Nutmeg may make recipes taste better, but don’t get carried away. The side effects of too much nutmeg may surprise you.
Do you enjoy the taste of fresh nutmeg? Whether you buy it fresh or ground it yourself at home, nutmeg can add subtle flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. Despite its versatility and slightly pungent taste, the effects of nutmeg aren’t all pleasing. Surprisingly, this common spice derived from the seed of the nutmeg tree can have some pretty significant health consequences if used in large amounts. What are the health effects of nutmeg?
The Effects of Nutmeg
Nutmeg has been used as a flavoring agent in Greek, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine for many centuries. In America, nutmeg is used to flavor desserts, baked goods, and some beverages; while the essential oil is sometimes added to packaged cough syrups and toothpaste. Nutmeg has also been used medicinally as a digestive aid, as an aphrodisiac, and to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Some historical cultures believed that nutmeg had magical powers and used it as protection against evil forces.
The Darker Side of Nutmeg: Nutmeg Toxicity
At the low doses of nutmeg used to flavor food, the spice is unlikely to have ill effects; but when quantities of nutmeg of two tablespoons or greater are ingested, it can cause marked personality changes and, in some cases, hallucinations and delusions. Other effects of nutmeg toxicity include seizures, vomiting, and an irregular heart rhythm. Nutmeg contains myristicin, a compound also found in parsley and dill, which acts to weakly inhibit an enzyme called monoamine oxidase that helps to break down certain brain neurotransmitters. Myristicin can cause personality changes and delusions both directly and through its effects on monoamine oxidase. Humans aren’t the only ones affected by nutmeg toxicity. Some livestock and other animals, including dogs, can suffer the effects of nutmeg poisoning even at low doses – a condition which can lead to death.
Effects of Nutmeg: Recreational Use of Nutmeg
It should come as no surprise that with the hallucinatory effects of nutmeg that some thrill seekers would use it for recreational purposes. Nutmeg has been used as a hallucinogen down through the ages and continues to be used as an inexpensive hallucinogenic agent today. One thing that limits its use are the side effects which include nausea, vomiting, difficulty urinating, dizziness, constipation, and dry mouth. The effects of a nutmeg “high” can last twenty-four hours or longer and the experience isn’t always pleasant for the user.
Effects of Nutmeg: The Bottom Line?
It’s unlikely you’ll experience any significant health effects from sprinkling nutmeg into your recipes, but don’t get carried away. Be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets.