Everyone stop eating the sexy pavement lichen

Photo: AlessandraRC (iStock)

There are many treatments for sexual impotence out there, but it’s unlikely that any of them should involve exhuming a composite bacterial-fungus organism from pavement and eating it. Yet here’s science, saving our species as usual by reminding us that the easy solution is rarely also the best one.

Botanists in New Zealand are now warning the public about the potential hazards of ingesting Xanthoparmelia scabrosa, a road and pavement growth most common to New Zealand and some other Pacific areas, as a cure for impotence. Lichenologist Dr. Allison Knight, who jokingly coined the now-predominant term “sexy pavement lichen” while giving a talk about it, tells Newsroom that the lichen does contain an inhibitor known to help cure impotence, but that it’s still inadvisable to consume it: “This lichen contains a chemical somewhat analogous to Viagra—and somewhat toxic.”

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Regardless, some online markets have been claiming to sell mass quantities of the lichen for its “all-natural” properties, despite the fact that an FDA-requested test of the available product “found it was 80 percent Viagra, and 20 percent grass clippings.” But even if the sexy pavement lichen’s good name wasn’t being dragged into scam artistry, botanist Dr. Peter de Lange strongly argues that eating it would still be dangerous: “About the only thing that people would get from using that is a healthy dose of cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead. Basically, anything that you would find in asphalt, roadsides, pavements. So it would actually do the exact opposite.”

There you have it, and from the experts: Do not eat the sexy pavement lichen, no matter how deep into the pursuit of a robust erection you may be.

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