Spice up the Holidays: The virtues of nutmeg



Several months ago, as I became sicker, I started to crave nutmeg. I know it's a weird thing to crave, but I would sprinkle it on cream soups and started making a snack out of nuts with a little spicy sauce (melted butter, agave nectar, lots of nutmeg and fresh ground pepper). This week, our (US) supermarkets started selling eggnog, a holiday staple that will be on our shelves until New Years. I bought a little carton and came home to pour a shot, which I topped off with an extra sprinkle of nutmeg. As I sipped my little treat, I started to wonder what research had been done on the virtues of my favorite holiday spice.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

Improves memory

A low dose of nutmeg extract was given to mice for 3 successive days. There was significant improvement in learning, memory, and retention capacities of young and aged mice. The extract also reversed drug-induced impairment in learning and memory of young mice. The authors did not explore the mechanism of action, but suggested that the observed memory-enhancing effect may be attributed to a variety of properties the plant is reported to possess, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or perhaps procholinergic activity.


In this study, they isolated two antimicrobial agents from mace, the fleshy red, net-like skin that covers the Nutmeg seeds. Malabaricone B 111 and malabaricone C 121 exhibited a good level of antimicrobial activity when tested against a variety of microorganisms, including Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.

Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties

This Japanese group isolated a compound in Nutmeg called myristicin. They compared its effects on experimentally-induced inflammation and pain with indomethacin (NSAID). They found that the Nutmeg extract was as effective as indomethacin in reducing inflammation and pain.

Makes rodents randy

Here, researchers compared the aphrodisiac qualities of nutmeg and cloves vs. the effects of Viagra on male Swiss mice. The nutmeg was more potent than the cloves, but both produced significant increase in mounting behavior of the mice. No surprise, the Viagra treated mice out-mated the spiced-up mice. Considering that the researchers found no general conspicuous short term toxicity and commented that these spices are clinically used in the Unani (India) System of Medicine without any recorded toxicity, they suggest that the short term use of these spices for this purpose is apparently safe and that they could be "clinically useful as sexual invigorators in males."

Prevents cervical cancer

This time female mice were tested (how come the males got to try out the aphrodisiac effects, while the females were tested for the chemoprotective effects?). A 10mg/mouse per day extract of mace was given orally for 7 days before and 90 days following carcinogen thread insertion. The incidence of cervical carcinoma was 21.4%, as compared to 73.9% of the control group. Highly significant!

Prevents skin cancer

Albino Swiss mice that were fed a diet containing 1% mace got skin cancer at half the rate (50% vs. 100%) of controls and when they did, the number of tumors that appeared averaged only 1.75 compared to 5.67 in controls.

Lowers cholesterol

This study suggests that nutmeg may help you poop out extra cholesterol. Rabbits with high cholesterol were given an extract of nutmeg. These bunnies brought their serum cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol down by 69.1% and 76.3% respectively, lowered cholesterol/phospholipid ratio by 31.2% and elevated the decreased HDL-ratio significantly. "The nutmeg extract also prevented the accumulation of cholesterol, phospholipids and triglycerides in liver, heart and aorta and dissolved atheromatous plaques of aorta by 70.9-76.5%. Fecal excretion of cholesterol and phospholipid were significantly increased in seed extract fed rabbits."

An antidepressant

Okay, I'm having a hard time understanding how they know a mouse is depressed to begin with, but these researchers found that "the antidepressant-like effect of the (nutmeg) extract seems to be mediated by interaction with the adrenergic, dopaminergic, and serotonergic systems."

Prevents cavities (dental caries)

Extract of mace had anti-plaque action against Streptococcus mutans, a dental pathogen which is the leading cause of tooth decay worldwide.

Treats rotovirus induced diarrhea

This study compared several traditional Brazilian remedies for diarrhea. Nutmeg was shown to have a 90% inhibition rate for human (HCR3) rotovirus.

Psychogenic properties

Nutmeg can induce hallucinogenic effects similar to those produced by LSD. It can begin to have effects at doses as low as 5 grams, though it may take as much as 30 grams for you to completely trip out. Just as a guideline, a tablespoon of ground nutmeg is roughly equivalent to 7 grams.

But don't try this at home kiddies. Nutmeg in large doses can be lethal. A London Hospital reported on a case of one 18 year old girl who was trying to get a cheap high from nutmeg. She "presented with complaints of palpitations, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, thirst, and dry mouth. She was very anxious, restless, and agitated and described being "in a trance state". She specifically felt "like Jack in the box wanting to get out".


Senior Member
Story I heard was that it's one of the prison highs. I tried it in high school and don't recommend it for that, it's disgusting to take that amount and my friends and I just got sick to our stomachs!

I hadn't kept up on nutmeg and mace research and was very interested to see these results here (maybe testing female mice for arousal is a more difficult task than the scientists wanted to undertake? What would they use to measure it, I wonder?).

One thing you might want to be aware of: most of the active ingredients are in the essential oils. Those oils volatilize (evaporate) when exposed to light, heat and air, which of course is just what grinding them does. Fresh-ground nutmeg is a million times better to the taste buds and I'm sure it has significantly more of the active ingredients, too. It's easy to grate nutmeg and since you use such small amounts (unless you're a teenager or a prisoner looking for a high) it doesn't take long.

Don't know about grating mace fresh - haven't done that, might be trickier because of the shape.