Ecuadorian Jungle, South America (TFC)— Just when you thought psychedelic ventures couldn’t get weirder, a curve ball whips past. Researchers deep in Ecuador have discovered a new, mysterious species of psychedelic lichen. A cacophony of compounds exist within the species, renowned for cryptic effects on human consciousness.
This new species, Evolve Ascend reports, is the only known lichen to harbor psychedelic properties. Lichens are intriguing in that they exist due to a symbiotic, mutually beneficial algae-fungi relationship. Lichens are a kind of composite organism, making it all the more interesting that one is trip-capable.
Both psilocybin and two different kinds of tryptamines were found in the lichen, as well as 5-Me-O-DMT. The latter is also a powerful tryptamine, known for psychedelic qualities and its presence in many plant species. Officially, the lichen only has “presumed” psychedelic properties.
Good science is thorough science, and this is needed in the psychedelic domain. Psychedelic research does, however, rely on first hand accounts of said experiences by willing volunteers. If science completely ignored the experience itself, then no data would exist describing what some call another world. That’s why researchers are listening closely to the words of native tribes with sole knowledge of the lichen.
The lichen was actually encountered by western science in 1981, by ethnobotanists Jim Yost and Wade Davis. Ethnobotanists investigate the relationship between humans and plants. That’s why psychedelics are of keen interest, as they’re relationship with humans is unique. Even LSD, disguised on an ambiguous paper tab, was originally synthesized from the rye fungus ergot.
According to Evolve Ascend, Yoth embarked on a seven year search before it was found. Even indigenous Waorani tribesmen scarcely encounter the organism themselves. Yost was determined, however, to track down the only known psychedelic lichen species.
Yoth, after discussing the lichen’s effects with natives, described them as “a collective journey into the subconscious.” Shaman’s normally take the lichen exclusively, far away from the rest of the 600 strong tribe. They say use ended when malevolent shaman’s used it to curse other Waorani to die. According to the people, the last time the lichen was used was some eighty years before Yoth encountered them.
Eventually a sample was recovered, though it took decades for results to creep out of the lab. In 2014 it was given a scientific name, Dictyonema huaorani, and it’s active compounds identified. The composite organism, astonishingly, contains a chemical cocktail unheard of in any plant, animal, or fungus on the planet.
Of course, much more research is needed in order to uncover more of the lichen’s treasures. Western science will never fully understand it, however, without also critically examining the cognitive experience Dictyonema huaorani induces. How is it different is it from other psychedelics? How is it similar? What can it teach us about the mind, and what a psychedelic experience is? These are all questions to be explored. This can only happen, though, once eyes are opened to the probability of possibility.