Cannabis and the moss known as liverwort are two very different plants, but it seems they have more in common than previously thought. After seeing liverwort marketed as a "legal high" online, a group of scientists in Bern, Switzerland began examining the moss to get a better understanding of its pharmacological properties. Turns out, this unassuming moss might be the only plant other then cannabis that naturally produces cannabinoids.
"It's astonishing that only two species of plants, separated by 300 million years of evolution, produce psychoactive cannabinoids," the study's lead researcher Jürg Gertsch said in a release.
The study found that a specific kind of liverwort called radula perrottetii produces a compound called perrottetinene or PET. PET works a lot like a low-strength version of THC—the compound in marijuana that gets people high. PET also interacts with the same parts of the brain that cannabis does: the cannabinoid receptors.
Because the effects of liverwort are much weaker, it really isn't an effective way to get high. However, the plant does seem to have the same anti-inflammatory properties as cannabis - possibly stronger. That means it has potential to be used in future medications, according to Andrea Chicca - one of the researchers who worked with Gertsch.
"This natural substance has a weaker psychoactive effect and, at the same time, is capable of inhibiting inflammatory processes in the brain," she said.
Liverwort's weak psychoactive effects mean it probably won't be replacing recreational cannabis any time soon. However, you can expect to see it start turning up as a natural anti-inflammatory in the near future.