Nutmeg and mace are two spices derived from the
same plant, the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans).
The nutmeg tree is indigenous to the Banda Islands of Indonesia
but is also grown in the Caribbean (eg. Grenada). Several commercial products are produced
from the nutmeg tree, nutmeg and mace being the best
known. Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly
egg-shaped and about an inch long, while mace is the dried
"lacy", reddish covering of the seed.
Other products include their essential oils. Other
nutmeg tree species include the M. argentea which
produces 'Papuan' nutmegs from Papua (Indonesia) and Papua
New Guinea, and M. malabarica which produces
'Bombay' nutmegs from India;
both are used as adulterants of M. fragrans
The spices in their ground form are mainly used in the
food processing industry, principally in the seasoning of
meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces, baked
goods and spice mixes such as curry
powder in Japan.
Both spices have similar taste qualities; mace is more
popular in light colored foods because of its light
orange color. Nutmeg, in general, tends to be sweeter and
The essential oil is obtained by the steam
of ground nutmeg. The oil is colorless or light yellow and
smells and tastes of nutmeg. Essential nutmeg oil as such
is used as natural food flavoring in baked goods, syrups,
beverages (e.g., cola),
sweets etc. It replaces ground nutmeg as it leaves no
particles in the food.
Nutmeg is extremely toxic when injected intravenously.
Excessive consumption of the spice is also dangerous and
can lead to death. Nutmeg can also cause hallucinations
when taken in excess, along with nausea, dehydration, and generalized