Nutmeg in Treatment of Sexual Disorders and Ulcer

Author: Stefano Galati
Date: 05/04/2014


The nutmeg tree is any of several species of trees in genus Myristica. The most important commercial species is Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia. Wikipedia
Nutmeg is part of traditional medicine of many Asian countries, and it is used to treat sexual dysfunctions and gastrointestinal diseases. Several scientific studies has been undertaken to understand if this tradition can be a starting point for an use in modern medicine too.


Some important active components that can be extracted from nutmeg are:

  • Myristicin

Myristicin is a phenylpropene, a natural organic compound insoluble in water, but soluble in ethanol and acetone. It is a psychoactive drug, acting as ananticholinergic, and is the traditional precursor for the psychedelic and empathogenic drug MMDA. Psychoactive properties appear at doses much higher than used in cooking. Wikipedia

  • Myristic acid

Myristic acid, also called tetradecanoic acid, is a common saturated fatty acid. Besides nutmeg, myristic acid is also found in palm kernel oil, coconut oil, butter fat and is a minor component of many other animal fats. It is also found in spermaceti, the crystallized fraction of oil from the sperm whale.
The myristic acid has a sufficiently high hydrophobicity to become incorporated into the fatty acylcore of the phospholipid bilayer of the plasma membrane of the eukaryotic cell. In this way, myristic acid acts as a lipid anchor in biomembranes.
The ester isopropyl myristate is used in cosmetic and topical medicinal preparations where good absorption through the skin is desired. Wikipedia

  • Eugenol

Eugenol is a phenylpropene and is a member of the phenylpropanoids class of chemical compounds. It is a clear to pale yellow oily liquid extracted from certain essential oils especially fromclove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. Eugenol can be combined with zinc oxide to form a material - known as zinc oxide eugenol - which has restorative and prosthodontic applications in dentistry. It can be used to reduce the presence of Listeria monocytogenes and Lactobacillus sakei in food. Wikipedia

  • Malabricones

Malabaricone B and Malabaricone C are two constituent of Myristica Malbarica (also known as wild nutmeg); Myristica Malabarica is another species of plant of the Myristicaceae family and it is used in Ayurvedic preparations for his hepatoprotective, anticarcinogenic, and antithrombotic properties. Malabaricone B and Malabaricone C have important antioxidant activity and modulate mucin secretion, PG synthesis and EGF receptor expression. Healing properties of malabaricone B and malabaricone C, against

indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration and mechanism of action, 2008


Procreation is an important moral and religious issue and aphrodisiacs (food or drug that arouses sexual desire) are sought to ensure both male and female potency. Sexual dysfunction is an inability to achieve a normal sexual intercourse, including premature ejaculation, retrograded, retarded or inhibited ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, arousal difficulties (reduced libido), compulsive sexual behavior, orgasmic disorder, and failure of detumescence.
In a recent study conducted in the Boston area, 52% of men between the ages of 40 and 70 reported some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED). Enhanced sexual behavior may provide increased relationship satisfaction and self-esteem in humans.
The introduction of the first pharmacologically approved remedy for impotence, Viagra ( sildenafil ) in 1990s caused a wave of public attention. A variety of botanicals are known to have a potential effect on the sexual functions, supporting older claims and offering newer hopes.The search for aphrodisiac dates back millennia and has been a constant pursuit throughout history. Today the hunt for natural supplement from medicinal plants is being intensified mainly because of its fewer side effects and because the available drugs and treatments have limited efficacy, unpleasant side effects, and contraindications in certain disease conditions.
Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs, 2013

Generally elevated testosterone level enhanced the sexual behaviour in humans. Moreover the role of various dopaminergic, adrenergic, and serotonergic agents has been intensively examined in both human and animal studies. There are drugs that induce changes in neurotransmitter levels or their action at cellular level and so they can change sexual behaviour. In ethno medical texts spices, especially Nutmeg, are mentioned as nervous stimulants so the action of these drugs as sexual invigorators may be due to their nervine stimulating property. Further, nutmeg has also been reported to increase blood circulation in the body. The enhanced effect of Nutmeg as observed in sexual behaviour of animals, may be owing to this property in conjunction with the nervous stimulating activity of the drug.
Aphrodisiac activity of 50% ethanolic extracts of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg) and Syzygium aromaticum (L) Merr. & Perry. (clove) in male mice: a comparative study, 2003

Myristica fragrans , the tree from wich nutmeg derives, has also been mentioned in Unani medicine (a form of traditional medicine practiced in middle-east & south-asian countries) to be of value in the management of male sexual disorders.

