Muscaria

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Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria


[E-flora]

Identification

Cap: "5-30(40)cm across, spherical becoming convex then flat to slightly depressed; 1) bright red to blood-red, scarlet-red or orange-red often fading to orange, yellow-orange or paler (var. flavivolvata [southern and western North America]), 2) can be bright yellow-orange to yellow fading (var. formosa - most common variety in eastern North America), 3) yellow with peachy center (var. persicina - southeast), or 4) white to buff to silvery-grayish-white (var. alba - northern); covered at first with pyramidal warts [which are whitish to pale yellowish tan (var. flavivolvata), pallid or tan to yellow (var. formosa)], buff or tan (var. alba); warts flattened when old, often wearing away or washed off by rain, cap viscid when moist, margin usually at least somewhat striate, (Arora, except for notations in square brackets)." [E-flora]
Flesh: "thick, firm when young, soft when old; white, (Arora)." [E-flora]
Gills: "adnate or adnexed to free, broad, close; white, (Arora), free or slightly attached, crowded, broad; whitish, (Lincoff)." [E-flora]
Stem: "5-20(30)cm x 1-3(4)cm at top, widening downward or equal with a basal bulb up to 6cm wide; white to whitish or somewhat discolored when old, smooth or with ragged scales below ring, (Arora), 5-18cm x 0.3-3cm, (Lincoff for var. muscaria), VOLVA consists of series of scaly concentric rings (usually 2-4) at top of basal bulb, (Arora) seen as concentric rings or patches of creamy to yellowish tan tissue around an enlarged base, (Lindgren)." [E-flora]
Veil: "membranous, usually forming a thin, persistent, median to superior, skirt-like ring that may collapse when old; ring white or with yellow patches, margin often torn or toothed, (Arora), ring membranous, median to superior, white with yellowish edge, often falling away, (Lindgren)." [E-flora]
Odor: "faint (Phillips)." [E-flora]
Taste: "pleasant (Phillips)." [E-flora]
Spore Deposit: "white (Arora)." [E-flora]
"The distinguishing features of the mycorrhizas produced by A. muscaria are as follows:
1. The mycorrhizas produced are short, stubby and dichotomously branched to complexclustered.
2. The mycorrhizas aremilky-white to silver-white. Silver-white tints seen onthe surface ofthe mycorrhizas disappear when bruised or when the mycorrhizas are kept inFAA.
3. The mycorrhizas are smooth to slightly granular. This granular apperance is due to the presence of distinctive cystidium-like emanating hyphae on the surface ofthe mantle layer. The emanating hyphae are septate and without clamp conncetions." [Mukerji TMS]

Similar Species:

"Molecular phylogeny studies suggest that it should be separated into at least three groups, corresponding to Eurasian, Eurasian subalpine and North American regions (Oda et al., 2004)." [IntrotoFun3]

"Orange variations must be differentiated from Amanita aprica; yellow variations from Amanita aprica and Amanita 'gemmata', and white forms from Amanita 'alba' (no ring), white Amanita phalloides, and white Amanita ocreata. (See those species.)"[E-flora]

"In North America, members of this complex include Amanita muscaria var. muscaria; A. muscaria ssp. flavivolvara; A. muscaria var. persicina; yellow variants of the first two taxa; A. breckonii; and at least two undescribed taxa. A major problem with fly agaric is that it can easily be misidentified as it is so variable in form. Individual mushrooms vary greatly in relative toxicity, and there are many look-alikes, some of which, such as panther agaric (A. pantherina), are seriously poisonous. However, neither fly agaric nor panther agaric has been known to cause human deaths in North America in recent years." [CPPM]

"...it is highly variable and different forms have received names that have never quite caught on. These are based primarily on two variables—first, the color of the cap, which ranges from white to yellows and oranges, to deep red and even brown, and second, whether the universal veil is white or yellowish. Different combinations of these two features have produced a number of forms that usually are referred to as varieties. The names and distributions of these varieties, as well as other forms of A. muscaria, are currently being studied. We have illustrated three color forms that occur in the PNW— var. flavivolvata, the commonest one in natural habitats, with red cap and yellowish veil remnants; a paler form common with planted birches and under spruce and pine, with orange cap and white veil remnants; and a rather uncommon one, with white cap and veil remnants. Variety muscaria, with red cap and pure white veil remnants, has been reported from Alaska, but not from more southerly portions of the PNW." [Trudell MPNW]

Amanita jacksonii and Amanita caesarea (Caesar’s Mushroom)

"It is found throughout eastern North America and the warmer parts of southern Europe in summer and autumn associated with oaks and other deciduous trees. Although the American and European forms of this mushroom are listed under Amanita caesarea in many texts, the former is now considered to represent a different species: A. jacksonii. The combination of an orange cap up to 18 cm in diameter, orange-tinged stalk up to 15 cm high, orange-tinged ring, distinct volva, and orange gills makes this mushroom unlikely to be confused with any other Amanita in North America or Europe, although it is possible that a faded A. muscaria might mislead an inexperienced collector, particularly if the scales have been washed off by rain. The very similar species A. hemibapha is common in East Asia, where it is also highly regarded." [EPMW Hall]

"This species has more than once been mistaken for Amanita caesaria, one of the few edible species of Amanita, which is fortunately more common in Southern Europe than here [Minneapolis]." [Clyde M. Christensen,1972]


