Calabash nutmeg/ African nutmeg (Monodora myristica) is one of the most important African spices. And it is a common part of West African cuisine. I first came across African nutmeg when I was researching African spices. So I decided to give an in-depth explanation of calabash nutmeg benefits.
But first, before we talk about calabash nutmeg benefits, what is this calabash/African nutmeg?
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What is Calabash/Jamaican/ African nutmeg?
Calabash nutmeg is obtained from the seed of a berry fruit found in West Africa. The seed spice produces a flavour, odour, taste and aroma that resembles nutmeg. Hence, the name “African nutmeg”. These nutmeg-like characteristics make African nutmeg popular in West African cuisine. And over the years this spice is growing in popularity due to its health benefits. As a result, it’s not surprising that people want to know more about calabash nutmeg health benefits.
The African nutmeg plant is a perennial edible plant. And it’s common in the evergreen forests of Western Africa. Almost every part of the plant has economic or medicinal value. And in Nigeria African nutmeg goes by several names which include ehuru, ariwo, ehiri, eirama and ehu seeds. African nutmeg grows naturally in the evergreen forests of Liberia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and Uganda.
The seeds are embedded in the white sweet-smelling pulp of the fruit. Roasting and grinding the ehu seeds produces a fine powder. This fine powder has culinary uses as a spice.
Due to its widespread use, regular consumption offers both traditional medicinal uses and health benefits. Regular consumption also brings many health benefits for African nutmeg as listed below.
Medicinal health benefits of calabash nutmeg
In traditional African cultures, calabash nutmeg has many medicinal uses and benefits.
The stem, bark, seeds and leaves of African nutmeg have medicinal uses. They have uses in the treatment of many different diseases.
The stem bark of the calabash nutmeg plant has medicinal uses in the treatment of many diseases. These include the treatment of:
- Loss of voice
- Stomach ache
- Fever pains
- Eye disease
The seeds of the plant also contribute to medicinal calabash nutmeg benefits and use. These include the treatment of:
- Headaches and high blood pressure conditions in the Central African Republic.
- Migraines. Chewing the seeds and applying them to the forehead heals migraines and headaches.
- The spice is also used to flavour food in Eastern Nigeria.
- Ground seed powder also have uses in post birth tonics. These post birth tonics enhance milk production in the mother. Ehu seeds improve the mother’s milk flow after childbirth.
- And also to reduce passive uterine bleeding in women immediately after giving birth.
- The crushed kernel of the seeds is used to prepare a soup. This seed-kernel soup relieves constipation.
Additional details on calabash/ Jamaican/ African nutmeg medicinal uses
The berry of the African nutmeg fruit has antiseptic properties. It can also treat mild fevers. This is because it has diuretic properties. This means eating the berry improves waste removal processes in the body. It also helps remove excess fluids from the body. And it also prevents the accumulation of these fluids in the body.
In East African countries calabash nutmeg is more of a drug than a food condiment. This means they use it for its health and medicinal benefits. Calabash nutmeg has a bitter and pungent taste. So, it has uses in bronchitis treatment. In these countries, African nutmeg is also used to improve your appetite. And also grinding the seeds after roasting them makes them useful for treating skin diseases. This may be due to their germicidal and antiseptic properties.
There are many other medicinal benefits of calabash nutmeg. These are listed as follows:
- It helps in the treatment of sores from guinea worm infections.
- The roots of the plant are munched to mitigate toothaches and arthritis.
- Some use it for the management of anaemia.
- In some countries, it is used to treat sexual weaknesses.
- It is also used in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism (pain affecting the joints).
- And also for the treatment of diabetes mellitus remedies.
Calabash nutmeg benefits
In addition to traditional medicinal uses, several studies have proven that this African spice has substantial health benefits. The nutritional value of calabash nutmeg comes from its usefulness as a seasoning due to its aromatic flavour. This means it has regular usage. Henceforth, it can boost the diet’s nutritional and health benefits.
General health benefits of African nutmeg
African nutmeg has protective effects against cell sickling. This is an inherited condition in which partial distortion of red blood cells occurs. This means the red blood cells are unable to fully function. As a result, they can break or they can also block blood vessels. This may cause additional health problems. The spice offers protective effects against cell sickling.
Other studies show that calabash nutmeg lowers total blood cholesterol. It also reduces total blood serum triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels. And additionally, it enhances levels of beneficial cholesterol in your body. In other words, it offers protective effects against cardiovascular disease caused by high serum cholesterol. Also, its rich antioxidant properties make the spice, a heart-healthy African spice.
