This mossy plant may be 'more medically effective than cannabis'

Something interesting from the world of science: Liverwort contains a psychoactive substance ("perrottetinene" or "PET") that has similar molecular structures to THC. Researchers think might be superior to THC for dampening pain signals and reducing inflammation. It just doesn't produce the same kind of high.

ScienceDaily:

Until now, it was thought that cannabis was the only plant that produces THC. However, as early as 1994, Japanese phytochemist Yoshinori Asakawa had discovered a substance in the liverwort plant Radula perrottetii which was related to THC and had named this natural substance "perrottetinene." In this natural product, the individual atoms are linked together in a manner similar to that of THC, however they differ in their three-dimensional structure and further exhibit an additional benzyl group.

A few year ago, Jürg Gertsch from the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Bern discovered that liverworts were being advertised as so-called "legal highs" on the internet. At the time, nothing was known about the pharmacological effects of this substance. Together with chemists from Erick Carreira's team from the Department of Chemistry at the ETH Zürich, Gertsch's research team in Bern biochemically and pharmacologically compared THC and perrottetinene.

Using animal models, they were able to demonstrate that perrottetinene reaches the brain very easily and that, once there, it specifically activates cannabinoid receptors. It even demonstrates a stronger anti-inflammatory effect in the brain than THC, something which makes perrottetinene particularly interesting when you consider its potential medical application "It's astonishing that only two species of plants, separated by 300 million years of evolution, produce psychoactive cannabinoids," says Gertsch. The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

...Andrea Chicca, a member of scientific staff in Jürg Gertsch's group, sees a potential for development in the therapeutic use of perrottetinene or similar substances: "This natural substance has a weaker psychoactive effect and, at the same time, is capable of inhibiting inflammatory processes in the brain."

If you're looking to score some liverwort, note that the three psychoactive species of the Radula genus can only be found in Japan, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Tasmania, according to Science News.

Read: Liverwort could prove to be more medically effective than cannabis, research suggests

image by University of Bern/Stefan Fischer