Nutmeg oil is a volatile essential oil from nutmeg (Myristica fragrans). The oil is colourless or light yellow and smells and tastes of nutmeg. It contains numerous components of interest to the oleochemical industry. The essential oil consists of approximately 90% terpene hydrocarbons. Prominent components are sabinene, α-pinene, β-pinene and limonene. A major oxygen-containing component is terpinen-4-ol. The oil also contains small amounts of various phenolic compounds and aromatic ethers, e.g. myristicin, elemicin, safrole and methyl eugenol. The phenolic fraction is considered main contributor to the characteristic nutmeg odour. Myristicin and elemicin are suspected to be responsible for the hallucinogenic properties of nutmeg oil.
The essential oil is obtained by the steam distillation of ground nutmeg and is used heavily in the perfumery and pharmaceutical industries. The nutmeg essential oil is used as a natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages (e.g. Coca-Cola), sweets etc. It replaces ground nutmeg as it leaves no particles in the food. The essential oil is also used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries for instance in tooth paste and as a major ingredient in some cough syrups. In traditional medicine nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems.