Nutmeg is a popular spice derived from the seeds of the tropical evergreen tree Myristica fragrans, which is native to Indonesia (1). It can be purchased whole, but it is most commonly marketed as a ground spice. It has a toasty, nutty flavor and is commonly used in pastries and curries, as well as drinks such as chai tea. Nutmeg includes a remarkable assortment of strong components that may help prevent disease and boost overall health. However nutmeg has a dark side, let’s explore the Benefits Of Nutmeg and its Side Effects
The seeds from which nutmeg is made are high in plant chemicals that work as antioxidants in your body, despite their small size (1).
Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells from free radical harm. These are molecules with an unpaired electron, making them reactive and unstable (2).
Oxidative stress happens when your body’s free radical levels rise too high. It’s linked to the beginning and advancement of a variety of chronic illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological diseases (3).
Antioxidants prevent cellular damage and keep your free radical levels in check by neutralizing free radicals.
Plant pigments like cyanidin, essential oils like phenylpropanoids and terpenes, and phenolic components like protocatechuic, ferulic, and caffeic acids all contain antioxidants in nutmeg (1).
In one animal study, rats given isoproterenol, a drug known to cause severe oxidative stress, were given nutmeg extract, which avoided cellular damage.
The therapy caused severe tissue damage and cell death in rats who did not receive the nutmeg extract. Rats given nutmeg extract, on the other hand, did not have these side effects (4).
Nutmeg extract has also been proven in test tubes to have strong antioxidant properties against free radicals (5), (6), (7), (8).
Has anti-inflammatory properties:
Chronic inflammation has been related to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis (9).
Monoterpenes, such as sabinene, terpineol, and pinene, are anti-inflammatory chemicals found in nutmeg. These may aid in the reduction of inflammation in the body and benefit persons suffering from inflammatory diseases (1).
Furthermore, the spice’s vast range of antioxidants, such as cyanidin and phenolic compounds, have potent anti-inflammatory activities (1), (10).
One study injected rats with an inflammation-producing solution and then gave some of them nutmeg oil. Rats that consumed the oil experienced significant reductions in inflammation, inflammation-related pain, and joint swelling (11).
Nutmeg is thought to reduce inflammation by inhibiting enzymes that promote it (11), (12) . However, more research into its anti-inflammatory properties in people is needed.
May boost libido:
Nutmeg has been shown in animal experiments to improve sexual desire and performance.
Male rats given high dosages of nutmeg extract (227 mg per pound or 500 mg per kg of body weight) had significantly higher sexual activity and sexual performance time than a control group in one study (13).
In a similar study, giving male mice the same high dose of nutmeg extract increased their sexual activity substantially more than a control group (14).
Researchers are still unsure how the spice improves libido. Some speculate that its propensity to excite the neurological system, as well as its high content of strong plant chemicals is responsible for these effects (13).
Nutmeg is used to treat sexual issues in traditional medicine, such as the Unani system of medicine in South Asia. However, there is a scarcity of studies on its impact on human sexual health (14), (15).
Has antibacterial properties:
Nutmeg has been demonstrated to have antibacterial properties against microorganisms that are potentially dangerous.
Dental cavities and gum disease are caused by bacteria such as Streptococcus Mutans and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans.
Nutmeg extract was found to have substantial antibacterial activity against this and other bacteria in a test tube investigation, including Porphyromonas gingivalis. Cavities and gum irritation are known to be caused by these bacteria (16).
Nutmeg has also been discovered to suppress the growth of pathogenic E. coli bacterium strains such as O157, which can cause serious disease and even death in people (1), (17).
While it’s evident that nutmeg has antibacterial qualities, further human research is needed to see if it may treat or prevent bacterial infections in humans.
May benefit various health conditions:
Despite the lack of evidence, studies show that nutmeg has the following effects:
- Heart health may be improved. Although human research is scarce, animal studies demonstrate that ingesting high-dose nutmeg supplements lowered heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels (18).
- Could improve your mood. Nutmeg extract was discovered to have strong antidepressant effects in both mice and rats in rodent trials. To see if nutmeg extract has the same impact on humans, more research is needed (19),(20).
- Blood sugar control may be improved. Treatment with high-dose nutmeg extract decreased blood sugar levels and improved pancreatic function in rats, according to a study (21).
However, significant doses of nutmeg extract were used to investigate these health effects in animals.
To discover whether high-dose supplements of the spice are safe and effective in humans, more research is needed.
Nutmeg Spice Is versatile
This versatile spice has been traditionally used in a number of dishes. It can be used alone or in combination with other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander.
Its warm, sweet flavor makes it a popular addition to delicacies including pies, cakes, cookies, bread, fruit salads, and custards.
Nutmeg has been used to add depth and intrigue to starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin,
Also used in hot or cold drinks like apple cider, hot chocolate, chai tea, turmeric lattes, and smoothies..
Side Effects Of Nutmeg
Myristica fragrans, popularly known as nutmeg, is a classic cooking spice with a toasty, sweet flavor.
The nutmeg tree can be found throughout Indonesia. This tree produces a nutmeg seed-containing fruit. The seed can be dried for weeks after the fruit has been harvested. This dried nut can then be used to make the popular spice.
