The transcendent experience of eating black truffles that makes the hefty price tag worthwhile for so many diners is not simply a matter of good taste, it turns out, but of good drugs — sort of.
According to new research from Italian scientists at the Campus Bio-Medico University in Rome, the captivating fungi produces anandamide, a compound that triggers the release of mood-enhancing chemicals in the human brain, reports the BBC.
The compound does so by activating the same mechanism as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Researcher Mauro Maccarrone and his colleagues now believe that truffles use that so-called “bliss molecule” to attract animals, who eat the truffles and help spread the fungi’s spores. The molecule has been noted for its role in affecting “mood, appetite, memory, pain, depression, and fertility” in humans, and its name is derived from “ananda,” the Sanskrit word for “extreme delight or bliss.”
Maccarrone told the BBC that the research team is considering “testing other species for the presence of anandamide.”