Description: Natural Order, Myristicaceae. The nutmeg is a native of Sumatra, Java, and other islands and districts of the East Indies; and is now cultivated to a limited extent in the West Indies and tropical America. It is a tree from twenty to thirty feet high, with numerous branches, bright- green leaves, and small dioecious flowers. It may be grown from the seed, usually begins to bear flowers and fruit about the eighth year, and then continues annually productive for a long time. The fruit is oval, about the size of a medium peach, smooth, and yellowish when ripe. The outer covering is thick and fleshy, and becomes leathery and dry as it ripens. Inside of this is a reddish or orange aril, thin, smooth, and variously split, which is known in commerce as mace. Within the mace, and closely covered by a thin shell, is the seed of the fruit, which is the nutmeg of commerce.
Both mace and nutmeg are very fragrant, and are among the most valued of the spices for culinary use. Nutmegs yield a notable quantity of volatile oil by distillation, and by pressure a smaller quantity of an oily substance which becomes solid on cooling. This latter substance is yellowish or orange colored, and of a greasy feel. The round nutmegs are the best. Alcohol and ether dissolve their oils effectually. Mace contains a little volatile, and two fixed oils, with a large quantity of gummy material. The pale and brittle varieties are least valuable. Alcohol and ether extract most of their properties. The two articles are nearly the same in qualities, but the nutmeg is the more agreeable.
Properties and Uses: Nutmegs and mace are warming spices, diffusive, and moderately stimulating. They are principally used to cover the taste of disagreeable medicines, and their flavor is among the most agreeable of all agents of this class. They are accused, however, of possessing decidedly narcotic powers; and the U. S. Dispensatory says "in the quantity of two or three drachms, it has been known to produce stupor and delirium." This fact was probably not known to Prof. A. Curtis, when he recommended it in doses of ten grains once an hour in typhoid fever. Although an ingredient in such preparations as Compound Spirit of Lavender and Aromatic Sirup of Rhubarb, and no doubt very mild in its narcotic action, it is nevertheless an article that can not fairly be commended.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com