Once your baby is on a solid diet, you may consider adding several food items to their meals. Nutmeg for babies may be considered to improve the meals’ flavors, but is it safe?
Nutmeg is also called Jaiphal and is an aromatic spice obtained by powdering the dried seeds from the fruits of Myristica trees. The spice is known for its sweet taste and rich aroma. Additionally, it is considered to have some potential health-promoting properties.
Read this post to know the safety of nutmeg for infants, the right age to include nutmeg in your baby’s diet, its possible uses, and precautions to take while feeding it to babies.
Is Nutmeg (Jaiphal) Safe For Babies?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), nutmeg is generally recognized as safeto use as a food ingredient (1). However, there are no specific recommendations about its safety for infants. Therefore, consult a pediatrician before adding nutmeg to your baby’s diet.
When Can Babies Have Nutmeg?
If your pediatrician gives you a nod, you can feed small amounts of ground nutmeg as a flavoring agent or spice to babies older than six months. You can prepare nutmeg powder or paste using dried nutmeg seeds.
Purees, soups, stews, cereals, casseroles, drinks, baked items, and salad dressings are some foods where nutmeg can add flavor.
How Much Nutmeg Can Babies Consume?
According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), nutmeg intoxication can occur after ingesting as little as one to four teaspoons (5 to 20g) of ground nutmeg in one serving (2) (3). Therefore, use no more than a pinch or two of nutmeg powder or paste in a single portion of baby food.
Nutritional Value Of Nutmeg (Jaiphal)
Nutmeg powder contains certain nutrients in small amounts that contribute to the meal’s overall nutritional value. A teaspoon (2.2g) of nutmeg powder offers 4.69mg of phosphorus, 4mg of calcium, 4.03mg of magnesium, and 7.7mg of potassium. It also provides trace amounts of folate and vitamin A (4).
Possible Benefits Of Nutmeg For Babies
Nutmeg contains several bioactive compounds possessing therapeutic properties. Its use is common in folk and alternative medicine to treat ailments and offer overall health benefits (5).
- Relieve indigestion: The use of nutmeg to treat digestive disorders is prevalent in traditional medicine. A freshly prepared decoction of nutmeg with honey is known to relieve gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion (6). This decoction may be useful for babies older than 12 months who can consume honey (7).
- Improve appetite: Nutmeg has carminative effects, helping relieve flatulence, gas, and bloating (6). These effects may also help promote appetite in babies.
- Support immunity: Nutmeg has several bioactive compounds, such as eugenol, isoeugenol, and methoxyeugenol, with antioxidant properties. Besides, it has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties that may boost an infant’s immunity in the long run (6) (8).
- Promote oral health: Nutmeg has antimicrobial properties that could promote oral health by fighting off oral problems, such as bad breath, cavities, and bleeding gums. It can also relieve toothache through its pain-relieving properties attributed to eugenol (6) (8) (9).
- Aid in skincare: Topical application of a paste of nutmeg powder with curd, raw milk, or honey to improve skin texture is an age-old skincare. Its use to treat skin infection is also prevalent in traditional medicine (5) (10).
Most alternative uses of nutmeg are colloquial, and little is known about its safety in babies. Therefore, consult a doctor before using nutmeg as a home remedy in babies.
How To Select And Store Nutmeg?
You can purchase whole or ground nutmeg powder. Consider the following points while purchasing nutmeg for babies.
Tips for selecting and storing whole nutmeg
- Prefer to buy the whole, dried nutmeg seed if you use nutmeg occasionally. It will ensure you always get a freshly grated, flavorful spice for use.
- Buy from a reputable and trusted store to ensure the product’s quality.
- Discard produce that looks discolored, water-logged, or moldy. A nutmeg with tiny holes indicates pest infestation.
- Buy nutmeg that is hard to touch, has a rough surface, and feels heavy for its size. These are the features of a good-quality nutmeg.
- Store nutmeg in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture to keep it effectively useful for years.
Tips for selecting and storing ground nutmeg
- Always buy ground nutmeg in small quantities as the spice in its ground form loses its aroma and flavor quickly.
- Buy ground nutmeg from a trusted manufacturer and store. Powdered nutmeg has higher chances of adulteration or contamination.
- Check for “manufacturing” or “to be used by” date for proper storage.
- Store the powder in an airtight container and keep the container in a cool, dry place away from heat, direct sunlight, and moisture.