Habitat / Range

"Single or scattered to densely gregarious or in large fairy rings, "in forests and at their edges, also with planted trees", (Arora), on the ground, under Pinus (pine), Picea (spruce), and Betula (birch), also live oak and madrone in California, fruits in June to October, in California during winter, (Lincoff), summer, fall, winter." [E-flora] "...found throughout the world outside of tropical zones." [ACP40]

"... in countries where European and North American host trees have been introduced, this mushroom has often moved with its hosts. Occasionally this has resulted in the fly agaric jumping onto new indigenous hosts, such as southern beech (Nothofagus) in Australia and New Zealand (Johnston and Buchanan 1997)." [EPMW Hall]


Hazards

"One day, a feline member of the commune where I lived ate half of an Amanita button that was drying above the stove. The attraction was puzzling. The drying fungus was redolent of stale vomit. After realizing what had happened, we paid close attention to Blue, as the cat was named. He became glassy eyed and lay drooling on the walkway outside. After about an hour, his head drooped in what appeared to be the sleep stage. It was a sleep from which he never awakened. He was dead less than two hours after consuming the mushroom." [MM Hobbs]


Edible Uses

"The documentation of historic Amanita muscaria food use is sparse, though persistent, and includes Europe, Asia, and North America. Most accounts merely mention its use as a food, but omit information on its safe detoxification. This dichotomy in the literature does not pertain only to A. muscaria or only to English-language field guides." [Rubel&Arora] "It is ibotenic acid and muscimol (a more potent, decarboxylated version of ibotenic acid) that produce its inebriating effects (Takemoto et al. 1964; Bowden and Drysdale 1965; Eugster et al. 1965). Both of the... compounds are water soluble and, as we will show, can easily be removed from the mushroom by parboiling it and then discarding the liquid. It should be noted that we use the term “parboil” in this paper to mean precook by boiling, as per the third definition of Rombauer et al. (2006:1054)." [Rubel&Arora]

Early Research "One of Pouchet’s experiments was to boil five A. muscaria caps per liter of water for 15 minutes. He strained out the mushrooms and fed the broth to dogs, who died, thus demonstrating that the toxins were water soluble. But he also fed dogs boiled caps without the broth, and they thrived, thus demonstrating that the caps were no longer poisonous....the edibility of parboiled A. muscaria was accepted as fact." [Rubel&Arora]

"Here is Gerard’s recipe for A. muscaria as translated by the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation (1853: 261):" [Rubel&Arora]

"To every five hundred grams of mushrooms cut up into a medium size, a liter of water, slightly acidulated by two or three spoonfuls of vinegar (or, if nothing else is on hand, gray salt), should be used. If [only] water alone can be obtained, this must be renewed once or twice. In this fluid the fungi are to be macerated for two entire hours, after which they are to be washed in an abundance of water. Next, they are to be put into cold water and boiled for half an hour, after which they may be taken out, washed, dried, and used as food." [Rubel&Arora]

"...the most detailed, objective, and accurate description of its edibility was written in 1898 by Frederick Vernon Coville, a distinguished botanist, explorer, and ethnographer, who authored 170 books and articles (but who, significantly, was not a mushroom field guide author).:" [Rubel&Arora]

"It is well known that in some parts of Europe the fly amanita, after the removal of the poison by treatment with vinegar, is a common article of food. It was interesting to discover not long since that among some of our own people the practice prevails. ...She prepared the stem by scraping, the cap by removing the gills and peeling the upper surface. Thus dressed the mushrooms were first boiled in salt and water, and afterwards steeped in vinegar. They were then washed in clear water, cooked in gravy like ordinary mushrooms, and served with beefsteak." [Rubel&Arora]

"Citing the Swedish field guide author Bengt Cortin,..." [Rubel&Arora]

"To render Amanita muscaria safe to eat: (1) carefully peel the cap, removing every bit of the pellis or rind...; (2) cut into relatively small bits; (3) place the bits in boiling water and boil for exactly five minutes; (4) discard the water, and boil again in fresh, boiling water for an additional five minutes; (5) discard the water and prepare the mushroom in the usual way." [Rubel&Arora]

"After boiling and storing the mushrooms in salt—the predominant treatment of A. muscaria in and around Sanada— Phipps found that there was no detectable muscimol or ibotenic acid....The grilled caps are typically eaten by groups of men along with sake, while the dried caps are powdered for use as a flavor-enhancing condiment, producing the taste sensation the Japanese call umami (Kawai et al. 2002); according to Lincoff and Mitchel (1977), ibotenic acid and muscimol are far more powerful than the better known umami agent, MSG. In contrast to parboiling, Phipps found that both grilling and drying, far from detoxifying the mushroom, convert some of the ibotenic acid into the much more potent compound, muscimol (Phipps 2000:52–58)." [Rubel&Arora]
"... within Sanada Town only... muscaria is made into pickles, which have been shown through careful lab analysis to contain zero amounts of toxins. These pickles are then eaten in small amounts, for special occasions such as the New Year. The process of making them is extremely involved (Phipps, 2000, p. 62). There are four steps to pickling muscaria, as relayed to Phipps by Sanada Town muscaria pickle devotees: boiling for ten minutes, or five minutes three times, washing, salting and soaking. Mushrooms are often initially boiled until all color is removed; the water is always tossed. After boiling, the mushrooms are rinsed under running water for 1-3 minutes. Mushrooms are then packed in salt and compressed, and left for at least one month. Prior to consumption, pickles were soaked for several hours or overnight to remove the salt (and any remaining traces of the toxins). These muscaria pickles were then used as culinary accents, not meals. They were and still are eaten for special occasions only, or served to special guests (Phipps. 2000, p. 37)." [Viess]

