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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
March 2011

Traditional Uses for Mace

Mace has been used in several different traditional medicine systems for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, malaria and measles, and may act as a pain reliever. It has also been used in combination with other herbs as an aphrodisiac and galactagogue (lactation stimulant). However, at this time, high-quality human trials supporting the use of mace for any indication are lacking.

Arab medicine: According to Levey and Al-Khaledy's Medical Formulary of al-Samarqandī, mace was known as bisbas and was used in a compound to "strengthen the spirit." According to ethnobotanist Dr. James Duke, mace or nutmeg was also used as a carminative, digestive, narcotic (large doses) and tonic, and for digestion and stomach cramps.

Ayurveda: Both mace and nutmeg are used in aphrodisiac formulas with other herbs and spices to promote sexual desire and treat impotence. One preparation involves mixing many herbs (including nutmeg, mace, Indian thyme, clove, ginger, and more) with milk, and making candy balls with the mixture, to be taken twice daily. Another version mixes equal parts of ground mace, Mucuna, camphor, Argyreia, and Calamus with sugar, and taking one gram of the mixture with milk. Mace is also mixed with other herbs and taken for digestive problems. It is also purportedly useful for low-grade fevers.

Chinese medicine: Mace has the same medicinal uses as nutmeg. Nutmeg is typically used for its warming effects, to treat gastrointestinal disorders (abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea) and as an analgesic.

European medicine: The German Commission E listed nutmeg and mace for gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, flatulence, intestinal catarrh and spasms). Mace appears in the 1884 French Codex in the "Four Thieves Vinegar" recipe, which included oils of camphor, cinnamon, cloves, juniper, mace, mint, lavender, rue, sage and lemon. Often, this was combined with alcohol and acetic acid. The German Pharmacopoeia mentions tinctures of mace and the use of oil of mace in a Mixture oleoso-balsamica or Hoffman's Balsam of Life.

Indian medicine (general): Based on interviews with mothers in India, mace is a popular medicine used to treat measles, alone or in combination with other herbs. It has also been used to treat malaria and chewed to prevent halitosis.

Modern (Western) herbal medicine: Robert Bentley in Medicinal Plants: (nos. 147-227) Compositae to Thymelaceae mentions that mace is official in the Pharmacopeia of the United States. Bentley mentions that mace is basically used in the same manner as nutmeg; however, it is employed less for medicinal purposes and more as a condiment.

For more information about mace, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.


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