The Amanita Muscaria (also known as the Fly Agaric) is a hallucinogenic mushroom found in conifer and deciduous woodlands in the northern hemisphere, including Asia, Europe, the United States, and Canada. While most Amanita are considered poisonous (or even deadly poisonous), the mushroom has been used by ancient shamans in the Americas and Asia for centuries.

What is the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Amanita Muscaria is one genus of several hundred in the family Amanitaceae. The mushroom grows at the base of many trees. When it first sprouts from the ground, it has a white film covering that breaks into white spots as it grows. One of the most iconic mushrooms, the Amanita Muscaria, is easy to identify due to its bright red color. They have white wart-like spores, a ring on the stem below the cap, a veil that tears as it expands, and a cup.

Other common names for the Amanita Muscaria are fly agaric and fly amanita.

On a humorous note, many people have compared the mushrooms from the Super Mario video game to Amanita Muscaria.

What is the Active Ingredient in Amanita Muscaria

The Amanita Muscaria mushroom contains alkaloids that are pharmacologically active, including muscarine, ibotenic acid, and muscimol. Ibotenic acid and muscimol are both agonists at the GABA receptors, one of the brain's major inhibitory systems. Ibotenic acid and muscimol inhibit the neuron activity in the brain and it’s these active ingredients that are thought to account for the effects of the mushroom.

Is the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom Poisonous?

Image of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom
Image of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Amanita Muscaria is listed as poisonous or deadly poisonous in most field guides, but mycologists are quick to point out that it can be safely consumed and is quite tasty.

Are you confused yet? Here's why there's a contradiction.

Amanita Muscaria is toxic, but the toxin is water-soluble, meaning you can safely consume Amanita Muscaria by submerging and parboiling it in water. However, as a recent paper points out, most scientists are (understandably) cautious about labeling a toxic mushroom as being edible in field guides when it can, if improperly consumed, kill you.

Here's a prime example. In Japan, the mushroom is classed as deadly poisonous by major field guides, but it is sold in commercial grocery stores as a pickle. Suffice to say, it's important to proceed with caution with consuming any wild mushroom, but there haven't been any recorded fatalities related to Amanita Muscaria for more than a hundred years.

Uses of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Despite being a potentially poisonous mushroom, the Amanita Muscaria has been used recreationally, spiritually, and therapeutically for centuries. As we’ve mentioned, it’s regarded as a delicacy by mycologists and, interestingly, it’s also used as an organic fly repellent for farms.

Let’s look at the recreational, spiritual, and therapeutic uses of the Amanita.

Medical Uses of Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

The medical uses of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom have been less heavily researched than other drugs like psilocybinMDMA, or LSD, but studies are beginning to uncover the potential. The active compound muscimol has been found to impact the GABAergic system of the brain, which would suggest it may have the potential to treat pain, inflammation, anxiety, cognitive decline, and other conditions.

Recreational Uses of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Bizarrely, considering it can be deadly, the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom has a close connection to Father Christmas! Its iconic red color may be why we associate Santa Claus with a red and white suit. Siberians saw the appearance of the mushroom in the forest as the start of the Yuletide season and would boil the mushroom with alcohol (and feed it to their reindeer) to add an extra kick to their Christmas festivities.

How It Feels When Consumed Recreationally

Siberian festivities aside, the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom is used recreationally in many parts of the world to this day due to its pleasurable (for some people) side effects. Here we will discuss how the mushroom can make you feel when used recreationally.

Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, Amanita Muscaria isn't a true psychedelic but considered an oneirogen, a substance that induces or creates a dreamlike state of consciousness. When taken at low levels, people report falling asleep within a few hours of taking the substance and experiencing strange dreams after consuming it.

According to a group of mycologists who detailed their experiences with fly agaric hour-by-hour in a blog post, Amanita Muscaria can cause dizziness, lack of coordination, and feelings of extreme euphoria and heightened consciousness.

Tripsitter claims the mushroom doesn't produce strong hallucinations (unless very high and potentially dangerous doses are consumed), but it does alter your perception of time and objects. The article states that most users start off feeling energetic and euphoric before experiencing sedative effects or a state of altered perception. Another study says the effects of consuming Amanita Muscaria are somewhat similar to that of LSD.

How to Consume Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Just like regular magic mushrooms, Amanita Muscaria isn't eaten raw but can be dried, cooked into food, or made into a tea infusion and drunk.

Fly Agaric,  Amanita Muscaria Mushroom Dosages

While highly dependent on the individual, the common dosage for recreational use is around 1-5 grams, but the compounds in the mushroom are highly variable, and its effects are unpredictable.

Microdose: A dose of less than 1 gram of dried mushrooms (or even 1of the 10'th of a standard dose)

Threshold Dose: 2 to 3 grams of dried mushrooms

Standard Psychoactive Dose: 5 to 10 grams of dried mushrooms

High Dose: 10 grams and higher of dried mushrooms (not recommended)

 

Rainfall, temperature, altitude, and even the host tree can impact the ratio of active ingredients in the mushroom, which is why it is advisable to start with a small dose of 1 gram or less. It can take up to 3 hours to take effect, with effects peaking at the 5-hour mark.

How to Safely Take the Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric) Mushroom

The biggest risk with taking any wild mushroom is misidentification. Some Amanita Muscarias go through a white and pale yellow phase but can easily be misidentified as it closely resembles the Panther Amanita or a destroying angel.

If you decide to forage for Amanita Muscarias, take an expert picker with you and stick to the red version, which is the easiest to identify. Amanita Muscaria is completely edible if parboiled and detoxified, but removing too many toxins will also remove the euphoric sensations that recreational users want to explore.

Amanita Muscaria Mushroom Adverse Effects

Consuming too much Amanita Muscaria will cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and in extreme cases may induce coma or even death. It is always important to seek medical advice if you are worried.

Cultural and Spiritual Uses of Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Image of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom
Image of the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

Several cultures worldwide have used Amanita Muscaria in spiritual rituals and celebrations. Here are a few documented examples:

Vikings

Have you ever heard of going berserk? Some historians believed the Vikings consumed Amanita Muscaria to induce fierce visions and disregard their safety when entering into battle.

Central Asian Shamans

In Central Asia, shamans wore special garments for collecting fly agaric and consumed the mushrooms in a ritual with other participants. According to Laplander people, the hallucinations made them feel like they were flying through the sky in a spiritual sleigh.

Algeria

Shamans were also thought to use fly agaric as far as Algeria. Rock shelters in the Sahara desert dating back to the Neolithic period depict the use of Amanita Muscaria.

South America

Indians of Trinidad and the Orinoco plain used Amanita Muscaria and the seeds from the Piptadenia peregrina to make a hallucinogenic snuff called cohoba or yopo.

South Asia

Sanskrit texts describe consuming a drink called Soma, the drink of the gods. It's believed to have contained Amanita Muscaria and other substances and would give the shaman access to the spiritual world.

Conclusion

Amanita Muscaria isn’t a “regular magic mushroom” since it doesn't contain psilocybin, but its main psychoactive ingredients include muscimol and ibotenic acid.

It's clear that Amanita Muscaria has been safely used by numerous recreational and spiritual users (as well as mycologists) for years. However, the mushroom is toxic and should be at least partially detoxified and consumed with extreme caution under the supervision of someone who understands its properties. When experimenting with any psychedelic substance for the first time, proceed with caution and start small.

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