"The taste and energy is sweet and cool. In certain areas of Japan, quantities of A. muscaria are dried, pickled, then thoroughly washed prior to ingestion as a food (Ott, 1976)..." [MM Hobbs]

Conclusions

"Until optimum methods for detoxification have been established through testing, broad guidelines based on oral tradition and the limited written record will have to suffice.... Smith (1963) said the mushrooms should be boiled until “yellow scum” comes to the surface. Pearson (1987) recommended two boilings in separate batches of water for five minutes each time." [Rubel&Arora]

Recommeneded Method:
"Cut the A. muscaria cap and stalk into thin slices (no more than 3–4 mm or 1/8” thick) to hasten dissolving of the active constituents. For each 110 g or 4 oz of mushroom, use 1 liter or quart of water with 1 teaspoon salt. Garlic and bay leaf can be added to the water for flavoring. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then add the sliced mushrooms. Begin timing the cooking once the water returns to a boil. Boil for 10–15 minutes, until the mushroom is soft, then drain and rinse." [Rubel&Arora]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Pharmacology

Activities (Aga Fly Agaric )

GABA-Antagonist (1; PH2) [HMH Duke]
Hallucinogen (1; PH2) [HMH Duke]

Paralytic (1; PH2) [HMH Duke]
Psychotropic (1; PH2) [HMH Duke]

Stimulant (1; PH2) [HMH Duke]
Toxic (1; PH2) [HMH Duke]

Indications (Aga)

Pain (f; PH2) [HMH Duke]
Anxiety (f; PH2) [HMH Duke]

Arthrosis (f; PH2) [HMH Duke]
Intoxication (f; PH2) [HMH Duke]

Neuralgia (f; PH2) [HMH Duke] [HMH Duke]

"The mushroom is variable in its effects; eating just one mouthful can cause very violent reactions in some people. The first symptoms, occurring in 30 to 60 minutes, resemble those of alcohol intoxication, with drowsiness and dizziness-a condition sometimes characterized as the pantherine syndrome, after fly agaric's relative, panther agaric (Amanita pantherina). This stage is usually followed by confusion, muscular spasms, delirium, and visual disturbances lasting a few hours and generally succeeded by drowsiness and deep sleep. Sometimes the victim becomes comatose." [CPPM]

"Because of the intoxicating effect of muscimol and ibotenic acid, fly agaric has been used as an inebriant through time (72). The account of the Swedish Colonel von Strahlenburg, following 12 years imprisonment in Siberia, has served to make the metabolic stability of the isoxazoleswell known. Allegedly, urine from an intoxicated person still have an intoxicating effect and can in this way exert its effect through more passings." [ACB57]

"The two toxins chiefly involved are the alkaloids ibotenic acid and muscimol (Figs. 19.15d,e; Michelot & Melendez-Howell, 2003), and the former is readily converted to the latter in the gut. The molecular structures of ibotenic acid and muscimol closely resemble those of two neurotransmitters, glutamic acid and g-aminobutyric acid (GABA), respectively.... Within 1 h of ingestion, ibotenic acid and muscimol are detectable in the urine of humans and also reindeer," [IntrotoFun3]

Intoxicant

"Amanita muscaria is still used in North Eastern Siberia and by some North American Indians. In the past, some Mexican Indians, as well as Guatemalan Indians possibly used A. muscaria." [FDE Misra]

"...Lowy (1974) described the probable sacred use of Amanita muscaria among Mayan Indians of Mexico and Guatemala in relation to the Thunderbolt Legend and from the study of several codexes. Guzmán (1990) discussed the probable use of A. muscaria among the Purepechas of Mexico, in relation to a little stone figure found at an archaeological site: it seems to be the button of an A. muscaria." [FDE Misra]

To quote Lowy, "During the past several years,I have examined some aspects of ethnomycology in the Americas,principally those relating to mushroom stones and Maya codices(Lowy 1968,1971,1972a,b). As a result of a study made in Guatemala, Mexico,and Hondurasin June and July, 1973,it was established that there exists in the Guatemalan highlands and in southern Mexico a tradition that links Amanita muscaria with the thunderbolt" [B.Lowy,1974]

"Genetically and chemically[,] Amanita muscaria is extremely variable; many kinds of fly agaric do not provide a reliable ecstatic experience. Soil considerations and geographic and seasonal factors also affect its hallucinogenic properties. Use of a plant by a shaman does not necessarily mean it is ecstatic." [FOG Mckenna]

"...muscarine has a very unpleasant taste. It is interesting in this connection to note that the Amanita muscaria is said to be used by the inhabitants of Northern Russia particularly the Koraks as a means of inducing intoxication. To overcome the extremely unpleasant taste of the plant they swallow pieces of the dried cap without chewing them, or boil them in water and drink the decoction with other substances which disguise the taste." [Atkinson SAF]

"If you eat fly mushrooms from this part of the country [Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic], you will probably become very sick and not have any noticeable psychedelic experiences.... I know of a few local people who have tried using the fly mushroom like the Siberians—but not one would repeat the experience." [FGWMP Russell]

