MYRISTICA U.S. Br.
Compiled by Ivor Hughes
MYRISTICA. U. S., Br. MYRISTICA Myrtet (Nutmeg]
"Nutmeg is the dried kernel of the seed of Myristica fragrans, Houtt." Br.
Nux Moschata; Muscade; Noix muscade, Fr.; Semen Myristicae, P. G.; Muskatnuss, G.; Noce moscata, It.; Nuez moscada, Sp.
The nutmeg tree is about thirty feet high, with numerous branches, and an aspect somewhat resembling that of the orange tree. The leaves are alternate, petiolate, oblong-oval, pointed, entire, bright green and somewhat glossy on their upper surface, whitish beneath, and of an aromatic taste. The staminate and pistillate flowers are upon different trees. The former are disposed in axillary, peduncled, solitary clusters; the latter are single, solitary, and axillary; both are minute and of a pale yellowish color. The fruit, which appears on the tree mingled with the flowers, is round or oval, of the size of a small peach, smooth, yellow when ripe, and marked with a longitudinal furrow. The external covering, which is at first thick and fleshy and abounds in an austere, astringent juice, afterwards becomes dry and coriaceous, and, separating into two valves from the summit, discloses a scarlet reticulated membrane or arillus, commonly called mace, closely investing a thin, brown, shining shell, which contains the seed or nutmeg.
The tree is produced from the seed. It does not flower until the eighth or ninth year, after which it bears flowers and fruit together, without intermission, and is said to continue bearing for seventy or eighty years. Little trouble is requisite in its cultivation. A branch of the staminate tree is grafted into all the young pistillate plants when about two years old, so as to insure their early fruitfulness. J. H. Hart presented an interesting report (Bull. Bot. Dept., Trinidad, 1907, p. 202) showing that 16-year-old nutmeg trees growing in Trinidad bear both staminate and pistillate flowers. Indeed, he found both kinds of flowers on the same branch of the tree, and he therefore suggests that an attempt should be made to perpetuate this variety by grafting.
The nutmeg tree is a native of the Moluccas and other neighboring islands, and abounds especially in that small cluster distinguished by the name of Banda, whence the chief supplies of nutmegs were long derived. But numerous varieties of the plant are now cultivated in Sumatra, Java, Singapore, Penang, Ceylon, and other parts of the East Indies, and have been introduced into the Isles of France and Bourbon, Cayenne, and several of the West India islands. Various species of the genus Myristiea, other than the official one, yield commercial seeds or products. The larger part of the nutmegs of commerce is said still to come from the Dutch Banda Islands. The Penang nutmegs are distinguished by not being limed.
In the Moluccas the tree yields three crops annually. The fruit is gathered by hand, and the outside covering rejected. The arillode, constituting the mace of commerce, is then carefully separated, so as to break it as little as possible. It is flattened, dried in the sun, and afterwards sprinkled with salt water, with the view of contributing to its preservation. The nuts are dried in the sun or by ovens, and exposed to smoke until the kernel rattles in the shell. They are then broken open, and the kernels, having been removed and steeped for a short time in a mixture of lime and water, in order to preserve them from the attacks of worms, are next cleaned, and packed in casks or chests for exportation. Lumsdaine has found them to keep better if rubbed over with dry lime than when prepared in the moist way. Tschirch confirms the value of liming as a preservative against the attacks of insects. (Ph. Rev., 1898, 196.) This is, however, not sufficient protection, as the commercial nutmegs are sometimes " wormy." Nutmegs are brought to this country from the British West Indies and either directly from the East Indies or indirectly from England and Holland. About half of the nutmegs entering this country in 1924 came from Grenada in the West Indies, and 40 per cent, was from Java. The other important nutmeg centers are, Sumatra, Banda, Penang, Macassar, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and London. Nutmegs from the East Indies are usually limed while those from the West Indies are not limed. Shriveled nutmegs and nutmegs in the shell (whole seeds deprived of arillodes) are imported for distilling purposes.
Description and Physical Properties. � " Unground Myristiea.� Ovoid or ellipsoidal, from 20 to 30 mm. in length and about 20 mm. in thickness; externally light brown to dark brown; reticulately furrowed, the broad end with a large, circular, upraised scar from which arises a groove extending to a depression at the opposite end; the cut surface having a waxy luster and mottled brown appearance; odor characteristically aromatic, taste pungently aromatic. Perisperm thin, dark brown, penetrating by many wavy branches or folds into the light brown endosperm; embryo small and more or less shrunken, in an irregular cavity near the base.
