Myristica, B.P. Nutmeg.

Related entry: Oil of nutmeg

Nutmeg, or Nux Moschata, is the dried seed, divested of its testa, of Myristica fragrans, Houtt. (N.O. Myristicaceae), a tree indigenous to the Molucca Islands, and cultivated in Penang, Sumatra, the West Indies, etc. It is also official in the U.S.P. The fruit resembles a small peach, which as it ripens splits, and discloses the seed surrounded by a bright crimson reticulated arillus. This, stripped off and dried, constitutes mace, the colour changing to a dull reddish-yellow. The nutmeg is the kernel of the seed, and consists of a large whitish endosperm, covered by a thin, dark brown perisperm, which penetrates the endosperm by numerous infoldings, and produces the characteristic ruminate appearance of the section. The seeds are dried, and the kernels, freed from their thin shells, sorted and exported. Occasionally they are dipped in milk of lime, and again dried (limed nutmegs), a process which protects the seed from attack by insects. On arrival in this country nutmegs are again sorted; the broken and worm-eaten are rejected, and the sound ones graded according to their size. They are sometimes also limed to satisfy popular requirements. The seeds are broadly ovoid in shape, and rarely exceed 2.5 centimetres in length. Externally they are dark brown in colour, and marked with reticulate furrows that correspond to the fibrovascular bundles in the perisperm. They have a strong, aromatic odour, and aromatic, slightly bitter, taste. Penang nutmegs, which are the most esteemed, are broadly ovoid, and very aromatic. Singapore nutmegs closely resemble them, but are more deeply and very minutely wrinkled, and frequently show marks of scorching. Wild nutmegs are longer, narrower, and less aromatic. Bombay nutmegs (M. malabarica, Lan.. are also longer and narrower, but are devoid of aroma. Of species of Myristica other than M. fragrans, only one, viz., M. argentea, Warburg, the Papua nutmeg, yields aromatic seeds; these are, however, like the preceding, longer, narrower, and less aromatic than the genuine. Factitious nutmegs have been made by pressing exhausted or crushed broken nutmegs together with mineral matter (clay) into moulds. They may be distinguished by the section, which is not regularly reticulated, as well as by the high yield of ash (11 to 18 per cent.), and low yield of volatile oil (1.76 per cent.). Good nutmegs should yield about 4 per cent. of ash. Mace is the dried arillus; it occurs in dull, pale reddish-yellow lobes, pieces which when soaked in water swell, and assume the shape of the nutmeg from which they were obtained. It contains from 4 to 15 per cent. of volatile oil, which is scarcely to be distinguished from that of the nutmeg; it also contains fat, amylodextrin, etc. Considerable quantities of valueless Bombay mace are imported. This is in elongated dark red pieces, divided into numerous very narrow lobes twisted together at the apex. It is further distinguished from genuine mace by its want of aroma, and by the amount of substances yielded to ether after exhaustion by petroleum spirit (30 per cent. as against 3.5 per cent. from genuine).

Constituents.—The chief constituents of nutmeg are from 8 to is per cent. of volatile oil (see Oleum Myristicae), and about 40 per cent. of solid fat; they also contain amylodextrine.

Action and Uses.—Nutmeg is aromatic and carminative by virtue of its volatile oil. It is an ingredient of several official preparations for this purpose, and is used in culinary operations as an aromatic flavouring. The volatile oil is used in aperient pills and other preparations to prevent griping, and is given on sugar as a stimulant and carminative. Spiritus Myristicae is employed similarly. The volatile oil is sometimes added to stimulating liniments for external use in chronic rheumatism, and the expressed oil was an ingredient of the hair lotion or wash prescribed by Sir Charles Locock, and known by his name. Nutmeg in large doses, like the essential oil of absinthe, excites the motor cortex and produces a species of epileptiform convulsions. In animals it may cause lesions of the liver.

Dose.—3 to 10 decigrams (5 to 15 grains).

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.