Mckenna quotes Wasson as saying "We ate them raw, on empty stomachs. We drank the juice, on empty stomachs. We mixed the juice with milk and drank the mixture, always on empty stomachs. We felt nauseated and some of us threw up. We felt disposed to sleep, and fell into a deep slumber from which shouts could not rouse us, lying like logs, not snoring, dead to the outside world. When in this state I once had vivid dreams.... In our experiments at Sugadaira [Japan], there was one occasion that differed from the others, one that could be called successful. Rokuya Imazeki took his mushrooms with mizo shiru, the delectable soup that the Japanese usually serve for breakfast, and he toasted his mushroom caps on a fork before an open fire. When he rose from the sleep that comes with the mushroom, he was in full elation. For three hours he could not help but speak; he was a compulsive speaker. The purport of his remarks was that this was nothing like the alcoholic state; it was infinitely better, beyond all comparison. We did not know at the time why, on this single occasion, our friend Imazeki was affected this way." [FOG McKenna]

"The Vikings are supposed to have eaten it before battle to induce the “berserk” state and make themselves more ferocious to their enemies." [Healing Mushrooms] "...no historical sources or pieces of archaeomycological evidence that the Vikings actually used fly agaric. It is interesting though, that the notion has become widespread..." [Anderson Ethnobiology]

"The Koryak tribe of Siberia are not Europeans, but their use of Amanita muscaria is too interesting not to relate. Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, a Swedish explorer traveling in Siberia in the early 1700s, records how wealthy tribe members assembled in a hut to ingest the mushroom, while the tribe’s poorer members, not to be denied the experience, assembled outside. When an intoxicated tribe member left the hut to urinate, those outside gathered around to collect his urine in a bowl so that they could drink and partake of the hallucinogenic mushroom..." [Healing Mushrooms]

"The Siberian fly agaric user would sun-dry the mushrooms and later ingest them either alone or mixed with milk or water. If taken alone, the mushroom would first be moistened in the mouths of women who would produce a kind of pellet for the men to swallow." [TPS Powell]

"Genetically and chemically Amanita muscaria is extremely variable; many kinds of fly agaric do not provide a reliable ecstatic experience. Soil considerations and geographic and seasonal factors also affect its hallucinogenic properties." [FOG McKenna]

"Instead of realizing that Amanita muscaria was an unlikely candidate for Vedic Soma, Wasson became convinced that some method of preparation must have been involved. But no ingredient or procedure has ever been found that reliably transforms the often uncomfortable subtoxic experience of Amanita into visionary journeying to a magical paradise. Wasson himself knew of only one inexplicable and unreplicated exception:"

"In 1965 and again in 1966 we tried out the fly-agarics (Amanita muscaria) repeatedly on ourselves. The results were disappointing. We ate them raw, on empty stomachs. We drank the juice, on empty stomachs. We mixed the juice with milk and drank the mixture, always on empty stomachs. We felt nauseated and some of us threw up. We felt disposed to sleep, and fell into a deep slumber from which shouts could not rouse us, lying like logs, not snoring, dead to the outside world. When in this state I once had vivid dreams, but nothing like what happened when I took the psilocybe mushrooms in Mexico, where I did not sleep at all. In our experiments at Sugadaira [Japan], there was one occasion that differed from the others, one that could be called successful. Rokuya Imazeki took his mushrooms with mizo shiru, the delectable soup that the Japanese usually serve for breakfast, and he toasted his mushroom caps on a fork before an open fire. When he rose from the sleep that comes with the mushroom, he was in full elation. ... his remarks was that this was nothing like the alcoholic state; it was infinitely better, beyond all comparison" [FOG McKenna]

"To the above let me add my own personal experience of the fly agaric. I have ingested it on two occasions. Once the specimens were a dried collection made at sea level in northern California. My experience of five dried grams was one of nausea, salivation, and blurred vision. Drifting images were present with eyes closed but of a trivial and unengaging sort. My second exposure was a dinner-plate-sized fresh specimen collected at 10,000 feet in the mountains behind Boulder, Colorado. In this case, salivation and stomach cramps were the only effects. Finally, here is part of an account of fly agaric intoxication by an extremely sophisticated subject, a professional psychotherapist and neurophysiologist. The dose taken was one cup of finely chopped mushroom. The mushrooms came from the Pecos river drainage of New Mexico:"

"I was occasionally twitching, a gleam of perspiration over me. Saliva dribbling rapidly out of my mouth. I did not know how the time passed. Thought I was awake, or dreaming dreams that were totally lifelike--dreamed in total awareness. I was only dimly or not at all aware of the music being played. Threw off my blanket-very hot sweaty, very cold-chilled, but no visible chills. It seemed unusually quiet inside. I was very stoned. Unlike anything I had felt before"psychedelic" is too broad a term, too all encompassing, it was not truly psychedelic. It was as if everything were exactly the same but totally unfamiliar-but it all looked like I knew it to be. Except that this world was about a shade (or a quantum level) off--different in an eerie, profound and unmistakable way. I was ataxic [unable to coordinate voluntary movements] and euphoric-there was very little visual stuff." [FOG McKenna]

Hobbs relates the experience of a close friend;

"Within less than an hour of ingesting the mushrooms I would begin to perspire profusely. I clearly remember huddling next to my blazing wood stove, soaked with sweat, but feeling an unreachable coldness to the core of my body. With larger doses, nausea and vomiting would overcome me. I attached no great significance to this message of toxicity since other valued substances also had this effect. Shortly after purging, I would fall into a deep sleep. I never had any clear remembrance of spectacular dreams or revelatory visions occurring during this phase, but I seldom do even after normal sleep." [MM Hobbs]

