Supplements. Nutmeg Toxicity: Paolo Pelini, Let's make things clear!

With regard to the famous story of taking nutmeg in a famous TV program and the controversies that do not stop on the subject, I believe it is necessary to clarify the subject in scientific terms.

Myristica fragrans Houtt (nutmeg) is an aromatic evergreen tree of the plant family Myristicaceae.

 Nutmeg, the actual seed of the tree, is important in folk medicine, where it is used to treat colds, fever, catarrh, general respiratory ailments, and skin conditions such as scabies, it is also used as an appetite stimulant, carminative , antiemetic and abortifacient.

In laboratory studies, M. fragrans has been shown to possess insulin-like, insecticidal, antibacterial, and antioxidants!

However, prolonged use of nutmeg can cause degenerative changes in the kidneys, spleen, liver, heart, medial geniculate body, and superior colliculus. 

 If taken in excessive quantities, it can have toxic effects, studies have shown a toxic action already at a dosage of DL 50 of the alkaloids extracted from the seeds of M. fragrans has been calculated in 5.1 g/kg, furthermore the presence of alkaloids and make it if taken in excessive dosages far higher than those usually used in the kitchen, can have a psychoactive effect as well as neurotoxic due to the presence myristicin.

Myristicin, a toxic derivative of safrole, has a brute or molecular formula and is C11h12OR3, whose name in the IUPAC nomenclature is 4-Methoxy-6-prop-2-enyl-benzo[1,3]dioxole, we can find it in small quantities in parsley, nutmeg is an anticholinergic.

That is, it suppresses the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, thus preventing the excitation of the nerves, especially those that control the movements of the muscles present in the intestines, urinary tract, lungs and other parts of the body.

If taken in an excessive quantity which in nutmeg is around 5g/Kg it can lead to convulsions, hallucinations, tachycardia and even death.

Paul Pellini
Herbochemist profession
Consultancy and Research for Quality Control and Pharmacognostic and Cytotoxicological Evaluation on Plant Extracts of Medicinal Plants, Microalgae and Bud Derivatives and Microbiota Research on Medicinal Plants
CCDSN – Control Center and Scientific Dissemination of Natural Substances
Rome Italy

Received in the editorial staff: 2023-01-24

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