One step closer to saving a species!


In recent years, the hunt for Incilius Alvarius, formerly known as Bufo Alvarius, as a medicine has skyrocketed. People started being perplexed and curious about the composition of the toad’s venom containing the psychoactive compounds bufotenin and 5-MeO-DMT. The compound is known and has been used for treatment‐resistant depression, PTSD, substance use disorder, and anxiety‐related disorders, causing enlightenment and spiritual exploration, stimulating neuroendocrine function, immunoregulation, and anti‐inflammatory processes. (Read more about 5-MeO-DMT and its pharmacology here!)


For this reason, many began to see this toad as a holy grail of the treatment of mental illnesses, but where do people exactly find this toad?


For years, the toad has been living freely in the Sonoran Desert since not many people were interested in experimenting with the toad. Unfortunately, with the popularization of the toad, the roads became busy, and plenty of toads got run over by cars when hunting insects for survival. Shamans started using the toad as a treatment and using it in retreats, augmenting the traffic on these roads even further. People who went to these retreats spread the word about “toad medicine,” including celebrities such as Mike Tyson and Jake Paul. And some people began poaching the toad for personal profit.



It was only a matter of time until we started witnessing an impact on the habitats and the endangerment of the species. In 2020, people united to share the Protect the Sonoran Toad movement to bring awareness to the cause and try to implement an alternative for the treatment using synthetic 5-MeO-DMT.

Protect the Sonoran Desert Toad, designed by Cream


“There’s a perception of abundance, but when you begin to remove large numbers of a species, their numbers are going to collapse like a house of cards at some point,” Robert Villa, the president of the Tucson Herpetological Society, told the New York Times’Simon Romero in 2022.


Despite 5-MeO-DMT being a viable alternative this year, we got closer to finding yet another alternative to save the toads.

New research from Mount Sinai Hospital and Columbia University shared a modified structure of the 5-MeO-DMT molecule, a new compound named 4-F,5-MeO-PyrT. Similarly, to 5-MeO-DMT, this molecule also acts on serotonin receptors, but on a different subtype, the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors, thus offering the same therapeutic effects without inducing hallucinogenic trips.

Once tested in mice, the new compound did not activate the head-twitching response, a response attributed to hallucinogenic effects in mice. The stressed mice started showing evidence of lower anxiety and depression levels by drinking more sugary water and being more social. 

“We were able to fine-tune the 5-MeO-DMT/serotonin scaffold to obtain the maximum activity at the 5-HT1A interface and minimal activity at 5-HT2A,” explains senior author Daniel Wacker, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacological Sciences and Neuroscience at Icahn Mount Sinai. “Our findings suggest that receptors other than 5-HT2A not only modulate behavioral effects stemming from psychedelics but may substantially contribute to their therapeutic potential. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the strength of that contribution to 5-MeO-DMT, which is currently being tested in several clinical trials for depression. We believe our study will lead to a better understanding of the complex pharmacology of psychedelics that involve many receptor types.”

Saying that this compound will be the key to aid in the endangerment of Incilius Alvarius is uncertain. Considering there are already synthetic versions of the toad venom, people typically mention that using the toad is a different experience than having the synthetic version of the compound. However, if synthetic compounds become more available for clinical use in treating mental illnesses and have better performance than “Toad Medicine,” maybe we will stop seeing this toad as a “medicine” and see it as a living species once again and stop abusing it for personal benefit.


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