What is Amanita Muscaria?
Amanita muscaria is one out of a variety of mushroom species that grows widely almost everywhere in the northern hemisphere. It grows in symbiosis with arboreal trees such as Birch, Pine or Fir, in both Europe and the Americas. These mushrooms are best known for their distinctive appearance: bright reds and yellows with white spots. A. muscaria is listed as poisonous in most mycology sources and its use as a psychedelic is not common because early reports clarify that the response to the mushrooms varied from person to person and in the same person at different times. The mushrooms varied in potency and sometimes one mushroom was effective; at other times ineffective. However, it has been used traditionally by a number of cultures. Amanitas are mushrooms which contain the psychoactive chemicals ibotenic acid and muscimol (muscamol).
This mushroom has been named fly agaric because of its use, when mixed with milk, as a method of warding off flies.
As of December 2008, the sale of Amanita muscaria has been banned in the Netherlands. Azarius used to have dried Amanita caps and extracts in its assortment, but these are no longer available.
10.000-0 BCE: The Rig Veda, a set of sacred stories and incantations from India, mentions a magical intoxicant called Soma. In 1968, R. Gordon Wasson published the controversial book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, speculating that Soma refers to Amanita muscaria.
4000 BC: language analysis suggested that Amanita muscaria was known to be intoxicating.
1000-2000 BCE: Petroglyphs along the Pegtymel River which drains into the Arctic Ocean in northeastern Siberia "depict anthropomorphic figures with mushrooms appended to their heads."The Pegtymel river area is currently inhabited by the modern Chukchi culture who are known to have used A. muscaria as a traditional inebriant.
100 AD: A 7.5 cm high miniature statue of an Amanita muscaria dated to 100 AD found in Nayarit, Mexico, suggests A. muscaria may have been in use in coastal Mexico. Many other sculptures from Central and South America depict the ritual use of other psychoactive plants and mushrooms.
0 - 1800 AD: Some Scandinavian historians believe that Viking 'Berserker Warriors' ingested Amanita muscaria before going into battle.
1658 AD: Polish prisoner of war writes about a culture from western Siberia (Ob-Ugrian Ostyak of the Irtysh region) "They eat certain fungi in the shape of fly-agarics, and thus they become drunk worse than on vodka, and for them, that's the very best banquet." - from Kamiensky Dluzyk "Diary of Muscovite Captivity published 1874 pg 382.
1730: A Swedish Colonel, Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, who spent 12 years in Siberia as a prisoner of war wrote a book titled "An Historico-Geographical Description of the North and Eastern Parts of Europe and Asia" which includes a detailed description of the practice of ingesting tea made from A. muscaria and the practice of drinking the urine of those who have ingested the mushroom in order to recycle the psychoactive ingredients.
1960-1965: A. muscaria use appears in United States urban subcultures, but remains rare because many users report the effects to be unpleasant.
"Amanita muscaria occurs throughout Europe and northern Asia and in western Alaska. It is one of the amanitas that is most easily (and frequently) introduced with imported trees -- e.g., in pine and eucalypt plantations. It appears to be capable of growing on many genera of plants.
The species is associated primarily with Birch and diverse conifers, but has been found in mixed forest with other trees, in forests of pure Tilia (in Norway), with dwarf willow (Salix repens) on the Island of Terschelling (The Netherlands) and adapted to living with eucalypts in Australia and Argentina" (R. E. Tulloss).
Its cap is 5-30 cm (2-10") in diameter and is bright to blood red with a white universal veil. This universal veil will entirely cover the youngest mushrooms, will form whitish spots or warts on mature mushrooms, and may eventually wash or wear off with age. These spots often form concentric circles, although they can also appear randomly. Its colour may fade drastically with age, especially in direct sunlight or after a soaking rain.
The entheogenic constituents of A. muscaria are ibotenic acid (alpha-amino3-hydroxy-5-isoxazole acetic acid), muscamol (3hydroxy-5-aminomethy1 isoxazole), and possibly muscazone (Ott). Muscamol appears to be the primary intoxicant. After ingestion, a small amount of ibotenic acid decarboxylates into muscamol, which produces the intoxication.
Taken orally, ibotenic acid is entheogenically active at 50-100 mg (Ott and Stafford).
Taken orally, muscimol displays activity at 10-15mg.
According to Johnathan Ott, "the effects are distinctly different from psilocybin, LSD or mescaline. They are characterized by wavy motion in the visual field, an "alive" quality to inanimate objects, auditory hallucinations and a sense of great mental stillness and clarity. Euphoria, ataxia, and sensory alterations are characteristic, particular alterations of hearing and taste. Visual effects have also been reported, as has nausea. A. muscaria may also produce cholinergic symptoms such as "profuse salivation and mild perspiration".
