146. Myristica fragrans, Houtt.—The True Nutmeg Tree.

Sex Syst. Dioecia, Monadelphia.
(Semen putamine nudatum; oleum esemine expressum, concretum, L.—Kernel of the fruit; volatile oil from the kernel; concrete expressed oil from the kernel, E.—The kernel of the fruit, D.)

Synonyms.—Myristica fragrans, Houttuyn, Nat. Hist. (1774), vol. ii. part iii. p. 333; Blume, Rumphia, I. 180, 1835.—M. officinalis, Linn. (1781); Hooker, Bot. Mag. vol. i. N. S. tab. 2756 and 2757.—M. moschata, Thunberg (1782)—M. aromatica, Lamarck (1788).

History.—Both nutmegs and mace [The μάκερ of Dioscorides (lib. i. cap. 110 , the macir of Pliny (lib. xii. cap. 16), was an astringent bark, and not, as some have supposed, our mace.] were unknown to the ancient Greeks and Bomans; unless, indeed, the nutmeg be the aromatic Arabian fruit used in unguents, and which Theophrastus [Hist. Plant, lib. ix. cap. 7. Fraas (Syn. Plant. Fl. classicae, p. 135, 1835) considers κώμακον to be our nutmeg.] calls κώμακον. Pliny [Hist. Nat. lib. xii cap. 63, ed. Valp.] says that the cinnamum quod comacum appellant is the expressed juice of a nut produced in Syria. Does he refer to the expressed oil of nutmeg, as some have suggested? Both mace and nutmegs are referred to by Avicenna. [Lib. ii. tract. ii. cap. 436 and 503.]

The modern Greek names for the nutmeg and mace are respectively μοσχοκάρυα and μοσχομάκερ.

Botany. Gen. Char.—Anthers united throughout their whole length into a cylindrical column. Stigma emarginate, somewhat 2-lobed. Cotyledons folded (Blume).

Sp. Char.—Leaves oblong, subacuto at the base, smooth. Peduncles axillary, few flowered. Calyx urceolato. Pruit nodding, obovoid, globose, smooth (Blume).

A tree from 20 to 25 feet high, similar in appearance to a pear tree. Bark dark grayish-green, smooth, with a yellowish juice. Leaves aromatic. Racemes axillary. Peduncles and pedicels glabrous, the latter with a quickly deciduous ovate bract at its summit, often pressed close to the flower. Flowers usually dioecious, sometimes monoecious. Males:—3 to 5 on a peduncle; calyx fleshy, pale yellow, with a reddish pubescence. Females:—scarcely different from the males, except that the pedicel is frequently solitary. Fruit pyriform, smooth externally, about the size of a peach, marked by a longitudinal groove. Pericarp fleshy, dehiscing by two nearly equal longitudinal valves. Arillode [The laciniate envelope of the nutmeg, usually called the aril, and which constitutes the substance called mace, is said by M. Planchon to be nothing but an expansion of the exostome, and, therefore, an arillode or false aril.] (false aril), commonly called Mace, large, fleshy, branching, scarlet; when dry, yellow, brittle, and somewhat horny. Seed (nutmeg in the shell, offic.) within the arilloid, oval or ovate; its outer coat (testa, tunica externica, or shell) is dark brown, hard, glossy; its inner coat (endopleura seu tunica interna) closely invests the seed, and dips down into the substance of the albumen, giving it a marbled or ruminated appearance. The nucleus or nut (the round or true nutmeg of the shops) consists chiefly of the oleaginous albumen; the so-called veins of which are processes of the endopleura, which have a reddish-brown colour, and abound in oil; the embryo is at the base of the seed; radicle inferior, hemispherical; cotyledons 2, large, flat, foliaceous, fan-shaped; plumule 2-lobed.

