Author Topic: How to Get High on Soil....  (Read 1802 times)

Nigel B

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How to Get High on Soil....
« on: February 13, 2012, 15:14:54 »
 :o

Oh yes yes yes!   We all knew though didn't we..... ;)

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How to Get High on Soil - Pagan Kennedy

M. vaccae, a living creature that resides in your backyard compost pile, acts like a mind-altering drug once it enters the human body, functioning like antidepressant pills to boost your mood.



I'm holding a bowl of dirt up to my nose, in hopes of getting high on the fumes of my backyard compost pile. The microbe that I'm after today is M. vaccae, a living creature that acts like a mind-altering drug once it enters the human body. It has been shown to boost the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine circulating in the systems of both humans and mice. In other words, it works in much the same manner as antidepressant pills. And yes, it is possible to dose yourself by simply breathing in the smell of good dirt.

The drug-like effects of this soil bacteria were discovered, quite by accident, about a decade ago. A doctor named Mary O'Brien created a serum out of the bacteria and gave it to lung-cancer patients, in hopes that it might boost their immune systems. Instead, she noticed another effect: The hospital patients perked up. They reported feeling happier and suffered from less pain than the patients who did not receive doses of bacteria. Further studies in mice confirmed the mood-boosting effect of the soil bugs.

So now I'm poking at the dirt in this dish, trying to release as much of the M. vaccae as I can. The compost looks like chocolate cake -- it's a rich brown-black color, and it holds together with that same kind of moistness that we love in baked goods. I'm eager for something to make me feel jaunty on this winter day. Outside, the sky glimmers a dim, silver-gray -- it's filled with clouds that Virginia Woolf would have described as "implacable." I have always been sensitive to such days. The dishwater light trickles through the window and infects me with malaise.

As I huff the soil, I have no way of knowing exactly how much M. vaccae is floating into my lungs -- or whether it's enough to change my mind. But I can sure smell this compost. The odor hits like a punch and triggers a memory: I recall a day in Western Massachusetts on a friend's farm, turning earth with a pitchfork. Dried mud extended up my arms, like a pair of long-sleeved gloves, as if I were dressed for a gala event with forest-fairies. I felt dazzled that day, boozed up on sunshine, and in love with the potatoes I'd just dug out of the soil.

That same smell hovers over this dish now -- a sexy, outdoorsy tang. It's an odor produced by microbes in the soil as they break down plants. Scientists call it "geosmin," this dirt smell that lends the earthy taste to beets and carrots. It's the flavor of life.

Cooks have another own word for it. "Terroir" is what makes a loaf of sourdough from San Francisco taste so different from its cousin in Bordeaux. The regional microbes, in the soil and air, impart their particular notes to the bread. You can taste terroir in your wine, your cheese, and even your chocolate -- all of which are produced with the help of specialized bacterias that can vary from town to town.

This soil in the bowl is redolent with my own particular terroir. It is made from the apples that plummeted to the ground in our backyard. It contains, too, a sweetening of ashes from our wood stove. It is the smell of an unfolding revolution in microbiology. New tools -- like desktop gene sequencers -- allow scientists to read a sample of soil and find every species of microbe inside it. This is science that you can smell and taste. And sometimes, you can get high on it too.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/how-to-get-high-on-soil/251935/
Image: Donald Barger/Shutterstock.


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I hope its ok to reproduce an article in this way rather than just a simple link?
It seemed worth the effort. :)
"Carry on therefore with your good work.  Do not rest on your spades, except for those brief periods which are every gardeners privilege."

manicscousers

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2012, 15:24:42 »
That explains the feel good factor when I'm mauling around getting my hands dirty  :)
Really good read

ACE

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2012, 15:40:47 »
It should have a government health warning not to be used near fans, as this seems to reverse the effect. ;D

I can just picture all the local crackheads putting their names down for a lottie ;)
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Digeroo

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2012, 16:15:35 »
It seems a very long winded way of saying 'the answer lies in the soil.'

However I feel rather uncomfortable about the thought of mind altering organisms even beneficial ones entering my body.

ACE

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2012, 16:32:50 »

However I feel rather uncomfortable about the thought of mind altering organisms even beneficial ones.

Bring it on, I don't have many anyway, whoops! I should have gone to specsavers
 ;)
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Chrispy

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2012, 16:37:34 »
There are some pretty nasty bugs in the soil, if they could easily get into our systems we would forever be getting sick.

Seems a bit of a 1+1=3 article to me, but there are enough benifits of working on our allotments, don't need extra bugs in our systems to make us feel good.
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Nigel B

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2012, 17:47:02 »
It seems a very long winded way of saying 'the answer lies in the soil.'

However I feel rather uncomfortable about the thought of mind altering organisms even beneficial ones entering my body.

That's interesting Digeroo.
Are we not simply a collection of organisms living in symbiotic harmony for the years we are alive anyway?
Yoghurt (I never can spell that word without a spell-checker), is organism after organism isn't it?  Multi-organisms are not exactly rare either, if you know where to look, but I'm getting away from the point aren't I?  ;D
Reality is a construct.... WooOooo!

