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9 min read / 12 December 2023 / yasmin sharp

10 Benefits and Uses of Nutmeg Oil

Nutmeg is a soothing oil most commonly used to relieve muscle pain and promote sleep.

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Whether you’re passing through a Christmas market or involved in festive celebrations, the smell of nutmeg is never too far away.

At a certain point in history, nutmeg was also viewed as one of the most valuable spices in the world and sat at the heart of heated international disputes.

And there is so much more to the oil beyond its warm, welcoming aroma.

From relieving cramps and soothing sleep issues to reducing inflammation and lowering blood sugar, its full potential is still waiting to be discovered.

We put some of the most notable nutmeg oil benefits under the microscope for close examination to see how it could prove useful in your everyday life.

What is nutmeg oil?

Nutmeg oil is extracted via steam distillation from dried kernels of the Myristica fragrans, a tree native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia.

These kernels come from the fruit of the tree, contained within an aril known as a mace. Once extracted, the oil emits a nutty, spicy aroma, with a warm, woody undertone.

Whilst nutmeg is a popular culinary ingredient, the oil has a slightly richer scent profile, which makes it ideal for blending with light, floral essential oils.

How does nutmeg oil work?

Nutmeg oil uses vary depending on the benefit needed, so how it works also changes with the delivery method.

For example, nutmeg oil is highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties, which is best received through topical application.

When used as a massage oil it can offer pain relief and when applied to the lower abdomen can treat menstrual cramps.

In aromatherapy, the benefits of nutmeg oil can create a sense of calm and relaxation that facilitates better sleep for some.

Older studies have also concluded that the inhalation of nutmeg oil could improve certain respiratory conditions.

Nutmeg still within its casing on a tree branch

What are the benefits of nutmeg oil?

To experience some of the benefits of nutmeg essential oil, you could use it to:

1. Reduce pain and swelling

Ancient Chinese medicine used nutmeg oil as a treatment for sore and swollen joints, with many practitioners continuing the tradition today.

Scientists have also discovered that the oil contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which helped participants in a study to reduce swelling and offer pain relief. 

Nutmeg oil is commonly used to treat menstrual cramps, with its analgesic and emmenagogue properties helping to regulate the menstrual cycle by controlling hormonal imbalances and managing mood swings.

When researchers tested the effects of nutmeg, fennel and marjoram against dysmenorrhea when massaged into the abdomen, they found it could offer relief for cramps during the menstrual cycle. 

2. Promote better sleep

For those who find it difficult to establish a sleep routine, nutmeg essential oil may be able to offer a solution.

Nutmeg is a sedative, allowing it to relax the nervous system, which helps to facilitate the release of serotonin in the brain.

The results of an animal study published in 1982 revealed that nutmeg oil was able to increase the quality and duration of sleep in chickens. 

More recently, a 2016 study found that participants taking part in a sleep study saw symptoms of insomnia reduced after taking capsules containing nutmeg.

You can try this out at home by diffusing nutmeg essential oil in the bedroom an hour or two before you go to sleep.

It can also help to reduce restlessness and anxiety, making it easier to relax at night.

3. Improve digestion

The anti-inflammatory benefits of nutmeg oil mean it could be used to settle the digestive system and reduce gastric distress.

Nutmeg oil contains powerful levels of phytonutrients that can help the digestive system by keeping gastrointestinal organs working as efficiently as possible.

In 2002, researchers found that the gut-calming effects of nutmeg were also able to reduce diarrhoea symptoms.

Anecdotal evidence also points towards the oil being able to heal symptoms related to conditions such as constipation, nausea, stomach ulcers, whilst also improving appetite.

4. Boost heart health

Inflammation in the heart can lead to several other health issues, such as heart failure, an irregular heartbeat and coronary heart disease.

It is believed that nutmeg oil could have a role to play in reducing some of the associated risks, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

For example, researchers found that nutmeg oil was able to reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. Others have also claimed that the oil’s aroma can improve blood circulation, helping to move oxygen to where it needs to be in the body.

Some evidence has also been found to suggest that nutmeg oil can reduce the risk of blood clots.

A 1996 study found that the oil helped back the aggregation of blood clots in rabbits, although human studies have yet to be conducted. 

5. Increase libido

The invigorating aroma of nutmeg oil has long been revered for its ability to enhance sexual activity and performance, although this is largely anecdotal evidence that doesn’t have much scientific research to support these claims.

However, a 2005 study did look at how these effects related to male sexual disorders.

Researchers found that nutmeg oil did possess some strong aphrodisiac properties without any adverse effects.

This could be due to the oil’s ability to stimulate the nervous system, which plays a key role in sexual function.

A few nutmeg one of which has been partially grated

6. Help respiratory issues

Nutmeg oil can often be found listed in the ingredients of many cold rubs and cough syrups, as it can offer support to the respiratory tract.

Whilst the scent profile is quite spicy, which in most cases does not make it helpful in clearing airwaves, it is believed that thanks to its expectorant properties, nutmeg oil can work as an effective decongestant to loosen respiratory secretions.

