NUTMEG/MACE (Myristica fragrans): Origin: native to east Asia. Prescribed as medicine widely in India and throughout much of Old World as an aphrodisiac, and to increase probability of fertility and “commerce with Venus.”

The Gerarde herbal considers the usefulness of nutmeg: if chewed and held in the mouth nutmegs cause sweet breath and will amend those that do stinke; will reduce facial freckles, improve sight, strengthen the belly and a feeble liver; will remove swellings in the spleen; and is considered a good treatment against all cold diseases in the body.

Nutmeg love charms continued to be used into the 19th century in parts of Germany and were prepared in the following manner: a love-sick girl swallows a nutmeg: after the nut passes through her digestive system it is collected [and washed!]. She then crushes the nutmeg and mixes the powder into the food of her beloved. A nutmeg carried in the pocket said to cure rheumatism. A 19th century tradition in rural New England (Boston, Maine, and New Hampshire) reported that nutmeg worn around the neck will prevent boils, cold sores, croup, and earache. Other 19th century traditions recorded in rural Missouri held that nutmeg could cure eye-related problems such as sties.

(Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp 1353-1354; Bergen, 1899, p. 100; Rätsch, 1992, p. 126; Vickery, 1995, p. 259).

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