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Nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou) in Chinese Medicine


Chinese: 肉豆蔻

Pinyin: Ròu Dòu Kòu

Parts used: Dried kernel

TCM category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Large intestine

Scientific name: Myristica fragrans

Use of nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove the shell, peel, dry at low temperatures. Crush or grate before use.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Warms the Spleen and Stomach, circulates Qi. Protects the Intestines and stops diarrhea.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which nutmeg may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Diarrhea Abdominal pain Vomiting Loss of appetite Abdominal bloating

Contraindications*: Not to be used for Damp Heat dysentery and diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou) are used*

Key TCM concepts behind nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), nutmeg are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that stabilize and bind' category. This category of herbs is used for treating abnormal discharges and displacement of Organs. This includes conditions such as diarrhea, discharges from the vagina, penis or rectum as well as prolapse of the Uterus or rectum. It is important to note that herbs in this category only treat symptoms, so one should also use herbs to treat the underlying Deficiency.

Furthermore nutmeg are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that nutmeg tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition nutmeg can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Nutmeg also taste Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like nutmeg tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such nutmeg are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Research on nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou)

Extracts of Myristica fragrans possess strong inhibitory activity against S. mutans, an oral pathogen that is a leading cause for dental caries. The specific activity and fast-effectiveness of Myristica fragrans extract against oral bacteria strongly suggest that it could be employed as a natural antibacterial agent in functional foods or oral care products.1

The aril of the fruit of Myristica fragrans has lasting antiinflammatory activity due to the myristicin that it contains.2


1. JY Chung, JH Choo, MH Lee, JK Hwang (2006). "Anticariogenic activity of macelignan isolated from Myristica fragrans (nutmeg) against Streptococcus mutans". Phytomedicine, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 261-266.

2. Yukihiro OZAKI, Soekeni SOEDIGDO, Yoke Rosina WATTIMENA, Asep Gana SUGANDA (1989). "Antiinflammatory Effect of Mace, Aril of Myristica fragrans HOUTT., and Its Active Principles". The Japanese Journal of Pharmacology, Volume 49, issue 2, Pages 155-163.

Use of nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou) as food

Nutmeg are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Bechamel sauce or Mashed potato with nutmeg.