The Amanita muscaria mushroom (A. muscaria) seduces you with its vibrant red cap, frosty white spots, and bristling stature. A mycelial muse, this fungi commands your attention, almost imploring you to take a bite. And yet A., muscaria, known as fly agaric, promises nothing but uncertainty to the uninitiated. Depending on the dosage and preparation, A. muscaria’s effects range from ethereal to medicinal to deadly.
This illustrious mushroom leaves most people with more questions than answers. We aim to provide clarity as we explore amanita muscaria’s psychoactive effects, toxic potential, edible preparation, and legality.
Is Amanita muscaria a psychedelic mushroom?
Amanita muscaria mushrooms are not considered psychedelic like most magic mushrooms. This red-spotted species exhibits psychoactive effects. However, A. muscaria doesn’t work like classic psychedelics like LSD, DMT, mescaline, and psilocybin.
Traditional psychedelics, like psilocybin, activate serotonin receptors in the brain, quiet the default mode network responsible for the egoic self, and forge new neural connections that transform people's lives. A. muscaria, on the other hand, interacts with distinct neural receptors, GABA and glutamate, and typically doesn’t elicit mind-manifesting trips.
What does an Amanita muscaria trip feel like?
Amanita muscaria trips arise rapidly within fifteen minutes and usually last several hours. Some people describe feeling delirious as they drift into a deep, dreamy sleep, experiencing profound visions. Others say they defecated and vomited for hours.
Famed mycologist Paul Stamets, who ate the fly agaric at least four times, described his friend foaming from the mouth during one of the trips. In another case, Stamets described a man throwing himself off an eight-foot bridge, surviving the fall, and doing it again, and again. Why? According to Stamets, Amanita mushrooms can cause “repetitive motion syndrome,” or repeating the same action repeatedly for no reason. A. muscaria can also cause temporary insanity and drug-induced convulsions.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people report the amanita muscaria trip is calming and downright euphoric.
Others feel nothing at all.
Amanita muscaria Active Ingredients
Amanita muscaria contains three primary active ingredients responsible for its strange psychoactive effects: muscimol, ibotenic acid, and muscarine.
Muscimol is A. muscaria's most potent psychoactive agent. In fact, it is ten times stronger than ibotenic acid. Muscimol is a fungal metabolite that binds to and activates GABA receptors, delivering “sedative-hypnotic, depressant and hallucinogenic psychoactivity.”
Sedative-hypnotic and depressant qualities mean A. muscaria’s effects range from anxiety relief to loss of consciousness. Meanwhile, its hallucinogenic psychoactivity can manifest as intense visuals, hallucinations, temporary psychosis, and confusion. Muscimol also possess analgesic properties, and recent research shows its ability to treat conditions ranging from pain to epilepsy to schizophrenia.
Ibotenic acid is A. muscaria’s second most potent psychoactive alkaloid. Unlike muscimol’s GABA affinity, ibotenic acid interacts with glutamate receptors. This mechanism of action makes ibotenic acid more stimulating and energizing. Additionally, when mushrooms contain more ibotenic acid than muscimol, users typically report confusion, agitation, and euphoria. Reportedly ibotenic acid is also more irritating to the stomach.
Amanita muscaria mushrooms typically contain more Ibotenic acid than muscimol in their raw form. However, ibotenic acid is volatile. As a result, heat, drying, age and digestion partially decarboxylate (convert) ibotenic acid into muscimol. This chemical conversion process makes dried fly agaric mushrooms highly psychoactive.
Muscarine exists in trace quantities (0.02% dry weight) and is the weakest psychoactive compound in this red-spotted species. Still, this minor alkaloid acts on muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the parasympathetic nervous system to produce notable effects, including salivation and sweating. Muscarine is also linked to sexual arousal, crying, urination, digestion, and defecation.
Is A. Muscaria Poisonous?
These white wart-speckled mushrooms are edible, psychoactive, and even medicinal in some cases. Still, A. muscaria is 100% poisonous and highly dangerous in its raw form and high doses. Fortunately, very few people have perished from fly agaric, but many have gotten sick or worse.
Reported risks include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual distortions
- Temporary insanity (lasting up to five days)
Preparing Amanita muscaria for ingestion
People prepare A. muscaria in two broad ways, depending on their desired outcomes and effects.
People who want to trip from Amanita muscaria mushrooms often dry them to convert most of the ibotenic acid into the more potent psychoactive agent, muscimol. After drying the mushrooms, some people consume them as is or blend them into a tea simmered with citric acid. This process typically takes two to three hours.
Functional mushroom fans hoping to consume A. muscaria as an edible mushroom (without the psychoactive effects) often parboil the fungi. This process involves boiling the mushrooms twice to detoxify the psychotropic compounds and throwing the water away each time. Afterward, some A.. muscaria enthusiasts cook the mushroom as a normal edible in their favorite recipes.
Regardless of the preparation method, A. muscaria mushrooms pose of risk of intoxication and poisoning. As a result, we do not recommend anyone forage A. muscaria mushrooms and attempt to prepare them at home.
Is A. muscaria an edible species?
Amanita muscaria mushrooms are extraordinarily diverse. Although highly toxic in its raw form, A. muscaria is also an edible species with a history of nutritional and medicinal use in parts of Japan, Europe, Russia, and North America. 1800s and 1900s literature indicates people in these regions prepared A. muscaria in soups, gravies, and sauces. Medicinally, people used A. muscaria as a painkiller, anti-inflammatory, and anxiety reliever.
Modern understanding of Amanita’s medicinal and functional properties is limited. However, Psyched Wellness recently announced its pioneering research into fly argaric’s potential health benefits. A Canadian health supplement company, Psyched Wellness, is launching a line of Amanita-derived products featuring naturally extracted muscimol. Their inaugural product will be marketed as a sleep aid.
Is Amanita muscaria Legal?
Amanita muscaria compounds do not exist on the DEA’s drug scheduling list. As a result, A. muscaria is federally legal in the U.S. Additionally, all states allow A. muscaria sales except Louisiana. However, the FDA has not approved the mushroom for human consumption.
Brands like Psilomart and Awakening Roots sell A. muscaria extracts and powders, specifying their products are intended for spiritual and educational uses only (not for human consumption). Sellers that don’t label products with this disclaimer risk getting pulled off shelves.
Recently, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services removed Chillum’s Amanita products from stores. Chillum’s owner and founder, Carlos Jose Angel Hermida, believes he could’ve avoided these consequences by indicating his formulas were not intended for human ingestion.
Unlike the US, Canada has taken a more progressive stance on this fascinating fungi. Health Canada recently approved Psyched Wellness’ request to add Amanita muscaria to the country’s Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. This designation means Canada now regulates A. muscaria as a food product, and companies can extract the mushroom’s active compounds and sell them as supplements.
Amanita muscaria is a complex mushroom with undoubtedly horrifying risks in its raw form. Still, when properly prepared, A. muscaria’s active ingredients, like muscimol, may have considerable health benefits. The legal status and the growing consumer interest in this bold mushroom species make it worthy of continued exploration.
At ACS Laboratory, we test the Amanita muscaria to ensure it is free from pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and bacteria. For anyone wanting to ensure that the Amanita does not contain any psilocybin or psilocin for sales, we can also do a certified safe and compliance test. Contact us today to get started.