One of the main characteristics of amanita is its unpredictability. One time you ingest the mushroom it can bring you to heaven, another time it brings you to hell. Therefore you must be absolutely sure about it when you decide to eat this mushroom and preferably experienced with entheogenics.
However the drying process is most important to make sure the mushroom produces any effect: it turns ibotenic acid into muscimol, multiplying the potency by 5 or 6, and reduces bad side-effects."
Especially in Northern California, many people say that the mushrooms are either weak or have a much higher body load per-mental effect than the "better" mushrooms of northern Europe and Siberia.
The sacred Amanitas have been used traditionally by shamans for both spiritual healing and physical healing. Western users have reported a significant analgesia as one of the primary effects of A. muscaria ingestion. According to traditional Kamchatkan medical lore three small fresh pieces of mukhomor (A. muscaria), to be eaten is a good remedy for a sore throat.
There are extracts made of Amanita muscaria available. A dose is ten times stronger than a regular dose of dried amanitas. Because of its fine texture, it's also easier to take a specific dose instead of figuring out how many caps of a dried mushrooms you have to take.
These mushrooms are usually eaten (and are said to taste quite OK). Drying them well is very important, but if they have been dried more than a few months ago they lose some effectiveness.
Smoking amanita has been done with satisfying results: it produces a more rapid effect of shorter duration. But in general, when smoked effects are less strong.
"If you have dried your mushrooms then one can simply eat them or else do the hot water method of preparation by bringing some water to the near simmer point, but not quite the boiling point, at about 190 degrees, and add the ground mushrooms. Let this cook in the water for about a half hour to an hour and them consume, water, ground mushrooms and all. For those of you who can't stand the taste of dried mushrooms or the tea, the gel-cap method may work best. Simply take the dried mushrooms, grind them up, and stuff into gel-caps. One might also take the tea, dehydrate it, and then gel-cap. Since the majority of the alkaloids reside within the cap's skin it might also be worth a try either to peel off the skin from fresh mushrooms and dry, or else remove the gills from dried specimens, to reduce the amount needing to be consumed" (Michael S. Smith).
Dosage: 5 grams or less of the dried material is a good starting point which can be gradually increased according to one's desires. A common dosage is considered to be 5 - 10 g (1 - 3 medium caps) and a strong dose 10 - 30 g (2 - 6 medium caps). Usually, the first effects can be felt within the first half hour and vary from individual to individual, but an augmentation of dosage could better be consumed just when the effects are in full swing, about 2 hours after ingestion. The duration seems to be anywhere from four to ten hours.
A different approach and list of recipes are presented in the free e-book Amanita Muscaria; Herb of Immortality (PDF).
Because of its unpredictability and highly variable potency, taking Amanita muscaria is not recommended if you have no experience with psychoactive mushrooms at all.
There are many species of mushrooms in the Amanita genus which are not psychoactive. Some are deadly poisonous while others are edible. They look similar to the "good" amanitas, so when you decide to consume Amanita muscaria, you've got to be one hundred percent sure you've got the right mushroom.
As with other entheogens, everyone reacts individually to Amanita muscaria ingestion. Amanitas may be more variable based on the way one's body metabolizes ibotenic acid into muscimol. Many people do not enjoy the effects of A. muscaria (or pantherina).
Side effects often include nausea, slight loss of balance and coordination, and drowsiness.
"Amanita cultivation in a lab environment has always been an impossibility due to the symbiotic mycorrhizal relationship of this mushroom to its host trees. But if one has the necessary host trees in their area, and resides in the proper temperate zone or elevation, try and simply take a few dried or fresh caps that are in sporulation (fully flattened or upturning with longitudinal tears along the striations), crush them up thoroughly, and mix the crushings into the topsoil. See if it will take. If one doesn't want to make the initial investment of the caps simply chop up the stems from sporulating specimens, which will naturally have collected some of the falling spores, and mix with the soil. According to Erowid mycelia growth takes place primarily throughout the Spring and Summer months and is highly dependent on rain and soil moisture preceding the Fall fruiting. If the season is dry just water your mushroom garden every few days" (Michael S. Smith).
Dried mushrooms can be stored for a long time, only after a few months, their potency will decrease.
Links / Further reading
Experiences from Erowid
Mycopharmacological Outline and Personal Experiences by F. Festi & A. Bianchi
Excerpt on Amanita muscaria from "The Hallucinogens" by A. Hoffer & H. Osmond
This article is based on the following pages:
Amanita Notes by Michael S. Smith
The Genus Amanita Pers. (Agaricales) (including upper image)
Muscaria.com (Soma book image)
Lower image by Oane Visser.