Nutmeg as a natural sleep aid (5 tablespoons can KILL you)

This is really embarrassing.

Tuesday was going to be a long day at work, with that Youth Expo booth that I’d be working from 6-8pm. So I really wanted to get a good night’s sleep Monday night.

I’ve tried different sleep aids in the past. Melatonin gave me headaches the next day, exercise in the evening simply gave me a shot of adrenaline, and alcohol interrupted my sleep every single time. What to do?

Then, while washing and putting away the dishes after dinner, I remembered a yoga teacher in Austin (who had lived for years in an ashram, and has my respect) telling me years ago that nutmeg, the common kitchen spice, could make a person drowsy. My interpretation: “natural sleep aid”. I’d never tried it, though.

So Monday evening, standing in the kitchen, just before putting a tablespoon (or two? Maybe more? Not sure… just dumped the rest that was in the little plastic baggie I’d gotten at the health food store) of nutmeg in my water and drinking it down, I thought, “Maybe I should google this first…” But then I glanced up at our spice cabinet… salt, sugar, pepper… all just cooking spices. And I’d just been cooking with nutmeg on Sunday. What harm could nutmeg POSSIBLY do?

Tuesday morning, I learned.

Woke up about 5:30 to pounding heart, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, and a host of other side effects. But because I didn’t know this about nutmeg, I had no IDEA it was even related. I didn’t know what was going on.

Then it dawned on me that there might be a connection; and my heart sank. Stumbled over to the computer and managed to type in something coherent into the google search… And discovered that the awful side effects don’t begin to manifest until after 3 to 9 hours after ingestion. They were just beginning right then.

What I could expect: http://www.livestrong.com/article/408029-side-effects-of-eating-nutmeg/

I immediately contacted the ER, who recommended I call Poison Control.

After stumbling through the recorded menu of options (“if you’re freaking out, press one…”) I finally got connected with Pam, my new best friend in the world who was working the poison control emergency hotline. Explained my situation as calmly as I could. She started looking up information for me. The more she looked, the faster she talked, until I finally heard her mention the word “concern”. She had buried that word near the end of a very long string of words, but it jumped out at me like a neon sign in the darkness.

‘Concern’?” I interrupted. That’s supposed to go at the very beginning, not somewhere down near the bottom of the verbal page, I thought. Like this: “I’m concerned. (pause for emphasis) I don’t want to alarm you but…” Didn’t she know the rules for crisis hotline engagement?

Finally, she was talking too fast. It was too much. I had to stop her if I was ever going to get to ask her my specific questions. You know, “Am I gonna die?” That sort of thing.

Pam, I need your help, but you’re talking too much,” I said as calmly as I could. I was being rude… interrupting. This was no way to talk to someone I’d just met. She stopped and listened. She was kind and understanding; created space for me to ask my questions. Didn’t even seem to hold a grudge against me for cutting in.

For the rest of the conversation, I felt a little guilty for having interrupted Pam. How much of this had to do with being looped out of my skull when I was supposed to be getting ready for work, and how much with the nuns back in elementary school?

As long as I had someone watching me, it would probably be okay to stay home. Cheryl took the day off and stayed with me, calling and getting guidance from two family friends with nursing expertise. Aside from waking up every 2-3 hours, I’ve been mostly asleep for the past 24 hours. Mouth so dry it feels like cardboard. Stomach so numb it may as well be someone else’s. No appetite for the past 24 hours. That is NOT normal for me. And the constant feeling like I’m about to fall over. Again and again and again.

Apparently it can take 2-3 days to get over these side effects, and mine are mostly gone. I’m still feeling a little too woozy to drive and function today, but I expect to be okay tomorrow morning.

All this, courtesy of my kitchen spice rack.

No, that’s not true. Actually, all this, courtesy of my restless unwillingness to take 30 seconds to check out the effects of what I’m about to put into my body.

If you hear anyone talking about nutmeg outside the context of cooking, please send them my way.