"Powdered Myristiea. � Dark reddish-brown; consisting of irregular yellowish-brown and blackish-brown fragments; perisperm with large, circular or elliptical volatile-oil reservoirs, small thin-walled parenchyma cells with brown contents and occasional spiral trachea; endosperm with more or less polygonal parenchyma cells containing starch and aleurone grains and occasionally brown pigment; fixed oil globules numerous; starch grains single or compound, the individual grains spherical, plano-convex or polygonal, from 0.003 to 0.020 mm. in diameter, with a distinct, sometimes cleft hilum.
"Assay. � Proceed as directed under non-volatile ether-soluble extractive." U. S.
" Broadly oval or rounded, rarely more than twenty-five millimetres long; greyish-brown externally, marked with reticulated furrows, and minute black points and lines; internally greyish-red with darker brownish-red veins. Transverse section marbled. Strong aromatic odor; taste aromatic, warm and somewhat bitter." Br.
The microscopical structure of nutmeg and mace have been well illustrated by Winton and Moeller in the "Microscopy of Vegetable Foods." Spaeth has made an interesting contribution to the pharmacognosy of nutmeg and the detection of the prevalent adulterations in Ph. Zentralh., xlix, p. 627. The quality of present commercial supplies varies considerably. Some shipments arrive which are quite moldy and insect infested. It has been stated that much of the ground nutmeg of commerce has been made from small, stunted and worthless nutmegs, so-called "grinding nutmegs." The powdered drug is sometimes adulterated with corn meal, powdered beans, curcuma and various nutshells.
Nutmegs have been punctured and boiled in order to extract their essential oil, and the orifice afterwards closed so carefully as not to be discoverable unless by breaking the kernel. The fraud may be detected by their lightness. They are also apt to be injured by worms, which, however, attack preferably the parts least impregnated with the volatile oil. The Dutch were formerly said to heat them in a stove in order to deprive them of the power of germinating and thus prevent the propagation of the tree. The largest nutmegs now command the highest prices. They should be rejected when very light in weight, with a feeble taste and odor, worm eaten, musty, or marked with black veins.
Constituents. � Nutmeg contains from 5 to 19 per cent, of a volatile oil to which it owes its medicinal value (see Oleum Myristicae), from 25 to 40 per cent, of a fixed oil and from 5 to 15 per cent, of an ash; the remainder being starch, fiber, water, etc.
The concrete or expressed oil of nutmeg (Oleum Myristicae Expressum, Br., 1885, Oleum Nucistae, P. G.), often called oil of mace, or nutmeg butter, is obtained by bruising nutmegs, exposing them in a bag to steam, and then compressing them strongly between heated plates. A liquid oil flows out, which becomes solid when it cools. This oil may also be obtained by treating nutmeg, thoroughly comminuted, with three times its weight of well-rectified carbon disulphide, agitating the mixture frequently for twenty-four hours, expressing, repeating the process with two parts only of the menstruum, mixing the products of the two macerations, filtering in a covered vessel, and then distilling off the disulphide until the residue is entirely deprived of the solvent. It would seem difficult to prevent the retention of a little of the solvent.
The best nutmeg butter is imported from the East Indies in stone jars, or in rectangular blocks 10 inches long by 2� inches wide, wrapped in palm leaves. It is solid, soft, unctuous to the touch, of a yellowish or orange-yellow color, more or less mottled, with the odor and taste of nutmeg. It is a brownish solid with specific gravity of 0.995 and melting at about 45� C. In 1874 Playfair separated from this a crystallizable fat, myristin, which is the glyceride of myristic acid, C14H28O2. Power and Salway (Tr. Chem. Soc., 1908, p. 1653) found the expressed oil of nutmeg to contain 73 per cent, of trimyristin, 12.5 per cent, of essential oil, smaller quantities of oleic acid, linoleic acid, resinous material with traces of formic, acetic and cerotic acids, with 8.5 per cent, of unsaponifiable residue. Myristin is also found in spermaceti, in cocoanuts, and in the fixed oil of linseed and poppy oil. It may be obtained directly from nutmeg by exhausting it by means of benzene, filtering the liquid, and allowing it to crystallize by spontaneous evaporation. To purify the product, it may be dissolved in a mixture of two parts of absolute alcohol and three of benzene with the aid of heat, then filtering the liquid while hot, and setting it aside. An inferior kind of the fat is prepared in Holland, and sometimes found in commerce. It is in hard, shining, square cakes, lighter-colored than that from the East Indies, and with less odor and taste. It is supposed to be derived from nutmegs previously deprived of most of their volatile oil by distillation. An artificial preparation is sometimes sold for the genuine oil. It is made by mixing various fatty matters, such as suet, palm oil, spermaceti, wax, etc., adding some coloring substance, and giving flavor to the mixture by the volatile oil.