"I awakened after 2 or 3 hours. My state then would be best described by the word equanimity. Whatever needed to be done—daily chores, fixing meals, dealing with an unwelcome guest—was accomplished with an easy detachment. The sense was (though never tested) that if disaster were to befall, the world come to an end, I would have been imperturbed, though not unobservant or incapacitated. It was a not unpleasant state that I optimistically likened to the desired state of nonattachment purportedly achieved" by certain religious practices. This condition would fade over a few hours time." [MM Hobbs]

"Among peoples who used A. muscaria for the traditional uses..., the young fruiting bodies picked before the caps were fully expanded were considered the most effective, particularly for increasing endurance, but older specimens were considered better to induce hallucinations or euphoria (Saar, 1991b).... The number of fruiting bodies consumed at one session varies, but it is generally reported to be between 1/2 to 11 (Saar, 1991b). For hallucinations, 3-11 mature fruiting bodies are recommended; for facilitating work, 3-5 young mushrooms; for simply inducing a pleasant state, 3 fruiting bodies are sufficient."[MM Hobbs]

Combinations


Shamanic Use

"In the world outlook of both regions of AM [Amanita muscaria] consumption the fungus is connected with clairvoyance and information obtained from spirits. The typical explanations of the phenomenon are as follows: the fungus brings about a special state in which the consumer “knows everything”" [saar1991-2]

"Information is obtained at the time of hallucinations or dreams. Their course and aim is different in every region but the common trait of all is the appearance of anthropomorphous spirits, the so-called AM-manikins*. They answer the questions asked by the AM consumer (kh: Karjalainen, 1927; Maret Saar, 1987, field work data) and give him information about the problem he is interested in." [saar1991-2]

"An unexpected side-effect might appear in the form of the so-called AM spirit jokes. In hallucinations orders have been given sometimes to perform strange operations alien to common sense, their form being so imperative that they have been carried out to the letter, without question IK: Krasheninnikov, 1755; k, ch: Bogoraz, 1904-19091. At times the agaric eater was impelled to imitate the fungus (k, ch: Bogoraz, 1904- 19091." [saar1991-2]

"...in authentic sources no case has been observed where the behaviour of the native under the influence of the fungus has proved dangerous to himself or his companions, but in most of them the positive nature of the psychic state caused by AM has been stressed." [saar1991-2]

"The effect of young fruit bodies, i.e. those having small and convex pilei, is regarded as stronger and more efficacious on people than that of older ones with big and flat pilei (kh: Karjalainen, 1927; fn: Lehtisalo, 1924; Ch, K: Yuri Simchenko, 1987, personal communication). The former are used to facilitate work and physical exertions, the latter prove to come in handy to evoke hallucinations or obtain a state similar to that caused by alcoholic drinks (ch: Vladimir Lebedev, 1987, personal communication). The ideas of the Itelmen to this effect have been summed up by Langsdorf (18091as follows: “The smaller mushrooms, which are bright red and covered with many white warty protuberances, are said to be far stronger in narcotic power than the larger ones, which are pale red and have few white spots”...“Big fungi are not so obedient as small ones, they may deceive; small fungi are stronger than the big ones but more submissive*’ (Ch, K: Yuri Simchenko, 1987, personal communication)." [saar1991-2]

"“Only someone who is familiar with the origin of the flyagaric can eat it ‘with fortunate results’, but if in his intoxication he does not see the mushroom spirits properly, they may kill him, or he may go astray in the dark” (fn: Lehtisalo, 1924).... “AM must always be told (either in a loud voice or to oneself) the purpose of its use” (Ch, K: Yuri Simchenko, 1987, personal communication)." [saar1991-2]

"There have been about fifteen ways of administration. AM has been consumed raw, fried or cooked when fresh, dried, and in the form of an extract or decoction. Sometimes people have drunk the urine of a person intoxicated by AM or eaten the meat of intoxicated reindeer....the fungus was masticated and only the saliva swallowed (k: Dittmar, 1900);.... Dried fungi were also cooked in water for a short period of time and then the liquid drunk either pure (k: Strahlenberg, 1736; Ch, K: Vladimir Lebedev, 1987, personal communication)..." [saar1991-2]


Toxicology

"Here’s what the Emergency Physicians Monthly website had to say about Amanita muscaria and the many ibotenic acid poisonings that they have collectively observed:"

"A toxic dose in adults is approximately 6 mg. muscimol or 60 mg. ibotenic acid—the amount found in one cap of Amanita muscaria. However, the amount and ratio of chemical compounds per mushroom varies widely from region to region and season to season. Spring and summer mushrooms have been reported to contain up to 10 times as much ibotenic acid and muscimol compared to autumn specimens. Toxic components are not distributed uniformly in the mushroom. Most of the muscimol and ibotenic are contained in the cap or pileus. A fatal dose has been calculated at approximately 15 caps."

"Fly agarics are known for unpredictable clinical effects which can be highly variable between individuals exposed to similar doses. Symptoms typically appear after 30 to 90 minutes and peak within three hours. Certain effects can last for days, but the majority of cases completely recover within 12 to 24 hours. Unlike other toxic mushroom ingestions, vomiting is uncommon. Patients may exhibit ataxia, auditory and visual hallucinations (described as sliding vision and “the ability to see through walls”), as well as hysteria. Central nervous system depression, coma, myoclonic jerking, hyperkinetic behavior, and seizures have been described in larger doses. Retrograde amnesia and somnolence can result following recovery. (Erickson, 2010)" [Viess-2]

"The intake of more than 10 g of the fresh mushroom can lead to coordination disorders, confusion, illusions and manic attacks. Higher dosages (over, 100 g of fresh mushrooms) lead to unconsciousness, asphyxiation, coma and death." [PDR]

