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The Chinese term rou doukou has generally been taken to mean ‘nutmeg’. This identification dates from the nineteenth century. However, there is reason to think that rou doukou was originally not nutmeg, but the fruits of a plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Early descriptions and illustrations of rou doukou are clearly not of nutmeg: in Chinese pharmacopoeias, it is usually listed with herbs, not trees. The earliest reference to nutmeg is probably in the Zhu fan zhi of 1225. However, most Chinese references to rou doukou long after that date still refer to a plant of the ginger family.

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