A study was undertaken to evaluate the aphrodisiac effect of 50% ethanolic extract of nutmeg along with its likely adverse effects and acute toxicity using various animal models. A suspension of the extract of nutmeg was administered to different groups of male rats daily for seven days. The female rats involved in mating were made receptive by hormonal treatment. The general mating behaviour, libido and potency were studied and compared with the standard reference drug sildenafil citrate. Likely adverse effects and acute toxicity of the extract were also evaluated.
The oral administration of the extract at the dose of 500 mg/kg, produced significant augmentation of sexual activity in male rats.
With regard to the mechanism of the test drug, it is difficult to explain the exact mechanism responsible for improving sexual function. The extract induced changes in neurotransmitter level or their action at cellular level could change sexual behaviour since nutmeg is mentioned in ethnomedical literature as nervous stimulant. Thus, the aphrodisiac activity might be attributed to its nervous stimulating property. Preliminary phytochemical studies indicate the presence of sterols, phenols, alkaloids and amino acids in the extract. Hence, the sexual function improving effect might be due to the presence of such compounds. Moreover, nutmeg, merits further studies for detailed sexual function improving activities, especially at higher doses. In addition, further research is also needed for the identification of its active constituent responsible for sexual function improving activities and the mechanism by which it augments sexual function.
During the study the extract was also observed to be devoid of any adverse effects and acute toxicity.
It was tested up to a high concentration orally (eight times more than the aphrodisiac dose, evaluated in the present study). Even at this dose the extract did not produce signs of toxicity or treatment- related adverse effects in the tests for aphrodisiac activity. This suggests that its short term use for this purpose is apparently safe.
An experimental study of sexual function improving effect of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg), 2005

Another study of the School of Pharmacy and Technology Management, NMIMS University, of Mumbai (India) focused on the effect of methanolic extract of Myristica fragrans (MEM) on oral acute toxicity in albino mice.
In the oral acute toxicity, the administration of MEM did not elicit any mortality upto 2 g/ kg bw in mice. In isolated vas deferens experiment, MEM shown adrenaline like effect.
The study revealed that the extract is safe and thus provides a scientific rationale for the traditional use of nutmeg in the management of male sexual disorders.
Ethnopharmacology, 2008

The conclusion is that the resultant significant and sustained increase in the sexual activity of male rats, with out any conspicuous adverse effects and toxicity, suggests that nutmeg possesses clinically applicable aphrodisiac activity, and also lends support to the claims for its traditional usage as sexual function enhancing medicine. Thus, it may prove to be an effective and safe alternative remedy in sexual disorders.
Demands of natural aphrodisiacs require increasing studies to understand their effects on humans and safety profile. Due to unavailability of the safety data, unclear mechanisms, and lack of knowledge to support the extensive use of these substances, uses of these products may be risky to the human being. With more clinical data, exact mechanisms of action, safety profile, and drug interaction with other uses of these aphrodisiacs plant materials, treating sexual disorder can become fruitful.