Hab.—Molucca Islands, especially the group called the Banda or Nutmeg Isles. [The Dutch endeavoured to confine the growth of the nutmeg to three of the Bnnda Isles; viz., Lantoir or Banda proper, Banda-Neira, and Way (Pulo Ay); but their attempts were partly frustrated by a pigeon, called the nutmeg bird or nut-eater (a species of Carpophaga), which, extracting the nutmeg from its pulpy pericarp, digests the mace, but voids the nutmeg in its shell, which, falling in a suitable situation, readily germinates. Young plants thus obtained are used for transplanting into the nutmeg parks. During the time that the English had possession of the Molucca Islands (namely, from 1796 to 1802; and, again, from 1810 to 1811), they exported plants to Bencoolen in Sumatra, to Penang, India, and other places. In 1819, the nutmeg tree was sent from Bencoolen to Sumatra, where it is now largely cultivated. (For a sketch of the culture and trade in nutmegs, and of the monopolizing policy of the Dutch, the reader is referred to Crawford's History of the Indian Archipelago, vol. i. p. 505; vol. ii. p. 437; vol. iii. p. 406.) To keep up the price of this spice, the Dutch used to burn nutmegs when the crops were superabundant! (See Hooker's Bot. Mag. vol. i. N. S. i. 1827, t. 2750-2757; also Stephenson and Churchill's Med. Bot. vol. iii., pl. 104.] Cultivated in Java, Sumatra, Penang (Prince of Wales Island), Singapore, Bengal, Bourbon Islands, Madagascar, and some parts of the West Indies.

Myristica fatua, Houtt, Blume; M. tomentosa, Thunberg; M. dactyloides, Gaertn. (the synonymes excluded); Nux moschata fructu oblongo, C. Bauh.; Nux myristica mas, Clusius.—A native of the Banda Isles.—Fruit elongated, ellipsoidal, rusty, tomentose. Seed elongated, ellipsoidal, covered by a membranaceo fleshy, orange coloured, insipid arilloid (mace); outer coat (testa) dark brown, hard; nucleus acerb, slightly aromatic, grayish ash-coloured, cylindrical, ellipsoidal, rugous, marked by a furrow.—Yields the long nutmeg of the shops.

Colonel Sykes [Madras Journal of Science, No. 22, p. 161 (quoted by Graham in his Catalogue of the Plants growing in Bombay and its Vicinity, 1839).] says, that M. dactyloides is frequently imposed upon the ignorant for the rea| nutmeg.

Closely allied to this is the M. malabarica, Lam., or Malabar Nutmeg; it is the Panam-pálca of Rheede (Hist. Malab. part iv. tab. 5). The latter authority says that the nucleus resembles the date in size and figure. Unlike the male or long nutmeg, it has scarcely any flavour or odour. Rheede adds, that "the Turkish and Jewish merchants mix these nutmegs with the true long ones, and the mace with good mace, selling them together. They also extract from these inferior articles an oil, with which they adulterate that of a more genuine quality." The Malabar nutmeg, according to Rheede, differs from the long nutmegs in size, hardness, and especially in flavour.

Curing.—In the Banda Isles there are three harvests annually; namely, the principal one in July or August, the second in November, and the third in March or April. The ripe fruit is gathered by means of a barb attached to a long stick; the mace separated from the nut, and both separately cured.

Mace is prepared for the market by drying it for some days in the sun. Some flatten it by the hands in single layers; others cut off the heels, and dry the mace in double blades. [Newbold, Polit. and Statist. Account of the British Settlements in the Straits of Malacca, vol. i. 1839.] In rainy weather, artificial heat is employed for drying it. At first, the mace is crimson or blood-red, but after a few months acquires the golden colour preferred by the dealers. [Oxley, Some Account of the Nutmeg and its Cultivation, in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia. October 1848, p. 641, Singapore.] The Dutch sprinkle the mace with salt water prior to packing it in the sacks called sokkol. [C. B. Valentini, Indiae Literatae, Epist. xxv., contained in M. B. Valentini's Historia Simplicium reform. 1716.]

Nutmegs require more care in curing, on account of their liability to the attacks of an insect (the nutmeg insect). It is necessary to have them well and carefully dried in their shells, as in this state they are secure from the attack of this insect. [Crawford, Hist. of the Ind. Archip.] In order to effect this they are placed on hurdles or gratings, and smoke-dried for about two months by a slow wood-fire, at a heat not exceeding 140°F. (In the Banda Isles they are first sun-dried for a few days.) When thoroughly dried, the nuts rattle in the shells, which are then cracked with wooden mallets, and the worm-eaten and shrivelled nuts thrown out.

