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Nutmeg FAQ
« on: February 15, 2017, 10:19:47 pm »
                                      Nutmeg FAQ

          This is the nutmeg factfile, compiled by me. Currently it contains
          the following excerpts about nutmeg and its effective constituent,
          myristicin. Each excerpt begins with + sign in the first column.
          File contains ^L's (formfeeds) to facilitate its printing on the
          printers which have about sixty lines per page.

          Feel free to add more information to this file.

            ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, Part VII Micropedia.
              General information about nutmeg, but mentions nothing about
              its psychoactive properties. (Why ?)

            UUSI TIETOSANAKIRJA (in Finnish and in English).
              These tell some chemical and medical facts about myristicin
              and related substances.

            BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL 1970 1, 21 March 1970, page 754.
            NEW YORK STATE JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, February 1, 1969, pages 463-465.
              Two interesting case studies about the nutmeg intoxication
              and references.

              And finally, some information by William Burroughs.

          + ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, Part VII Micropedia:

            nutmeg, spice consisting of the seed of the Myristica fragrans,
            a tropical, dioecious evergreen tree native to the Moluccas
            or Spice Islands of Indonesia. Nutmeg has a characteristic,
            pleasant fragrance and slightly warm taste; it is used to
            flavour many kinds of baked goods, confections, puddings,
            meats, sausages, sauces, vegetables, and such beverages as
            eggnog. Grated nutmeg has been used as a sachet; the Romans
            used it as incense.

            Around 1600 it became important as an expensive commercial
            spice of the Western world and was subject of Dutch plots
            to keep prices high and of English and French counterplots
            to obtain fertile seeds for transplantation. The nutmegs
            sold whole were dipped in lime to prevent their growth.

            The tree is cultivated in the Moluccas and the West Indies
            principally, and elsewhere with varying success. The trees
            may reach about 65 feet (20 metres) tall. They yield fruit
            8 years after sowing, reach their prime in 25 years, and bear
            fruit for 60 years or longer. The stands on the Moluccas
            thrive in the shade under groves of lofty trees. The nutmeg
            fruit is a pendulous drupe, similar in appearance to an apricot.
            When fully mature it splits in two, exposing a crimson-coloured
            aril, the mace, surrounding a single shiny,
            brown seed, the nutmeg. The pulp of the fruit may be eaten
            locally. After collection, the aril-enveloped nutmegs are
            conveyed to curing areas where the mace is removed, flattened
            out, and dried. The nutmegs are dried gradually in the sun and
            turned twice daily over a period of six to eight weeks. During
            this time the nutmeg shrinks away from its hard seed coat
            until the kernels rattle in their shells when shaken. The
            shell is then broken with a wooden truncheon and the nutmegs
            are picked out. Dried nutmegs are grayish-brown ovals with
            furrowed surfaces. Large ones may be about 1.2 inches long
            and 0.8 inch in diameter.

            Nutmeg and mace contain 7 to 14 percent essential oil,
            the principal components of which are pinene,
            camphene, and dipentene, all having the empirical formula
            C10H16. Nutmeg on expression yields about 24 to 30 percent
            fixed oil called nutmeg butter, or oil of mace, the principal
            component of which is trimyristin, C45H86O6. The oils are
            used as condiments and carminatives and to scent soaps and
            perfumes. An ointment of nutmeg butter has been used as a
            counterirritant and in treatment of rheumatism.

            The name nutmeg is also applied in different countries
            to other fruits or seeds: the Jamaica, or calabash, nutmeg
            derived from Monodora myristica; the Brazilian nutmeg from
            Cryptocarya moschata; the Peruvian nutmeg from Laurelia
            aromatica; the Madagaskar, or clove, nutmeg from Ravensara
            aromatica; and the California, or stinking, nutmeg from
            Torreya californica.


            myristic acid
              trivial name for tetradecanoic acid, the 14-carbon,
              straight-chain unsaturated fatty acid.
               a genus of trees of tropical
              countries. M. fragrans Houtt. (Myristicaceae), the nutmeg
              tree, is the source of myristica. M. ocuba is the source
              of ocuba wax.
              nutmeg; the dried ripe seed of Myristica fragrans Houtt.
              (Myristicaceae) deprived of its seed coat and arillode and
              with or within a coating of lime. It is the source of nutmeg
              oil, which is used as a flavoring agent in pharmaceutical
              preparations. It has stimulating aromatic, carminative,
              and psychomimetic (sp? psychotomimethic?) properties.
              (carminative = flatulence relieving.)
              a fragrant eleopten, C10H14, from nutmeg (myristica) oil.
              a stearopten, or camphor, C10H16O, from nutmeg (myristica) oil.
              chemical name: glyceryl trimyristate, C3H5(C14H27O2)3, found
              in spermaceti and many vegetable oils and fats, especially
              coconut oil and fixed nutmeg (myristica) oil.