36 Comments

Filed under Living a joyful life

36 responses to “Nutmeg as a natural sleep aid (5 tablespoons can KILL you)

  1. Mike Marcionetti

    I clicked the link…One of the side effects? “Sensation of Doom” That sounds like a death metal band name if I ever heard one. On the positive side there has to be a song in here somewhere right?!?

  2. Does it take you back to your college days?

    • No. If I’d known about the side effects, there’s no way I would have even messed with it. And it’s probably a fantastic thing I did NOT know about it in college… I would have gotten terribly sick, no doubt.

  3. surelay

    Lol. You should consider potato based vodka. Gluten free that is !

  4. Anonymous

    This is the equivalent ( 1tbsp nutmeg ) of downing a cup of grain alcohol. A dosage of no more than a 1/4 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg will do wonders for a restful night and no side effects. Use your brains when going into these things and one might live to see another day !

  5. Meg

    Since even Melatonin gave you a headache the next day, don’t you wonder if the problem lies with you and your body rather than the actual nutmeg?

    • Thanks for your message. While the issue could very well lie within me and my own body, I don’t wonder about that — I just stay away from nutmeg now. If other people use it in ways that are helpful to them, then I’m happy for them. I simply wanted to share information about my personal experience in the hopes that others might benefit. If it makes people check a little more closely and doing some research on toxicity before ingesting nutmeg, then my painful experience takes on new meaning for me. At the end of the day, we all make our own choices about how we live our lives. May you enjoy good health and happiness, if that’s what you want in your life.

  6. BBD-Lite

    Wow that’s pretty scary stuff! Everything in moderation hey? If you’re still looking for a better way to get a good nights sleep try this recipe – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/moms-warm-milk/. You only use a quarter tsp. of nutmeg, and it tastes yummy!

  7. Nermeen

    OMG! I was just telling a friend how I have trouble falling asleep and she suggested warming milk and grinding one whole nutmeg fresh and mixing it in a mug and she was so confident that it will solve the problem.
    Thank you for this info!

  8. Anonymous

    hello, i find that if i ask my girlfriend to massage the back of my head, it helps to go to sleep. i also do plyometric exersizes before noon as well to get my body to be tired. cant do it to late or i feel energized:(

  9. Anonymous

    I was JUST looking up NUTMEG for a sleep remedy. SO GLAD I read this. I too found that even 1 mg of melatonin to give me vivid, disturbing dreams. Think I’ll get up at 4 to go to the gym, that should make me tired tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  10. Candyco

    I don’t think I would want to drink anything with a full teaspoon of nutmeg in it. I work nights and had to change my shift to day-time. I was worried about falling asleep at a normal hour. I read up about nutmeg helping sleep, so I shaved a bit from an actual nut into warm almond milk, and I have to say that I have had the best sleep lately, no trouble falling asleep easily. So, I think you only needed a little bit, but maybe your reaction wouldn’t have been so bad, but sounds like nutmeg is not for you.

  11. Anonymous

    I am trying it right now. I have recently stopped self medicating myself and smoking cigarettes so I am going to need something to buffer me or I won’t be able to continue to live here with my family without it turning into a murder suicide.

  12. peter jones

    I love nutmeg, but am very cautious about dosage. I had a little too much before teaching last year, and spent the morning giddy and probably a bit over the top. That was probably half a teaspoon. Nutmeg is a major flavoring in Coke btw. Take a whiff and think Coke, it’s kind of amazing. I wonder about the habit (at least in new england) about sprinkling nutmeg on coffee–most cafe’s up here provide a shaker, when I don’t see it I’m surprised, but I’m curious where that got started to be so pervasive. Perhaps, a sprinkle or two is an (unconscious) way of balancing off the negative side effects of caffeine, since in doses of a sprinkle or two it does have this reputation as a calming agent.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve heard many people recommend 1/4 teaspoon as a good amount… now I see how lucky I was to survive 2 tablespoons. I’ve never heard of nutmeg sprinkled on coffee… I’m out here in the Rocky Mountains… it sounds interesting.

      Be well!

  13. peter jones

    ps, I discovered apricots this week and have been sleeping well–some early waking but staying in bed and falling asleep again quickly. First 7-8 hours’ sleep in ages. Apricots apparently have plenty of tryptophan.

