nutmeg and grater

Nutmeg is an Underestimated Psychoactive. Here’s Why.

The subtle power of nutmeg is long overlooked. These recipes help you tune in.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated December 14, 2023

The psychoactive properties of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) have long been recognized. The household spice was a popular inebriant in prisons during the 20th century, but unlike other more famous psychoactive plants, it never caught on as a recreational drug among the general public. The effects of nutmeg are similar to cannabis in low to moderate doses. High doses are a different story: They can lead to loss of coordination, slurred speech, dehydration, and confusion. Exactly how nutmeg causes this intoxication is not entirely understood. However, three components of its essential oil are believed to be responsible for its psychoactivity: myristicin, elemicin, and safrole. We’ll explore the unique properties of this psychoactive oil in this article. (I’ve written in-depth about the history and the effects of nutmeg in my earlier work).

Is Nutmeg Psychoactive? A Closer Look at an Underappreciated Spice 

I have worked with nutmeg for more than 15 years in both its raw and essential oil form. I’ve come to believe that it’s an overlooked and under-appreciated herb. This is not the plant you want for heroic doses or deep spiritual experiences. Instead, it’s wonderful in low doses and for micro-dosing, and a little knowledge about how to work with the seed’s essential oil can help shepherd an intentional nutmeg experience.

Typically, ten to 15 grams of freshly grated nutmeg is sufficient to produce moderate psychoactive effects, effects reminiscent of cannabis; however, instead of the one to two hours required for marijuana edibles to produce an effect, nutmeg’s psychoactive effects can take four to six hours to present themselves. The duration of nutmeg’s effects is dose-dependent and typically lasts between 12 and 16 hours. The number increases to 30 hours or more following a large dose (over 20 grams, which can be toxic). Confusion surrounding dose and the delayed onset of inebriation have likely caused some people to inadvertently ingest massive doses of nutmeg, an experience that’s best to avoid. Nutmeg overdose can cause serious complications to physical health—and, in the worst cases, result in death. Such experiences might explain the limited overall interest in the psychoactivity of this curious spice. (For a comprehensive discussion on safety and toxicity, please consult the section titled: “Pharmacology & Toxicity” in my earlier work here.)

Safety Note
Nutmeg overdose can cause serious complications, including organ failure and fatalities. Myristicin toxicity can have serious impact on physical health and wellbeing. Those with pre-existing health conditions may want to avoid the seed.

After analysis of 176 reports on the forum Erowid, of sixty-six individuals who reported taking more than 25 grams of nutmeg (2.5 tablespoons), 17 percent reported having a difficult experience, and 45 percent of these sought emergency room care. In another case study, 14 grams of nutmeg resulted in the death of an eight-year-old boy. Concentrated extracts can be deceptively potent. As such, maintaining the lowest-possible dose with nutmeg is essential.

In small doses, nutmeg eases anxiety, lifts the mood, and boosts energy but, strangely, also aids sleep and promotes dreaming. The formerly mentioned properties also make it a great aphrodisiac, and studies on mice have shown that it increases libido.1 Nutmeg can be used to treat digestive complaints, including gas and lack of appetite, and its oil can be applied topically to treat aches, pains, and inflammation, particularly those produced by rheumatism. There is also evidence that nutmeg has antibiotic and anti-tumoral properties.2 Not bad for a little seed.

Buying the Right Nutmeg Essential Oils

Nutmeg essential oil is a readily available psychoactive—but it’s not often used as one. The fragrant oil is used widely in aromatherapy, though aromatherapists typically are not fully trained in the pharmacology of essential oils or the physiological responses they may produce.3 As a result, aromatherapists typically limit themselves to use of oils for their fragrance or for topical applications. One consequence of this practice is that commercially produced essential oils, while carrying the fragrance of the herb in question, may lack the complete pharmacological profile of the essential oil as found within the plant itself. This isn’t the case for all essential oils, but has been the case with steam-distilled essential oils of nutmeg that I have encountered.

The way essential oil is extracted from a plant matters. The chemical composition of an essential oil will vary depending on the extraction process used. Steam distillation is a method for extracting essential oils from plants using—you guessed it—steam. Testing of several different market-available brands showed little-to-no activity after ingestion of up to five milliliters of steam-distilled essential oil, an astronomical amount!4 To find a quality essential oil of nutmeg, look for essential oils extracted via supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, usually simply labeled as “CO2 extracted.”  In contrast to steam, several commercially available CO2 extracts demonstrated moderate psychoactivity at doses between 0.5 and 1.0 milliliters (Table 1). However, it should be noted that the quality and potency will vary from brand to brand and batch to batch. 

