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November 7, 1959


Author Affiliations

Winchester, Va.

From the Medical Service, Community Memorial Hospital, South Hill, Va.

JAMA. 1959;171(10):1342-1344. doi:10.1001/jama.1959.73010280006015b

The present-day use of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is confined largely to exploitation of its properties as a flavoring agent. In the past it has been used medicinally as an aromatic stimulant, a carminative, and a narcotic. In England and India it has been used widely by the laity as an emmenagogue and an abortifacient, and from these uses came many reports of nutmeg poisoning in the early literature. During the last 50 years nutmeg poisoning has seldom been reported, and only limited information is available concerning the physiological and biochemical effects of this particular toxic state.

Review of the Literature  One of the earliest cases of nutmeg poisoning was recorded by de Lobel in 1576.1 In 1832 Purkinje2 dramatically illustrated the toxic effect of this kernel by consuming three nutmegs, producing a narcosis which progressed to stupor. In 1903 Wallace,3 in a review of cases of nutmeg