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Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Compost High

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 10:29 AM

With the city's compost program well underway, some folks still remain bitter about the idea (and leave grumpy messages on Sam Adam's voicemail). But! Thanks to science, we may have found a new selling point besides simply bettering the environment: compost can get you high.

Hey, you wanna get high?

Behold M. vaccae, the mind-altering bacteria found in your innocent compost bucket, bin or backyard pile. Turns out this bug triggers a boost in the brain's serotonin levels, acting as a natural — albeit unfortunately fragrant — antidepressant.

Like most interesting drugs, M. vaccae was discovered by accident, after a doctor created a serum from the bacteria in hopes of creating an immune booster for caner patients. While it did little in aiding the immune system, her patients' moods skyrocketed.

Therapy with with drugs based on M. vaccae's molecular components might someday be used to treat depression, according to Graham Rook, an immunologist who spoke with Discover Magazine. “It’s not clear to me whether the way ahead will be drugs that circumvent the use of these bugs,” Rook said, “or whether it will be easier to say, ‘The hell with it, let’s use the bugs.’”

So, feeling blue about the new compost system? Just flip open the lid of your handy compost bucket and take a whiff. It could do you good.

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