Extracting Myristicin & Safrole from Nutmeg

The allyl-benzenes are not alkaloids. To purify myrsiticin/elemicin/safrole from nutmeg, is a tricky process, but not impossible. The shot would be to soxhlet extract the oil from a few kilos of nutmegs, strip the solvent (pref. under vacuum) perhaps filter/press the oil at room temperature to remove the nutmeg fats (myristic acid and glycerides) Then fractionally distill at reduced pressure to obtain the correct fraction. The boiling temperature of these components might be a bit over a hundred degrees in a strong vacuum. This you could calculate from the Clapeyron equation (or a simplified Antione equation) and a knowledge of the distillation pressure and the boiling points of the compounds at two pressures either side of your distillation pressure. I did this using data from the Handbook of Physics and Chemistry. The equation to use is of the form

ln(P/P*) = A/T + B (T in Kelvin).
This process is quite a tricky one, and one which I would not be confident of performing succesfully myself. Double distilling would almost certainly be necessary to remove the last of the impurities.

A correction from a reader...


I've read your `Extracting Myristicin & Safrole from Nutmeg' page and found it a bit flawed. The traditional method of obtaining oil of nutmeg is to do a steam distillation of the ground nut (this is how it's done commercially). The allyl-benzenes in this oil can than be separated with careful fractionated vacuum distillation.

Alternatively the ground nut can be extracted with diethyl ether and, after filtration, the myristic fat can be precipitated by treatment with methanol. The filtrate contains the allyl-benzenes and other non polar products. Stripping the ether and methanol preferably under vacuum yields an oil, which can be vacuum fractionated.

The second method produces an oil that can also contain some non-volatiles like poly-phenolic products, gallus acid, etc. that won't be in the steam distillate. Even the first type of oil will contain mostly terpenes and only about 7-18% of allyl-benzenes (0.5-3% safrole, 5-12% myristicin, 0.02-2% elemicin + others).

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