Nutmeg’s most common culinary applications include:
- baked goods such as puddings and pies
- savory dishes and sauces
- classic drinks like eggnog
You may have also heard that nutmeg can make you feel high. While this is accurate, the story does not end there.
Let’s take a look at the science behind the “nutmeg high,” as well as the dangers of consuming this spice recreationally.
What is myristicin?
Myristicin is the molecule that causes the “high” that nutmeg produces. Myristicin is a naturally occurring chemical found in the essential oils of plants such as parsley, dill, and nutmeg (22).
Different spices contain myristicin as well. It makes up the majority of the chemical makeup of nutmeg oil and is the spice’s most abundant component. The breakdown of myristicin in the human body releases a chemical that affects the sympathetic nervous system (23).
Peyote is another well-known herb whose constituent, mescaline, works similarly to nutmeg’s myristicin. Both mescaline and myristicin affect the CNS by increasing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine levels.
Side effects such as hallucinations, dizziness, nausea, and more are caused by this action on the CNS.
Effects of nutmeg intoxication:
Nutmeg intoxication has received little research. However, there are a few research and case reports on some of the serious side effects of too much myristicin consumption.
Nutmeg “intoxication” was first reported in the 1500s by Trusted Source after a pregnant woman ate more than 10 nutmeg nuts. The effects of myristicin from nutmeg on the central nervous system were not studied until the nineteenth century (24).
An 18-year-old female complained of nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, and dry mouth, among other symptoms, in one case report. She didn’t have any hallucinations, although she did describe herself as being in a trance-like state (25).
Her symptoms began 30 minutes after she drank about 50 grams (g) of nutmeg in the form of a milkshake.
A 37-year-old woman had signs of myristicin poisoning after taking only two teaspoons (approximately 10 grams) of nutmeg in a much more recent case study. Dizziness, bewilderment, grogginess, and an excessively dry mouth were among her other symptoms.
The symptoms appeared within hours in both cases and lasted for about 10 hours. Both people were released after being observed and recovered completely.
Although these cases appear to be uncommon, the Illinois Poison Center conducted a 10-year study of the literature and found over 30 reported cases of nutmeg poisoning. The data was examined for both purposeful and inadvertent exposures, as well as pharmacological interactions that resulted in toxicity (26).
The study indicated that over half of the occurrences were deliberate, with only 17 cases being inadvertent. Minors under the age of 13 made up the greatest group of people who were unknowingly exposed to nutmeg intoxication.
In a 10-year analysis, the following were the most prevalent symptoms:
- dry mouth
- seizure (in two cases)
Respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal distress were among the other major adverse effects.
Dangers of nutmeg poisoning:
While nutmeg may appear to be a simple method to get high, myristicin is a highly strong and deadly chemical when used in excessive quantities.
There are far more serious consequences of taking too much nutmeg than the short-term effects of drunkenness. Toxic doses of myristicin have caused organ failure in certain people. When combined with other substances, nutmeg overdose has been connected to death in previous situations.
Nutmeg can be used safely in little amounts in cooking. The majority of recipes only call for 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg per serving. These recipes are frequently divided into many pieces, making nutmeg exposure minor.
According to the Illinois Poison Center’s case studies, just 10 grams (about 2 tablespoons) of nutmeg is enough to trigger poisoning symptoms. Those symptoms grow more severe with doses of 50 grams or more (27).
Nutmeg overdose, like any other substance, can occur regardless of the manner of administration. The diverse ways of intake can alter how soon the active substances reach the brain, according to the University of Utah’s drug delivery database.
One of the quickest routes of delivery is inhalation or smoking. The fastest method is to inject a medication straight into a vein, while inhalation is frequently considered the second-fastest method.
Oral administration of a medicine or chemical is the most time-consuming mode of delivery.
As a result, those who opt to employ alternative ways of delivery, such as breathing or injecting, have an increased risk of myristicin poisoning.
Though nutmeg is unlikely to cause harm in moderate doses, it can have negative side effects when taken in large amounts.
Myristicin and safrole are two chemicals found in it. They can produce hallucinations and lack of muscle coordination when consumed in high amounts.
Nutmeg is used recreationally to generate hallucinations and a “high” feeling. It’s frequently used with other hallucinogens, increasing the likelihood of serious adverse effects (28).
Between 2001 and 2011, 32 cases of nutmeg poisoning were documented in Illinois, the United States. The deliberate consumption of nutmeg for its psychedelic effects was responsible for 47 percent of these cases (28).
These hazardous effects are assumed to be caused by myristicin; the major component of the essential oil found in nutmeg that has potent psychedelic qualities (29).
Intoxication from nutmeg has been observed in people who ate 5 grams of nutmeg, which is around 0.5–0.9 mg of myristicin per pound (1–2 mg per kg) of body weight (30).
Nutmeg poisoning can induce dangerous symptoms like agitation, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, and rapid heartbeat. When mixed with other medicines, it can possibly be fatal (31), (32).
Furthermore, research in mice and rats has indicated that long-term use of large doses of nutmeg supplements causes organ damage. However, it’s uncertain whether people would be affected in the same way (33), (34).
It’s worth noting that the poisonous effects of nutmeg are tied to high doses of the spice, not the little amounts commonly used in the kitchen (30).
Avoid taking large amounts of nutmeg and do not use it as a recreational drug to avoid these possibly hazardous negative effects.
What Are Nutmeg Alternatives?
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