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Digeroo

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2012, 18:52:03 »
 I suddenly saw all the little critters taking over control.  But of course you are right Nigel they are in control already. :o

So now I know why we are all hooked on growing veggies, and with all this cold weather I am missing my fix.


green lily

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2012, 23:23:59 »
I go outside because I'm solar powered and breathe better outside. My immune system doesn't need boosting its on overdrive anyway.
But there you go interesting but be careful before you put your nose too close to the soil there are some nasties there that can do a lot of harm quite quickly.
But who said that getting dirty for kids isn't a lot of fun and good for them... and some of us never have grown up ::)

Spudbash

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2012, 10:51:56 »
I'm a big believer in bugs and recently found out that we rely on them more than we think: Vitamin B12 is produced through bacterial activity, apparently.

Spudbash  :)


small

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2012, 13:52:16 »
Well I love the smell of soil, and always feel better after working with it. So whether this is scientifically true or not, it's empirically true. Roll on the spring so I can get back down to soil level!

Unwashed

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2012, 13:59:09 »
I'd say the article was irresponsible at best.

Yes, Mycobacterium vaccae is being studied as a potential antidepressent, but suggesting that depressives self-medicate with the live bacteria is recklessly idiotic.  Depression is a difficult and dangerous disease and needs professional medical care and drug-therepy is by no means the most appropriate way to combat the disease, and if you don't suffer from depression then self-medicating with experimental anti-depressants is asinine.

And that soil smell, it has nothing to do with Mycobacterium vaccae, it's largely down to the large family of relatively benign Streptomyces soil bacteria.

However, many soil bacteria are far from benign, and breathing them in, as recommended in the article, is an extremely good way of incoulating yourself with something nasty or fatal.

Take for starters other members of the mostly harmless Mycobacterium genus.  Don't worry too much about M. tuberculosis, M. bovis, M. africanum, and M. microti, all of which cause tuberculosis because they probably doesn't survive in the soil for long, and while M. leprae will give you leprosy it's reasonably uncommon in the UK.  More troublesome are skin infections from M. marinum and M. haemophilum, cervical lymphadenitis from M. avium, joint infections from M. avium and M. intracellulare, pulmonary infections from M. kansasii, M. avium, and M. intracellulare, bacteremia from M. avium, and nosocomial infections from M. fortuitum and M. chelonae.

Bacillus cereus is a common soil bacterium responsible for vomiting and diarrhea typical of food poisoning, and not something you'd want in your lungs.

Clostridium tetani is one of the soil fauna that you'd least like to inoculate your longs with, causing as it does tetanus, and there are plenty of other Clostridium nasties in soil too, including C. botulinum that causes botulism, and C. difficile, one of the difficult to treat hospital infections.

And finally there are the usual suspects, the closely related Salmonella and Escherichia genuses, the latter containing the ever-present E. coli, and finally Listeria monocytogenes.

Of course, there's nothing particularly dangerous about soil per se, but you really don't want to go rubbing it in a cut or eating it, and you certainly don't want to go inhaling it.


For goodness sake.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 14:00:40 by Unwashed »
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Squash64

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2012, 14:20:43 »

However I feel rather uncomfortable about the thought of mind altering organisms even beneficial ones.

Bring it on, I don't have many anyway, whoops! I should have gone to specsavers
 ;)

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Robert_Brenchley

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2012, 18:07:24 »
Will anyone dare go near a garden again after reading Unwashed's post?

Nigel B

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2012, 19:52:47 »
I'd say the article was irresponsible at best.

Yes, Mycobacterium vaccae is being studied as a potential antidepressent, but suggesting that depressives self-medicate with the live bacteria is recklessly idiotic.  Depression is a difficult and dangerous disease and needs professional medical care and drug-therepy is by no means the most appropriate way to combat the disease, and if you don't suffer from depression then self-medicating with experimental anti-depressants is asinine.

The act of just getting a double-handful of soil and smelling it isI as old as compost itself Unwashed. That isn't trying to self-medicate anything mate. Its one of the ways we can good compost from bad. I don't see the article suggesting people self-medicate with soil or microbes either, but hey-ho.  ::)

Quote
However, many soil bacteria are far from benign, and breathing them in, as recommended in the article, is an extremely good way of incoulating yourself with something nasty or fatal.
How often does that happen in reality Unwashed? I honestly can't think of a single case of inhaled compost syndrome. Not one. :)

Quote

Of course, there's nothing particularly dangerous about soil per se, but you really don't want to go rubbing it in a cut or eating it, and you certainly don't want to go inhaling it.


For goodness sake.

Nice picture. And I'll bet you've eaten your fair share of dirt, muck and coal in your time too mate. We all do. :) Its all part of growing up and being British. ;D

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"Carry on therefore with your good work.  Do not rest on your spades, except for those brief periods which are every gardeners privilege."

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Re: How to Get High on Soil....
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2012, 19:52:47 »