Further Reading

Nutmeg Rf282

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Code: f266
Latin name: Myristica fragrans
Family: Myristicaceae
Common names: Mace
Mace is made from the shell of Nutmeg.
The Nutmeg and Mace trade does not appear to be particularly orderly, and a number of substitutes for and adulterations of “true Nutmeg” are known. The chemical similarity of each spice to Myristica fragrans, and the effect of substitution or adulteration on allergy, cannot be discerned from the research to date.
Here are a number of species that pass as Nutmeg:
  • Myristica otoba
  • Macassar, Papua, Guinea or Norse Nutmeg, or Macassar Mace, from Myristica argentea 
  • Bombay or Wild Nutmeg, from Myristica malabarica
  • Californian Nutmeg, from Sorreya californica
  • Jamaica or Calabash Nutmeg, from Monodora myristica 
  • New Holland or Plume Nutmeg, from Atherosperma moschata 
  • Clove Nutmeg, from Agathophyllum aromaticum
A food, which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
The Nutmeg tree is a large evergreen native to the Spice Islands but now also cultivated in the Caribbean and Mauritius. The tree produces 2 spices, Mace and Nutmeg. Nutmeg is the oval, 25 mm brown seed kernel inside the fruit pit, and Mace is the bright red or purple lacy covering on the pit. Nutmeg is dried and sold whole or ground, and Mace is dried and powdered. Both Mace and Nutmeg spice are strongly aromatic, Mace somewhat more so. Its higher price is principally due to the yield of Mace being much smaller. It is not certain whether Nutmeg and Mace became known in Europe only in the 11th century AD or were known to the Romans.
In the cuisines of Asia, Nutmeg and Mace are traditional ingredients of a variety of dishes, such as curries. In Western cuisine, Nutmeg and Mace are used in cakes, crackers and stewed fruits. Nutmeg is used to flavour drinks such as eggnog, and in fondue and béchamel (white sauce). Nutmeg oil is, moreover, an additive in a wide range of commercial foods and medicines, especially colas. The more aromatic Mace is a frequent ingredient of sausages and other prepared meats. Both Nutmeg and Mace are used to relieve digestive ailments.
Nutmeg contains up to 10% essential oil, which can be toxic. The component myristicin (methoxy-safrole) is responsible for the hallucinogenic effect of Nutmeg. Oil of Mace (up to 12% in the spice) contains the same aroma components in slightly different amounts. Apparently only excessive ingestion of either spice, however, can produce hallucinogenic or toxic effects.
Nutmeg on expression yields about 24 to 30 percent fixed oil called Nutmeg butter or oil of Mace, the principal component of which is trimyristin. The oils are used as condiments and flatulence treatments and to scent soaps and perfumes. An ointment of Nutmeg butter is used as a treatment for topical irritations and rheumatism.
Unexpected exposure
See under Environment.
No allergens from this plant have yet been fully characterised.
Immunoblot analysis showed 2 IgE-reactive protein bands from Mace, of 20 and 40 kDa, which were able to bind serum IgE (1).

Potential Cross-Reactivity

An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected, and particularly between Mace and Nutmeg (2).

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions
As Nutmeg and Mace are integrally related, this article should be read in conjunction with Nutmeg Rf282. Mace may uncommonly induce symptoms of food allergy or cutaneous hypersensitivity reactions in sensitised individuals (3). Few studies have investigated or reported adverse reactions to spices, including Mace. The composition of Mace may depend upon its country of origin and also on the quality of the Mace harvest. Therefore, the occurrence of antigens and the incidence of Mace allergy may vary among different Mace preparations, which may influence the prevalence and severity of allergic reactions.
Occupational asthma and rhinitis was documented in a 27-year-old subject who developed rhinitis and asthma symptoms 1 year after starting to prepare a certain kind of sausage. This was demonstrated by positive immediate skin-specific IgE tests for Paprika, Coriander, and Mace. Skin-specific IgE for other sausage ingredients (mites, pollens, and molds) was negative. Serum-specific IgE antibodies to Paprika, Coriander, and Mace were manifest, and a partial cross-reactivity was found among IgE-binding components from Paprika and Mace. Specific bronchial inhalation challenges showed an immediate asthmatic reaction to extracts from Paprika, Coriander, and Mace. In this patient, occupational asthma was due to spices from botanically unrelated species (1).
Occupational asthma and rhinitis to licorice (dust), Mace, Aniseed, Coriander and iris root in an Anise liqueur factory worker were reported (4).
An individual working with spices in the food industry developed asthma on inhalation of dust from spices. Skin-specific IgE tests with Curry, Coriander, and Mace were strongly positive. Serum-specific IgE antibodies against Coriander, Curry, Mace, Ginger, and Paprika powder could be demonstrated in the patient’s serum. The authors concluded that the inhalation of dust from spices can result in an IgE-mediated allergy to these materials (5).
It may well be that, similar to Nutmeg, Mace's predominant pathogenesis involves delayed-hypersensitivity reactions.
Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman, 


  1. Sastre J, Olmo M, Novalvos A, Ibanez D, Lahoz C. Occupational asthma due to different spices. Allergy. 1996;51(2):117-20
  2. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09
  3. van Toorenenbergen AW, Dieges PH. Demonstration of spice-specific IgE in patients with suspected food allergies. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1987;79(1):108-13.
  4. Gonzalez-Gutierrez ML, Sanchez-Fernandez C, Esteban-Lopez MI, et al. Allergy to anis. Allergy 2000;55(2):195-6
  5. van Toorenenbergen AW, Dieges PH. Immunoglobulin E antibodies against coriander and other spices. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1985;76(3):477-81


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.