Table 1: Measuring Essential Oils.

Drops*Teaspoons (tsps)Milliliters (ml)
90.25
181/100.5
361/51.0
91½2.5
18215.0

*“Drops” is an approximate measurement and will vary depending on the dropper used.

The more reputable aromatherapy and essential oil companies will provide customers with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for each of their oils, which will often provide a breakdown of the pharmacological makeup of the oil. For nutmeg, a COA should include myristicin content, which appears to be the biggest indicator of psychoactivity.5 Myristicin content will vary depending on where the nutmeg is sourced and how it is extracted. Steam-distilled extractions typically have a myristicin content of between 0.5 and four percent.6 By comparison, CO2 extracts may vary between five and 31.55 percent myristicin content.7

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One peculiarity I have found in working with essential oil of nutmeg is that the onset period for inebriation appears to be longer than when raw ground nutmeg is used. When using the oil by itself, the period of onset expands from four to six hours (when raw nutmeg is used) to seven to ten hours. It is not clear why this is the case, but the most likely explanation is that either the cellulose of raw nutmeg or another constituent, not present in the essential oil, aids and accelerates absorption of the oil by the body.

Personal experience suggests that the onset period can be reduced by combining the oil with ½ tsp of ground nutmeg or mace (the spice produced from nutmeg’s aril). In any event, use of the essential oil drastically reduces the amount of raw nutmeg that needs to be ingested, and the essential oil is easy to combine with powdered nutmeg or mace in confections and baked goods. A few recipes follow.

Recipes for a Psychoactive Nutmeg Experience

The following recipes are designed for an oil that produces threshold effects at nine to 12 drops and moderate effects at 0.5 to 1.0 ml (18 to 36 drops; see Table 1 for measurements). One should always test the potency of their material before cooking or ingesting any significant amount of oil. Start with no more than five drops when testing potency. As with any psychoactive, these are for adults only. Keep these treats out of reach of children.

Nutmeg Truffles

nutmeg truffles on a plate with a mug of nutmeg eggnog, and jars of nutmeg essential oils
Freshly made nutmeg truffles with eggnog and samples of CO2 extracted essential oil of nutmeg | Photo courtesy of Ibo Nagano
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp Brandy
  • 1 tsp essential oil of Nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp Mace
  • ½ Tbsp sugar

Combine chocolate, cream, and butter. Heat until all ingredients can be thoroughly mixed, but do not overheat. Add Brandy and Nutmeg oil and thoroughly mix. Refrigerate overnight. Mix cocoa powder, mace, and sugar in a small bowl. Remove chocolate mixture from the fridge and roll into small balls about the size of a large marble. Roll each ball in your bowl of dry ingredients until fully coated. Refrigerate for another hour or until truffles are mostly firm. The recipe makes approximately 25 truffles. Truffles will keep in the fridge for about a week and can also be frozen for later use.

The powdered coating gives the truffle an initially sharp and bitter taste, one that is quickly followed by mouth-watering and decadent nutmeg-infused chocolate. Each truffle will contain seven to eight drops of nutmeg oil. One to two truffles will lighten your mood, ease anxiety, sweeten your breath, and provide a dose of energy; this is also a great level for use as an aphrodisiac. Four to five should be sufficient to induce a mild to moderate stone after seven to eight hours.

Alternatively, one can roll their truffles in trichomes or ground cannabis instead of the spice mix recommended above. The two plants have complementary effects, and by the time the effects of cannabis begin to wane, the effects of nutmeg will begin to pick up steam. Depending on the dose, this combination could result in a lengthy inebriation (20 hours or more), so it is best to learn how one is affected by nutmeg before combining these two herbs.

READ: How to Make the Very Best Blue Honey

Safety Note
Combining psychoactive substances can mask the effects of one substance with another, making it more difficult to evaluate potentially risky side effects. Mixing is not recomended. Those exploring psychoactive plants should always remain vigilent and mindful while maintaining the lowest possible doses. Keep psychoactive products in a safe place away from pets and children, who may be more sensitive to the effects.

