Lucid dreaming is a sleep state in which one is aware that they are dreaming and sometimes has control over their actions and environment.
Some people experience lucid dreaming spontaneously, while others seek it out using various training techniques and psychoactive substances. One such substance is Amanita muscaria, a mushroom that can induce a deep and dream-filled sleep. Many anecdotal reports describe these dreams as being lucid.
This article explores the connection between Amanita muscaria and lucid dreaming and its potential benefits and risks.
The Connection Between Amanita Muscaria and Lucid Dreaming
We still do not fully understand the chemistry of Amanita muscaria and its connection with lucid dreaming. However, we can form a hypothesis based on our current knowledge of the mushroom and existing research on sleep and dreams.
A 2018 review suggests that a combination of neurotransmitters is involved in the biology of sleep and dreams, including GABA, glutamate, and acetylcholine.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and suppresses activity in the central nervous system. It plays a role in inducing sleep and inhibits motor neurons, preventing us from acting out our dreams.
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and stimulates activity in the central nervous system. Its levels increase during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the sleep stage in which the majority of dreams occur.
Acetylcholine has many functions in the body and brain. Like glutamate, it is an excitatory neurotransmitter and is most often associated with relaying messages between the nervous system and muscles. It also appears to be involved in dreaming and activates the neocortex during REM sleep. The neocortex is the brain region associated with sensation, action, consciousness, and thought.
Interestingly, Amanita muscaria contains three chemicals that act similarly to these neurotransmitters:
- Muscimol - acts similarly to GABA
- Ibotenic acid - acts similarly to glutamate
- Muscarine - acts similarly to acetylcholine
Could this particular combination of chemicals mimic the activity of the neurotransmitters involved in sleep and dreaming?
More research is required, especially since muscarine does not appear to cross the blood-brain barrier. However, the hypothesis could go some way towards explaining why Amanita muscaria has such a profound effect on sleep and dreams.
Lucid Dreaming Techniques: How Amanita Muscaria Can Facilitate Lucidity
There has been no research specifically on Amanita muscaria and lucid dreaming. However, other drugs like galantamine have been used successfully to induce lucid dreaming in scientific studies. Precisely how they do this is not yet understood, but it seems they are most effective when used alongside specific training techniques designed to facilitate lucidity.
These training techniques are usually executed immediately before sleep and may involve intentionally waking up during the night and performing the technique before drifting back off.
Some of the most common lucid dreaming techniques are summarized below:
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) Technique
The subject repeatedly tells themselves that the next time they are dreaming, they will recognize it as a dream. They then fall asleep, holding onto that intention. They will often do this after intentionally waking up after around five hours of sleep and staying awake for 30-120 minutes before falling back to sleep.
Senses Initiated Lucid Dream (SILD) Technique
The subject intentionally wakes up after around five hours of sleep and stimulates their senses by moving between different visual, auditory, and physical stimuli before falling back to sleep.
Wake Back to Bed (WBTB) Technique
The subject intentionally wakes early in the morning and then takes a nap, during which lucid dreaming becomes more likely.
Another person administers external stimuli while the subject sleeps to promote lucidity. External stimulation could also include the use of substances like Amanita muscaria to facilitate lucid dreams.
Amanita Muscaria Dosage and Preparation Method for Lucid Dreaming
There is no evidence that a particular Amanita muscaria dosage or preparation method is better than another for lucid dreaming. However, reports on online forums, such as Reddit, suggest that users have had the most success with moderate doses rather than high ones.
What constitutes a moderate dose varies greatly between individuals, and it is often necessary to experiment with steadily increasing quantities over the course of several days. Most experts recommend starting with a minimal dose of 0.5-1g (dried) and increasing slowly from there to find an appropriate amount.
In terms of preparation, most people prefer to perform a process called decarboxylation. This converts the high levels of ibotenic acid found in raw Amanita muscaria into muscimol.
The reason for doing this is two-fold. Firstly, ibotenic acid mimics the effects of glutamate and could have stimulating effects. Therefore, taking it before bed could be counterproductive. Moreover, ibotenic acid has potentially neurotoxic properties, and its long-term effects on the brain are understudied.
Decarboxylation is performed by simmering dried Amanita muscaria mushrooms in water for 30-180 minutes while reducing the pH using lemon juice or citric acid. It is then possible to calculate the dosage by dividing the weight of dry mushrooms used by the resulting volume of liquid.
Benefits and Risks of Amanita Muscaria for Lucid Dreaming
There are several possible benefits and risks associated with using Amanita muscaria for lucid dreaming.
Some benefits are purely recreational. For example, many people enjoy the experience of lucid dreaming and the potential to control fantastical situations that would not be possible in the waking world.
Lucid dreaming may also offer clinical benefits for people living with recurring nightmares or reduce distress in conditions like narcolepsy. It could also offer valuable insights into psychological issues while furthering research into cognitive neuroscience and consciousness.
However, there are concerns about the safety of lucid dreaming, particularly when it is done regularly. The techniques used to facilitate lucid dreaming involve disturbing one’s sleep, which could cause daytime tiredness and have long-term detrimental effects on health.
Lucid dreaming could also negatively impact the mental well-being of some individuals, and those with psychological conditions should approach it with caution.
Finally, it is essential to keep in mind that we understand very little about Amanita muscaria and its effects on the human body and brain. It appears to be safe to use occasionally in moderation, but there is currently no research into the potential benefits or risks of using it regularly.
The Bottom Line on Amanita Muscaria and Lucid Dreaming
Amanita muscaria contains chemicals similar to several of the neurotransmitters involved in sleep and dreams, and anecdotal reports suggest it can be used to facilitate lucid dreaming. However, there is little research into the subject, and how this mushroom affects the subconscious currently remains a mystery.
Anyone wishing to use Amanita muscaria for lucid dreaming should exercise caution, particularly those with pre-existing mental health conditions. Wherever possible, seek the guidance of a trained professional to help facilitate the experience.
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