Amanita Muscaria vs. Psychedelic Mushrooms (Psilocybin): What’s the Difference?

Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, is the iconic red-and-white-speckled mushroom that is embodied everywhere, from garden statues to emojis. Fly agaric mushrooms are certainly psychoactive, but they differ from traditional magic mushrooms.  

The phrase “magic mushroom” typically refers to far less colorful psilocybin-containing varieties that can elicit transcendent, mind-manifesting states. 

What sets Amanita muscaria apart from traditional magic (psilocybin) mushroom varieties transcends appearances and effects. Here we explore the main differences between Amanita muscaria and psychedelic mushrooms, examining where they grow, active ingredients, medicinal value, and legality. 

An overview of Amanita muscaria and psilocybin mushrooms

Mushrooms containing psilocybin, more commonly known as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms,” are fungi that contain the psychoactive compound psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic agent, which, when ingested, turns into psilocin and is known to produce powerful visualizations and mystical experiences. 

At a glance:

  • Psychedelic (Psilocybin) mushrooms usually have light tan to off-white caps of varying sizes and white to brown stems, sometimes with a bluish tinge.
  • More than 200 species of mushrooms contain psilocybin or its derivative, psilocin. Psilocybe cubensis is a species that is commonly studied; and within this the subspecies "Golden Teachers" are very loved for their gentle, guiding messages.
  • Psilocybin mushrooms are among the most popular and commonly used magic mushrooms in the U.S. and Europe, with a long history in spiritual and religious rituals.

Amanita muscaria mushrooms are also known as “fly agaric” due to their ability to attract and kill flies. This psychoactive species contains muscimol, ibotenic acid, and muscarine as the main active compounds. Amanita mushrooms can be toxic when consumed raw and are related to several deadly varieties, including Amanita phalloides (known as the “Death Cap”).

At a glance:

  • A. muscaria mushrooms are large and hard to miss, often described as remarkable and beautiful due to their scarlet red caps.
  • They are considered a “deliriant” rather than “psychedelic” because they don’t act on the same receptors as psilocybin or psilocin. Instead they act primarily on receptors that can cause an ethereal, dreamlike and sedative state.
  • Fly Argaric mushrooms can be relaxing and sedative, often with euphoria and a “dreamlike” state of being. They can also cause extreme sweating, vomiting, defecating, and temporary psychosis if the ibotenic acid is not decarboxylated properly.
  • The genus Amanita contains about 600 species of agarics, including some of the most toxic known mushrooms found worldwide, as well as some well-regarded edible species. Amanita Muscaria is one species.

Where they grow

Psilocybin mushrooms grow in all parts of the world and can survive in almost any climate. 

Most psilocybin-containing species exist in meadows and woods in tropical and subtropical forests, usually in soil rich in humus and plant debris. These mushrooms grow around dead tree stumps, on decaying wood, or in grassy areas that receive a lot of sunlight.  Some have been spotted growing near churches and temples.

These mushrooms have also been cultivated in a sterile, temperature and light controlled growing environment indoors, using spores and substrate. It is important to make sure the substrate does not contain heavy metals.

Amanita muscaria mushrooms are native to the temperate or boreal forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

These are currently being imported into the United States from Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Siberia and other regions.

Still, people find them worldwide in Brazil, South Africa, Central Asia, North America, and Europe. The Amanita muscaria fungus survives in a symbiotic relationship with nearby plants. It mainly grows under the boughs of trees in large forests of compatible hosts, such as birches, pines, spruces, firs, and larches.

Active Ingredients

Magic Mushroom Compounds

There are more than 200 species of psychedelic mushrooms, each containing over 400 active compounds.

The best-known psychoactive component is psilocybin.

Psilocybin is considered a prodrug, which means the body must metabolize it before it can become active. So when people consume magic mushrooms, the liver digests psilocybin and converts it into the bioavailable form known as psilocin in a process called dephosphorylation

  • Psilocybin and psilocin are both psychoactive, but psilocin is responsible for most magic mushrooms’ psychedelic effects. Like LSD, these compounds mainly act on serotonin receptors in the brain, 5-HT (serotonin) 2A subtype receptors, to create the altered sensory experience. 

