Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Traces of heroin and cocaine have been found in the tartar of 19th-century Dutch farmers.
- Archaeologists can now tell what drugs our ancestors used thanks to tooth tartar.
- For this study, they tested 10 cadavers and discovered 44 drugs and metabolites.
- This new method will offer us insights into the types of drugs our ancestors used.
Credi: Сергей Кучугурный / Adobe Stock<p>This is no easy method. Tartar levels vary from person to person. As they write, the variables include "the intake of fermentable carbohydrates, acidic foods and medicines; the salivary flow rate; the endogenous concentrations of inorganic ions in saliva; and salivary buffer systems, impact calculus formation."</p><p>They also have to factor in accidental consumption or inhalation of drugs, which also leaves a record. That said, the team is pleased with the results. Archaeology has long measured cultural drug use; now they can gain insights into exactly <em>who</em> did the inhaling, which might provide information about the identity and role of the skeletons they unearth.</p><p>The team found cocaine, heroin, and heroin metabolites in the remains of these Dutch farmers, which could help Bartholdy piece together their pain management protocols. More pedestrian consumption was also found: "The common consumption of caffeine containing drinks and the widespread use of tobacco products were reflected by the investigated samples."</p><p>There are a few barriers: this particular technology is expensive and hard to access—it's not a common laboratory machine. And while tartar is hardy, not every substance is going to survive for millennia, or even years. Amphetamines, MDMA, and codeine have "low logP and plasma-protein binding," while benzodiazepines and morphine exhibit "high plasma-protein binding." The team was surprised to discover cocaine and heroin in the samples given their chemical and enzymatic instability.</p><p>That said, this research empowers archaeologists with yet another tool in their research kit. While scholars like Muraresku might not convince the Vatican to give up their vessels, we may soon have another way of discovering early Christian psychedelic usage. We should also learn more about pain management—and maybe even the pleasure of our ancestors.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
A new study on mice showed that ginger may counter certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- A new Michigan Medicine study on mice suggests that the primary bioactive compound of ginger root, 6-gingerol, could help counter the autoimmune disorders lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- The researchers found that the mice had lower levels of NETs (which play a role in the pathogenesis of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome by stimulating autoantibody formation) after being giving 6-gingerol.
- 6-gingerol won't be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, but the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing the diseases.
Treating lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome<p>Specifically, the researchers looked at lupus, which attacks the body's own immune system, along with antiphospholipid syndrome (often associated with lupus), which causes blood clots. Both the diseases cause widespread inflammation and ravage organs overtime. In mice with either of the disease, 6-gingerol stopped the neutrophil extracellular trap release caused by the diseases' production of autoantibodies.<br><br>"Neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs, come from <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/white+blood+cells/" target="_blank">white blood cells</a> called neutrophils," explained lead author Ramadan Ali, Ph.D <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-01-ginger-counters-autoimmune-diseases-mice.html" target="_blank">in a press release</a>. "These sticky spider-web like structures are formed when autoantibodies interact with receptors on the neutrophil's surface."</p><p>The webs, according to Ali, play a fundamental role in the pathogenesis of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome in which they set off autoantibody formation and contribute to clots in blood vessels and other damage. </p>
Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDczMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzQwMjk3Nn0.-sJTlsLQ9_0lz9nIjjx9zL2HzsBBPyiv-B48GOlTfzQ/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C312%2C0%2C312&height=700" id="9cfd3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee0f26f2d0aa12551b6cf2fab0ab71f7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
What's next?<p>The study was done on rodent models. However, the authors think that the promising preclinical data, which showed that 6-gingerol has surprising anti-neutrophil properties that may guard against the progression of certain autoimmune diseases, encourages the clinical trial development. </p><p>"As for basically all treatments in our field, one size does not fit all. But, I wonder if there is a subgroup of autoimmune patients with hyperactive neutrophils who might benefit from increased intake of 6-gingerol," Knight said, noting that it will be important to look and analyze neutrophils before and after treatment so to determine the subgroup most likely to see benefit. </p><p>While 6-gingerol won't be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing the diseases. </p><p>"Those that have autoantibodies, but don't have activated disease, may benefit from this treatment if 6-gingerol proves to be a protective agent in humans as it does in mice," Ali said.</p><p>"Patients with active disease take blood thinners, but what if there was also a natural supplement that helped reduce the amount of clots they produce? And what if we could decrease their autoantibodies?"</p>
Giving herbal medicine a deeper look<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDcyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk0ODAxMX0.WSI8bt0eK1tb3_C59TWbm_VBjzEmr8qZMe9sjydAR8A/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C703%2C0%2C703&height=700" id="8750f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac0e4587ed052bcf45be609ac47fa628" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
bulbs of garlics
A new study explores the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic drug ibogaine, which has been used in Africa for centuries.
