Scientific Name(S): The dried aril of Myristica fragrans Houtt. Family: Myristicaceae
Common Name(S): Mace, muscade (French), seed cover of nutmeg
Mace is the aril (the bright red, lacy covering) of the nutmeg seed shell. The mace is removed from the shell and its broken parts are known as blades.
Botany: 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. 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.
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 1 pounds of dried mace per tree. 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.
History: 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.
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
Side Effects of Mace
Large doses may produce acute intoxication. It may cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals.
Toxicology: The majority of the literature of the last decade continues to verify the possibility of acute intoxication possible with overdoses of nutmeg itself and of contact or systemic contact-type dermatitis to nutmeg as a spice. Very few, if any, articles appear in the recent literature specifically dealing with mace intoxication.
Summary: Mace continues to be used safely in small amounts as a spice flavoring for pound cakes, doughnuts, fish sauces and meat stews. Mace has been shown to possess potential anti-cancer or chemoprotective effects in several animal models. These have been stimulated, no doubt, by recent ethnobotanical and ethnopharmacological studies aimed at verifying human historical medical uses which range from the use of both nutmeg and mace for the treatment of diarrhea, mouth sores, insomnia and rheumatism. Some of these uses seem to have been verified in the studies mentioned above. However, recent human clinical supporting data are much needed. Attention should be paid to high doses of mace, since it may well produce similar effects known as nutmeg during acute poisoning (eg, hallucinations, palpitations, feelings of impending doom) and potential allergy.
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