In addition to psilocybin and psilocin, magic mushrooms contain over hundreds of active compounds contributing to the fungi’s full spectrum of effects. At ACS Laboratory we have been analyzing five tryptamines as well as Harmine and Harmane, which we believe could be similiar to the terpenses of mushrooms. There is so much that we have to uncover and we begin the journey through analytical testing.

  • Norbaecystin  A psilocybin analog and minor active compound (alkaloid).
  • Aeruginascin - Active metabolite of aeruginascin, a naturally occurring tryptamine. It is chemically similar to psilocybin and psilocin.
  • 4-hydroxy-N,N,N-trimethyltryptamine (4-HO-TMT) - The putative active metabolite of aeruginascin, a naturally occurring tryptamine of "psychedelic mushrooms". This compound is closely related to bufotenine, the N-trimethyl analog of serotonin found naturally in toad venom.

Amanita Compounds

Amanita muscaria mushrooms don’t contain psilocybin or psilocin. Instead, the primary active ingredients are muscimol, ibotenic acid, and muscarine. Muscimol and ibotenic acid are the primary compounds responsible for Amanita muscaria’s psychoactive effects. 

  • Muscimol is a central nervous system depressant that may engage GABAa receptors to deliver sedative-hypnotic, depressant, and hallucinogenic psychoactivity. It is A. muscaria's most potent psychoactive agent and ten times stronger than ibotenic acid. Read our blog on Amanita Muscaria for more details.
  • Ibotenic acid interacts with glutamate receptors, making it more stimulating and energizing. When mushrooms contain more ibotenic acid than muscimol, users typically report confusion, agitation, and euphoria
  • Muscarine exists in trace quantities (0.02% dry weight) and is the weakest psychoactive compound in this 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.

Psychedelic vs. psychoactive effects

Magic mushrooms produce psychedelic effects, while A. muscaria elicits psychoactive effects. The difference between psychedelic and psychoactive lies in the mechanism of action and felt experience. 

Classic psychedelics, like psilocybin, typically engage serotonin receptors in the brain, resulting in perceptual changes, emotional shifts, and even spiritual awakenings. In the process, they forge new neural connections in a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Rewiring the brain allows users to reframe their lives and make lasting changes. Psychedelic effects generally include

  • Visuals such as halos around lights and objects, magical beings
  • Vivid colors, tracers, and distorted vision
  • A sense of the world breathing
  • Flashbacks and reframed memories

Psychedelic effects can appear 30 to 60 minutes after consuming psilocybin mushrooms, peak after 1-2 hours, and last about 4-6 hours, with an “afterglow” period sometimes lasting several hours to several days.

Amanita muscaria’s psychoactive effects manifest much differently than magic mushrooms. People who injest A. muscaria often fall into a deep sleep, with visions and insights commonly occurring in dreams. Some describe the effects as similar to alcohol intoxication. 

Experts say that the muscimol in Amanita muscaria doesn’t elicit the hallucinatory effects that psilocybin mushrooms do and lacks the “mind-manifesting” qualities that classical psychedelics provide. Amanita muscaria’s psychoactive symptoms include

  • Physical relaxation or a sedative-like effect
  • Euphoria and a “dream-like” state of being
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of motor skills

Additionally, some users might experience moderate to extreme nausea or cramps. In extreme cases, temporary insanity, comas, and even death have occurred, making A. muscaria one of the most mysterious mycelial species. Symptoms appear 30-90 minutes after eating this mushroom and are most intense after 2-3 hours. 

Medicinal and nutritional value

Research into psilocybin dates back to the 1960s and suggests that the substance could play a promising role in treating various disorders. Psilocybin mushrooms appear in therapeutic settings for ailments such as cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction. 

  • Research indicates psilocybin “produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.”
  • Another study by a prestigious research group in London suggests psilocybin could be used to treat all-cause major depression. 
  • A 2015 study found psilocybin useful in treating alcoholism.

Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric mushrooms, have been used medicinally for hundreds of years among tribal groups in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia for their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and stimulant properties. 