"The treatment of poisoning includes emptying the gastrointestinal tract and the use of sedatives. In case of shock, a , plasma volume expander should be used. Artificial respiration should be administered for respiratory arrest." [PDR]

"Inebriation syndrome is due primarily to the toxin ibotenic acid and its decarboxylation product, muscimol; ibotenic acid is structurally related to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamic acid while muscimol is related to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA; combined action of both toxins may explain the initial excitation and inebriation followed by the prolonged coma-like sleep seen with poisoning by Group V mushrooms" [PTH]

The onset is 1 hour, the duration 24 hours. Treatment includes gastric lavage within one hour, and activated charcoal. "Diazepam can be utilized for delirium and for seizures; physostigmine should only be used for life-threatening anticholinergic crisis (0.5-2 mg I.V. over a 5 minute period); hemodialysis if renal failure develops" [PTH]

Pop Culture

"Ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson (1968) gained renown by focusing on its religious rather than recreational use, for example, by proposing that A. muscaria is the enigmatic Soma praised in ancient Vedic texts. His theories have gained currency in some circles but are still controversial (Letcher 2007)." [Rubel&Arora]

"The frequently disoriented world described in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865) probably owes much of its detail to contemporary accounts of fly agaric inebriation by the mycologist Mordecai Cubitt Cooke.8" [Bloomfields Money]

"It is interesting to observe that one of first neurotropic effects of A. muscaria is to see all surrounding things as gigantic, as will be discussed below which concern Mexican Indians traditions. These enlarging effects relate directly to the history of the gnomos in Europe, which supposedly began with the ingestion of A. muscaria." [FDE Misra]

"Shaman of Siberia and the Russian icon, St. Nicholas, both play parts in the tale of Christmas, providing clues as to where Christmas came from and why there are certain symbols associated with the holiday. It is these types of clues that will help (the questors) in the deciphering of the symbols. Siberian Shaman used/use (despite governmental oppression) the Amanita muscaria as a religious sacrament. It is used for spiritual vision, out-of-body travel into the realms of the spirits, and as a plant-spirit guide in teaching and healing. The value of the inebriant is placed highly among the commodities of the native tribesmen, fetching reindeer pelts, meats, and all manner of tradable goods in payment and barter. Interesting to note: If you aren't quick enough in the hunt, you will find only the mushroom stubs, the rest greedily gobbled up by the hungry reindeer." [James Arthur] "...reindeer...fancy the fly agaric and after rushing around they fall into a deep sleep during which they can be caught easily." [Svanberg EE]

" 1. Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children in Siberia (Russia), a supplanter to the indigenous Shaman.
2. The Amanita muscaria mushrooms grow nearly exclusively under the Christmas (Coniferous) Trees (Birch also [another whole story]).
3. The Reindeer eat these mushrooms, hence the presumed flight.
4. Santa brings presents in his white bag/sack. Mushrooms are gathered in bags, and Amanita muscaria sprouts out of a white vulvae sack.
5. The mushrooms are red and white and grow under a green tree. Christmas colors are red, white and green.
6. Typically, the red and white mushrooms are dried by stringing them on the hearth of the fireplace. Christmas stockings are red and white, hung in the same way, and shaped similar.
7. The Virgin Birth is symbolic for the "seedless" growth/germination pattern of the mushroom. To the ancient mind, with no microscope to see the spores, it's appearance was thought to be miraculous.
8. The very name, "Christmas" is a holiday name composed of the words, "Christ" (meaning "one who is anointed with the Magical Substance") and "Mass" (a special religious service/ceremony of the sacramental ingestion of the Eucharist, the "Body of Christ"). In the Catholic tradition, this substance (Body/Soma) has been replaced by the doctrine of "Transsubstantiation", whereby in a magical ceremony the Priests claim the ability to transform a "cracker/round-wafer" into the literal "Body of Christ"; ie, a substitute or placebo. " [James Arthur]

"Drying the mushrooms was/is a necessary procedure typically accomplished by stringing them up (like popcorn) and hanging them above the hearth of the fireplace. shamans and lay people alike, would gather and dry them. They gather all they can since they are a valuable commodity. Reindeer (native to Siberia) are known to be quite fond of eating these mushrooms. The mythology of flying Reindeer reflects the supposed pharmacological effects of such a meal." [James Arthur]

"Reindeer go crazy for fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria), which the Lapp people traditionally used for its hallucinogenic effects. Lapp shamans used to eat the mushroom during the midwinter pagan ceremonies of Annual Renewal. The first effect of eating it was a deep coma-like slumber. When the shamans woke the drug stimulated their muscular systems, so that a small effort produced spectacular results - the intoxicated person perhaps making a gigantic leap to clear the smallest obstacle. The effect on animals was generally the same, and a mushroom-maddened super-reindeer traditionally guarded each shaman. When missionaries first reached Santa's native Lapland, they found a thriving pagan myth of reindeer flight. Rather than oppose it, they shrewdly assimilated the stories into the folklore of Christmas and Saint Nicholas. This then, is the true origin of the legend of Santa's flying sleigh. The colour scheme of his outfit is taken from the unmistakable red and white cap of the fungus. Lapps still scatter the mushroom in the snow to round up reindeer. Incidentally, the urine of people who eat the mushroom contains substantial quantities of the isoxazole derivatives that produce the intoxicating effect. Impoverished Lapps knew this, and collected round the huts of rich Lapps who indulged in the mushroom at Christmas parties. When their overlords came out to relieve themselves in the snow, the serfs collected the urine to drink. When they, in turn, urinated in the snow, the reindeer fought to utilise what remained of the mushroom's intoxicating effects." [iamshaman]

