Nutmeg Cinnamon Ginger And Cloves

The spice box is such a constant source of ready domestic comforts

of a medicinal sort in every household that the more important, and

best known of its contents may well receive some consideration

when treating of Herbal Simples; though it will, of course, be

understood these spices are of foreign growth, and not indigenous


Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Cloves, claim particular notice in
br /> this respect.

Sinament, Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cloves,

And that gave me my jolly red nose.

Beaumont and Fletcher.

Cinnamon possesses positive medicinal as well as aromatic virtues.

What we employ as this spice consists of the inner bark of shoots

from the stocks of a Ceylon tree, first cultivated here in 1768.

Such bark chemically contains cinnamic acid, tannin, a resin, and

sugar, so that its continued use will induce constipation. The

aromatic and stimulating effects of Cinnamon have been long

known. It was freely given in England during the epidemic scourges

of the early and middle centuries, nearly every monastery keeping a

store of the cordial for ready use. The monks administered it in

fever, dysentery, and contagious diseases. And recent discovery in

the laboratory of M. Pasteur, the noted French bacteriologist, has

shown that Cinnamon possesses the power of absolutely destroying

all disease germs. Our ancestors, it would appear, had hit upon a

valuable preservative against microbes, when they infused

Cinnamon with other spices in their mulled drinks. Mr. Chamberland

says, no disease germ can long resist the antiseptic powder

of essence of Cinnamon, [391] which is as effective to destroy

microbes as corrosive sublimate.

By its warming astringency, it exercises cordial properties which are

most useful in arresting passive diarrhoea, and in relieving flatulent


Its volatile oil is procured from the bark, and likewise a tincture,

as well as an aromatic water of Cinnamon. For a sick qualmish

stomach either preparation is an excellent remedy, as the virtue of

the bark rests in this essential volatile oil. When obtained from the

fruit it is extremely fragrant, of thick consistence, and sometimes

made into candles at Ceylon, for the sole use of the king. The doses

are of the powdered bark from ten to twenty grains; of the oil from

one to five drops; of the tincture from half to one teaspoonful, and

of the distilled water from one to two tablespoonfuls. Our Queen is

known to be partial to the use of Cinnamon. Keats, the poet, wrote

of lucent syrups tinct. with Cinnamon. And Saint Francis of Sales

says in his Devout Life: With respect to the labour of teaching, it

refreshes and revives the heart by the sweetness it brings to those

who are engaged in it, as the Cinnamon does in Arabia Felix to

them who are laden with it. In toxic quantities of an injurious

amount, Cinnamon bark has produced haemorrhage from the bowels,

and nose bleeding. Therefore small doses of the diluted tincture

are well calculated to obviate these symptoms when presenting

themselves through illness.

The bark was formerly thought to stimulate the functions of the

womb, and of late it has come again into medical use for this

purpose. To check fluxes from that organ a teaspoonful of the

bruised bark should be infused in half a pint of boiling water, and a

tablespoonful given frequently when cool. Lozenges made [392]

with the essential oil are also medicinally available for the speedy

relief of sickness, and as highly useful against influenza. It is well

known that persons who live in Cinnamon districts have an

immunity from malaria.

Ginger (Zingiberis radix) is the root-stock of a plant grown in the

East and West Indies, and is scraped before importation. Its odour is

due to an essential oil, and its pungent hot taste to a resin. It was

known in Queen Elizabeth's reign, having been introduced by the

Dutch about 1566. Grene Gynger of almondes is mentioned in the

Paston Letters, 1444. When condited, says Gerard, it provoketh


This Green Ginger, which consists of the young shoots of the

rhizome, when boiled in syrup makes an excellent preserve.