- For decades, people have reported that the psychedelic drug ibogaine seems to rid addicts of their cravings for drugs.
- In a new study, researchers created a variant of ibogaine that's less toxic and doesn't cause hallucinations.
- The results showed that the variant seemed to significantly lower depression and drug relapse rates in tests on mice.
Tabernanthe iboga bark powder
Credit: Kgjerstad / Wikimedia Commons<p>To explore ibogaine's potential as an addiction treatment, the researchers behind the recent study, published in the journal <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-3008-z" target="_blank">Nature</a>, aimed to create safer, less toxic analogues of the drug. </p><p>The team created an ibogaine variant that, like ibogaine, had an element called a tetrahydroazepine ring, which seems to be involved in promoting the growth of dendritic spines. This variant—a compound called tabernanthalog (TBG)—was less toxic and less hallucinogenic.<br></p><p>Experiments on mice suggested TBG has antidepressant and anti-addiction potential. </p><p>One test showed that mice subjected to a series of stressors showed less depression symptoms after one treatment, effects similar to ketamine, another psychedelic drug. More surprising was a test on opioid addiction: TBG seemed to virtually eliminate relapses in mice who had become addicted to heroin. This anti-addictive effect lasted about two weeks.</p>
Therapeutic potential<p>The researchers suspect TBG might be able to treat multiple conditions simultaneously.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We've been focused on treating one psychiatric disease at a time, but we know that these illnesses overlap," David Olson, assistant professor of chemistry at UC Davis and senior author on the paper, told <a href="https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/new-compound-related-psychedelic-ibogaine-could-treat-addiction-depression/" target="_blank">UC Davis News</a>. "It's unbelievable how little we know about them." "It might be possible to treat multiple diseases with the same drug."</p><p>But before drugs like TBG could be used to treat addiction or depression in humans, more research will be needed to better understand the drug, its safety and whether its therapeutic effects extend beyond rodents. Another interesting question, though not explored by the study, is whether the psychedelic properties of ibogaine possess therapeutic benefits; by removing the trip aspect, would users be missing out?</p>
The psychedelic aspect<p>Maybe. Psychedelic experiences are mysterious and highly subjective, with some people reporting terrifying and negative trips, while others gain useful insights. Here's one account of a positive experience posted on <a href="https://erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=58716" target="_blank">Erowid</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"[1 hour 20 minutes after ingestion] I am having an intense communion with a spirit in the shape of a purple-colored, brain-shaped cloud of vapor, which shows me the interconnection of myself and all things in the universe. It must sound comical to read it in words, but it was the most profound and beautiful experience in my life."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"[7 hours after ingestion] [...] something interesting has started happening in my brain. I feel as if there is a distinct second consciousness inside me, and I can carry on internal conversations with it, asking questions, receiving answers. The other consciousness seems extremely wise, I sense it is another part of me that has never been encumbered by fears or doubts [...]"</p>To be sure, you can also find reports of ibogaine making people sick, being too powerful or <a href="https://erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=94015" target="_blank">not being worth the money</a> to experiment with it at a treatment center. But regardless of the psychedelic properties, the new study adds to the <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/psychedelic-therapy" target="_self">renaissance of research exploring how psychedelics can help treat mental health conditions</a>.
Psychedelic therapy will become legal in Oregon in 2023. That's thanks largely to a renaissance of psychedelic research that's changing attitudes on the substances' medical potential.
- In November, Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin therapy.
- Psilocybin is already being used in clinical research settings, but it remains a controlled substance on the federal level.
- At the 2020 Web Summit, two experts in the field of psychedelic research and therapy shed light on what the future of psilocybin therapy might look like.