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Myristica fragrans - Jatiphala

Botanical name: Myristica fragrans, Myristicaceae

Other names: Madashaunda, ‘intoxicating fruit’ (S), Jatamaram, Jatikkai (T), Nutmeg, Mace (E), Rou dou kou (C)

Botany: Jatiphala is a moderate-sized evergreen aromatic tree, usually dioecious, with grayish black bark that contains a reddish juice in the cambium layer. The leaves are elliptic to oblong lanceolate, thin and leathery, shiny above and dull below, the margin entire and tip acute. The flowers are creamy-yellow in colour, fragrant, borne in racemes, the male flowers with a stalked staminal column and10-14 anthers, the ovary of the female flowers sessile. The globose fruits are 3.5-5cm long, covered in a fleshy pericarp that splits into two when mature, the fragrant seed oblong and hard, covered in a reddish aril. Jatiphala is native to the Maluku Spice Islands of Indonesia, but has long since been cultivated in the warmer, tropical regions of the subcontinent of India (Warrier et al 1995, 90; Kirtikar and Basu 1935, 2141).

Part used: Seed (Jatiphala) and arils (Jatipatra, Mace).


     Rasa: tikta, katu, kashaya
     Vipaka: katu
     Virya: ushna
     Karma: dipanapachana, grahi, krimighna, kasahara, hrdaya, vedanasthapana, nidrajanana, madakari, vajikarana, Vatakaphahara (Srikanthamurthy 2001, 220; Warrier et al 1995, 104).

Constituents: Jatiphala is noted for its essential oil, comprising between 5-15% of fruit, containing various constituents including pinene and camphene (80%), dipentene (8%), myristicin (4%), safrole (0.6%), eugenol and isoeugenol (0.2%), as well as methylleugenol, methylisoeugenol, elemicin, isomelecin, methoxyeugenol, cymene, geraniol, linalool, and terpineol. Researchers have also identified four neolignans in Jatiphala, the fragnasols A, B, C, and dehydrodiisoeugenol. Jatiphala also contains a mixture of fats (lauric, myristic, stearic, hexadecenoic, oleic and linoleic acids), epicatechin and cyanidin, proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin, and niacin. The arils (i.e. ‘Mace’) are stated to contain a variety of neolignins similar to the seed including fragransol C and D, as well as myristicanol A and B, nectandrin B, verrucosin, dihydroguaiaretic acid, and the resorcinols malabaricone B and malabaricone C (Yoganarasimhan 2000, 370; Juhasz 2000; Park 1998; Orabi et al 1991; Kapoor 1990, 238; Evans 1989, 452; Duke 1986, 319-21).

Medical research:

Diarrhea: The efficacy of Jatiphala in recurrent diarrhea was assessed in experimental animals and in vitro. Both a crude suspension and petroleum ether extract of Jatiphala decreased the mean number of loose stools or increased the latency period, the former acting to increase intestinal tone, whereas the latter inhibited the contraction produced by acetylcholine, histamine and prostaglandin in guinea pig ileum (Grover et al 2002).

Hepatoprotective: Out of 21 spices examined, researchers determined that Myristica fragrans demonstrated the highest degree of hepatoprotective activity in rats with liver damage induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and d-galactosamine (D-GalN). Bioassay-guided isolation of myristicin from the essential found it to have an extraordinarily potent hepatoprotective activity, markedly suppressed LPS/D-GalN-induced enhancement of serum TNF-alpha concentrations and hepatic DNA fragmentation in mice (Morita et al 2003).

Cardiovascular: The crude suspension of Jatiphala administered intraduodenally did not produce much of an effect on blood pressure, but potentiated the action of exogenously administered adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. In high doses, the petroleum ether extract caused a precipitous fall in BP not blocked by atropine, in vivo (Grover et al 2002). The ethanolic extract of Myristica fragrans was studied in albino rabbits for its effects on experimentally induced hyperlipidaemia, dosed at 500 mg/kg orally on a daily basis for a period of 60 days. When compared with controls the levels of lipoprotein lipids were significantly lower, with the total cholesterol to HDL ratio and LDL to HDL ratio significantly lower in the experimental group. The extract also showed a platelet anti-aggregatory ability (Ram et al 1996). Myristica seed extract administration to hypercholesterolemic rabbits reduced serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by 69.1% and 76.3% respectively, and also lowered the cholesterol/phospholipid ratio by 31.2%, and elevated the decreased HDL-ratio significantly. Feeding with the extract also prevented the accumulation of cholesterol, phospholipids and triglycerides in liver, heart and aorta and dissolved atheromatous plaques of aorta by 70.9-76.5%. Fecal excretion of cholesterol and phospholipid were significantly increased in seed extract fed rabbits (Sharma et al 1995).

Cental nervous system: The crude suspension of Jatiphala demonstrated a significant but weak analgesic effect, while the petroleum ether extract potentiated both phenobarbitone and pentobarbitone-induced sleeping time (Grover et al 2002).

Inflammation: The chloroform extract of Jatiphala inhibited carrageenan-induced rat paw edema and reduced writhings induced by acetic acid in mice (Olajide et al 1999). The methanol extract of the arils from Myristica fragrans, as well as an ether, n-hexane and other fractions demonstrated a long lasting antiinflammatory activity in carrageenin-induced edema in rats and acetic acid-induced vascular permeability in mice, approximately similar to that of indomethacin (Ozaki et al 1989)

Antimicrobial: The resorcinols malabaricone B and malabaricone C isolated from the arils of Myristica fragrans exhibited strong antifungal and antibacterial activities (Orabi et al 1991).