Recent research on the mushroom’s pharmacology supports these traditional uses, demonstrating the muscimol in Amanita muscaria could have several medicinal benefits, including:

  • Treating stress and anxiety
  • Easing muscular pain
  • Promoting restorative sleep
  • Exhibiting anti-tumor and memory-protecting activities

The book Microdosing Amanita Muscaria by Baba Masha with a foreword by microdosing expert, James Fadiman Ph.D. describes the results of a 3,000-person study on the medicinal effects of microdosing with Amanita muscaria.

  • Baba Masha explains how to use Amanita muscaria safely, including instructions for drying the mushrooms, making tinctures, teas, oils, and ointments; as well as effective microdose amounts.
  • The author reveals the healing potential of Amanita muscaria for a broad range of conditions, including depression, insomnia, migraines, allergies, gingivitis, heartburn, eczema, psoriasis ,epilepsy, hypertension and hormonal dysfunction. Participants in the study also reported pain relief and sucess in interrupting addictions to alcohol, opiates, nicotine, caffeine, and other narcotics.

Legal differences 

Psilocybin-containing mushrooms

States like Colorado and Oregon recently voted to decriminalize or legalize psilocybin mushrooms. However, they are still categorized as Schedule I controlled substances in the U.S., making them illegal at the federal level. 

Fortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have allowed several small, highly controlled human studies on their potential for use in medical and psychiatric settings. The FDA also designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for depression, which could accelerate psilocybin drug development for treatment-resistant depression.

Amanita mushrooms

On the other hand, Amanita muscaria mushrooms are legal in most places. The active compounds they contain are largely unregulated and do not exist on the DEA’s drug scheduling list, making A. muscaria federally legal in the U.S. 

The FDA has not approved A. muscaria for human consumption, but all states allow sales except Louisiana. Brands are starting to legally sell non-psychoactive A. muscaria extracts online for personal use.

As a DEA registered laboratory ACS is able to receive samples of Psilocybin mushrooms from other DEA registered parties for potency and purity testing. ACS Laboratory has also started testing Amanita Muscaria mushrooms.

Start Testing your Amanita mushroom for the potency of Muscimol, Ibotanic Acid and Muscarine. To ensure there is no psilocybin in your Amanita powder, Amanita capsules, tincutures, mushroom chocolate, Amanita Gummies -- or any other ingredients that may not be transparent we recomend running a Full Panel* of tests.

Please contact us today to learn more about Amanita Mushroom Testing.

ACS Laboratory Amanita Full Panel Includes* Potency, Heavy Metals, Pesticides, Mycotoxins, Pathogenic Microbiology, Residual Solvents (extracts), Moisture (dried fruit).

Q & A

  • Does Amanita muscaria contain psilocybin?

The Amanita muscaria does not contain psilocybin or psilocin. Rather, the active chemicals this mushroom contains are muscimol, ibotenic acid, and muscarine.

  • What is the difference between "Amanita muscaria" and "fly agaric"?

“Fly agaric” is a nick name for the Amanita muscaria mushroom because it attracts and kills flies.

  • Is muscimol a psychedelic compound?

Muscimol is a potent and selective orthosteric agonist for the GABA receptors. While it displays sedative-hypnotic, depressant, and hallucinogenic psychoactivity, it is not considered psychedelic. It is considered a deliriant.

  • Why is it legal to possess Amanita muscaria but not psilocybin mushrooms?

The psilocybin in psilocybin or magic mushrooms is a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S., while the muscimol and ibotenic acid in Amanita muscaria are generally unregulated.

The bottom line

Amanita muscaria and psilocybin mushrooms differ in many ways. Psilocybin or magic mushrooms are the species with psychedelic effects and “mind-manifesting” qualities. Amanita muscaria is psychoactive, often causing people to fall asleep and have vivid dreams. Amanita muscaria can also be poisonous in large amounts and if not prepared properly – potentially causing stomach cramps, illness, and eventually death from toxicity. Psilocybin mushrooms remain illegal in the U.S. despite their safety profile and therapeutic value, while Amanita muscaria mushrooms are largely unregulated. 

For those seeking accurate qualitative and quantitative testing analyses to provide reliable and safe products, contact ACS Laboratory for comprehensive mushroom testing

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