To prevent the attacks of the insect the nuts are frequently limed. For the English market, however, the brown or unlined nutmegs are preferred. The Dutch lime them by dipping them in a thick mixture of lime and water; but this process is considered to injure their flavour. Others lime them by rubbing them with recently prepared, well-sifted lime. This process is sometimes practised in London.

After being garbled, the nutmegs are packed for transportation in tight casks, the insides of which have been smoked and covered with a coating of fresh water and lime. Newbold says the unlimed nutmegs are mixed with cloves.

The dried produce of a nutmeg tree consists of nutmeg, mace, and shell, in the following proportions: In 15 parts of the whole produce there are 2 parts of mace, 5 of shell, and 8 of nutmegs. Hence, although nutmegs in the shell may keep better than the clean or shelled nutmegs, yet the heavy allowance required for the shell (viz. about one-third) is a serious objection to their preservation in this form.

Description. 1. Of Nutmegs (Nuces moschatae).—In commerce, two kinds of nutmegs are met with; one called the true or round, the other the long or wild.

Fig. 299. True or Round Nutmeg surrounded by its mace. α. True or Round Nutmeg; the female nutmeg; nux myristica faemina, Clusius; nux moschata fructu rotunda, C. Bauh.—This sort is the produce of Myristica fragrans. It is about an inch in length. Its shape is roundish or elliptical, like that of the French olive. Externally, it is marked with reticular furrows. The colour of the unlimed or brown nutmegs is ashy brown; that of limed nutmegs is brown on the projecting parts, and white (from the presence of lime) in the depressions. Internally, nutmegs are pale reddish-gray, with red veins. The odour is strong, but pleasant, peculiar, and aromatic. The taste is agreeable and aromatic.

Occasionally, the round nutmeg is imported in the shell. This is dark and shiny.

A very small nutmeg, not larger than a pea, has been described under the name of the royal nutmeg (nux moschata regia).

In the London Market, the following are the sorts of round nutmegs distinguished by the dealers:—

1. Penang nutmegs.—These are unlimed or brown nutmegs, and fetch the highest price. They are sometimes limed here for exportation, as on the continent the limed sort is preferred. According to Newbold, the average amount annually raised at Penang is 400 piculs (of 133 ½ lbs. each).

2. Dutch or Batavian nutmegs.—These are limed nutmegs. In London, they scarcely fetch so high a price as the Penang sort.

3.—Singapore nutmegs—These are a rougher, unlimed, narrow sort, of somewhat less value than the Dutch kind. According to Mr. Oxley, 4,085,361 nutmegs were produced at Singapore, in 1848, or about 252 piculs (of 133 ½ lbs. each); but the greater number of the trees had not come into full bearing, and it was estimated that the amount would, in 1849, be 500 piculs.

Fig. 300. Long or Wild Nutmeg, β. Long or Wild Nutmegs; [Sir J. E. Smith (Rees's Cyclopaedia) says that in 1797 they were received from Banda under the name of New Guinea nutmegs. A specimen of the fruit and leaves, preserved in spirit in the Bauksiun collection, is marked the long nutmeg from Sumatra.] the male nutmeg; nux myristica mas, Clusius; nux moschata fructu oblongo, C. Bauhin.—This is the produce of Myristica fatua. It is met with in commerce in three forms: in the shelled or clean state (long or wild nutmegs), contained within the shell (long or wild nutmegs in the shell), and with mace dried around them (long or wild nutmegs covered with mace).

The long or wild nutmeg in the shell in shape is oblong, like that of the date; its length about an inch and a half. The shell is bony, somewhat brittle, externally shiny and brown, internally dull, grayish-white. The contained seed is paler coloured and less aromatic than in the preceding sort. Some specimens are almost insipid. Are these the Malabar wild nutmegs before referred to (see ante, p. 412)? The mace which is sometimes found in the long nutmeg is insipid.

