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So it's practical time and the laboratory seems to have assumed a personality of its own, an ominous one at that, as the chemistry sessions seem to be getting hotter than ever in tandem with the climate out there, eh? Well, well, I don't really have the authority to say 'no worry, no sweat; let not studies get you upset!' - I wish I were your college principal but then where's the guarantee that I won't turn into an academic sadist (a thousand apologies if any of you readers happen to hold the venerable position but you see, if trashing your good name is what it takes to get the attention of young scholars these days, so be it!) as well?! However, in such a case, the least I can (and will) do is to share some useful information that I picked up during my own college days with all you future scientists out there! So, here's a brief and easy set of instructions on how to extract trimyristin from nutmeg.

Isolation of Trimyristin from Nutmeg

Before we proceed towards the isolation procedure, let me give you a brief overview of what trimyristin is. It is a chemical derivative of myristic acid, a triglyceride to be specific. Myristic acid, in turn, is a saturated fatty acid and is found in abundance in nutmegs. In fact, the term myristic acid comes from Myristica fragrans which is the scientific name for the most common commercially available species of nutmeg. In fact, the genus to which nutmeg species belong is simply known as Myristica! Coming back to trimyristin (before this chemistry tutorial gets any more diverted and turns into a full-fledged botany lecture!), this ester (Oh! Did I miss telling you that? Sorry!) is the chief constituent of nutmeg butter, accounting for as much as 75% of its total composition.

Apart from nutmeg, trimyristin is also found in a lot of vegetable oils that have a high saturated fat content. Trimyristin does not dissolve in water, a characteristics it shares with various other fatty acids and oily compounds However, it dissolves quite easily in chloroform, ethanol, benzene, ether and dicloromethane. Now, as far as extraction of trimyristin from nutmeg is concerned, it is done using ground or powdered nutmeg and ether. Heat is applied to isolate the trimyristin from the nutmeg solids and it gets dissolved in the ether. Following are the details of how to go about it:-
  • Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the procedure, note down the things you'll need - about 5 grams of finely ground nutmeg, 30 ml of diethyl ether, a round bottom flask, a hydro cooled condenser, a metal block (preferably aluminum or copper), filter paper and a hot plate appliance.
  • Now, once you've assembled all the above mentioned ingredients and paraphernalia, let's begin by mixing the ground nutmeg with the diethyl ether in the round-bottomed flask. Fix the condenser to this nutmeg-diethyl ethanol mixture containing flask and secure it properly in the metal block.
  • Now, place this entire assembly of apparatuses upon a hot plate and heat for about 40-50 minutes. Remove the apparatus from the heating surface and separate the liquid by filtering into another flask or non metallic container using filter paper.
  • Pour a little ether over the nutmeg residue on the filter paper so that any diethyl ethanol traces clinging to it is washed down and mixed with the filtered liquid underneath.
  • Now, allow the filtrate to stand uncovered so that the ether evaporates, removing all traces of impurity from the isolated filtrate.
  • Allow the filtrate to cool and recrystallize and allow the resultant trimyristin to stand so that it gets air-dried.
After you have isolated trimyristin from nutmeg as per the above instructions, weigh the resultant extract, calculate the ratio to total nutmeg volume and jot down the percent extracted of trimyristin from 5 grams of nutmeg. That's how trimyristin is conventionally extracted from nutmeg in the laboratory using standard laboratory apparatuses. Since volatile inflammable substances (ether, ethanol) and heat are used in this procedure, be very careful while conducting this experiment. Take the necessary safety precautions and be patient and calm in order to avoid unfortunate accidents with chemicals and fire.