Although quite an old study, research conducted in 1970 found that the inhalation of nutmeg helps to decrease respiratory tract fluid in rabbits.

Unfortunately, there is no current research available related to human testing.

7. Provide antioxidant support

Research has found that nutmeg seeds are rich in plant compounds that can provide powerful antioxidant activity in your body.

This can help to offer more protection against free radicals and when free radical levels become too high, this can lead to oxidative stress.

This is often associated with several chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Free radicals can be neutralised by antioxidants, with one animal study showing that the consumption of nutmeg extract by rats treated with isoproterenol (which is known to be responsible for causing oxidative stress) helped to prevent cellular damage. 

8. Support hair growth

Nutmeg is high in calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins B and C, which can all be beneficial for the scalp and hair.

The antioxidant properties of the oil can also help to strengthen follicles, which may also be able to stimulate growth.

The key lies in its ability to regulate blood circulation to promote healthy hair and reduce hair fall.

A good method is to create a hair mask that includes nutmeg essential oil and massage into your hair.

Leave it in for 20-25 minutes, before washing it out with warm water.

Alternatively, you can add a few drops to your favourite shampoo and apply as normal.

9. Revitalise skin

Nutmeg oil can work as a natural cleanser, helping to remove the top layer of dead skin cells from the face.

Applying a diluted solution after mixing with a carrier oil can also help to clean clogged posers, remove whiteheads and blackheads and reduce the appearance of acne.

Although the evidence to date is purely anecdotal, many people believe that nutmeg oil can be used as an effective anti-itching and anti-rash agent.

Before applying nutmeg oil to your skin, always dilute it with a carrier oil and complete a patch test before using it on large areas of skin.

10. Lower blood sugar

An animal study published in 2015 found that the risk of heart disease could be lowered after a regular course of nutmeg supplements.

Not only did it lower triglyceride levels but it also lowered cholesterol.

No human studies have been conducted at this point.

Another study from 2020 stated that nutmeg extract could also work as a diabetes treatment.

The rats used in the study had diabetes and after being given the extract their blood sugar levels dropped significantly, whilst they also experienced improved pancreatic function. 

Half a nutmeg on a grater

How can I use nutmeg oil?

Common uses of nutmeg oil include trying it:

As an aromatherapy oil

You’ll often find people enjoying the benefits of nutmeg oil during the festive season, with its sweet, spicy, woody scent filling the home.

It can create a joyful, uplifting atmosphere that may even be able to prevent winter colds.

Simply add 5-7 drops to a diffuser or oil burner and let the calming aroma drift across the living room, bedroom or anywhere else you need.

As a massage oil

If you suffer from menstrual cramps, you may be able to find relief from the anti-inflammatory properties contained in nutmeg oil.

Dilute the oil with a carrier oil and gently massage into the lower abdominal area to let it soothe the area.

You can also try the same with swollen joints and muscles, as well as for calming gastric stress.

What is the history of nutmeg oil?

It was the Ancient Egyptians who first made the most out of the many nutmeg oil benefits, using it as a key part of the mummification process.

Much later on, the preserving qualities of the spice saw it used to hide the smell and taste of spoiled meat during Mediaeval times.

It was also held in high regard by doctors who used it to treat the Black Death, in the belief that no other antidote was able to cure it.

The value of the spice soared as a result, so much so that intense battles between the English and Dutch broke out for the control of the spice – which is now referred to as the ‘Nutmeg Wars’.

Some believe these conflicts formed the foundation of the modern commercial world and it also allowed for much easier importation of the spice, which led to it effectively becoming the ‘smell of Christmas’.

Black and white illustration of nutmeg

Nutmeg oil FAQs

Can you ingest nutmeg oil?

Whilst nutmeg is often used in cooking, you should not ingest the essential oil.

This is because the oil is highly concentrated with natural compounds that can pose a risk to human health.

Even when applied to the skin, it should always be diluted with a carrier oil to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

What are the risks of nutmeg essential oil?

It has been reported that nutmeg toxicity can cause people to experience nausea, rapid heartbeat, vomiting and disorientation.

However, these symptoms are often linked to the ingestion of the oil in large amounts.

Before applying topically, you should complete a patch test to ensure it is compatible with your skin and always dilute using a carrier oil.

Is nutmeg oil suitable for candle and soap recipes?

Nutmeg oil benefits the mind as well as the body, which makes it an ideal ingredient for both candle and soap recipes.

The warm spiciness of the oil makes it a perfect fit for seasonal creations, and it smells great in the air and on the skin.

Search online for a tested recipe or take a look at some of our own ideas in our Make At Home section.

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Medical Disclaimer

The content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for any advice or treatment regarding specific health questions. Neither the article editor, writer, nor the organisation of Nikura takes any responsibility for possible health consequences following the information given in any article. All readers should consult their physician before taking any advice given within these articles.

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