26 Nov Attention Stoner Science Geeks: You will never look at moss the same way again.
Maybe you aren’t a big moss-head. But you could be, thanks to this article in the Scientific American. Scientists recently found a cannabinoid that behaves just like THC, in an unassuming moss species.
This marks the first time a cannabinoid has been found in a plant beyond the known cannabis and hemp varieties. But our human bodies product cannabinoids on their own (even if you’ve never smoked pot). These human-made molecules are called “endocannabinoids,” because they’re endogenous to our bodies: we make them. (Unless you have a condition like PTSD, or bowel disease. Scientists have found that the bodies of people with these conditions are deficient in cannabinoids.)
That we humans share such a unique capability with humble pot plans is an evolutionary mystery. This topic has been best explored by best-selling author Michael Pollan.
This recent development could be revolutionary, in understanding the evolutionary mystery of cannabinoids.
Because until last month, cannabinoids came from two sources: plants in the genus “cannabis,” and human bodies.
And now, moss.
Specifically, a moss that’s a relative of the mosses called liverwort.
“One genus of the plant, Radula, boasts a handful of species that produce a chemical that is a lot like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from Cannabis sativa, or marijuana,” the Scientific American explains.
Radula is found across the globe, in places including Costa Rica and New Zealand. The scientists who conducted the research obtained it from incense sellers.
This “may be the only chemical synthesis paper ever to thank incense sellers in its acknowledgments,” the article notes.
The researchers administered the new cannabinoid to mice, who exhibited similar responses. The mice moved more slowly, and had lower body temperatures, after taking either THC or the moss-derived cannabinoid.
They also examined inflammation pathways in mouse brains. The moss was less potent, but it still reduced certain molecules associated with inflammation.
This study will lead to more studies, exploring the medical potential. Moss hasn’t typically been hotbed for “bioprospecting,” or looking for new medical compounds in plants and other species. Now liverwort mosses are enjoying their moment in the spotlight.
It’s unclear whether you can get high from moss. But, if you see some really gorgeous moss, it probably couldn’t hurt to try. You might end up making some huge contribution to science.