Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001–2011


Nutmeg is a commonly consumed spice. The toxic effects of nutmeg have been purported to be due mainly to myristicin oil. Prior poison center series of nutmeg exposures show very few unintentional exposures of nutmeg to children younger than 13. Case series from these centers did not record drug exposures combined with nutmeg. This study is a review of Illinois Poison Center (IPC) data regarding nutmeg exposures from January of 2001 to December 2011. The goal of this study was to compare the Illinois data to the literature as well as look for current trends in nutmeg poisonings. The data were extracted using the code for hallucinogenic plants in the IPC database, and poisonings unrelated to nutmeg exposure were eliminated. Medical outcomes were noted as recorded. Thirty-two cases of nutmeg ingestion were reported. Of the 17 (53.1 %) unintentional exposures, 10 subjects (58.8 %) were under the age of 13. Four of the exposures in children under the age of 13 were ocular exposures. Fifteen exposures (46.9 %) were intentional exposures. Of these intentional exposures, five (33.3 %) were recorded to have combined drug intoxication. All of these were between the ages of 15 and 20. One patient with polypharmaceutical exposure required ventilatory support in the hospital. Our study shows an unexpected percentage of unintentional exposures in juveniles under the age of 13, out of the total exposures to nutmeg. Mixing of nutmeg with other drugs was seen and required more intervention in adolescents. More education about these two factors, i.e., nutmeg exposures as intentional polypharmacy in adolescents and unintentional exposures in young children, is advised.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Quin GI, Fanning NF, Plunkett PK (1998) Nutmeg intoxication. J Accid Emerg Med 15(4):287–288

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Carstairs SD, Cantrell FL (2011) The spice of life: an analysis of nutmeg exposures in California. Clin Toxicol 49:177–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Forrester MB (2005) Nutmeg intoxication in Texas, 1998–2004. Hum Exp Toxicol 24:563–566

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Barceloux DG (2009) Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.). Dis Mon 55:373–379

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Stein U, Greyer H, Hentchel H (2001) Nutmeg (myristicin) poisoning-report on a fatal case and a series of cases recorded by a poison information center. Forensic Sci Int 118:87–90

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Demetriades AK, Wallman PD, McGuiness A, Gavalas MC (2005) Low cost, high risk: accidental nutmeg intoxication. Emerg Med J 22:223–225

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Rumack BH, Dart RC (2011) 2011 Annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 26th annual report. Clin Toxicol 49:910–941

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Hoyt BT, Rasmussen R, Griffin S, Smilkstein MJ (2008) Poison center data accuracy: a comparison of rural hospital chart data with the TESS database. Acad Emerg Med 6(8):851–855

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Blanc PD, Kearney TE, Olson KR (1995) Underreporting of fatal cases to a regional poison control center. West J Med 162(6):505–509

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Hoppe-Roberts JM, Lloyd LM, Chyka PA (2000) Poisoning mortality in the United States: comparison of national mortality statistics and poison control center reports. Ann Emerg Med 35(5):440–448

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Ghosh A, Ghosh T (2010) Herbal drugs of abuse. Syst Rev Pharm 1:141–145

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Brenner N, Knight E, Frank OS (1993) Chronic nutmeg psychosis. J R Soc Med 86(3):179–180

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Sjo O, Hvidberg EF, Naestoft J, Lund M (1975) Pharmacokinetics and side-effects of clonazepam and its 7-amino-metabolite in man. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 8(3):249–254

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Pitsikas N (2000) Duloxetine Eli Lilly & Co. Curr Opin Investig Drugs 1:116–121

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Vgontzas AN, Kales A, Bixler EO (1995) Benzodiazepine side-effects: role of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Pharmacology 51:205–222

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank Dr. Eli D. Ehrenpreis for his help in manuscript preparation.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jamie E. Ehrenpreis.

Additional information

Data to be presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology in October, 2013.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ehrenpreis, J.E., DesLauriers, C., Lank, P. et al. Nutmeg Poisonings: A Retrospective Review of 10 Years Experience from the Illinois Poison Center, 2001–2011. J. Med. Toxicol. 10, 148–151 (2014).

Download citation


  • Nutmeg
  • Myristicin oil
  • Polypharmacy
  • Overdose
  • Hallucinogen