Allied Products.�Under the names of long, female, or wild nutmeg, Macassar nutmeg, Papua nutmeg, New Guinea nutmeg, horse nutmeg, certain seeds have long been known in European commerce. These seeds have been variously ascribed to 'M. fatua Houtt. (M. tomentosa Thumb., M. macrophylla Boxb.), and other species of the genus Myristica, but by Bassermann and Warburg have in all their varieties been traced to the M. argentea Warburg, of New Guinea, from which country they are often taken to Macassar to finally enter commerce as Macassar nutmegs. (P. G., 1898, 97.) The numerous varieties of these false nutmegs are readily reducible to two, which differ chiefly in size, the larger being commonly known as the Papua nuts, the smaller as the Macassar nuts. They are distinguished from the nutmeg by their greater length, their elliptical shape, their comparatively feeble odor and disagreeable taste, and by the absence of the dark brown veins. (Holmes, P. J., Ixxxii, p. 459.) Heckel has described two new so-called wild nutmegs from Madagascar. (Rep. d. Pharm., 1909, p. 49.) Bombay nutmegs from the M. malabarica Lam. are also long and narrow. They do not possess the characteristic aroma of true nutmegs.
Uouhula nut is a round or oval seed of Myristica surinamensis Roland. It is one-half to two-thirds of an inch in diameter, light brown, but usually covered by a blackish, thin, friable testa. Internally it resembles the nutmeg, but is distinguished by the presence of extraordinarily large and handsome albuminous crystalloids. These seeds are said to contain over 70 per cent, of a solid yellow fat, melting at 36� C. (See A. J. P., 1886; also A. Pharm., July, 1888.) The kernel of the fruit of the Brazilian Myristica officinalis Mart. (M. Bicuhyba Schott) resembles the nutmeg in form and structure, but is covered with a black shell marked with broad furrows. It contains crystals like those above spoken of, but less splendid and regular, and apt to be in three forms. It yields a fat (bicuhyba fat, or bicuhyba balsam) very much like that of the ordinary nutmeg, but having a rather sour, sharp taste, melting at 47� C. It contains a peculiar fatty acid, bicuhybastearic acid.
The otoba fat, sometimes called american nutmeg butter, is expressed from the fruit of the Myristica otoba H. B. K. which grows in the mountains of Colombia. It is almost colorless and when fresh has a nutmeg-like odor. It consists, according to Baughman and Jamieson (J. Am. C. S., 1921, xliii, p. 199) of more than 50 per cent, of the glyceride of myristic acid with smaller quantities of the glycerides of lauric, oleic and palmitic acids, about 9 per cent, of volatile oil and 9.4 per cent, of an unsaponifiable substance, otobite. The latter principle crystallizes in shiny, colorless crystals, melting at 133� C. The fruit of Virola sebifera Aubl. (Myristica sebifera Sw.) of South America also yields a fatty substance which is known as ocuba wax, which is used in the manufacture of candles.
The so-called California nutmeg is not a nutmeg at all but the seed of a coniferous tree, Torreya californica Torr. It is oblong, with a smooth, thin, brownish testa and exhibits a marbled surface in cross section. Its odor and taste are terebinthinate. Neither are the Jamaica or calabash nutmeg, from Monodora Myristica Dun., the New Holland or plum nutmeg, from Atherosperma moschatum Labill., and the clove nutmeg, from Ravensara aromatica J. F. Gmel., true nutmegs.
Uses � Nutmeg owes its medicinal and toxic properties solely to the volatile oil which it contains. For the consideration of the effects and uses of this, see Oleum Myristicae. Powdered nutmeg is rarely used in medicine alone, although it has been used in dysentery (see Leidy, N. Y. M. R., March 1, 1919). It enters into the composition of a number of galenicals. The expressed oil is occasionally used as a gentle external stimulant and was an ingredient in the Emplastrum Picis of the 1885 British Pharmacopoeia. Mace possesses properties essentially the same as those of nutmeg.
Dose,five to twenty grains (0.32 -1.3 Gm.).
Off. Prep.� Pulvis Aromaticus, N. F.; Tinctura Lavandulae Composita, U. S., Br.; Pulvis Catechu Compositus, Br.; Pulvis Cretae Aromaticus, N. F., Br.; Spiritus Armoraciae Compositus, Br.
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