Question of the Week
October 17, 2011
Why would anyone want to lick a toad?
Well, it depends on which toad you are talking about. While the amphibians in the Tennessee area are probably more of a hazard to dogs (eating them), there is a toad that lives in the Sonoran desert called the Colorado River toad that has quite a reputation. Bufo alvarius contains a psychoactive tryptamine that is hallucinogenic like LSD. However, actual toad licking will probably be disappointing as oral ingestion of the active hallucinogen results in little clinical effects since it is deactivated by the monoamine oxidase enzymes in the gut. The reportedly most effective method is to dry the venom and then smoke it-and if desperate, smoke the dried toad skins.
But…. before you go toad hunting, you should know that there is a double edged sword with these toads. They also contain bufadienolides-which act on the human body like cardiac glycosides. This toxin, like digoxin, poisons the sodium potassium ATP-ase. There have been deaths reported from ingestion of Chinese natural remedies or aphrodisiacs that contained bufadienolides. Digoxin Fab fragments may be useful to treat the life threatening cardiac toxicity in these patients but the Fab fragments are not as efficacious since the bufadienolides have a slightly different structure than therapeutic cardiac glycosides.
This question prepared by: Saralyn Williams, MD Medical Toxicologist