Recipe Tips, Ingredients Purposes, Q&A and more
Disclaimer: This website may contain affiliate links. Meaning if you click on an affiliate link at this website and then make a purchase of the recommended product or service, we may receive compensation.

Is Nutmeg Halal?

August 23, 2021
Suhayma Suha

Is Nutmeg Halal? 

Nutmeg is a popular spice used in South Asia for savory dishes to enrich flavor. Adding just a little pinch of nutmeg is enough to make you want to relish the taste. Such an amazing spice, but is it halal?

Chemical structure of Eugenol

An important condition that makes foods halal is whether there is any alcohol in it. This is determined by seeing if the food has an -OH bond. Nutmeg is mostly made up of sabinene (17.17%), eugenol (16.60%), myristicin (9.12%), caryophyllene (8.82%), and b-myrcene (4.74%). 

Eugenol is where it goes downhill. Eugenol, otherwise known as 4-Allyl-2-methoxyphenol, is an organic carbon with an -OH functional group that extends off of the main carbon chain. Nutmeg – a spice that seems completely normal because it is grown on plants – has an -OH bond, meaning that it is haram. 

The effects of this -OH bond show when taken in high doses because nutmeg is also a drug for hallucinogenic high. Poison centers are beginning to see an increase in teens taking nutmeg as a hallucinogenic high.  

In addition to eugenol, nutmeg contains myristicin, a natural compound that has mind-altering effects if ingested in large doses. The buzz can last one to two days and can be hallucinogenic, much like LSD.

"It's the flavor of the [winter] month," said Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director at the center. "But most people only try it once because they have such nasty side effects. The rewards are not worth the risks," such as severe constipation, difficulty urinating, anxiety, stress, suppression of the central nervous system and possibly death. 

About 30 minutes to an hour after taking large doses of nutmeg, people usually have severe gastrointestinal reactions, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. This is just the beginning of all the nasty side effects. Hours into the high, people can suffer from heart and nerve problems as well. 

"This is where people have to be really alert," said Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center in Atlanta. "One plus one can add up to nine really quickly." Visual, auditory or sensory hallucinations do not set in until hours after ingesting the spice, so there is also the worry that someone could overdose, thinking they haven't taken enough to feel anything.

Because large doses have negative effects can I still use pinches of it in food?  

According to https://islamqa.info/en/answers/39408/ruling-on-selling-and-using-nutmeg

There is nothing wrong with using nutmeg to improve the flavour of food, in small amounts that do not cause listlessness or intoxication.
But to be on the safe side we should say that it is not allowed even if it is mixed with other things and there is only a small amount of it, because “that which intoxicates in large amounts, a small amount of it is haraam.”

Scholars have mixed opinions about this idea. Some say that because it has a little bit of alcohol we should avoid it completely. While some scholars say little amounts are fine. 

To sum up the answer – as was stated clearly by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Daqeeq al-Eid – it is an intoxicant. Ibn al-‘Imaad went further and regarded hashish as comparable to it. The Maalikis, Shaafa’is and Hanbalis are agreed that it is an intoxicant and comes under the general text: “Every intoxicant is khamr and all khamr is haraam.” The Hanafis are of the view that it is either an intoxicant or a drug, either of which affects the mind, so it is haraam in either case. 

There is no reason why a small amount of nutmeg should not be used to improve the flavour of food, cakes and the like, but a large amount is haraam, because it is a narcotic. But to be on the safe side we should say that it is not allowed even if it is mixed with other things and there is only a small amount of it, because “that which intoxicates in large amounts, a small amount of it is haraam.”