Meet moronic acid. It's special.
Found in mistletoe and the Chinese sumac, this chemical could be one of the reasons those plants have long been associated with herbal medicine. Scientists studying the anti-viral properties of moronic acid have found it to be effective against HIV and herpes. The HIV work is particularly important, because moronic acid seems to target a different receptor on the virus than other drugs — which means it could be effective against HIV strains that have developed a resistance to existing medication. It'll still be a while before this research translates into a commercial product (if it does at all). But moronic acid is, at least, doing well enough to have made it into Phase II clinical trials — which means that smaller studies on humans have shown that it's generally safe. The Phase II trials, usually done with groups of 100 to 300 people, will help scientists understand whether it's as effective in the human body as it seems to be in the lab.
Looking for more molecules with silly names? Chemist Paul May has a whole list of these things — many of them hilariously immature. List includes arsole, cummingtonite, and fucitol.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.