Natural Perfumes NUTMEG and MACE


07/12/13 11:28:06 (10 comments)

by: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Botanical NameMyristica fragrans
Common Name – Nutmeg, mace

Riddle a riddle: "The lady in a boat with a red and black skirt"
Answer: Nutmeg and Mace

History and Origin

The nutmeg tree provides two spices from a single plant, Nutmeg and Mace. Nutmeg is the seed kernel located inside the fruit and mace is the red lacy covering (aril) on the kernel. Myristica fragrans tree is native from the Banda Island or Spice Island of Indonesia. It is also cultivated in Sumatra, French Guiana, Penang Island and Southern India, especially in Kerala. It is believed that nutmeg seed was sold by Arab traders to the Europeans at a very high price, as a valuable spice.

About Tree

The tree is about 25 feet high, and has a greyish-brown smooth bark that contains watery pink or red sap. The pointed dark green leaves are arranged alternately along the branches. The upper leaf surfaces are shiny. The typical tree is unisexual-dioecious with male and female flowers on different trees.

Flowers and fruits occur on the trees all the year round. The flowers are most abundant during the months of April and May, and throughout November and December. The flowers are creamish-yellow in appearance, waxy and fleshy, very fragrant and may measure up to 1 cm in length. The nutmeg fruit matures to fleshy and pendulous. It fatues one seeded drupe, which is broadly pyriform, yellow, smooth, 6-9 cm long and almost as much broad.


Nutmeg essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from dried seeds.

Nutmeg volatile oil is a mixture of terpenes and alkenylbenzene derivatives. Camphene, elemicin, eugenol, isoelemicin, isoeuglenol, methoxyeugenol and elimicin, which are the main Bioactive compounds of M. fragrans seed essential oil.

Mace, the dried seed, covers (Aril) of M. fragrans. Its opulent aroma is due the presence of terpenes.

 The seed contains 7 to 14% essential oil and about 30% fixed oil. It contains the same aromatic compounds as nutmeg, but in different amounts. There are mainly monoterpenes (87.5%), monoterpene alcohols (5.5%), and other aromatics (7%). Like nutmeg essential oil, the main constituents of mace essential oil are sabinene, α-pinene, myrcene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, terpinen-4-ol, myristicin, γ-terpinene and safrole.

Blends Well With: Black Pepper, Rosemary, Geranium, Orange and Clary Sage

Odor Profile

Nutmeg has a strong, peculiar and delightful rich/sharp, spicy, sweet and musky aroma. Nutmeg has a slightly sweeter flavor while mace has a more delicate flavor.


In the winter season we drink Masala tea with the spicy and warm flavor of mace and nutmeg. It helps to protect from the cold due to its warm nature. I am very familiar with the aroma and taste of the nutmeg fruit.

Nutmeg seed powder can be sprinkled on apple sauce, mango sauce, grapefruit, melon, canned peaches, pears, pineapples, citruses, fruit and cottage cheese, stewed fruits.

The large quantity and variety of aromatic compounds in the kernel and aril of the nutmeg fruit can be utilized in various ways. Thus, they are widely used as flavorings in the Food industry, and are prized for their numerous health benefits.

Products of nutmeg and mace in the form of oleoresins, butter and essential oil, also used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.




Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Dr. Chandra Shekhar is a botanist, plant pathologist and nature-loving person. Dr. Shekkar works as an Assistant Scientific Officer at the National Institute of Plant Health Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Hyderabad, India.

A Fragrantica writer since 2011, Dr. Shekhar contributes educational content about raw materials (plants).

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I bought whole nutmeg (seeds) from the spice isle and I keep one of them in my bag for a quick pick-me-up. This is such an amazing note (and plant). It looks more like a nut to me, and it smells peppery, warm and woody. I wonder what it would be like to just let one of these seeds soak in carrier oil with added essential oils, such as rose and labdanum. I'd love to make my own perfumed oil. Something to find out, I suppose! :)


I bought mace together with nutmeg and many different spices while was on my holiday in India and was always wonder what these funny mace are:)-and now I am reading about them. I have nutmeg, I have mace, I have aniseeds, I have cinnamon and vanilla-shell I prepare some perfumes myself? Would be nice:)But I love pine, Vetiver and pineapple-so need to do more different perfumes I believe:)


How beautiful they are in their natural state !!!
[And how hallucinogenic nutmeg can be, in large doses when ingested !]

Thank you, Dr. G !


Thank you for this very informative article! I have never seen a nutmeg tree, nor did I know what the fruits looked like. Now I will go on a hunt for some mace, because I really want to know how that tastes and smells!


Thanks for this. There are Beautiful nutmeg groves in Grenada, Jamaica, and Trinidad, but many were damaged by recent hurricanes. I love nutmeg, have been wearing Caron's Violette Précieuse this week, I became more aware of the subtle nutmeg with each wearing. I think the nutmeg note is one of the reasons I love Mugler's Ice*Men.

Givenchy has a wonderful nutmeg, at it's best in Organza, but also in some of the Harvest flankers. And of course I am smitten with Houbigant Orangers en Fleurs, where nutmeg really works with the orange/orange blossom.

Having read this wonderfully interesting and informative article, I suspect I am self medicating with the nutmeg as aromatherapy.


i detect a lot of mace in guerlain derby vintage. although its not listed in notes.


Wow !
Thank you Dr Gupta and Fragrantica for this delightig informative article of these ancient exotic spices , keep up the good work !.


I had seen whole dried nutmeg seed kernels, but never knew that mace came from the 'arils' surrounding the seed. Thanks!


I also have discovered mace quite recently, and now prefer it to nutmeg ;o) It smells and tastes nicer.

Fruit on the tree looks like plum ;o)


I have only ever seen the powdered nutmeg used in American cooking, and have never seen mace, so I was unfamiliar with what the plant actually looked like and how the two spices differed. As always, an informative and interesting article. Thank you, Dr. Gupta!


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