Spice Cookies

Dry Ingredients:

  • 10 – 12g Nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 10 – 12g Cinnamon (freshly grated)
  • ¾ tsp cloves
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp Baking Soda

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ¼ tsp. essential oil of Nutmeg

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Cook for 15 minutes at 350°F or until browned lightly. Makes 24 to 26 cookies. Each cookie will contain approximately nine drops of nutmeg oil. One cookie will give you a lift; two to three should be inebriating, with an onset of between four and six hours.

Eggnog

  • ½ cup eggnog
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 – 5 drops essential oil of nutmeg

Pour ½ to 1 cup of your favorite eggnog (mix with milk if desired) and add three to five drops of nutmeg oil. This can be drunk cold, or heated. Sprinkle ground nutmeg on top. This can be a good nightcap and should ensure a night of good rest as well as interesting adventures in dreamland.

Nutmeg Turkish Delight

nutmeg turkish delight
Nutmeg Turkish Delight | Photo courtesy of Ibo Nagano

This candy was the favorite of Edmund, who was plied with the treat by the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia. Turkish delight, or lokum, is a gelatinous candy made in various flavors, including rose, raspberry, orange, and others, and is sometimes filled with pistachios or other nuts. For this recipe, you will need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/8 cup water
  • 2 ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp orange extract
  • ¾ tsp essential oil of nutmeg

Set aside two smallish pots and a food thermometer. Before starting, find a smallish baking dish or lunch container (app. 4×6 inches, or something similar), line with foil, and coat with cooking spray.

Add 1 cup sugar and 3/8 cups of water to one of the pots and bring to a boil. Stir and continue to boil until syrup reaches a temperature of 240°F. While the syrup is cooking, in the other pot, add ¾ cup water and, using a whisk, stir in 2 ½ tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp cream of tartar, and 1/3 cup cornstarch. Completely mix ingredients to avoid clumping (if clumps form, they will become hard, affecting the texture of the final candy). Whisk on high heat until the mixture attains the consistency of petroleum jelly. Once this consistency is reached, slowly pour in the fully heated syrup, and whisk carefully to maintain a uniform consistency. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Cook and stir until the mixture takes on the color of a golden orange marmalade. Turn off heat and add orange essence and essential oil of nutmeg. 

Pour, or spoon, your mixture into your greased baking dish. Spread and flatten with a spoon or spray another piece of foil and place on top of the mixture and flatten with your hands. Chill in the fridge for one hour. After, remove foil and, using a sharp knife, cut candy into 30-40 smallish pieces. Place candies in a container with powdered sugar and shake to coat the candies. Candies can be kept at room temperature for several weeks or kept in the fridge for a couple weeks longer. Do not freeze, as freezing will destroy the integrity of the candy.

Nutmeg Turkish Delight has a spicy quality, similar to cinnamon candies, with a slight sweetness and orange undertones. Each piece will contain approximately four drops of essential oil. One piece is good for a microdose, two to three pieces for mood, energy, and as an aphrodisiac. Five pieces will be inebriating.

Microdosing Nutmeg

One to three drops can be taken in milk, orange juice, or in capsules for those interested in microdosing. There is no tolerance build-up with nutmeg, and given the long half-life of its psychoactive compounds, daily use over a period of one to two weeks could eventually lead to a state of inebriation. For this reason, it is best to leave one to two days between microdoses. At larger doses, nutmeg causes dry mouth and dehydration, and this could become an issue with regular microdosing. If these effects are persistent or become uncomfortable, then the frequency of use should be reduced or discontinued. 

Final Thoughts—and a Touch on Safety and Side Effects

While nutmeg has long been overlooked, those who have sought it out have typically overindulged. Nutmeg has a sweet spot, one that is mild, uplifting, and satisfying. Start small and work your way up to what feels comfortable for you. While large doses can produce intense effects, the side effects associated with large doses generally make this undesirable (headache, slurred speech, confusion, etc…). Those looking for a deeper or more intense experience should look elsewhere. Still, those looking for something a little lighter and willing to work with the peculiarities of this curious spice (in low doses) will find a joyful ally in nutmeg.