              A naturally occurring methylenedioxyphenyl compound found in
              nutmeg. It has been suggested that myristicin may be
              responsible, in whole or in part, for the toxicity of nutmeg.
              The spice (5-15g) causes symptoms similar to atropine
              poisoning: flushing of skin, tachycardia, absence of
              salivation, and excitation of the central nervous system.
              Euphoria and hallucinations have given rise to abuse of this
              material. As a methylenedioxyphenyl compound, myristicin
              gives rise to a type III spectrum with reduced cytochrome
              P-450 and can inhibit monooxygenations catalyzed by this
              cytochrome. See also AMPHETAMINES; CYTOCHROME P-450, OPTICAL

            (These have exactly the same text.)


              A toxic, crystalline, safrole derivative present in star
            anise, parsley seed oil, and nutmeg oil. When ingested in
            large quantities, it can cause convulsions, hallucinations,
            tachycardia, and possibly death.

          + UUSI TIETOSANAKIRJA 14 sivu 342 (in Finnish)

            Myristisiini, 5-metoksi-safroli, C11H12O3, kellert{v{,
            voimakkaan hajuinen, veteen liukenematon, alkoholiin ja
            eetteriin liukeneva |ljy, sulamisp. < -20 C, kiehumap. 149.5 C
            (15 mm:n paineessa). M:a on persiljassa sek{ muskottikukissa
            ja -p{hkin|iss{.

            My humble translation to English:

            Myristicin, 5-metoxy-safrole, C11H12O3, a yellowish,
            strong-odoured oil, insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol and
            in ether, melting point < -20 degrees centigrade, boiling point 149.5
            degrees centigrade (in 15 mm. pressure ?). There is myristicin in
            parsley, in mace and in nutmeg.



            Muscade; Myristica; Noz Moscada; Nuez Moscada; Nux Moschata.

            Pharmacopoeias. In Egypt., Port., Span., and Swiss. In
            B.P.C. 1973 which also includes Powdered Nutmeg.

            The dried kernels of the seeds of Myristica Fragrans


            Nutmeg Oil (BAN, USAN).
            Atherisches Muskat|l; Esencia de Nuez Moscada;
            Essencia de Moscada; Essence de Muscade; Myristica Oil;
            Oleum Myristicae.

            CAS 0 8008-45-5.

            Pharmacopoeias. In Arg., Aust., and Br. Also in U.S.N.F.

            A volatile oil obtained by distillation from nutmeg. It is
            colourless, pale yellow or pale green liquid with an colour
            and taste of nutmeg. It is available as East Indian Nutmeg
            Oil and West Indian Nutmeg Oil.
            East Indian oil is soluble 1 in 3 of alcohol (90%), West
            Indian 1 in 4. Store at a temperature not exceeding 25 degrees
            in well-filled airtight containers. Protect from light.

            STANDARD FOR NUTMEG OILS. British Standard Specifications
            for East Indian and West Indian Nutmeg Oil (BS 2999/37/38: 1971)
            are published by the British Standards Institution.

            Adverse Effects
            Nutmeg, taken in large doses may cause nausea and vomiting,
            flushing, dry mouth, tachycardia, stimulation of the central
            nervous system possibly with epileptiform convulsions, miosis,
            mydriasis, euphoria, and hallucinations.

            Within 4 hours of taking 28 g of nutmeg in water and orange
            juice, a 19-year-old woman felt cold and shivery. This was
            followed after 6 to 8 hours by severe vomiting accompanied by
            hallucinations. For a week she had poor concentration and was
            disorientated. The hallucinogen in nutmeg was believed to be
            myristicin. - D. J. Panayotopoulos and D. D. Chisholm (letter),
            Br. med. J., 1970, 1, 754. A similar report. - R. A. Faguet
            and K. F. Rowland, Am. J. Psychiat., 1978, 135, 860.

