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Medically reviewed by Drugs. Last updated on Jul 15, Nutmeg and mace, widely accepted as flavoring agents, have been used in higher doses for their aphrodisiac and psychoactive properties. There are no clinical trials to support therapeutic dosing. Toxic overdose occurred at a 5 g dose.
Contraindications have not been identified. The excessive use of nutmeg or mace is not recommended in people with psychiatric conditions. Generally recognized as safe when used in food as a flavoring agent. Safety for doses above those found in foods is unproven; avoid because of possible abortifacient effects. Acute psychosis and anticholinergic-like episodes have been documented; death has rarely been reported following the ingestion of large doses of nutmeg. Mace and nutmeg are 2 slightly different flavored spices, both originating from the fruit of the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans.
This slow-growing evergreen grows to more than 20 m and is cultivated in India, Ceylon, Malaysia, and Granada. The fruit, which is called a drupe or a nutmeg apple, is similar in appearance to a peach or an apricot. When the mature fruit splits open, the nutmeg stony endocarp or seed surrounded by a red, slightly fleshy network or aril is exposed. The dried aril alone is called mace.
The nut is removed and dried to produce nutmeg. Nutmeg is a widely used food spice that has received attention as an alternative hallucinogen. Nutmeg and mace have been used in Indian cooking and folk medicine.
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In folk medicine, nutmeg has been used to treat gastric disorders and rheumatism, and also as a hypnotic and an aphrodisiac. During the 6th century AD, nutmeg and mace were imported by Arab traders, and by the 12th century, they were well known in Europe. At the turn of the 19th century, interest developed in the use of nutmeg as an abortifacient and a stimulant for menses. These properties have been largely discounted but remain a persistent cause of nutmeg intoxication in women. This oil contains myristic acid, trymiristin, and glycerides of lauric, tridecanoic, stearic, and palmitic acids.
The essential oil contains myristicin, elemicin, eugenol, and safrole.
Mace oil appears to have a higher myristicin content than nutmeg oil. Also present in the oil are sabinene, cymene, alpha-thujene, gamma-terpinene, and monoterpene alcohols in smaller amounts. Phenolic compounds found in nutmeg are reported to have antioxidant properties. Increased sexual activity libido and potency has been demonstrated in male rats with ethanolic extracts of nutmeg, providing some support for the use of nutmeg as an aphrodisiac. Eugenol may be responsible for some of the aphrodisiac effect because of its vasodilatory and smooth muscle relaxant properties.
The National Cancer Institute has screened the Myristicaceae plant family for activity against selected leukemia lines. Of the tested extracts, More recently, experiments have evaluated the radio- and cisplatin-induced hepatoprotective effects in mice. Clinical trials are lacking; however, in vitro studies have included isolated human splenocytes and other cell lines. Dopaminergic and serotonin pathways may be involved.
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Nutmeg has shown insulin-like activity in vitro. Serum glucose and lipid profiles improved in mice when mace lignan was administered. The oils of mace and nutmeg and their individual components trimyristin, myristic acid, myristin, mace lignan have been assessed for in vitro activity, which has been shown against some oral microorganisms 42 , 43 ; however, activity against other human pathogens has been demonstrated in vitro. Amoxicillin MIC range, 0.
Experiments have evaluated the antioxidant potential of the oils of nutmeg and mace and their chemical components. Eugenol and mace lignans, as well as the phenolic content, have been identified as components of nutmeg with antioxidant activity, and inhibition of nitric oxide production, NO-scavenging, and decreased LDL-oxidation were demonstrated in experiments.
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Screening and in vitro experiments in nutmeg components demonstrated ultraviolet-protectant effects and inhibition of melanin biosynthesis. Toxic overdose occurred at 5 g. Nutmeg traditionally has been used as an abortifacient. Although this use has been largely discounted, it remains a persistent cause of nutmeg intoxication in women. Allergy, contact dermatitis, and asthma have been reported. The chemical constituents limonene and eugenol are contact allergens. Immunoglobulin E reactivity has been demonstrated in nutmeg and mace.
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