Can Nutmeg Actually Make You Hallucinate?

Nutmeg has been around for millennia. And as innocent as the spice may appear nestled in our home kitchen cabinets, it has caused quite a stir over the years. The first recorded uses of the versatile and treasured warm spice trace back to first century Rome. Fast-forward to the 1600s, a time during which nutmeg possessed enough value to literally rouse wars between nations. In order to control the nutmeg supply in the East Indies, the Netherlands massacred and enslaved the people of Banda, a group of Indonesian islands. Years later, the Dutch traded the entire island of Manhattan for a British-owned island that produced the spice and continued to rule all spice islands until the onset of World War II (via The Spruce Eats). But how could a seemingly simple seasoning cause so much conflict?

Well, back in the day, nutmeg was used as more of an intoxicating drug among the wealthy than an element that gave dishes a warm, comforting palate. Today, as we all know, nutmeg is an affordable, popular spice that's regularly used in flavorful baked goods, savory sauces, festive fall beverages like pumpkin spice lattes, and cozy winter drinks like eggnog. However, you may have noticed that, whenever a recipe calls for the spice, only a modest amount is needed to pack a punch. So, the short answer is yes, nutmeg can act as a hallucinogen — when consumed in doses higher than the recommended amounts, that is. However, there are certain things to know about this spice's potent capabilities and effects. Let's start with a short chemistry lesson, shall we?

How can nutmeg make you hallucinate?

What is nutmeg intoxication, exactly? Myristicin is the chemical compound that causes nutmeg intoxication. It can also be found in the natural essential oils of common plants like parsley and dill. When you consume myristicin, your body metabolizes it, thereby creating 3-methoxy-4,5 methylenedioxyamphetamine (more colloquially known as MMDA), a psychedelic drug of the amphetamine class (via Healthline). The fast-moving effects of MMDA on the body's central nervous system lead to a nutmeg "high" — and possibly death, in extreme cases (via Medical News Today). Too much nutmeg can make someone end up in the hospital with serious side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, dangerously low blood pressure, and an increased heart rate. Not fun.

Don't let this alarming information stop you from sprinkling a bit of ground nutmeg atop your eggnog or pumpkin spice latte or incorporating it into your spiced cake batter, though. When used in small amounts, nutmeg is a totally safe spice. As with anything, always consume nutmeg in moderation in appropriate amounts. Do not attempt overconsuming nutmeg at home to experience these effects. If someone is showing signs of an overdose, seek medical help immediately.