Insecticidal Properties

"Amanita muscaria has long had a reputation for insecticidal properties as the names muscaria, fly agaric, and fliegenpilz imply. The fungus had been used as a fly trap in Europe. Pure muscarine, however, is devoid of any action on houseflies. Isolation of fly-killing constituents in both Japanese fungi and Amanita muscaria were carried out by Takemoto et al. in Japan (29-32) and Bowden and Drysdale in England (333). The English investigators observed the narcotic effect of the fly agaric. Flies were usually overcome within 10-15 min, and this effect lasted for 50 hr or longer." [ACP23] "The insecticidal effect of these substances was weak although greater on mosquitoes than on flies. The amounts required were too high for practical application." [ACP23]


Mycochemicals

Fly AgaricAmanita muscaria
Amavandin

(compound containing vanadium)

[PDR]
"...rich in vanadium found in organovanadium compound amavadine

(mean up to 300 ug V/g dry weight)" [Rai PM]

Ibotenic Acid
 (Amino Acid)
[CPPM][ACP40]
Hallucinogenic [ACP40]
Muscaflavin

(Pyridine Alkaloid)

"Another alkaloid belonging to this group, but of fungal origin, is muscaflavin (154) from Amanita muscaria (236)" [ACP26]

Muscarine
 (toxic glucoside) [FDE Misra]
0 - 0.0025%(dry wt)[CPPM] 0.0003% (fresh wt) [Wiki] 0.0002-0.0003 (fresh wt) [ACP23] traces [PDR]
"More muscarine is found in the red skin than in the flesh." [ACP23] "Muscarine possesses only peripheral parasympathomimetic action, although its effects are increased by the presence of choline and acetylcholine, compounds also found in the mushrooms." [ACP23] "Muscarine (40) is a hallu-

cinogenic choline analog..." [ACPhy16]

Muscimol
[CPPM][PDR]
Muscazone
[PDR]
Pilocarpine
[PDBHM]

"Pilocarpine is a naturally occurring (active ingredient of poisonous mushrooms, Amanita muscaria) cholinomimetic agent possessing both muscarinic and nicotinic properties (stimulates autonomic ganglia). This agent causes miosis, reduces intraocular pressure, and is used in the treatment of wide-angle glaucoma. In addition, it may be applied topically in the eye in the form of a drug reservoir (Ocusert)." [PDBHM]

Tetrahydroharman-3-carboxylic acid
 (B-Carboline)
[ACP40]
"as the result of a thorough examination of

the composition of Amanita muscaria metabolites carried out by Eugster, the occurrence in this species of 1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-l-methyl-B-carboline- 3-carboxylic acid was established (59). This compound (mp 296-298C,...), known also as tetrahydroharman-3-carboxylic acid, was ear-lier (173) identified as a component of casein acidic hydrolysis products..."[ACP40]

Betalains

"... the

constitution of the pigments responsible for the striking red color of the caps of the toadstool has been a challenge to several chemists studying natural products." [ACP40]

"Betalain pigments are also produced in basidiomycete fungi, notably the red, orange, or yellow capped Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric." [Chen PFV] "The betalaine pigments were first recognized as being plant products isolated from the well-known source of red beet, Beta vulgaris,..." [ACP40]

"Musca-aurins (or muscaurins) are betaxanthin-type pigments which when hydrolyzed yield betalamic acid together with one of the following amino acids: ibotenic acid, stizolobic acid, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, a-aminoadipic acid, glutamine, asparagine, leucine, valine, proline, or histidine. Musca-aurins I, II, and VII have been isolated as single com- pounds, whereas musca-aurins III, IV and V, VI correspond to mixtures of betalaines containing different acidic or neutral amino acids, respectively..." [ACP40]

Muscaaurin I (50)
Distribution: "Amanita muscaria (71)" [ACP39]
Muscaaurin II (52)
Distribution: "Amanita caesarea (43), A. muscaria (71)" [ACP39]
Muscaaurin VII (46)
Distribution: "Amanita caesarea (43), A. muscaria (71)" [ACP39]
Muscaaurins
Distribution: "Amanita caesarea (43), A. flavoconia (43)," A. muscaria (71, 78). [ACP39] "...pigments were identified in admixture with other betaxanthins: indicaxanthin (2). vulgaxanthin II (44), vulgaxanthin I (4.9, miraxanthin III (54), and betaxanthins derived from a-aminoadipic acid, valine, and leucine." [ACP39]
Muscapurpurin (56)
Distribution: "Amanita muscaria (71)" [ACP39]
Muscaflavin (4)
Distribution: "Amanita ' caesarea (43), A. muscaria (71), A. phalloides (113), Hygrophorus aureus (87, 88), H . hypothejus, H . speciosus (87-89,113)" [ACP39]
Muscaflavin and hygroaurin
Distribution: "Hygrocybe acutoconica, H . (Hygrophorus) appalachensis, H. aurantiosplendens, H. brevispora, H. cantharellus (89), H . chlorophana (87-89), H . citrina (89), H . citrinovirens, H. coccinea

(87-89), H. coccineocrenata, H . conica (89,114), H. conicoides. H. conico-palustris, H . flavescens, H. glutinipes, H. helobia, H. insipida (89), H . intermedia (87-89), H. konradii, H . marchii, H. miniata, H . mucronella, H. obrussea, H . olivaceonigra, H. parvula (89). H. punicea, H . quieta (87-89), H. reai, H . reidii, H . riparia, H . spadicea (89), H. splendidissima (87-89), H. subminutula, H . tristis, H . turunda, H. vitellina (89)" [ACP39]


