Neil deGrasse Tyson might be best known as an astrophysicist whose expertise lies in the cosmos beyond. But he says there may be mysteries yet to be unraveled here on earth when it comes to undiscovered plant life with psychedelic potential.
On an episode of his podcast StarTalk, Tyson and Harvard University neuroscientist Staci Gruber talked about marijuana has been used for its psychoactive properties for thousands of years. It got Tyson thinking: what kind of plants and fungi might still be out there with untapped psychedelic potential?
“How many plants out there remain undiscovered simply because we don’t have enough people saying, ‘now, let’s smoke that, let’s smoke this, let’s smoke this?’” he mused. “I mean, there’s gotta be.”
Gruber entertained the question, agreeing that there’s “huge potential in botanicals, and I think that we see that with some other things—primarily these days, we hear about it in the hallucinogenic space like ayahuasca or these other sort of natural things, mushrooms.”
“There’s tremendous interest in terms of therapeutic application,” she said, adding that such interest has been evident for millennia.
Of course, while cannabis has survived throughout human civilization, it stands to reason that many species that might have contained psychoactive have gone extinct. A study from 2019 estimated that nearly 600 species of plants have been lost in the past 250 years alone.