Eugenol is another important active principle of nutmeg (and it is also extracted from clove oil, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf) which has been used by folk medicine to treat various disease. Various reports suggested that this activity might be related to an inhibition of prostaglandin (PG) synthesis.
Eugenol has also been found to completely inhibit, in a concentration-related manner, platelet activating factor (PAF) or arachidonic acid-induced platelet aggregation while it had no effect against ADP-induced aggregation, suggesting PAF antagonistic properties for it. PAF is an endogenous phospholipid that causes haemorrhagic erosions of the gastric mucosa that extend into the submucosa. It is involved in various diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as endotoxin shock, ischaemic bowel necrosis, infectious diarrhoea, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It also sensitises the gastric mucosa to damage by topical irritants, indicating that a slight PAF production by mucosa could expose it to injury generated by natural luminal factors such as bile salts or acid.
A study focused on these property of eugenol, analyzing his positive effects in rats treated with administration of ethanol and PAF.
Ethanol administration causes extensive gastric damage related to its ability to inhibit mucus synthesis, to reduce mucus protective layer and to cause cell damage. Also the intravenous administration of PAF in rats induces extensive haemorrhagic damage to the gastrointestinal mucosa, this effect appearing more pronounced in the stomach than in the small intestine.
The results demonstrate that eugenol was able to significantly and in a dose-related manner reduce ethanol-induced ulcerations both on mean ulcer number and on the gravity of lesions. However, though eugenol significantly reduced PAF-induced gastric damage in a dose-related manner, a complete protection from ulcerations was recorded only in rats pre-treated with BN 52021, a specific PAF antagonist.
The results also show that its antiulcer properties are not due only to its anti-PAF property, since it is more effective than BN 52021 in ethanol-induced gastric damage. When compared to cimetidine and carbenoxolone, two clinically effective drugs, for the effect on ethanol gastric damage, eugenol was the most active compound tested. The mechanism of eugenol protection against ethanol damage is, however, unclear. This compound has been shown to be a potent lipo-oxygenase inhibitor and phenolic compounds were shown to be O2 scavengers. Both leukotrienes and O2 are involved in tissue damage induced by PAF and in other gastrointestinal lesions. Regardless of the mechanism(s) of action of eugenol, its anti-ulcer effect may be of some potential clinical usefulness, provided that more is known about the pharmacology and toxicology. It is of interest to note that eugenol appears to be both anti-inflammatory and antiulcerogenic. Synthetic or natural PAF antagonists are candidates for the clinical treatment of gastrointestinal ulceration and various pathological conditions related to peripheral circulatory failure.
Preventive effect of eugenol on PAF and ethanol-induced gastric mucosal damage, 2000

Furthermore nutmeg has played an important role in traditional Indonesian medicine for the treatment of stomach disease. Today nutmeg is still used by the indigenous people of Indonesia to alleviate stomach disorders.
According to another study nutmeg extracts inhibit the growth of H. pylori, thus supporting a possible mechanism of action for nutmeg’s therapeutic effects on gastrointestinal disease. However, the question of potential toxicity still remains and would need to be investigated before a therapeutic use could be recommended”. (Sangalli and Chiang, 2000 mentioned in In Vitro Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to Botanical Extracts used Traditionally for the Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders, 2005

Other important results has been found in a study focused on positive effects of several spices: “The aril of seed showed antioxidant activity in vitro. M. malabarica fruits improved gastric ulcer in mice via increasing PG E2 synthesis, improving angiogenesis, modulating NOS gene expression, producing balance between proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and improving mucin content and antioxidant activity in gastric tissue”.
Scientific Evaluation of Edible Fruits and Spices Used for the Treatment of Peptic Ulcer in Traditional Iranian Medicine, 2013

Two components of Myristica Malabarica, Malabaricone B and Malabaricone C, have important antioxidant activity and for this reason it has been undertaken a study to prove healing property of malabaricone B and malabaricone C against indomethacin-induced acute gastric ulceration of mice and compare the activity with that of the commercial drug, omeprazole.
This study established that both the tested malabaricones possess significant healing property against indomethacin-induced stomach ulceration in mice. Their healing action could be attributed to their antioxidant activity along with the ability to modulate mucin secretion, PG synthesis and EGF receptor expression. The higher potency of malabaricone C vis- à-vis malabaricone B is correlated very well with its significantly better contribution in regulating all these aspects. These results along with the non-toxicity suggested malabaricone C as a promising anti-ulcerogenic compound for further evaluation. This is also corroborated by its comparable ulcer-healing activity as that of omeprazole.
Healing properties of malabaricone B and malabaricone C, against

indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration and mechanism of action, 2008


The results of several studies suggest that nutmeg could be used for treatment sexual dysfunctions and gastrointestinal diseases in human, and it is already used by traditional medicine of many Asian countries. However it is important to be sure of the safeness of this treatment since they are only be tested scientifically on animals and not on human being.

2014-04-05T12:44:49 - Stefano Galati
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