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Why Pumpkin Pie Is Ruling Our Brains
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December 21, 2015
By
Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist


Something weird is happening to the casual food industry in America.
Go to any Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, grocery store and you will
discover that the smell of pumpkins is wafting large over all of us. We
have become Pumpkin Nation. There was even talk some time ago of a
pumpkin-spiced/ scented condom.


What's behind this mania for pumpkin? Pumpkins have been perennial
favorites for over 100 years. Pumpkin pies have long been the second
favorite pie in America, behind apple pie. But if pumpkin was always an
important player, it became a superstar around 2010 with the
publication of a study that showed that the smell of pumpkin triggered
sexual arousal in men.  


That study, conducted by the Smell and Taste Treatment Research
Foundation, Chicago, Illinois and led by Dr. Alan Hirsch, found that a
smell that combined pumpkin with lavender increases penile blood flow
by 40%.

Second in effectiveness was the combo of black licorice and doughnut,
which increased the  penile-blood flow by 31.5%. Pumpkin pie also
came in third, when it was combined with doughnut, increasing penis
blood flow by 20% increase.


The Magic of Pumpkin Is Not Pumpkin --It's the Nutmeg

Scientists who have analyzed the ingredients in pumpkin pie to find out
why it has this powerful effect in men have not found anything magical
about pumpkin flavor or scent itself. Pumpkins do not have a strong or
particularly distinctive smell.

But one candidate for the magic ingredient which has proven ability to
affect you emotionally is nutmeg. The common spice nutmeg,
technically known as "myristica fragrans", has been used as a spice
since Biblical times. But nutmeg has properties different from any other
spice.

Nutmeg has the unique ability to induce hallucinations. Nutmeg's
hallucinogenic properties are well-documented. Nutmeg has been used
as an hallucenogen for over 500 years. Its verified use as  a
hallucenogen dates from the Crusades, according to a 1908 report by
Dr. A.R. Cushny in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine.

The effects of nutmeg have been noted by scientists at the US Food and
Drug Administration.  In 1967, Dr. A.T. Weil published a report in the
FDA's database of poisonous plants entitled "nutmeg as a Psychoactive
Drug"  in which he described the effects seen in patients who had taken
nutmeg for thrills. The doctor noted that many students had begun
taking nutmeg as a drug and that "Unlike prisoners or musicians, who
resort to nutmeg when their supplies of standard drugs are cut off,
students often take nutmeg as a first experience before they try
Cannabis or other substances."

Nutmeg was usually taken with water or a drink. Its psychoactive
effects do not appear immediately but start 3 to 6 hours after
ingestion.  The amount of nutmeg which triggers psychoactive effect
varies. Some people are affected after taking a single teaspoon; other
take a can.


Symptoms of Nutmeg Poisoning


























A 1993 study from Gordon Hospital, London UK detailed the symptoms
of nutmeg poisoning:




-cutaneous flushing (red face)

- tachycardia

- decreased salivation (dry mouth)

-fever

-Central nervous system excitation.

-Shock

- coma and death have been reported in severe cases




What's in Nutmeg That Causes Psychosis?

Nutmeg spice that contains several volatile oils which include alkyl
benzene derivatives such as myristicin, elemicin, and safrole. Nutmeg
also contains terpenes and myristic acid. These are the biologically
active components which are believed to trigger the sometimes
psychotic episodes.



Why Isn't Nutmeg Regulated as a Drug?

Many people believe that, because of its proven drug-like effects and its
ability to trigger psychosis,  nutmeg should be regulated as a drug. But
as of now, the FDA has not agreed and nutmeg is still available as a
common spice in every corner grocery store.


But even though the FDA has not yet regulated nutmeg, that doesn't
mean you shouldn't take precautions. Precautions against pumpkin
pie--- really? Yes, really.  Most recipes for pumpkin pie only call fro a
teaspoon or so of nutmeg. Since most of us don't sit down and eat the
whole pie ourselves, the effects of nutmeg are spread around. That's
why you don't read about whole families freaking out after eating
Thanksgiving dinner. And you don't read about kids breaking into
Walmart's to steal truckloads of pumpkin pies or federally-funded
Pumpkin Pie Rehab Centers.

But, seriously, awareness is important. Especially now that pumpkin
spice -- which is often code for nutmeg-cinnamon-pumpkin spice-- is
becoming ubiquitous, it will become easier to accidentally overdose on
nutmeg.


It's a jungle out there. With the announcement by Starbuck's that it
sells 200 million Pumpkin Spice Latte's each year, we're all maybe just a
latte or a pumpkin cupcake away from mainlining.






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