Nutrient linked health benefits
African nutmeg is rich in minerals and vitamins and therefore it is highly nutritious. This means its regular use as a food condiment can help enhance the food’s nutrient profile. The seed spice has a high nutritive and calorific value. That makes it a beneficial and necessary part of the diet!
This nutmeg-like spice has a high calcium concentration. And this makes calcium the most abundant mineral in the spice. As a result, regularly using calabash nutmeg in meals enhances your calcium intake. In other words, this spice can act as a natural fortification or supplement of calcium. And calcium is essential in the body for bone, nerve and organ health. Calcium also plays a role in internal organ regulation. And plays a part in the regulations of heart and liver function. It is also an essential element in the functioning of the skeletal system, cell membranes, blood clotting and transfer of nerve signals! And I am saying that calabash nutmeg is an excellent calcium source!
And less than 100 g of the spice can provide you with the recommended daily intake of calcium! And regular use of African nutmeg can help you get adequate calcium and prevent deficiency.
This African nutmeg is also a good source of the mineral magnesium. Magnesium is a very important mineral in cellular and enzyme functions. Adequate dietary magnesium helps prevent heart disorders and low blood pressure. Regular use of this African spice helps reduce magnesium deficiency risks.
Rich in potassium and other minerals
This spice is also high in potassium but low in sodium. This is a good combination of the 2 minerals. Because excess sodium is harmful to health. Besides that, we add too much salt too much food already. Having high potassium and low sodium in the diet is good for high blood pressure prevention. The sodium/potassium ratio should always be less than 1 in your diet for optimum health. This spice has a very high potassium content. Some believe that it has enough potassium to meet or exceed your needs.
The spice is also a good source of other essential minerals including iron, zinc and manganese. Also, calabash nutmeg has more mineral content than many other spices!
Calabash nutmeg a vitamin and photochemical rich spice
Also, calabash nutmeg has an appreciable vitamin and mineral content. Therefore so many health benefits.
Studies show powerful antioxidant properties of nutmeg-like African spice. This enables it to protect your body from oxidative damage and stress. So regular nutmeg consumption is much more beneficial. The antioxidant compounds in the spice prevent the formation of toxic free radicals. These free radicals can cause serious oxidative stress and tissue damage.
Like many other African spices calabash nutmeg, is a good so of water-soluble vitamins. These include riboflavin, folic acid and also niacin. It is also a rich vitamin C source, however, most of the vitamin is destroyed by heat during the roasting of the spicy seeds. In addition, it also contains vitamin A. And it’s antioxidant properties come from its rich flavonoid and phytochemical content.
Oil from the seeds has a rich phytochemical arsenal and can be used to flavour popcorn. These phytochemicals have powerful health beneficial properties.
The spice is rich in many beneficial phytochemicals. These include saponins, alkaloids, phenols, cardiac glycosides, terpenoids, steroids, tannins and flavonoids. Alkaloids have antimalarial and analgesic (painkilling) effects. Other compounds such as anthraquinones, saponins and cardiac glycosides can inhibit cancer growth. They also have antidepressant and antiparasitic effects.
Concluding on the benefits of calabash nutmeg
So as you can see, calabash nutmeg is more than just a spice or African food condiment. It offers more than just basic nutritional benefits, it’s a medicine, a remedy and a healthy dietary component. In this article, I tried to explain all of the known calabash nutmeg benefits I could find.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about calabash nutmeg
Calabash nutmeg is an African spice common in West African countries including Nigeria, Central African Republic, Angola, Uganda, Kenya etc. This spice is made from the seeds of a perennial plant common in the evergreen plants of common Africa. And it has a flavour or aroma to the spice called nutmeg hence the names African nutmeg, false nutmeg, Jamaican nutmeg etc.
The spice is made by roasting and grinding the seeds of the calabash nutmeg plant into a fine powder. It is this powder that is used as a spice.
If you are coming from a country where calabash nutmeg is not native, you can look for local dealers. If there are none, then buy online. There are a lot of shops selling calabash nutmeg online. Be careful about who you buy from though, you may not get the real thing.
The spice had many uses. It can be used to make post birth tonics by dissolving it in water. You can also make a paste and smear it on your forehead for migraines and headaches. But most importantly use it as a spice and condiment for your food.
Through out my research I didn’t come across any source prohibiting use of calabash nutmeg in pregnant women. Infact it carries minerals and vitamins that may be helpful to pregnant women. However, consult your doctor before using the spice.