2. Of Mace (Macis).—Two kinds of mace are found in commerce; one called true or genuine, the other wild or false.

α. True or genuine mace.—This is the produce of the round or true nutmeg. It occurs in single or double blades, flat, irregularly slit, smooth, slightly flexible or brittle membrane, of a pale cinnamon-yellow or golden-yellow colour, and an odour and taste analogous to those of nutmegs. Although the natural colour of mace is red, yet red-coloured mace is looked on suspiciously.

The London dealers distinguish three sorts of genuine mace:—

1. Penang mace.—This fetches the highest price. It is flaky and spread. The annual quantity produced in Penang is about 130 piculs (of 133½ lbs. each).

2. Dutch or Batavian mace.—This is a fleshy sort; it scarcely fetches so high a price as the Penang sort.

3. Singapore mace.—This is a somewhat inferior kind.

β. Wild or false mace.—This is a dark red mace, the produce of the long or wild nutmeg, and is also devoid of aromatic flavour.

Composition.—Nutmegs were analyzed in 1823 by Bonastre. [Journ. de Pharm, t. ix. p. 281, 1823.] In 1824, an analysis of mace was made by N. E. Henry. [Ibid. t. x. p. 281, 1824.]

Bonastre's Analysis.
N. E. Henry's Analsis.
Volatile oil 6.0 Volatile oil.
Liquid fat 7.6 Red fat oil soluble in alcohol.
Solid fat 24.0 Yellow fat oil insoluble in alcohol.
Acid (?) 0.8 Alcoholic extractive.
Starch 2.4 Amidin.
Gum 1.2 Ligneous fibre with lime.
Ligneuous fibre 54.0
Loss 4.0
Nutmeg 100.0 Mace.

The volatile oils and the fats will be noticed hereafter, as they are employed in medicine. The starch occurs in small compound grains.

Chemical Characteristics.—The presence of starch in both nutmegs and mace may be detected by a solution of iodine, which gives them a blue tint (iodide of starch). Both of these substances yield, by distillation with water, a volatile oil, characterized by its peculiar odour; and both yield, by expression, a fixed butyraceous oil.

Physiological Effects.—The activity of both nutmegs and mace depends on the volatile oil which they contain. Swallowed in moderate quantities, they produce the before-described effects of the spices (see vol. i. p. 250). In large doses they prove narcotic (That is, they make you sleep. -Henriette), and cause giddiness, delirium, praecordial anxiety, sleepiness, or actual stupor. Instances of this kind are mentioned by Bontius, [De Med. Indor. ] Rumphius, [Herb. Amboyn, vol. ii. p. 21.] Lobel, [Quoted by Murray, App. Med. vol. vi. p. 145.] Schmid, [Ibid.] and Cullen. [Mat. Med. vol. ii p. 204.] In the case related by the last-mentioned authority, two drachms of powdered nutmegs produced drowsiness, which gradually increased to complete stupor and insensibility. The patient continued for several hours alternately delirious and sleeping, but ultimately recovered. Purkinje [Quoted by Wibmer, Die Wirk d. Arzneim u. Gifte, Bd. iii S. 308.] has confirmed these statements by experiments made on himself. I am acquainted with a case in which the narcotic effects of a whole nutmeg have been several times experienced.

Uses.—The principal consumption of nutmegs and mace is for dietetical purposes. They serve to flavour, and, by their stimulant properties, to assist the digestive process. Food highly seasoned with substances may prove these injurious in cerebral affections (apoplexy, for example), on account of their narcotic properties.

Medicinally they are used, like other spices, as stimulants, carminatives, and flavouring ingredients. Nutmeg is an important constituent in the confectio aromatica (see p. 393) so frequently employed as a cordial and antacid in bowel complaints. In mild cases of diarrhoea, I frequently employ nutmeg as a substitute for opium. It may be taken in warm brandy and water, unless the use of spirit be contraindicatcd.

Administration.—Either nutmeg or mace may be taken to the extent of a scruple or half a drachm, in powder obtained by grating; or the volatile oil of these substances may be used in doses of ♏︎j to ♏︎v.