            Within 3 days of receiving ground nutmeg 9 teaspoonfuls daily
            to control the diarrhoea associated with nodullary carcinoma
            of the thyroid, a patient complained of dry eyes and mouth,
            blurred vision, dizziness, tingling, and feelings of
            depersonalisation and remoteness. The symptoms gradually
            subsided as the dose was reduced. - G. S. Venables et al.
            (letter), Br. med. J., 1976, I, 96.

            Ingestion of freshly ground nutmeg 1.5 to 4 g three to four
            times daily for 2 days by 2 subjects produced constipation,
            but no aspirin-like effect on biphasic platelet aggregation
            was noted. Both subjects also felt light-headed, slightly
            disorientated, occassionally nauseated, flushed, and had
            nasal congestion and very dry mouths; pupil size was
            unaffected. - W. H. Dietz and M. J. Stuart (letter),
            New Engl. J. Med., 1976, 294, 503.

            Uses and Administration
            Nutmeg and nutmeg oil are aromatic and carminative and are
            used as flavouring agents. Nutmeg oil and expressed nutmeg oil,
            a solid fat, are rubefacient. Nutmeg is reported to inhibit
            prostaglandin synthesis.

            Reports of diarrhoea associated with increased
            plasmaprostaglandin concentrations responding to treatment
            with nutmeg: J. A. Barrowman et al., Br. med. J., 1975,
            3, 11; idem (letter), 160; I. Shafran et al. (letter), New
            Engl. J. Med., 1977, 296, 694.

          + BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL 1970 1, 21 March 1970, page 754:

               Hallucinogenic Effect of Nutmeg

            Sir, - A patient tells us it is common knowledge among the
            drug-taking and hippie sub-culture that taking nutmeg is a
            potent way of taking a "trip". The hallucinogen in nutmeg
            is believed to be myristicin.

            An intelligent 19-year-old female with a hysterical
            personality took one ounce of nutmeg in water and orange
            juice. She had five fays previously taken L.S.D. with very
            little effect. She had also experimented with cannabis, but the
            only noticeable effect of this was that she developed a dry
            mouth. In contrast to this the effects of nutmeg were marked.
            At first she felt no effect, but after four hours she felt
            cold and shivery. Six to eight hours later she was vomiting
            severely. She saw faces and the room appeared distorted, with
            flashing lights and loud music. She felt a different person
            and everything seemed unreal. Time appeared to stand still.
            She felt vibrations and twitches in her limbs. When she shut
            her eyes she saw lights, black creatures, red eyes and felt
            sucked into the ground. Her mood was one of elation. She
            was taken by her friends to be seen by one of us (D.P.) as an
            emergency. She was admitted and quickly fell into a sound sleep.
            For the next week, however, she felt that she was walking in
            a cloud and complained that her thinking was confused and she
            found it difficult to follow what people were saying. Her
            concentration seemed poor and lapses of attention were noticed.

            The clinical features of this case have much in common with
            the effects of nutmeg ingestion previously reported (1). The
            physical symptoms were unpleasant, and the girl states that
            she would not take nutmeg again because of these. In her case
            vomiting was the most severe physical side-effect. Severe
            physical collapse following ingestion of nutmeg occurs (2).
            A dose of 10-15 g. however is required before acute intoxication
            occurs (3). Despite the side-effects, however, it is probable
            that with the increased drug-taking among young people more cases
            of nutmeg intoxication will come to medical attention.
            -We are, etc.,
                               D. J. PANAYOTOPOULOS.
                                     D. D. CHISHOLM.
             Ross Clinic, Aberdeen.


            1 Fras, I., and Friedman, J. J.,
               New York State Journal of Medicine, 1969, 69, 463.
            2 Shulgin, A. T., Nature, 1966, 210, 380.
            3 Truit, E. B., jun., Duritz, G., and Ebersberger, E.M.,
               Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine,
               1963, 112, 647.

          + NEW YORK STATE JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, February 1, 1969, pages 463-465

              Hallucinogenic Effects of Nutmeg in Adolescent

              Ivan Fras, M.D., Binghamton, New York
              Joseph Joel Friedman, M.D., F.A.C.P., Binghamton, New York

              Child Psychiatrist (Dr. Fras), Director (Dr. Friedman),
              Broome County Mental Health Clinic.

