Nutmeg is one of my favorite holiday spices. Its uses and health benefits are plentiful. You can add it to your baking or sprinkle it into seasonal beverages—like eggnog, mulled wine, hot rum, warm milk, or coffee—for some added holiday cheer.
In fact, in a moment, I’ll share with you the recipe for one of my favorite, nutmeg-infused Christmas Eve cocktails. But first, let’s talk a little more about the benefits of this traditional holiday spice…
Warm, sweet holiday spice offers many health benefits
Nutmeg originated from islands of the Indonesian archipelago. But today, farmers grow it commercially on islands in the Caribbean and in Kerala, southern India.
Nutmeg comes from the seed (nut) of a dark-leaved evergreen tree, botanically classified as Myristica fragrans.
Meanwhile, the spice called mace comes from the dried, red, lacy covering that surrounds the shell of the nutmeg seed.
Part of the reason why I’m so fond of nutmeg is because it contains many powerful, healthy constituents and micronutrients, including:
- Calcium (which you should only get from food sources, not supplements)
- Traces of opiates
- Vitamin B6
The calcium and phosphorus in nutmeg help to maintain healthy circulation and blood pressure. And the magnesium can balance neurotransmitters, ease muscle pain, and settle brain activity. Which probably explains why nutmeg works so well on headaches, insomnia, and pain.
Of course, nutmeg also contains safe, trace amounts of opiates, which are Nature’s original sleep remedy. In fact, morphine—the prototype opiate—is named for Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep. (You can learn more about how to get the best sleep in the December 2019 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter [“Research reveals one short snooze per week beats out “a long winter’s nap” for heart health”].) In addition, the neolingan, a compound similar to menthol (from peppermint), which I discussed yesterday, also helps soothe pain and aid digestion.
Now, myristicin may sound even less familiar to you than the other constituents. But it’s especially powerful for the brain. In fact, research shows that myristicin, when combined with mace-lignan (as found in mace, which I mentioned earlier), can reduce the degeneration of neural pathways and impairment of cognitive function, typical of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Three more useful benefits—especially around the holidays
More generally, nutmeg helps detoxify the liver when you drink alcohol. Which probably explains why it’s traditionally added to many spiked holiday beverages—such as hot toddies, Brandy Alexanders, spiked punches, eggnog, and mulled wine.
Nutmeg also supports oral health and reduces bad breath through its antibacterial properties. In fact, many natural product manufacturers add it to mouthwash and toothpaste.
Nutmeg also improves the appearance of your skin. Indeed, you can improve your skin’s glow—even during the winter—by applying a paste of nutmeg, honey, and water directly to your skin.
I suppose I also enjoy nutmeg because it reminds me of family trips we took when I was a child through Connecticut, which is known as “The Nutmeg State.” (Although, nowadays, it’s better to just pass through this small state as quickly as possible, before they tax you for something else!)
So, this Christmas Eve, add some nutmeg to the warm milk you leave out for ole’ St. Nick. It will ease his aches and pains and help him fall asleep a little bit faster after a long winter’s night.
As for me, my work for the night is done. So, although I’m in Florida, I plan to reminisce about sitting in front of a cheery fire, where the stockings have been hung with care, and enjoying a traditional hot toddy made with nutmeg.
Here’s the simple, delicious, go-to recipe we follow in our family…
Traditional Hot Toddy
Yields 2 servings
- 4 ounces of boiling water
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3 ounces of whiskey
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 slices of lemon
- 2 pinches of nutmeg
- Pour the boiling water into both mugs with whiskey and honey.
- Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, and lemon.
- Let steep for five minutes for flavors to mingle.
- Then, add a pinch of nutmeg to each before serving.
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!