  1. (Tajuddin et al., 2003; Tajuddin et al., 2005) ↩︎
  2. (Gupta et al., 2013; Hallstrom & Thuvander, 1997; Nurjanah et al., 2017; Piras et al., 2012) ↩︎
  3. (Guba, 2000) ↩︎
  4. While it is possible to produce an essential oil of nutmeg through steam distillation that parallels its natural pharmacological profile (Piras et al., 2012), it is likely that a short distillation time accounts for the absence of psychoactivity in commercially available steam-distillations of nutmeg.”
    ↩︎
  5. (For examples of a Certificate of Analysis see: Flavex, 2023; Liberty Natural, 2023; Nature’s Gift, 2023) ↩︎
  6. (Liberty Natural 2023) ↩︎
  7. (Flavex, 2023; Machmudah et al., 2006: p. 35; Nature’s Gift, 2023). ↩︎

References

Flavex (2023). General Specification: Nutmeg CO2-se extract (organic) DE-ÖKO-013, Type No. 001.006. Flavex Naturextrakte. Retrieved from: http:// www.flavex.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/Spezi/EN_Spezi_Nutmeg_CO2-se_extract_organic_001_006.pdf

Guba, R. (2000). Toxicity Myths. International Journal of Aromatherapy 10(1/2): 37-49.

Gupta, A. D., Bansal, V. K., Babu, V., & Maithil, N. (2013). Chemistry, antioxidant and antimicrobial potential of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt). Journal of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology 11(1): 25-31.

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Hallstrom, H. & A. Thuvander (1997). Toxicological Evaluation of Myristicin. Natural Toxins 5:186-192.

Liberty Natural (2023). Certificate of Analysis Sheet: Nutmeg Essential Oil – Product No. 771. Liberty Natural Products. Retrieved from: https://www.libertynatural.com/coa/771.htm

Machmudah, S., Sulaswatty, A., Sasaki, M. et al. (2006) Supercritical CO2 Extraction of Nutmeg Oil: Experiments and Modeling. Journal of Supercritical Fluids 39: 30–39.

Nagano, I. (2008). Myristica fragrans: An Exploration of the Narcotic Spice. The Entheogen Review 17(1):15–24. Available at: https://erowid.org/plants/nutmeg/nutmeg_article1.shtml

Nature’s Gift (2023). Certificate of Analysis: Nutmeg CO2. Batch No: GE-451422. Nature’s Gift Aromatherapy Products. Retrieved from: http://naturesgift.com/wp-content/uploads/resources/nutmeg-co2-GE-451422-gc.pdf

Nurjanah, S., Putri, I. L., & Sugiarti, D. P. (2017). Antibacterial Activity of Nutmeg Oil. KnE Life Sciences 2(6): 563-569.

Piras, A., Rosa, A., Marongiu, B., Atzeri, A., Dessì, M. A., Falconieri, D., & Porcedda, S. (2012). Extraction and Separation of Volatile and Fixed Oils from Seeds of Myristica fragrans by Supercritical CO2: Chemical Composition and Cytotoxic Activity on Caco‐2 Cancer Cells. Journal of Food Science 77(4): C448-C453.

Tajuddin, T., Ahmad, S., Latif, A., & Qasmi, I. A. (2003). Aphrodisiac Activity of 50% Ethanolic Extracts of Myristica fragrans (nutmeg) and Syzygium aromaticum (clove) in Male Mice: A Comparative Study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 3(1): 1-5.

Tajuddin, T., Ahmad, S., Latif, A., Qasmi, I. A., & Amin, K. M. Y. (2005). An Experimental Study of Sexual Function Improving Effect of Myristica fragrans (nutmeg). BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5(1): 1-7.

Deeper Learning

Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of taking 1/10th to 1/20th of a full “journey” dose of mushrooms, LSD, San Pedro, or another entheogenic substance. The phrase was coined in 2011 by longtime psychedelic researcher James Fadiman, PhD, in his book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, and has since become a cultural phenomenon.

Awareness of the body’s internal state, including sensations, is called interoception. Like mindfulness for the body, it’s how we know we’re hungry, thirsty, joyful, angry, tired, sick. Clinical researchers are discovering that people with depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and substance dependence all have impaired interoceptive awareness—and that improving it, so far mostly through mindfulness practices, enhances well-being.

Few cultures do not use psychoactive plants of some sort—even in contemporary times. And yet, it is not common knowledge which of the legal plants out there are also psychoactive. This brief guide walks you through some of the most unusual and unexpected legal psychoactive herbs and spices. 


*Correction: This article was updated on December 07 and December 08, 2023, to indicate that high doses of nutmeg are toxic and can cause organ failure and, in some cases, death.

This article does not advocate for the excessive use of nutmeg, nor can we verify any product’s myristicin content. Products with high myristicin content are more likely to cause potentially harmful side effects. Please remain mindful and vigilant while engaging with any psychoactive plant. Explore at your own risk.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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