            The household spice, nutmeg, has been known to have psychotropic
            effects. These have been described in varying details by a
            number of reports in the literature. Even authors who do not
            accord them much prominence, such as Payne, (1) do mention them.
            It is generally assumed that the active psychotropic substance
            is myristicin. The inability to imitate nutmeg intoxication
            with synthetic myristicin has given rise to speculation that
            other substances of the volatile oil obtained from the nutmeg
            seed, Myristica fragrans, may also be factors. (2)
              Weiss (3) has reported in detail the psychic experiences
            of adult prison inmates following the ingestion of powdered
            nutmeg. Nutmeg has been mentioned as one of the substances now
            prominent in illegal or quasi-legal use among adolescents. (4)
            There are no detailed reports about the use of this substance
            by adolescents.

            Case report

              The following is an account of the experiences of an
            eighteen-year-old student who ingested half a can (one fourth
            of a teacup) of commercially available nutmeg. His girl friend
            who was present throughout this experience did not partake of
            the nutmeg. He had taken marihuana on several occassions before
            that and had experienced vivid imagery under its influence.
            About two weeks had elapsed between the last time he had taken
            marihuana and the time he took nutmeg. The latter substance
            was taken partly out of curiosity (he had heard about its
            effect "by the grapevine"), but mainly because marihuana was
            not then available. Fifteen to twenty minutes after taking
            nutmeg, a teaspoon at a time, and flushing it down with
            Coca Cola, "things went funny." He felt "as if he had stayed
            awake for two days without sleeping" and "things started to
            look unreal" to him. His head shook back and forth, and when
            somebody said something to him, he could not see the connections
            between the sentences. He said he remembered that he "spoke up
            and nobody understood him" either.

              About one and a half hours after the ingestion, he started
            feeling "as though he had drunk fifty cups of coffee." He
            "could not stop shaking," he "was giggling," he "was saying
            stupid things," things he would not have said otherwise. His
            friend became aware of the change in him.  The patient
            remembered she asked him whether or not he felt all right.
            "Peoples' voices appeared to come out of a porthole above my
            head." He "felt a tingling" in his hands, and presently his
            "whole body felt numb." Friends laid him down on the floor,
            and he remained there for some time. Finally he opened his
            eyes, looked at the lights on the ceiling, and felt they were
            cylinder-shaped. He raised his hands, grabbed one of those
            cylinder light beams, and sat up, "pulling himself up by that
            beam." He was still aware of his surroundings and noticed
            that people were watching him. His heart was beating fast, he
            was breathing hard, and his throat felt dry. Fortunately, he
            was constantly accompanied by his friend who subsequently
            corrobated his recollections. He "felt as though he was
            floating" but "he knew that in reality he was not floating."
            He knew that "friends were helping" him. His "legs felt numb"
            and as if "he was walking in a lake with the water up to his
            waist." His "hands appeared white and wrinkled" to him.

              At that point, he started feeling as if he was in a trance,
            and it was the first time that he did not know that people
            were around him. As he gradually came out of the trance, he
            could feel a ball in his hands; this ball would expand and
            contract as he moved his hands, but he could not see the ball.
            His friend said, "Touch something real!" He then touched the
            table and felt real again.

              Subsequently, he felt he kept going in and out of a
            trancelike state and could, on several occassions, even induce
            it himself. As he was walking, he felt that the floor was
            bow-shaped, and he had to hold on to the wall.

              He recalled that the following three hours were accompanied
            by these experiences: He would sit on a couch and he would
            drift away completely, "a great fog would be closing in" on
            him, and when he was surrounded by this fog "everything would
            turn black." "Spots of color, blue and red, would shine through
            this black cloud." Beyond the cloud, there seemed to him to be
            infinity. He "heard a massive confusion of sound," although to
            his knowledge there was no one talking and there were no sounds
            of any other nature at that time. But, again, when his friend
            called his name, he "came out of it." At times he felt excited,
            at times he felt relaxed. He remembered that he would often ask
            his friend to talk to him to keep him in reality. He found that
            he could, in this way, practically control his state of mind;
            that is, whether he would be in a trance state or not.

              When he looked at the picture of a countryside with deer in
            it, he felt as though he were floating into the picture and it
            took on a three-dimensional character. The deer were alive, the
            trees had shape. He started feeling everybody in the world
            could hear him. When he went out of the house and stepped onto
            the lawn, he anticipated that he would fall into it, as if
            into an ocean. He started writing in mirror writing,
            "Help! I'm trapped behind the world."

              He played a few notes on his recorder and felt that
            "each note was a brown disc." He then played a record; "the
            sound of music made a pattern of color. There was a central
            color and lines around it. The center was composed of the low
            notes, the bass, and the high notes were on the periphery."
            He remembered that sound made by "cymbals were silvery."
            This configuration kept changing, beating, and throbbing.
            Finally, he could not stand it no longer, and he turned the
            music off.

