This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The tree (Myristica fragrans) from which our Nutmeg comes, occurs in the Molucca Islands, and the part of the nut which constitutes this spice is the kernel. "Nux Moschata" is given as a name to the Nutmeg (or Mugget, a diminutive of musk) because of its aromatic odour. Mace is the dried aril, or seed-covering of the Nutmeg, being when fresh of a beautiful crimson colour as a fleshy, net-like envelope, and very fragrant; it is used in cookery, and in pickles. There are three varieties of the Nutmeg - the male, or barren, the royal, and the queen; this last, a small, round Nutmeg, being considered the best. A volatile sweet-smelling oil is afforded by these nuts, in the proportion of 6 per cent, which oil is of a warming, cordial nature, very comforting for cold, languid indigestion, with flatulence and giddiness, but when given at all largely it is essentially narcotic. The oil distilled in Britain from Nutmegs is superior to foreign oil. Four Nutmegs have been known to completely paralyse the nervous sensibilities, producing a sort of wakeful unconsciousness for three entire days, with loss of memory afterwards, and with more or less lack of nervous power until after eight days.
When taken to any excess, whether as a spice, or a medicine, the Nutmeg, and its preparations, are apt to cause some giddiness, oppression of the chest, stupor, and even delirium. A moderate dose of the oil is from two to four drops on sugar, for relieving dyspepsia with intestinal distension; or, better than this is the spirit of Nutmeg, made by mixing one part of the oil with forty parts of some spirit, and thoroughly shaking them together; half a teaspoonful of this Nutmeg spirit is a proper dose, together with half a wineglassful of hot water, and sweetened to the taste. Against diarrhoea, Nutmeg grated into hot water is very helpful, proving in mild cases an efficient substitute for opium. Old Gerarde says: "Nutmegs cause a sweet breath, and amend those that do stink; they are good against freckles, they quicken the sight, strengthen the belly, break the wind, and stay the laske (looseness)." A drink which was concocted by our grandmothers for domestic requirements was Nutmeg tea; one Nutmeg (crushed) would make a pint of this tea, a small cupful of which would produce a sleep of several hours' duration, repeating the dose if needful. The sagacious dames used to carry a silver grater, and Nutmeg box, suspended from the waist, on their chatelaines.
The nut contains starch, protein, and woody fibre, in addition to its stimulating soporific oil. Among Rare Secrets in Pkysick and Chirurgerie, (1653), it is advised as "another cordial, to take a preserved Nutmeg cut into four quarters; eat a quarter at a breakfast, and another in the afternoon; this is good for the head, and stomack." Perhaps of all aromatic conserves, preserved Nutmegs are the most delicious, and the best carminative for the intestines; but towards this purpose they must be prepared young, before the nut has begun to harden.
Mace Oil is chemically identical with Nutmeg butter, or oil of Nutmegs. An infusion of Mace made with boiling water is a good warming drink against chronic bronchial cough, and moist bronchial asthma in an old person. Powdered Mace, in doses of from eight to ten grains, taken two or three times a day, proves beneficial against long-continued looseness of the bowels. Lately, after an Episcopal function in Chester Cathedral, the Bishop, on being asked by the Beadle if his Lordship required the Mace any longer, replied, much to that functionary's astonishment, "No; take it away, and put it in the rice pudding." The concrete oil, or "butter" of Nutmegs, is used in making plasters of a comfortable, stimulating sort, for the relief of rheumatic pains, or old sprains; likewise the spirit of Nutmeg is to be commended for rubbing in to recover paralysed limbs, as well as for chronic rheumatism.