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Prof. Dr. Dorothea Ehlers                                                                                                          

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Beyer J., Ehlers D. and Maurer H.H.: Abuse of Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt.). Studies on the Metabolism and the Toxicological Detection of its Ingredients Elemicin, Myristicin and Safrole in Rat and Human Urine Using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring 28 (2006), 568-575 (in English)




Seeds of nutmeg are used as spice, but they are also abused because of psychotropic effects described after ingestion of large doses. It was postulated that these effects would be attributable to metabolic formation of amphetamine derivatives from the main nutmeg ingredients elemicin (EL), myristicin (MY) and safrole (SA). In a case of a suspected nutmeg abuse, neither such amphetamine derivatives nor the main nutmeg ingredients could be detected in urine. Therefore, the metabolites of EL, MY and SA were identified using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in rat urine and their presence in human urine of the nutmeg abuser was confirmed. The identified metabolites indicated that EL, MY and SA were one- and twofold hydroxylated at the side. In addition, EL was O-demethylated at two positions followed by side chain hydroxylation. MY and SA were demethylenated and subsequent methylated. In the human urine sample, the following metabolites could be identified: O‑demethyl elemicin, and O‑demethyl dihydroxy elemicin, demethylenyl myristicin, dihydroxy myristicin, and demethylenyl safrole. As in the human urine sample, neither amphetamine derivatives nor the main nutmeg ingredients could be detected in the rat urine samples. Finally, toxicological detection of a nutmeg abuse was possible by the authors' systematic toxicological analysis procedure using full-scan GC‑MS after acid hydrolysis, liquid-liquid extraction and microwave-assisted acetylation detecting the described main metabolites of EL, MY and SA in urine.


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