Officinally from the dried and scraped rhizome are prepared a

tincture, and a syrup. If a piece of the root is chewed it causes a

considerable flow of saliva, and an application of powdered Ginger,

made with water into paste, against the skin will produce intense

tingling and heat. To which end it may be spread on paper and

applied to the forehead as a means for relieving a headache from

passive fulness. In India, Europeans who suffer from languid

indigestion drink an infusion of Ginger as a substitute for tea. For

gouty dyspepsia the root may be powdered in a mortar: and a

heaped teaspoonful of it should be then infused in boiling milk; to

be taken when sufficiently cool, for supper or at breakfast.

The dose of the powder is from ten to twenty grains; of the tincture

from a third of a teaspoonful to a teaspoonful, in water hot or cold;

of the syrup from one to two teaspoonfuls in water. Either

preparation is of service to correct diarrhoea, and to relieve weakly

chronic bronchitis. Also as admirably corrective of [393] chronic

constipation through general intestinal sluggishness, a vespertine

slice of good, old-fashioned Gingerbread made with brown treacle

and grated ginger may be eaten with zest, and reliance. There is a

street in Hull called The land of Ginger.

The habitat of the tree from which our Nutmeg comes is the

Molucca Islands, and the part of the nut which constitutes the Spice

is the kernel. This is called generically Nux moschata, or Mugget

(French Musque) a diminutive of musk, from its aromatic odour,

and properties. The Nutmeg is oval, or nearly round, of a brown

wrinkled aspect, with an aromatic smell, and a bitter fragrant taste.

Officinally the tree is named Myristica officinalis, and the oil

distilled from the Nutmeg in Britain is much superior to foreign oil.

Ordinarily as a condiment of a warming character the Nutmeg is

employed to correct cold indigestible food, or as a cordial addition

to negus: and medicinally for languid digestion, with giddiness and

flatulence, causing oppressed breathing. Its activity depends on the

volatile oil, contained in the proportion of six per cent. in the nut.

This when given at all largely is essentially narcotic. Four Nutmegs

have been known to completely paralyse all nervous sensibility, and

have produced a sort of wakeful unconsciousness for three entire

days, with loss of memory afterwards, and with more or less

paralysis until after eight days.

The Banda, or Nutmeg Islands in the Indian Ocean, are twelve in

number, and the strength of the Nutmeg in its season is said to

overcome birds of Paradise so that they fall helplessly intoxicated.

When taken to any excess, whether as a spice, or as a medicine, the

Nutmeg and its preparations are apt to cause giddiness, oppression

of the chest, stupor, and [394] delirium. A moderate dose of the

powdered Nutmeg is from five to twenty grains, but persons with a

tendency to apoplexy should abstain from any free use of this spice.

From two to six drops of the essential oil may be taken on sugar to

relieve flatulent oppression and dyspepsia, or from half to one

teaspoonful of the spirit of Nutmeg made by mixing one part of the

oil with forty parts of spirit of wine; this dose being had with one

or two tablespoonfuls of hot water, sweetened if desired.

