Ethnobotany of nutmeg in the Spice Islands

J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 Apr;42(2):117-24. doi: 10.1016/0378-8741(94)90105-8.


Nutmeg, endemic to the Maluku Province of Indonesia (formerly known as the Spice Islands), has long been of importance both as a spice and as a commodity that was once of geopolitical significance. Although its botany, cultivation, and history have been studied, ethnobotanical studies of nutmeg in its place of origin are noticeably lacking. The ethnobotany of nutmeg, Myristica fragrans Houtt. (Myristicaceae), was studied in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku and Central and East Java. Historical and current indigenous uses of the fruit and seed are described. Information regarding medicinal aspects was gathered from vendors of herbal remedies, healers, and midwives. It was found that M.fragrans is still used for both culinary and medicinal purposes in its area of origin. M.fragrans is used for diarrhea, mouth sores, and insomnia. In addition, no evidence was found to support previously published reports of nutmeg's hallucinogenic or other psychoactive properties other than a mild sedative action. A renewed suggestion is made that anecdotal reports of nutmeg use as a hallucinogen be revaluated more critically.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Botany
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Hallucinogens
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy
  • Spices*


  • Hallucinogens
  • Plant Extracts