification glycerin and myristic acid, C14H28O2. Myristin, C3H5(OC14H27O)3, is a true fat, or glyceryl myristate. It is also found in spermaceti, in cocoanuts, and in the fixed oil of linseed and poppy oil. It may be obtained directly from nutmeg by exhausting it by means of benzene, filtering the liquid, and allowing it to crystallize by spontaneous evaporation. To purify the product, it may be dissolved in a mixture of two parts of absolute alcohol and three of benzene with the aid of heat, then filtering the liquid while hot, and setting it aside. On cooling, it deposits the pure myristin in crystals. (J. P. C., June, 1859, p. 471.) Analyzed by Koller, the expressed oil was found to contain, in 100 parts, 6 of a volatile oil analogous to the oil of mace, 70 of myristin, 20 of olein, 3 of resin, and 1 of salts, etc. (A. Pharm., clxxiii, 280.) Wallach found in the volatile oil pinene and dipentene of the class of terpenes and Semmler found myristicol, C10H16O, which is liquid, and myristicin, a solid ester of the composition C12H14O3. An inferior kind of the oil is prepared in Holland, and sometimes found in commerce. It is in hard, shining, square cakes, lighter-colored than that from the East Indies, and with less odor and taste. It is supposed to be derived from nutmegs previously deprived of most of their volatile oil by distillation. An artificial preparation is sometimes sold for the genuine oil. It is made by mixing various fatty matters, such as suet, palm oil, spermaceti, wax, etc., adding some coloring substance, and giving flavor to the mixture by the volatile oil.

Ucuhula nut is a round or oval seed of Myristica surinamensis. It is one-half to two-thirds of an inch in diameter, light brown, but usually covered by a blackish, thin, friable testa. Internally it resembles the nutmeg, but is distinguished by the presence of extraordinarily large and handsome albuminous crystalloids. These seeds are said to contain over 70 per cent. of a solid yellow fat, melting at 36° C. (96.8° F.). (See A. J. P., 1886; also A. Pharm., July, 1888.) The kernel of the fruit of the Brazilian Myristica officinalis Mart. (M. Bicuhyba Schott., resembles the nutmeg in form and structure, but is covered with a black shell marked with broad furrows. It contains crystals like those above spoken of, but less splendid and regular, and apt to be in three forms. It yields a fat (bicuhyba fat, or bicuhyba balsam) very much like that of the ordinary nutmeg, but having a rather sour, sharp taste, melting at 47° C. (116.6° F.). It contains a peculiar fatty acid, bicuhybastearic acid. The otoba fat is the product of the fruit of Myristica Otoba. It is almost colorless, when fresh has a nutmeg-like odor, melts at 38° C. (100.4° F.), and contains myristin, olein, and otobite. The latter principle crystallizes in shiny, colorless crystals, melting at 133° C. (271.4° F.). The fruit of Virola sebifera Aubl. (s. Myristica sebifera Lam.), also yields a fatty substance which is known as ocuba wax. The so-called California nutmeg is not a nutmeg at all, but the seed of a coniferous tree, Torreya californica. It is oblong, with a smooth, brownish, thin testa, and affords a marbled cross-section. Its odor and taste are terebinthinate. Neither are the Jamaica or calabash nutmeg, from Monodora Myristica, the New Holland or plume nutmeg, from Atherosperma moschata, and the clove nutmeg, from Agathophyllum aromaticum, true nutmegs.

Uses.—Nutmeg owes its medicinal and toxic properties solely to the volatile oil which it contains. Powdered nutmeg is rarely used in medicine alone, although it enters into the composition of a number of galenicals. The expressed oil is occasionally used as a gentle external stimulant and was an ingredient in the Emplastrum Picis of the 1885 British Pharmacopoeia. Mace possesses properties essentially the same as those of nutmeg.

Dose, five to twenty grains (0.32-1.3 Gm.).

Off. Prep.—Fluidextractum Aromaticum (from Aromatic Powder), U. S.; Pulvis Aromaticus, U. S.; Tinctura Lavandulae Composita, U. S., Br.; Trochisci Sodii Bicarbonatis, U. S.; Pulvis Catechu Compositus, Br.; Pulvis Cretae Aromaticus, Br.; Spiritus Armoraciae Compositus, Br; Acetum Opii, N. F.; Cordiale Rubi Fructus, N. F.; Pulvis Cretae Compositus, N. F.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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