Dune 2's Wildest Scene Has a Real-Life Counterpart on Earth

Take a fishing trip.

In the sci-fi epic Dune, melange (a.k.a. the spice) isn’t your typical drug. The addictive compound imbues the user with vitality, longevity, and heightened awareness. Notably, it comes from fungal excretions produced by infant sandworms, the giant lamprey-esque annelids that inhabit the desert planet Arrakis. Once mixed with water and then dried, the excretions form the spice.

If you mourn the fact that Arrakis isn’t a real planet, worry not: Earth is bursting with some trippy options.

Warner Bros.

Dune: Part 2, which aired last week on March 1, takes this even further, introducing the Water of Life. This hallucinogenic bright blue substance is extracted from the bodies of dead baby sandworms. It’s highly poisonous, but if you can drink it and live you’ll gain the power to see through time.

If you mourn the fact that Arrakis isn’t a real planet, worry not: Earth is bursting with some trippy options. Sure, none of them can confer the powers of clairvoyance or safe interstellar space travel, but mid-trip you might feel like they do.

Colorado River toad (Incilius alvarius)

This semi-aquatic amphibian hails from Mexico’s Sonoran Desert and the Southwestern U.S. From parotid glands in their skin, they secrete a thick venom containing psychoactive compounds. Among the compounds are bufotenin and 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), not to be confused with N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT. This venom creates a brief, intense high that lasts about 20 minutes. A 2018 paper in the journal Frontiers in Psychology analyzed the experiences of 20 people who inhaled 50 milligrams of vaporized 5-MeO-DMT; 15 people had a “complete mystical experience.”

Asiatic toad (Bufo gargarizans)

Common to China, this toad had been essential to traditional Eastern medicine, specifically the topical anesthetic chan su, in which the toxin bufalin is the active compound. Bufalin makes the blood vessels constrict, increasing blood pressure, and the venom is administered in small doses to treat sore throat and heart palpitation.

Bicolored tree frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor): This South American frog, also known in Brazil as kambô, secretes bioactive peptides sacred to Western Amazon indigenous rituals in healing and purification. Their secretions serve as toxic defenses against predators as well as a method of purging unwanted compounds from their bodies. Administration of this toxin to the skin can result in nausea, vomiting, apathy, and fatigue followed by, a state of increased stamina and vigor, according to a 2014 paper in the Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases

Salema porgy (Sarpa salpa)

This gold-striped species of sea bream from the eastern Atlantic Ocean off the African coast can induce a condition called ichthyoallyeinotoxism if ingested raw or cooked. A 2006 paper published in the journal Clinical Toxicology depicts two cases of humans suffering two days of phantasmagoric hallucinations after savoring some of this specimen, also called the dreamfish. The specific toxin at work in ichthyoallyeinotoxism remains unknown.

Red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex californicus)

These ants induced hallucinations as part of religious and medical ceremonies among groups indigenous to southern California. A 1996 paper in the Journal of Ethnobiology describes how large amounts of these ants’ venom can alter metabolic states that make the consumer vulnerable to these visions. They’re also, the paper writes, the first well-documented ethnographic example of an insect serving as a hallucinogenic agent.

None of these compounds will endow you with clairvoyance, and the chances of being hunted by giant sandworms are nearly zero. But even if we don’t live in a real-life Dune, truth is still stranger than fiction.

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