A medicinal tincture is prepared (H.) from the kernel with spirit of

wine (not using the oil, nor the essence). This in small diluted doses

is highly useful for drowsiness connected with flatulent indigestion,

and a disposition to faintness: also for gout retrocedent to the

stomach. The dose is from five to ten drops with a spoonful of water

every half hour, or every hour until the symptoms are adequately

relieved. Against diarrhoea Nutmeg grated into warm water is very

helpful, and will prove an efficient substitute for opium in mild

cases. Externally the spirit of Nutmeg is a capital application to be

rubbed in for chronic rheumatism, and for paralysed limbs. The

butter of Nutmegs, or their concrete oil, is used in making plasters

of a warming, and stimulating kind. A drink that was concocted by

our grandmothers was Nutmeg tea. One Nutmeg would make a pint

of this tea, two or three cupfuls of which would produce a sleep of

many hours' duration. The worthy old ladies were wont to carry a

silver grater and Nutmeg case suspended from the waist on their

chatelaines. But in any large quantity the Nutmeg may produce

sleep of such a profundity as to prove really dangerous. Two

drachms of the powder have brought on a comatose sleep with some


[395] The Nutmeg contains starch, protein, and other simple

constituents, in addition to its stimulating principles. Mace is the

aromatic envelope of the Nutmeg, and possesses the same qualities

in a minor degree. Its infusion is a good warming medicine against

chronic cough, and moist bronchial asthma in an old person. Mace

is a membranaceous structure enveloping the Nutmeg, having a

fleshy texture, and being of a light yellowish-brown colour. It

supplies an allied essential volatile principle, which is fragrant and

cordial. If given three or four times during the twenty-four hours, in

a dose of from eight to twelve grains, crushed, or powdered Mace

will prove serviceable against long-continued looseness of the

bowels; but this dose should not be exceeded for fear of inducing


Cloves (from clavus, a nail), also found in the kitchen spice box,

and owning certain medicinal resources of a cordial sort, which are

quickly available, belong to the Myrtle family of plants, and are the

unexpanded flower buds of an aromatic tree (Caryophyllus),

cultivated at Penang and elsewhere. They contain a volatile oil

which, like that of Chamomile, although cordial, lowers nervous

sensibility, or irritability: also tannin, a gum resin, and woody

fibre. This volatile oil consists principally of eugenin with a

camphor, caryophyllin. The eugenic acid, with a strong odour of

cloves, is powerfully antiseptic and anti-putrescent. It reduces the

sensibility of the skin: and therefore the oil with lanolin is a

useful application for eczema.

Dr Burnett has lately taught (1895) that a too free use of Cloves will

bring on albuminuria; and that when this disease has supervened

from other causes, the dilute tincture of Cloves, third decimal

strength, will frequently do much to lessen the quantity of albumen

[396] excreted by the kidneys. From five to ten drops of this tincture

should be given with water three times a day.

Used in small quantities as a spice the Clove stimulates digestion,

but when taken more freely it deadens the susceptibility of the

stomach, lessens the appetite, and induces constipation. An infusion

of Cloves, made with half an ounce to a pint of water, and drank in

doses of a small wineglassful, will relieve the nausea and coldness

of flatulent indigestion. The oil put on cotton wool into the hollow

of a decayed tooth is a useful means for giving ease to toothache.

The dose of the oil is from one to five drops, on sugar, or in a

spoonful of milk. The odour of Cloves is aromatic, and the taste

pleasantly hot, but acrid. Half a tumbler of quite hot water poured

over half a dozen Cloves (which are to brew for a few minutes on

the hob, and then to be taken out), will often secure a good night to

a restless dyspeptic patient, if taken just before getting into bed. Or

if given cold before breakfast this dose will obviate constipation. In

Holland the oil of Cloves is prescribed with cinchona bark for ague.

Arthur Cecil's German medico in the Play advises his patient to rub

your pelly mit a Clove.

All-Spice (Pimento) is another common occupant of the domestic

spice box. It is popular as a warming cordial, of a sweet odour, and

a grateful aromatic taste; but being a native of South America,

grows with us only as a stove plant. The leaves and bark are full of

inflammable particles, whilst walks between Pimento trees are

odorous with a delicious scent. The name All-Spice is given because

the berries afford in smell and taste a combination of Cloves,

Juniper berries, Cinnamon and Pepper. The special qualities of the

Pimento reside in the rind of these berries; and this tree is the

Bromelia ananas, [397] named in Brazil Nana. An extract made

from the crushed berries by boiling them down to a thick liquor, is,

when spread on linen, a capital stimulating plaster for neuralgic or

rheumatic parts. About the physician in les Francais it was said

admiringly c'est lui qui a invente la salade d'Ananas. The essential

oil, as well as the spirit and the distilled water of Pimento, are

useful against flatulent indigestion and for hysterical paroxysms. This

Spice was formerly added to our syrup of buckthorn to prevent it

from griping. The berries are put into curry powder, and added to

mulled wines.