1. OLEUM MYRISTICAE, E. D. [U. S.]; Oleum Nucis Moschatae; Oleum Nucistae aethereum; Essential Oil of Nutmeg; Volatile Oil of Nutmeg.—(Procured by submitting Nutmegs and Water to distillation.)—The usual produce of volatile oil in the distillations at Apothecaries' Hall, London, is 4.5 per cent.; but the oil is generally imported. It is colourless, or pale yellow, has the odour and taste of nutmegs, and a viscid consistence. By agitation with water it separates into two oils, one lighter, the other heavier than water. By keeping, it deposits crystals of stéaroptène (myristicine), which are fusible at 212° F., volatile, soluble in alcohol, in ether, and in boiling water; from the latter liquid myristicine separates in a crystalline form as the liquid cools. According to Mulder, the stéaroptène consists of C16H16O5. Volatile oil of nutmegs is seldom employed medicinally. Its dose is ♏︎j to ♏︎v, taken on sugar, or dissolved in spirit.

2. OLEUM MACIDIS; Essential Oil of Mace.—This is colourless or pale yellow, lighter than water, and has the flavour and odour of mace. Its composition, effects, and uses are similar to those of nutmegs.

3. MYRISTICAE ADEPS, E.; Myristicae Oleum, L.; Oleum vel Balsamum Nucistae; Butter of Nutmegs; Expressed or Concrete Oil of Nutmegs.—In the shops, it is usually denominated expressed oil of mace. It is prepared by beating the nutmegs to a paste (which is to be inclosed in a bag, and then exposed to the vapour of water), and afterwards expressing by heated plates. It is imported in oblong cakes (covered by some monocotyledonous leaves, commonly called flag leaves), which have the shape of common bricks, but whose size is somewhat smaller. Its colour is orange, its consistence firm, its odour fragrant, like that of the seeds from which it is obtained. In 1804, it was examined by Schrader, [Berlinisches Jahrbuch für d. Pharmacie, 1804, p. 83.] who found that 10 parts of concrete oil, expressed by himself, consisted of 1 part of volatile oil, 6 parts of brownish-yellow fat, and 9 parts of white fat. In 16 parts of the commercial concrete oil, he found ¾ volatile oil, 8 ¼ yellow fat, and 7 parts of white fat. The volatile oil and yellow fat are soluble in both cold alcohol and cold ether. The white fat (known by the name of corpus pro balsamis, or mater balsamorum), is soluble in boiling alcohol and boiling ether; but is insoluble in cold alcohol and ether. It has been more recently examined by Dr. L. Playfair, [Lond. Ed. Dub. Phil. Mag. vol. xviii. p. 102, 1841; and Ann. de Chim. et de Phys. 3me sér. t. iii. p. 228, 1841.] who calls it myristine (formerly sericine). By saponification it yields glycerine and myristic acid (C28H27O3, HO). Playfair mentions a false butter of nutmegs, composed of animal fat, boiled with powdered nutmegs, and flavoured with sassafras. The specimen may be relied on as pure, if it dissolve in four times its weight of strong boiling alcohol, or half that quantity of ether.

Expressed oil of nutmegs is occasionally employed externally in chronic rheumatism and palsy. It is a constituent of Emplastrum Picis (see ante, p. 302).

4. SPIRITUS MYRISTICAE, L. E. [U. S.]; Spirit of Nutmeg.—(Nutmegs, bruised, ℥ijss [℥ij. U. S.]; Proof Spirit [Diluted Alcohol, U. S.], Cong. j.; Water Oj. Mix them, then [with a slow fire, L.] let a gallon distil.)—It is frequently prepared by mixing volatile oil of nutmegs with proof spirit. It is cordial and carminative; and is employed in doses of fʒj to fʒiv, as a pleasant addition to stimulant, narcotic, or purgative draughts.

5. ESSENTIA MYRISTICAE MOSCHATAE, D.; Essence of Nutmeg.—(Volatile Oil of Nutmegs f℥j; Stronger Spirit f℥ix. Mix with agitation, D.)—Used as a substitute for the Spirit of Nutmeg. Dose, a few drops on a lump of sugar.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.