Discovery of "Huaorani Dictyonema", a rare lichen with strongly psychedelic properties
Newly discovered species of lichen in the equatorial rainforests proves that you don't have to be a fungus to contain psilocybin. It is the first known lichen that contains this substance.
Lichens are a fascinating group, they exist because of a symbiotic relationship between algae (or cyanobacteria) and fungi.
The fungus creates a network that supports, moisturizes and protects the seaweed, which in turn provides sugars through photosynthesis. Although similar to plants, lichens are not plants, but compound organisms.
Which is quite an interesting note in the case of psychedelic lichen, as it has never been seen on a “botanical” level (psilocybin being present mainly in hallucinogenic mushrooms).
According to an article published in The Bryologist, this lichen was recently classified as having hallucinogenic properties. The scientific method requires that researchers be thorough things; in the case of this elusive and decidedly psychedelic lichen, the scientists relied on the testimony of the tribe who knew about it, but as the researchers do not have access to the reference material, they were not able to determine positively the presence of hallucinogenic substances.
The discovery of this organism dates back to 1981, the ethnobotanists Jim Yost and Wade Davis were on mission in the Ecuadorian forest in contact with a tribe named Waorani. Yost had already heard about the existence of this particular lichen, but had not managed to locate it, during his 7 years of adventure ... In 1983, ethnobotanists detail their discovery:
“In the spring of 1981, while we were engaged in ethnobotanical studies in eastern Ecuador, our attention was drawn to a more specific use of hallucinogens by the Waorani, a small isolated group of some 600 Indians. … Among most Amazonian tribes, hallucinogenic intoxication is considered a collective journey into the subconscious and, as such, is a quintessential social event. - "The Waorani, however, views the use of hallucinogens as an aggressive antisocial act; so that the shaman, or ido, who wishes to cast a curse takes the “medicine” alone or accompanied only by his wife at night in the secrecy of the forest or in an isolated house. … "
The lichen was so rare that even the waorani had lost its trace. The last time they used it, it went back "four generations ago", which is equivalent to 80 years ago. And precisely when the "bad" shaman ate it to send a curse on the other Waorani.
Stimulated by the rarity of this lichen, the duo intensified their efforts and they got their reward. As guided by an invisible hand, Yost and Davis became the first Westerners to cast their eyes on the immaterial world of lichen ...
As the responsible investigator, however, they managed to keep a single copy for future analysis.
It took 3 decades to determine that the DNA of this lichen does belong to a new species. In 2014, a team of researchers directed by Michaela Schmoul christens the lichen under the name "Huaorani Dictyonema".
This name results from a technique called liquid chromatography spectrometry (LS-MS) to determine the chemical compounds in its tissue. Analysis reveals the presence of psilocybin, 5-MeO-DMT, 5-MeOT (5-methoxy tryptamine), 5-MeO-NMT tryptamine. This composition established the Huaorani Dictyonema as a very interesting specimen, in that this cocktail of specific substance has never been found before in a plant, a mushroom or an animal.
However the researchers concluded that:
“Due to our inability to use pure reference compounds and an insufficient amount of the sample for the identification of compounds, our analyzes are not able to determine with certainty the presence of hallucinogenic substances. "
So it seems that the search for new potentially beneficial species is once again being interrupted by legislation… This trend has been around for too long, but voices are starting to get louder and louder. The benefits of many “herbs” cannot be ignored for long, we hope.