  14. Anonymous

    You might want to amend this title-nutmeg is a natural sleep enhancer. But you’re right, you do need to take it early enough because it’s effects begin much later in sleep. My husband has been formally studying through an herb course for over a year (longer on his own) and recommended to me to take nutmeg (1/2 t. or less) grated in a tea. I have early, early morning waking insomnia, so it has been very helpful to me to get a much better night’s sleep. It is known as a pungent herb, so you would notice thirst or dryness. My insomnia is quite severe, so living with the side effects of the nutmeg are NOTHING compared to being awake for several hours every night.

    • Thanks very much. I’ve taken your advice and changed the title of this blog entry. Clearly there’s a difference between using nutmeg wisely, with care and attention, with the proper information; and doing what I did — carelessly gobbling down a bunch of nutmeg because I heard it could help me sleep. To your good health, Tim

  15. glad ya wrote this article….was helpful

  16. meagan

    One bad experience, can put someone off anything. I feel bad that you still have a hard time using the spice. However if you ever want to get to sleep early or having a hard time, try warm milk, with honey to taste, a tsp of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. It works wonders, I also find that if you shower right before bed than use the this recipe it works even better.

    • Thank you for those ideas. I have an update: I’ve actually started taking 1/4 teaspoon (LEVEL teaspoon, not heaping, which is my tendency with things) about 2 hours before bed. And it has really been helping! My system is so sensitive that if I do a heaping 1/4 teaspoon, I feel a little groggy the next morning. Otherwise, I’m finding this is really helpful… especially in warm milk. (Though just eating it straight and downing a glass of water is really pleasant for me, too… I really like the flavor of nutmeg!)

      Here’s to your health! Tim

      On Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 11:25 AM, Trip to Pine

  17. Hey, thanks for saving my life! I’d have been the ‘dump a couple tablespoons from the jar’ kinda gal. Lol. Will try 1/4 tsp. Haven’t slept much in years since menopause mercilessly took over.
    PS enjoying your songs :)

    • So glad you’re doing okay, sister! And thanks for checking out the music! Here’s to your health (and your peaceful sleep), Tim

      On Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 8:34 AM, Trip to Pine

  18. I appreciated these entries. I felt really high this morning and I couldn’t figure out why? I began taking nutmeg for stress and hormone related early am insomnia and didn’t feel anything the first night taking one capsule, then two the next night…nada…then three and I felt sick to my stomach. Went back to beandryl one night then I took four capsules last night at 9pm and I woke up at 4:30am feeling like I had eaten a mary jane brownie. Wow! Who knew? NOt sure this is going to ork for me for sleep. Going to try the 3 dose earlier in the evening and see what happens. Regina-sleepless in Seattle

    • Hi Regina, I feel your pain. Lately I’ve been trying Valerian Root tea in the evening and before bed, and it IS helping! I picked up some Alvita brand organic valerian root tea, and I’ve been making a big pot of tea using just one tea bag. I drink about 20 ounces (I know, right?!) a couple hours before bed, and then another cup or two right before bed, and it’s working for me.

      Best part is, when I wake up, I don’t feel all groggy like I do with benedryl.

      Also, I don’t go through a ‘twitching’ stage as I’m falling asleep, like I do when I take Valerian Root capsules.

      I hope this helps, and I hope you’re able to get some good sleep soon.

      Peace, Tim http://www.timbirchard.bandcamp.com

      On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:47 AM, Trip to Pine

  19. Pingback: Spices: 5 favorites for Fall – Laura Plumb | San Diego Herb Company

  20. Kella

    Try Magnesium Oil for sleep. :) I also use apple cider vinegar in water, with a few shakes of cinnamon and a few shakes of nutmeg…

    • Thanks, Kella! I’ve been using a product called “Calm”, which is a magnesium supplement, and it works well in conjunction with ONLY 1/4 TEASPOON of nutmeg. (In caps for my own benefit.) Those two together really help me to sleep well. Here’s to your health! –Tim

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