- Refrigerate the opened pack or container for longer shelf-life.
Precautions To Take While Feeding Nutmeg To Babies
Below are some precautions to observe while feeding nutmeg to babies and toddlers.
- Before grating the whole nutmeg for use, wash it thoroughly under cold running water to remove dust and dirt that might be present on its surface.
- Grate the whole nutmeg to make its smooth paste, ensure no lumps or chunks are left.
- Every time you use ground nutmeg, rub a small amount of powder between your fingers and smell. If there is a faint aroma or no aroma, it usually signifies that the powder has become stale.
- Mix only a pinch or two of nutmeg paste or powder to a serving of baby food. Feeding nutmeg in excess can increase the risk of nutmeg intoxication (3).
- Preferably feed nutmeg with a food item that your baby is already consuming comfortably. It will help identify intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy towards nutmeg easily.
- If your baby looks uncomfortable after ingesting nutmeg, discontinue feeding and try again later.
- Nutmeg allergy is rare but possible (11). Consult a pediatrician before feeding nutmeg to the baby, especially if they have a family history of food and seed allergies.
- Keep the ground nutmeg away from your child’s reach to avoid accidental ingestion.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does nutmeg make the baby sleep?
Research indicates that nutmeg powder may improve sleep and help alleviate insomnia (12). However, there is no research on babies, and more targeted research is needed to determine the effectiveness of nutmeg in improving sleep.
2. Can I add nutmeg to the milk?
You can add a pinch of nutmeg powder to milk and serve it to babies older than 12 months. Speak to your doctor before feeding nutmeg to your baby this way.
3. Is nutmeg good for breastfeeding?
Nutmeg may have anti-progesterone effects, which may (theoretically) support lactation. However, consuming too much nutmeg during nursing can cause anticholinergic intoxication, which may also reduce breast milk supply by inhibiting growth hormone and oxytocin secretion (13) (14).
4. How can I use nutmeg for cough?
According to folk and traditional medicine, one can add a pinch of nutmeg powder or paste to baby food and feed them for cough relief. However, no clinical indication exists to prove the effectiveness of nutmeg in treating cough.
5. Does nutmeg stop diarrhea?
In folk medicine, nutmeg is used to treat gastrointestinal issues, such as flatulence and diarrhea (15). However, very little clinical evidence exists to support nutmeg’s anti-diarrheal effects.
Nutmeg is a fragrant spice used as a flavoring agent in food. A small quantity of nutmeg paste or powder may be added to baby foods such as purees, soups, stews, porridges, cereals, drinks, and baked items once they are six months old. However, ensure you procure the whole dried nutmeg seed from a trusted source, not the powdered form, to ensure purity. The health benefits of nutmeg for babies include resolving digestive issues and promoting oral health. Nutmeg rarely causes allergies, but you should look out for any signs of discomfort in your baby.
- Nutmeg or Jaiphal is usually considered safe for babies, though the safe quantities are not specified.
- This flavoring agent contains some minerals and vitamins that may provide indigestion relief and improved appetite.
- Add only a pinch or two of nutmeg powder or paste in a portion of baby food and discontinue if the baby shows any sign of discomfort.
2. Nutmeg; AACC
3. Jamie E. Ehrenpreis et al.; Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001–2011; NCBI
4. Spices, nutmeg, ground, FDC ID: 171326; Fooddata Central; USDA
5. Ehab A. Abourashed and Abir T. El-Alfy; Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of the secondary metabolites of nutmeg (MyristicafragransHoutt.); NCBI
6. NamraNaeem et al.; Nutmeg: A review on uses and biological properties; Researchgate
7. Infant botulism; CDC
8. FelitaDhaslin et al.; Antioxidant, antimicrobial, and health benefits of nutmeg; JPR solutions
9. KritikaJangid et al.; Achievable therapeutic effects of myristicafragrans (NUTMEG) on periodontitis a short review; Researchgate
10. V.P. Samaranayake et al.; Efficacy of Nutmeg as a Face Cream an Mukhsdushika; Researchgate
11. Nutmeg; Anaphylaxis Campaign
12. Prathibha C K et al.; Managing Insomnia With Jathiphala (Myristica Fragrans) Powder – A Pilot Study; NCBI
13. Nutmeg; NCBI
14. Cyclopentolate; NCBI
15. Ehab A. Abourashed and Abir T. El-Alfy; Chemical diversity and pharmacological significance of the secondary metabolites of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.); NCBI