"The chemical compounds active in Amanita muscaria are muscarine and muscimol. Muscarine is highly toxic and like most cholinergic poisons, its activity is reversed by injection of atropine sulfate. Muscimol, the likely candidate for the psychoactivity of the mushroom, has been described as merely an emetic and a sedative. " Human exposure to muscimol is not described in the literature." [FOG McKenna]

"A standard dose as an inebriant is one to two caps (Greville 1823; Lincoff and Mitchel 1977); an upset stomach may or may not result. The active principle was long believed to be muscarine—isolated from A. muscaria in 1869 and the first mushroom toxin ever identified. Much later, however, it was demonstrated that muscarine, while found in a number of other mushrooms, occurs in such minute quantities in A. muscaria as to be clinically insignificant (Lincoff and Mitchel 1977; Benjamin 1995)." [Rubel&Arora]

"Recently, levels of muscimol and ibotenic acid in Amanita mushrooms naturally grown and circulated in the drug market have been described (Tsujikawa et al., 2007). The mean levels of muscimol determined in A. muscaria cap were 156 mg kg−1 (ranging from 46 to 1203 mg kg−1) and in stem 178 mg kg−1 (82–292 mg kg−1). For ibotenic acid, the mean content in cap was 863 mg kg−1 (182–1839 mg kg−1) and 1125 mg kg−1 in stem (627– 1998 mg kg−1)." [BCIF Gilbert]

Protein and mineral content; protein - 25 P - 0.48 Ca - 0.13 Mg - 0.04 K - 7.9 and Na - 0.02. [Dighton FEP]


Ecology

"Some mycorrhizal fungi show little host specificity; e.g., Amanita muscaria may associate with conifers such as Pinus and Picea, and with deciduous species such as Betula." [Arora FBAF] "Several obligatory mycorrhizal fungi, like B. edulis, only fruit in association with roots, partly host-specifically or with a narrow host spectrum, like Amanita caesarea predominantly associated with oaks, usually however hardly host-specifically, like A. muscaria at birch, eucalypts, spruce and Douglas fir (Werner 1987)." [Schmidt WTF]

"the ectomycorrhizal fungi Boletus edulis and Amanita muscaria also degrade chrysene (Braun-Lu ¨llemann et al. 1999; Kiehlmann et al. 1996; Wolter et al. 1997)." [Arora FBAF]

"Transport of amino acids was investigated in the mycorrhizal fungi P. involutus (Chalot et al., 1996) and Amanita muscaria (Nehls et al., 1999), which demonstrated their ability to take up a variety of amino acids." [Smith DIM]

Selenium Accumulation: "Watkinson (1964) was the first to discover Se accumulation in a fungus — Amanita muscaria in New Zealand. On a dry weight basis, Se ranged from 16.8 to 17.8 ppm, up to 600 times the concentration in foliage of associated herbs and trees." [Dighton TFC] "...particularly high concentrations of selenium have been found in Amanita muscaria and Boletus edulis." [Shkolnik TEP]

Mercury Accumulation: "...a Hg hyperaccumulating mushroom Amanita muscaria has been found that accumulates 96-1900 ng g-1 dry wt in the caps and 61-920 ng g-1 dry wt in the stalks depending on the collection site (Falandysz et al. 2003)." [peer2006] "Although some mushrooms [e.g., Amanita muscaria (L.) Hook. or fly agaric] accumulate heavy metals (e.g., mercury) with bioconcentration factors up to 100 – 200, analysis of wild mushrooms for mercury indicate that mercury toxicity is unlikely following the normal consumption of mushrooms.19" [Barceloux MTNS]

Vanadium Accumulation: "The fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) also contain relatively high levels of vanadium (120 ppm dry weight) (Michibata 2012)." [Ozturk PPT] "The sporophore of Amanita muscaria in unpolluted woodland is reported to contain V up to 345 ppm (DW) although the total V in the soil was relatively low (6.7 ppm DW)." [Pendias SP] "Among mushrooms, Amanita muscaria concentrates vanadium to levels of 100 times (2 mmol kg−1 dry weight) than those found in other mushrooms and higher plants." [Phytorem2]

Cadmium: "Some plants reveal a great affinity to absorb Cd from growth media. Lepp et al.1060 gave as an example the mushroom (Amanita muscaria), growing in unpolluted woodland in soil with a relatively low Cd content (total Cd 0.34 ppm DW), and containing 29.9 ppm Cd." [Pendias SP]

Heavy Metal Tolerance: "experiments screening HM tolerance of ectomycorrhizal strains of ''Amanita muscaria, Paxillus involutus, Pisolithus tinctorius, Suillus bovinus, S. luteus and Thelephora terrestris'' isolated from polluted or unpolluted soils revealed that the strains originating from unpolluted soils were strongly inhibited by HM amendment into growth media, whereas most of the strains isolated from sporocarps growing in polluted soils exhibited tolerance to HMs. Some of these strains were able to grow at zinc concentrations up to 1 mg.g–1 in medium [55]." [Hofman PRFB 9] "In Betula seedlings, mycorrhization with Amanita muscaria and Paxillus involutus reduced the Zn contents of the leaves, and in terms of growth improved tolerance to Zn (Brown and Wilkins 1985)." [Prasad HMSP]


  References 

Caution
The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 30-08-2017