UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Getting "high" on household spices.

Keywords: household spices, abuse, toxicity (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/8/2021 by Hong Kim, MD (Updated: 5/29/2024)
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There are three commonly household spices that can be abuse/misused or cause toxicity after exposure.

Pure vanilla extract contains at least 35% ethanol by volume per US Food and Drug Administration standards

  • Results in alcohol intoxication
  • Ingestion of 1.3 mL/kg in child will result in blood ethanol concentration of 100 mg/dL


Nutmeg contains myristicin – serotonergic agonist that possess psychomimetic properties. 

  • Typical recreational dose: 5-30 gm. (tablespoon of ground nutmeg: 7 gm).

Clinical effects:

  • GI symptoms: nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
  • Cardiovascular: hypertension and tachycardia
  • CNS: hallucination, paranoia, seizure
  • Others: flushing, mydriasis


Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde and eugenol – local irritants.

  • Can cause contact dermatitis and ulceration from topical application
  • Inhalation of cinnamon can result in chronic and significant pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis


Johnson-Arbor K et al. Stoned on spices: a mini-review of three commonly abuse housenold spices. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2020