sometimes add nutmeg to a quid for extra sensations, and mixing tobacco with nutmeg is a practice reported in Asia. Research indicates that human body chemistry converts part of a nutmeg dose into substances related to amphetamine, affecting mood and sometimes causing hallucinations. The effects from a dose can last three days. Overdose requiring medical intervention is possible, although only one fatality is recorded. Nutmeg has received mixed reviews as a recreational drug. Some people call it incomparable; others resort to it only as an act of desperation when nothing else is available. A favorable description says nutmeg is "capable of removing one completely from the world of reality in a hypnotic trance accompanied by golden dreams and euphoric bliss."1 In contrast, someone who used nutmeg together with marijuana received emergency hospital treatment for gagging, hot and cold flashes, numbness, blurred vision, double vision, triple vision, and difficulty in controlling movements—among other complaints. Persons who use nutmeg by itself have also reported bad experiences.
Drug interactions. In a mice experiment nutmeg boosted actions of alcohol and reduced those of dextroamphetamine. One authority describes nutmeg as a weak monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), and MAOIs interact badly with many drugs described in this book.
Cancer. A laboratory test using a nutmeg extract found evidence that it might cause cancer, and a nutmeg experiment with mice produced DNA changes that might be related to eventual cancer.
Pregnancy. Male mice that received nutmeg in an experiment did not show chromosome damage. A case report notes a normal full-term infant born to a woman who had experienced nutmeg poisoning during pregnancy, but pregnant women are advised to avoid using nutmeg as a drug.
Additional information. As with many other natural products, nutmeg's effects may be produced by the combination of hundreds of chemicals found in the substance. Researchers have identified several chemicals as likely causes of nutmeg's effects: elemicin, eugenol, myristicin, and safrole. Under laboratory conditions myristicin can be chemically converted to MDMA and safrole to MDA, but this conversion has never been detected in animals or humans. Body chemistry does convert myristicin into substances resembling amphetamine. Myristicin is found not only in nutmeg but in plants related to carrots. An experiment testing myristicin on rats found no poisonous result. Researchers found no evidence of cancer after dosing mice with the substance, but the study did not last long enough to reveal whether cancer would eventually develop. Myristicin's potential for causing birth defects is unknown. Safrole has a faint ability to promote cancer; pregnant women are advised to avoid using it as a drug.
Mace comes from the same seed as nutmeg does, but is a different spice. Folk medicine uses mace to reduce inflammation and pain; research indicates it can protect against some chemically caused cancers. Mace is routinely added to areca nut quids.
Additional scientific information may be found in:
Fras, I., and J.J. Friedman. "Hallucinogenic Effects of Nutmeg in Adolescent." New York State Journal of Medicine 69 (1969): 463-65.
Lewis, P.W., and D.W. Patterson. "Acute and Chronic Effects of the Voluntary Inhalation of Certain Commercial Volatile Solvents by Juveniles." Journal of Drug Issues 4 (1974): 172.
Lewis, W.H., and M.P.F. Elvin-Lewis. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1977. 408-10.
Panayotopoulos, D.J., and D.D. Chisholm. "Hallucinogenic Effect of Nutmeg." British Medical Journal 1 (1970): 754.
Sjoholm, A., A. Lindberg, and M. Personne. "Acute Nutmeg Intoxication." Journal of Internal Medicine 243 (1998): 329-31.
Van Gils, C., and P.A. Cox. "Ethnobotany of Nutmeg in the Spice Islands." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 42 (1994): 117-24.
Weiss, G. "Hallucinogenic and Narcotic-Like Effects of Nutmeg." Psychiatric Quarterly 34 (1960): 346-56.
1. W.H. Lewis and M.P.F. Elvin-Lewis, Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health
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