Antitumor: Researchers examined the potential chemopreventive activity of Mace on 3-methylcholanthrene (MCA)-induced carcinogenesis in the uterine cervix of virgin, young adult mice, administered by applying the toxin on a cotton thread and placing it in the uterus. When Mace was administered orally at the dose level of 10 mg/mouse per day for 7 days before and 90 days following carcinogen exposure, the cervical carcinoma incidence was 21.4%, compared to 73.9% in the control animals (Hussain and Rao 1991). In a similar study, researchers examined the potential chemopreventive property of Mace on DMBA-induced papillomagenesis in the skin of male Swiss albino mice. The topical application of DMBA followed by repeated applications of croton oil induced skin papillomas in 100% of the animals. When animals received a similar treatment but were also put on a diet containing 1% Mace during the periinitiational phase of tumorigenesis, the skin papilloma incidence was reduced by 50% (Jannu et al 1991). In one case history reported in the New England Journal of Medicine a dosage of four to six tablespoons of Nutmeg powder successfully controlled diarrhea associated with medullary carcinoma of the thyroid, and also helped to correct drug-resistant hypercalcemia to one third of its original level (Duke 1989, 320).

Toxicity: Several cases of intoxication have been reported after an ingestion of approximately 5 g of Jatiphala, corresponding to 1-2 mg myristicin/kg body weight, which is a major constituent in the essential oil. Such doses and larger are reported to be more or less intoxicating, with symptoms such as visual hallucinations, headache, dizziness and tachycardia. Researchers have hypothesized that myristicin and elemicin can be readily modified into amphetamines by the body. In toxicological studies with rats no toxic effects were observed with the administration of myristicin perorally at a dose of 10 mg/kg. The oral LD50 for the potentially carcinogenic safrole is 1950 mg/kg in rats. The oral LD50 for Nutmeg oil is 2600 mg/kg in rats, 4620 mg/kg in mice, and 6000 mg/kg in hamsters (Hallstrom and Thuvander 1997; Duke 1989, 321).

Indications: Dyspepsia, colic, flatulence, diarrhea, dysentery, insomnia, muscle pain, fibromylagia, rheumatism, lumbago, dysmenorrhea, cough, bronchitis, asthma, angina, hypertension, dyslipidemia, impotence.

Contraindications: Use with extreme care or otherwise avoid with the use of barbiturates, benzodiazepines, antiepileptics, antipsychotics, antidepressants and antihypertensives. Avoid oral usage in muco-epithelial ulceration.

Medicinal uses: The origin of the name Jatiphala, the ‘fruit of excellence’ or ‘high caste fruit,’ is unknown, but is likely a reference to its rich essential oil content and its pleasant and distinct aroma. The name however may also indicate that the first imports of the fruit into India from Indonesia were an exclusive entitlement of the highest castes. Jatiphala is now widely used throughout the world as both a culinary spice and medicinal agent. In Ayurvedic medicine it is most commonly used as an adjunct to other formulas to improve their taste or odour, and as a dipanapachana agent to enhance the uptake of the other constituents in the formula. It is often used along with or instead of similarly aromatic herbs such as Tvak (Cinnamomum verum), Lavangam (Syzygium aromaticum), and Shunthi (Zingiber officinalis) to treat a variety of digestive disorders, including nausea and dyspepsia. One of the most important uses for Jatiphala is in both infectious and chronic diarrhea, for which it acts to slow the number of motions, eases intestinal griping, and kill parasites. To this end a compound called Jatiphaladi churna is often prescribed, taken in doses of 10-12 grams with honey as an anupana, also used to treat malabsorption, bronchitis, asthma, consumption and rhinitis caused by Vata and Kapha (Srikanthamurthy 1984, 92). Prepared as a medicated oil or the taken as the essential oil diluted in a base oil, Jatiphala can be used in abhyanga as an analgesic and antispasmodic in the treatment of myalgia and rheumatism. Prepared in a saturated fat such as ghee or lard Jatiphala is used topically in the treatment of hemorrhoids (Nadkarni 1954, 833; Felter and Lloyd 1893). Taken internally, Jatiphala is a very good antispasmodic in the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions of the muscles such as fibromyalgia. In sufficient doses Jatiphala acts as a delayed onset sedative that begins to act three to five hours later, and is particularly useful for nighttime wakening, particularly that associated with muscle pain and rheumatism. To this end Jatiphala mixed with more immediate-acting hypnotics such as the Himalayan Poppy (Meconopsis grandis) and Jatamamsi instead of the sleeping pills, antidepressants and antiinflammatories commonly used to treat fibromylagia. Taken with antispasmodics such as Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), Kava (Piper methysticum), and Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), Jatiphala can be similarly taken during the day to relieve fibromylagia pain. Jatiphala is also considered to be an important agent in the treatment of heart disease and angina, and in the treatment of hypertension and dyslipidemia may be of benefit when taken with Guggulu, Arjuna and Lasuna (Allium sativum). As an expectorant, Jatiphala finds its way into several different formulations in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma and consumptive conditions, and its virtues extolled in both hemispheres in the treatment of intermittent fever (Felter and Lloyd 1893). As a vajikarana Jatiphala is believed to awaken the sexual passions in both men and women in the treatment of impotence and frigidity.


• Churna: freshly powdered seed, 1-5 g b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Tincture : freshly crushed seed, 1:3, 50% alcohol, 1-5 ml b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Taila: in abhyanga, ad lib.

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myristica_fragrans.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/26 18:12 (external edit)