Get to know the radula, the plant that may be the marijuana of the future!
Research mapped effects of a radula substance on 44 points of the central nervous system and identified similar effects in addition to differences in relation to Cannabis sativa.
Although the plant is not of the genus Cannabis, it is considered a moderately potent but effective cannabinoid, says research.
With medicinal and recreational effects similar to Cannabis sativa, common to countries like New Zealand, Costa Rica and Japan is stirring up the interest of the scientific community.
It is the genus Radula, subdivision of the family Radulaceae – with about 300 described species. In some of them, such as Radula marginata, Radula laxiramea, and Radula perrottetii, the presence of psychoactive substances has already been proven.
A study published on Wednesday by the journal Science Advances seeks to better explain the possibilities of the plant.
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Scientists at the Universities of Bern and Zurich, both in Switzerland, looked at the effects of a substance isolated from the radula on mice. The general conclusion was that, although the plant is not of the Cannabis genus, it can also be considered a “moderately potent but effective” cannabinoid – using exactly the expression of the article published by the researchers here.
“Radula contains perrotinolene, a variant of psychoactive THC, with similar effects,” biochemist Jürg Gertsch, a professor at the University of Bern and one of the authors of the study, told BBC News Brazil.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive substance found in plants of the genus Cannabis.
“(Compared to marijuana,) they differ in terms of potency and possible adverse effects,” he adds, noting that in the laboratory the tests were done with perrotinolene alone. “We did not test the effects of the plant itself – we can expect the content of perrotinolene to vary between different samples.”
Less damage to memory
Since 1994, it has been known that some plants of the genus Radula contain this variant of THC. But until recently, no study with this approach had been conducted. What the scientists did was to analyze the effects of the radula at the molecular level, precisely to be able to define the toxicological consequence of the substance – now in mice, but predicting something similar in humans.
The research mapped effects of the substance on 44 points of the central nervous system. They concluded that, just as with marijuana, the THC of the radula can accumulate in the brain. This variant found in the plant also has analgesic effects and can cause catalepsy, hypolocomotion and hypothermia.
The main differences between it and Cannabis, however, are in some advantages: at least in the tests with mice, the radula caused fewer adverse effects – for example, in memory. “It is less potent and we can expect fewer effects on the central nervous system and, for example, memory, but more studies are needed to prove this,” he says.
“Effects on the body are mediated by the same cannabinoid receptors, but perrotinolene acts more like an endogenous cannabinoid, with potentially stronger anti-inflammatory effects in the brain,” Gertsch says.
Recreational use has already been identified
The scientists explain that the research idea came about because the recreational use of the plant has been observed in a small but growing way. “To date, the plant species of the radula, containing this variant of THC, are legal worldwide,” stresses the biochemist.
Obviously, much more than recreational use, scientists want to understand how radula substances act in the body to glimpse therapeutic applications. “Probably the recreational effects are less strong (than those provided by Cannabis.) But the radula may offer a greater opportunity for medicinal applications,” he glimpses.
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“I believe that the compound of the plant could be used for medicinal purposes,” says the researcher, anticipating the idea that the substance can be synthesized industrially.
“The plant itself grows very slowly and produces only small amounts of the compound, that is, the production of a herbal remedy seems unfeasible.”
New Zealand Tradition Swiss researchers have also noted the autochthonous use of the plant in New Zealand, one of the places where the radula is endemic.
“There may be an ethnopharmacological connection,” says Gertsch. “Radula marginata has a long history of traditional use.” In the archipelago, the plant is historically used as rongoã – traditional Maori medicine, based on the properties of herbs.
Its properties have always been known to the Tohunga, masters of Maori culture. “Radula is a ‘taonga’ of the Maori people, but there is still no scientific literature on it,” says the biochemist.
Taonga is the term used to designate the treasure, the cultural patrimony of the ancestral culture of Oceania.