This week I'm entering Sunita's Think Spice... event hosted by Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen, where you can read more about nutmeg. You can have a look at my recipe entry here. I also thought I'd write a little about nutmeg from an Ayurvedic point of view.
Nutmeg has three tastes: sweet, astringent and pungent. It's heating post digestive affect imbalances Pitta, but makes it very useful for Vata and Kapha.
It is especially useful for nervine conditions and as a sedative. Nutmeg is an expectorant, aphrodisiac and can expel parasites. It is also a stimulant and carmitive, aiding absorbtion in the colon.
Do not use in cases of high pitta. Only use a pinch or two of nutmeg at a time.
A little nutmeg with warm milk can help lower blood pressure and insomnia. Add some ghee to this drink for excessive Panch Karma and exhaustion. Since nutmeg aids absorbtion in the colon it can be useful for malabsorbtion, food allergies, anorexia or when recovering from diarrhea. Nutmeg with peeled, stewed apple can stop diarrhea, or for babies use a pinch of nutmeg with mashed banana or warm milk.
Neurosis, anxiety and other general Vata nerve disorders will be eased by the addition of nutmeg to the diet. Small amounts of powdered nutmeg can also be applied externally for insomnia, athritis and headaches. Nutmeg is particularly beneficial where Vata disorders are combined with congested Kapha.
The part of nutmeg we are all familiar with is the fruit of the plant, and not a nut at all. For the best quality and potency use the whole fruit, rather than buying powdered nutmeg. You can grate it fresh yourself on a special nutmeg grater or mill, often made of porcelain. I just use the fine side of my regular metal grater.
Whilst some of us are more familiar with nutmeg in fruit cake or rice pudding, in Italy it is classically paired with ricotta, pasta or vegetables.
I remember in high school some of the naughty girls used to bring nutmeg sandwhiches for lunch, claiming that nutmeg is a drug. It's unlikely any of them ever got "high" though, since it takes more than four teaspoons of nutmeg to experience hallucinations many hours later, and with unpleasant side effects.
Still this spice, like all spices, ought to be treated with respect.