              By this time, some eight or nine hours had elapsed from the
            ingestion of nutmeg. He started becoming confused, and memory
            (recall) became very poor. He fell asleep and seemed to realize
            that he could finally go to sleep without "dropping out."


              The preceding narrative was given spontaneously by an
            intelligent, perceptive, and sensitive adolescent who had had
            prior experience with marihuana and morning-glory seeds. The
            frequent connection of the two is known. (3, 5) He felt that on
            marihuana, the predominant feeling was one of enjoyment and
            happiness, of being liked and floating. Hallucinations were
            less marked. On morning-glory seeds, he also had a light,
            floating sensation, but it seemed to be of a different kind,
            and the most marked thing was a constant feeling of euphoria.
            On both these substances, he felt he never really left reality,
            and he thought that this was a major distinction between these
            substances and nutmeg.

              He repeated his experience with nutmeg in a smaller dose.
            On one tablespoon full of the substance he "felt high" or
            sometimes "weird," but without hallucinations; music sounded
            better although it did not sound louder. None of the colourful
            changes in perception occurred on the small dose of nutmeg.

              The description given by this patient is richer and more
            colorful than the previous reports, (3,6,7) although the
            previous descriptions also contained many of the experiences
            reported here, such as lapses of attention, although
            consciousness was retained, (6) depersonalization, (6) bright
            colors, (3) a floating feeling, (3) and music being more
            enjoyable. (3)

              Follow-up on this patient showed that he continued taking
            marihuana but stopped taking nutmeg. Psychodynamically, the
            patient was in the midst of an identity crisis, trying to
            deal with his leanings toward dependency and passivity by
            indentifying with the "hippie" groups. The patient's father
            had been incapacitated for several years because of psychiatric
            difficulties also centering around dependency and passivity.


              Some of the pertinent literature on the use of nutmeg as a
            hallucinogen is briefly reviewed. It is noted that descriptions
            of experience with this substance in adolescents are lacking.

              Feelings of depersonalization and unreality, changes in
            perception, as well as illusions and hallucinations, especially
            visual, were the significant aspects of the subjective
            experience of an eighteen-year-old adolescent. The patient was
            also able to differentiate the effects of nutmeg from those of
            marihuana and morning-glory seeds, on the basis of a temporary
            break with reality which he experienced with nutmeg.

              Although the unfortunate easy availability of other
            hallucinogens probably makes nutmeg intoxication a relatively
            rare occurrence, mainly as experimentation or when other
            substances are not available, the medical profession should be
            reminded of its possible use and its hallucinogenic effects.


             1. Payne, R. B.: Nutmeg intoxication, New England J. Med.
              269: 36 (1963).
             2. Shulgin, A. T.: Possible implication of myristicin as
              psychotropic substance, ibid. 380
             3. Weiss, G.: Hallucinogenic effects of powdered Myristica
              (nutmeg), Am. J. Psychiat. 346.
             4. Stanton, A. H.: Drug use among adolescents, ibid. 122: 1282
              (May) 1966.
             5. Goodman, L. S., and Gilman, A.: Pharmacological Basis of
              Therapeutics, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1965, p. 1785.
             6. Truitt, E., et al.: Pharmacology of myristicin, Am. J.
              Psychiat. 205.
             7. Green, R. C., Jr.: Nutmeg poisoning, J.A.M.A 171: 1342 (1959).

            Excerpt from the "letter from a master addict to dangerous drugs",
            sent by William Burroughs at August 3rd, 1956.
            This letter is also in Appendix I in his novel "The Naked Lunch",
            where this is quoted from. (ISBN 0-586-08560-2).

            Nutmeg. - Convicts and sailors sometimes have recourse to
            nutmeg. About a tablespoon is swallowed with water. Results
            are vaguely similar to marijuana with side effects of headache
            and nausea. Death would probably supervene before addiction
            if such addiction is possible. I have only taken nutmeg once.

              There are a number of narcotics of the nutmeg family in use
            among the Indians of South America. They are usually
            administered by sniffing a dried powder of the plant. The
            Medicine Men take these noxious substances, and go into
            convulsive states. Their twitchings and mutterings are thought
            to have prophetic significance. A friend of mine was violently
            sick for three days after experimenting with a drug of the
            nutmeg family in South America.