Why do pigs dig for black truffles even though someone takes the tasty treats away before they can eat them? Why do people pay over $300 for three ounces of the rare black mushrooms? Could both be doing it because truffles give them a high that’s a lot like pot – except for the price?
A new study by researchers at the Campus Bio-Medico University in Rome, Italy, found that the Tuber melanosporum – which grows primarily in Europe but also in Australia and New Zealand - contains anandamide, a psychoactive ingredient that is similar to trahydrocannabinol. In layman’s terms, this means that black truffles contain a so-called “bliss molecule” that provides a high similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The “bliss molecule,” also the reason black truffles are black, triggers the release of melanin in humans, which causes changes in mood, memory and appetite. “Anandamide” comes from “ananda,” which is the Sanskrit word for bliss.
The researchers believe the mushrooms developed anandamide, which also gives black truffles their aroma, to attract pigs, dogs, meerkats, grizzly bears, baboons and other animals to eat them and then spread the spores by their excrements. The black truffles have no other use for making the anandamide.
Before you go saving your money to get stoned on black truffles or to buy a porcine bliss digger to help you find your own, the researchers point out that, while anandamide triggers the same receptors as THC, it breaks down too quickly in the body to give a sustained high. At best, it may make you forgetful and lose energy, traits seen in pigs who eat them.
That forgetfulness probably comes in handy when pigs see ads for bacon.