The healing power of nutmeg

We know nutmeg as a condiment. In traditional Dutch cuisine it is cooked with Brussels sprouts and beans. But that’s not the only thing nutmeg is good for. This nutrient has medicinal capabilities. It is primarily a remedy for digestive disorders. Nutmeg can combat nausea and prevent and cure stomach cramps. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing nutmeg / Source: Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Danger of nutmeg
  • History of nutmeg
  • Traditional medicinal use of nutmeg
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Nutmeg effects
  • Other medicinal effects
  • Dose and safety

Danger of nutmeg

If you add nutmeg to food, you use very little. There is no danger associated with its culinary use. However, when you use therapeutic doses of nutmeg, these amounts approach the amounts that have the unpleasant side effect of hallucinating. All kinds of physical side effects can occur, such as reduced vision and reduced sense of time and space. In addition, this substance can make you lethargic or unconscious and it can cause dizziness. Headache, nausea and bloodshot eyes are common with nutmeg poisoning. In some people, the physical ability to coordinate is disturbed. Every person reacts differently to it, but there is a known case where someone could no longer open his eyes after sleeping because they were stuck shut with sleep. Too high a dosage starts above 5 grams. By the way, too much nutmeg is quite dirty, so few will exceed five grams. There are two known deaths in the medical literature, an 8-year-old girl and someone in their 50s who took it while taking the drug flunitrazepam. In the 1960s it was used by students, prisoners and pot smokers as an alternative high, but its effects have never been fully praised, except for the Czech scientist Jan Evangelista Purkyně. He said that if you ground three nutmegs and put them in a glass of wine, you would experience a euphoric feeling for three days in combination with hallucinations.

History of nutmeg

The nutmeg tree originates from the Moluccas, especially the island of Banda. There are several types of nutmeg trees, but usually the species that originates from the Moluccas is used for commercial sale. The VOC, the first multinational in the world, was the Dutch company that had a monopoly on the spice trade for almost two centuries. People regularly went to war, especially with England, for spices. For example, the English stole entire nutmeg trees, root and all, from the island of Banda, during the first war between England and

Muscat tree / Source: WA Djatmiko, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

The Netherlands. The English then placed these trees on an island of Malaysia, where nutmeg is grown to this day.

Traditional medicinal use of nutmeg

Nutmeg has been used for its medicinal properties since at least the 7th century. It was initially used as a means for women to induce an abortion. That is the reason why a pregnant woman should never use nutmeg as medicine. One consequence of the use of nutmeg as an abortifacient was that many women suffered from nutmeg poisoning. People started to hallucinate, lost physical coordination and were completely lethargic.


In Latin, the name for nutmeg is Myristica fragrans . In Middle Dutch, musk actually means ‘that which smells like musk’. Musk is an old (Sanskrit) word for testicle. The musk nut is somewhat similar in shape to a testicle, in particular the structure of the outside of the fresh nut and the overall shape are reminiscent of male testicles. Musk is a scent produced by males of the animal kingdom to attract females. The Latin name Myristica could come from ‘mir’ or myrtle, which means ‘like myrtle’. Fragrans means ‘fragrant’ and refers to the fragrant fresh note.

Active substances

For phytotherapeutic purposes, the nut itself is mainly used and sometimes the seed coat. The nut mainly contains essential oil with monoterpenes such as alpha and beta pinenes, sabinene, alpha and gamma terpinenes and limonene. It also contains monoterpenols, the phenol methyl ethers myristicin and elemicin, phenols such as eugenol, iso-eugenol, ether oxide and safrole, neolignans including fragansols and myristicanols, lignans in the form of fragrasins, malabaricone C, fatty oil, starch and pectin.

Nutmeg effects

Nutmeg has a saliva-stimulating, stomach-strengthening, digestive-stimulating, antispasmodic, carminative, anti-inflammatory effect on the mucous membranes and is antibacterial. Eugenol and iso-eugenol are the main active substances and are largely responsible for the above-mentioned medicinal effects. This aromatic spice can provide a solution for a number of conditions. Due to its nausea-resolving effect, you could use it for pregnancy vomiting, but only in small, culinary quantities. Ginger is a much better remedy for morning sickness and vomiting during pregnancy. Nutmeg is no longer often prescribed in phytotherapy, but you could use it as an additional remedy for the following indications:

Nutmeg / Source: Nutmeg Zanz41.JPG / Amada44, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Dyspepsia,
  • Nausea,
  • Gastrointestinal cramps,
  • Spastic colon,
  • Stomach wall inflammation.

Other medicinal effects

Nutmeg has various medicinal effects that are not directly supported by scientific research. However, it is important to report them because various natural doctors conclude that it is indeed a good remedy. There is a chance that one or more of the following uses will be supported by research in the near future.


  • Is an aphrodisiac; it increases sex drive,
  • Dissolves mucus and offers a solution for respiratory diseases,
  • Helps with menstrual cramps,
  • works against blood in the urine,
  • Can solve concentration problems,
  • Is a remedy for hysteria,
  • Can remedy hypochondria, the morbid compulsion to assume that one is ill,
  • Is a remedy indicated for claustrophobia,
  • Can be used externally to dispel rheumatism,
  • Has an external effect on neuralgia.

Dose and safety

Take 300 to 600 mg of nutmeg powder at a time, with a maximum of 5 grams per day.

During pregnancy, a high dose should not be recommended because it may trigger an abortion. Furthermore, the dangers of nutmeg are described in detail in the first paragraph of this article. Patients taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors should only use nutmeg as prescribed by a herbal therapist.