December 24, 2001 |
For half a millennium, the aromatic little seed of the Myristica fragrans tree is said to have cured everything from boils and backaches to strokes and the plague. Arabs and Indians swear that it's an aphrodisiac. Malcolm X smoked it in jail when he ran out of marijuana. Wars were fought over it--including one that rendered the obscure New World island of Manhattan to the British. Today it's in toothpaste, perfume, sausages and soap--not to say countless cups of eggnog.