Would you smoke dried “toad milk” if it could help treat depression? You would be joining a long tradition. Toad milk, which is not actually milk, but rather a white substance excreted by a toad native to northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States, contains 5-MeO-DMT, a psychedelic. Archaeologists have discovered residue of the substance in smoking equipment dating as far back as the 8th century, while a Friar from 1496 reported seeing the Taino people inhaling it. It was used mostly for treating the sick or as a way to contact spirits to answer a medical question. Native groups used toad milk as well as various plant seeds known to contain the same compound. It can be inhaled, swallowed, put under the tongue, or even injected.
Recently, scientists decided to take a close look at what exactly happens to the brain when exposed to this type of DMT, and if it could be used to help depression. 42 people smoked dried toad milk and took various tests. The day after smoking, depression rates had gone down by 18%, while four weeks later, rates had plummeted by 68%. Anxiety rates were also lower.
Scientists aren’t quite sure how this works. It could be because 5-MeO-DMT increases brain connectivity, which is usually reduced when someone is depressed or anxious. It could also be that the psychedelic binds to certain brain receptors and reduces inflammation.
Could toad milk be a viable depression remedy? It won’t be anytime soon. Lots of research is still needed, though scientists do know that creating synthetic 5-MeO-DMT is very easy, so it’s not as if you would ever buy real dried toad milk. Licking a toad is also not a good way to treat your depression or even get high, since there are lots of other chemicals that can have really bad side effects. Currently, the substance is illegal in the US, Australia, and many European countries. Denmark uses it for research, but that’s it.