Scientific Name(s):The dried aril of Myristica fragrans Houtt. Family: Myristicaceae

Common Name(s): Mace , muscade (French), seed cover of nutmeg

Clinical Overview

Uses of Mace

Mace has been used as a flavoring and folk medicine for a range of ills, such as diarrhea, insomnia, and rheumatism. Studies show anticancer, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and larvicidal properties.

Mace Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to support specific doses of mace; however, classical use of ground mace was at doses of 500 mg. Higher doses may be toxic.


Do not use in sensitive individuals as it may cause dermatitis.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Mace Interactions

None well documented.

Mace Adverse Reactions

May cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals.


Large doses may produce acute intoxication.


Mace and nutmeg are two slightly different flavored spices both originating from the fruit of the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans . The fruit is a drupe which splits open when mature, exposing the nutmeg (stony endocarp or seed) surrounded by a red, slightly fleshy network (aril). Once the aril is peeled off and dried, it is referred to as mace. 1 Botanical mace should not be confused with the same word which also can describe a weapon of offense (iron or steel) capable of breaking through armor or a relatively modern riot control synthetic compound used as an irritating and debilitating spray or gas. 1 , 2

The nutmeg tree is a densely foliazed evergreen tea commonly grown in Grenada (West Indies), Indonesia, Ceylon and the Moluccas in the East Indian Archipelago. The trees first produce fruit in about 7 years and then yield approximately 10 pounds of dried shelled nutmeg and 1½ pounds of dried mace per tree. 2 At low concentrations, both nutmeg and mace possess a sweet, warm and highly spicy flavor with mace being slightly “stronger.” Ground nutmeg is tan in color, while mace has an orange hue.


Both nutmeg and mace have been used in Indian and Indonesian cooking and in folk medicine. Historical medicinal uses of mace range from the treatment of diarrhea to mouth sores, insomnia and rheumatism.


Numegs, depending on origin and condition, yield, on steam distillation, 5–15% of essential oil. The essential oils of nutmeg and mace are very similar in chemical composition and aroma, with wide color difference (brilliant orange to pale yellow). Both nutmeg and mace contain about 4% of a highly toxic substance called myristicin (methoxysafrole). 2 Other compounds isolated include safrole, elemicin, methoxyeugenol, (±) camphene, β-terpineol, α- and β-pinene, myrcene, (±)-limonene and sabinene. 3 Recently, two resorcinols, malabaricone B and malabaricone C have been isolated from mace by Orabi et al. 4 New lignans have been isolated by Kuo 5 and Zacchino et al. 6

Mace Uses and Pharmacology

Animal data

A number of interesting articles have appeared on potential anti-cancer properties (chemo-preventor effects of chemically induced carcinogenesis) of mace, including: transmammary modulation of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes in the liver of mouse pups by mace; 7 effect of nutmeg essential oils on activation and detoxification of xenobiotic compounds (chemical carcinogens and mutagens); 8 potential anticarcinogenic role of Myristica volatile oils; 9 modulatory effects of mace on hepatic detoxification; 10 reduction of induced skin papilloma incidence via diet containing 1% mace; 11 reduction of induced carcinogenesis in uterine cervix in mice by mace; 12 and increased level of acid-soluble sulfhydryl (SH) groups in the liver of young mice (chemoprotective) by mace. 13

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of mace against cancer.

Other uses

A number of miscellaneous pharmacological studies show strong antifungal and antibacterial properties of two antimicrobial resorcinols (malabaricone B and C from mace; 4 anti-inflammatory properties of myristicin from mace; 14 antimicrobial action of mace against oral bacteria; 15 and a larvicidal principle in mace. 16


There is no clinical evidence to support specific doses of mace; however, classical use of ground mace was at doses of 500 mg. Higher doses may be toxic.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Literature reports contact or systemic contact-type dermatitis to nutmeg as a spice. 17


The majority of the literature of the last decade continues to verify the possibility of acute intoxication possible with overdoses of nutmeg itself. 18 Very few, if any, articles appear in the recent literature specifically dealing with mace intoxication.


1. Simpson B, Ogorzaly M. Economic Botany: Plants in Our World. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986.
2. Rosengarten F, Jr. The Book of Spices. Wynnewood, PA: Livingston Publishing Company, 1969.
3. Tyler V, et al. Pharmacognosy, 9th ed. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1988./
4. Orabi KY, et al. Isolation and characterization of two antimicrobial agents from mace (Myristica fragrans). J Nat Prod 1991;54(3):856.
5. Kuo YH. Studies on several naturally occurring lignans. Kao-Hsiung I Hsueh Ko Hseuh Tsa Chih [ Kaohsiung J Med Sc ] 1989;5(11):621.
6. Zacchino SA, Badano H. Enantioselective synthesis and absolute configuration assignment of erythro-(3,4,5–trimethoxy-7–hydroxy-1'allyl-2',6'-dimethoxy)-8.0.4'-neolignan from mace ( Myristica fragrans ). J Nat Prod 1988;51:1261.
7. Chhabra SK, Rao AR. Transmammary modulation of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes in liever of mouse pups by mace (Myristica fragrans Houtt.). J Ethnopharmacol 1994;42(3):169.
8. Banerjee S, et al. Influence of certain essential oils on carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes and acid-soluble sulfhydryls in mouse liver. Nutr Cancer 1994;21(3):263.
9. Hashim S, et al. Modulatory effects of essential oils from spices on the formation of DNA adduct by aflatoxin B1 in vitro. Nutr Cancer 1994;21(2):169.
10. Singh A, Rao AR. Modulatory effect of Areca nut on the action of mace (Myristica fragrans, Houtt.) on the hepatic detoxification systems in mice. Food Chem Toxicol 1993;31(7):517.
11. Jannu LN, et al. Chemopreventive action of mace (Myristica fragrans, Houtt.) on DMBA-induced papillomagenesis in the skin of mice. Cancer Lett 1991;56(1):59.
12. Hussain SP, Rao AR. Chemopreventive action of mace (Myristica fragrans, Houtt.) on methylcholanthrene-induced carcinogenesis in the uterine cervix in mice. Cancer Lett 1991;56(3):231.
13. Kumari MV, Rao AR. Effects of mace (Myristica fragrans, Houtt.) on cytosolic glutathione S-transferase activity and acid soluble sulfhydryl level in mouse liver. Cancer Lett 1989;46(2):87.
14. Ozaki Y, et al. Antiinflammatory effect of mace, aril of Myristica fragrans Houtt., and its active principles. Jpn J Pharmacol 1989;49(2):155.
15. Saeki Y, et al. Antimicrobial action of natural substances on oral bacteria. Bull Tokyo Dental College 1989;30(3):129.
16. Nakamura N, et al. Studies on crude drugs effective on visceral larva migrans. V. The larvicidal principle in mace (aril of Myristica fragrans). Chem Pharm Bull 1988;36(7):2685.
17. Dooms-Goossens A, et al. Contact and systemic contact-type dermatitis to spices. Dermatol Clin 1990;8(1):89.
18. Abernethy MK, Becker LB. Acute nutmeg intoxication. Am J Emerg Med 1992;10(5):429.