From Wikipedia: “Nutmeg (also known as pala in Indonesia) is one of the two spices – the other being mace – derived from several species of tree in the genus Myristica. The most important commercial species is Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia.”
Origin and distribution:
“The common or fragrant nutmeg, Myristica fragrans, is native to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas, Indonesia. It is also cultivated on Penang Island in Malaysia, in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada, and in Kerala, a state formerly known as Malabar in ancient writings as the hub of spice trading, in southern India.”
“Nutmeg and mace have similar sensory qualities, with nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. Nutmeg is used for flavouring many dishes, usually in ground or grated form, and is best grated fresh in a nutmeg grater. ...
In traditional European cuisine, nutmeg and mace are used especially in potato dishes and in processed meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces, and baked goods. It is also commonly used in rice pudding. In Dutch cuisine, nutmeg is added to vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and string beans. Nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled cider, mulled wine, and eggnog.”
“The essential oil obtained by steam distillation of ground nutmeg is used widely in the perfumery and pharmaceutical industries. This volatile fraction typically contains 60-80% d-camphene by weight, as well as quantities of d-pinene, limonene, d-borneol, l-terpineol, geraniol, safrol, and myristicin. In its pure form, myristicin is a toxin, and consumption of excessive amounts of nutmeg can result in myristicin poisoning. The oil is colourless or light yellow, and smells and tastes of nutmeg. It contains numerous components of interest to the oleochemical industry, and is used as a natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages, and sweets. It is used to replace ground nutmeg, as it leaves no particles in the food. The essential oil is also used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, for instance, in toothpaste, and as a major ingredient in some cough syrups. In traditional medicine, nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for disorders related to the nervous and digestive systems.”
“Nutmeg butter is obtained from the nut by expression. It is semisolid, reddish-brown in colour, and tastes and smells of nutmeg. About 75% (by weight) of nutmeg butter is trimyristin, which can be turned into myristic acid, a 14-carbon fatty acid, which can be used as a replacement for cocoa butter, can be mixed with other fats like cottonseed oil or palm oil, and has applications as an industrial lubricant.”
Psychoactivity and toxicity:
“In low doses, nutmeg produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response, but in large doses, raw nutmeg has psychoactive effects. In its freshly ground form (from whole nutmegs), nutmeg contains myristicin, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor and psychoactive substance. Myristicin poisoning can induce convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain. For these reasons, whole or ground nutmeg cannot be imported into Saudi Arabia except in spice mixtures where it comprises less than 20%. It is also reputed to be a strong deliriant.
Fatal myristicin poisonings in humans are very rare, but three have been reported, including one in an 8-year-old child and another in a 55-year-old adult, with the latter case attributed to a combination with flunitrazepam.”
Nutmeg seeds can be attacked by molds, particular in the tropics, and some of these molds produce aflatoxins, which are known to cause cancer. This is why nutmeg seeds of inferior quality may not be sold commercially. However, infested ground nutmeg is sometimes illegally placed on the market.
Toxicity to dogs:
“Nutmeg is highly neurotoxic to dogs and causes seizures, tremors, and nervous system disorders which can be fatal. Nutmeg's rich, spicy scent is attractive to dogs which can result in a dog ingesting a lethal amount of this spice. Eggnog and other food preparations which contain nutmeg should not be given to dogs.”