When people talk about preparing Amanita muscaria, they often talk about a process called decarboxylation. It is a reaction that alters the chemical makeup of the mushrooms and makes them safer to consume.
This article explores the science behind amanita decarboxylation, why it is important, and how to do it easily at home.
What Is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation, sometimes known as decarbing, is a chemical reaction that involves removing a carboxyl group from an organic molecule. A carboxyl group comprises one carbon, one hydrogen, and two oxygen atoms.
The reaction happens in the presence of heat, high pressure, and acidic conditions. It alters the chemical structure of the starting molecule and releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct. It is a common reaction in nature and is involved in the metabolism of many amino acids.
In the case of Amanita muscaria, decarboxylation converts ibotenic acid to muscimol. Ibotenic acid is present in high concentrations in raw amanita mushrooms, while muscimol levels are much lower. For example, an Amanita muscaria cap weighing 50-70 grams might contain up to 70mg of ibotenic acid and just 6mg of muscimol.
Both ibotenic acid and muscimol have psychoactive effects, but muscimol is generally considered the more desirable of the two compounds. Therefore, most people choose to decarboxylate their amanita mushrooms before consumption.
Why Would You Want to Decarboxylate Ibotenic Acid?
Ibotenic acid is thought to be responsible for many of Amanita muscaria’s unpleasant side effects and is also a known neurotoxin. Some individuals argue that it is safe to take small amounts of ibotenic acid by mouth, but there has been no research to confirm these claims.
The importance of converting ibotenic acid is hotly debated online, with people in both camps adamant that their way is the right way. Some are determined that ibotenic acid is a crucial part of the Amanita muscaria experience, while others insist it is unsafe and unnecessary to consume.
In reality, the decision is more nuanced and depends upon an individual’s desired effects and unique biochemistry, as well as the dosage and frequency of use. That said, decarboxylating ibotenic acid into muscimol does appear to reduce the severity of side effects and makes the mushroom easier to tolerate for most people.
What Are the Effects of Ibotenic Acid and Muscimol?
Ibotenic acid and muscimol influence the body and brain in very different ways, meaning that decarboxylating Amanita muscaria can greatly alter its effects. Let’s explore the properties of these two chemicals and why most people prefer to decarb.
Ibotenic acid’s chemical structure is similar to glutamate, the neurotransmitter responsible for speeding up central nervous system activity. It can bind with glutamate receptors and mimic the neurotransmitter’s effects.
Ibotenic acid is often described as being stimulating, energizing, and sharpening the senses. However, when consumed in large amounts, it is thought to be responsible for many of Amanita muscaria’s unpleasant side effects. It can cause confusion and agitation and could also trigger seizures in high doses.
Some research suggests that ibotenic acid is the primary compound responsible for Amanita muscaria’s hallucinogenic effects. But it is also associated with neurotoxicity, which has led to the ongoing full decarb debate.
Scientists use ibotenic acid as a brain-lesioning agent in animal studies, causing serious concerns over its safety. Yet those who believe small amounts of the chemical are safe to consume say this is unrealistic evidence supporting the toxicity of ibotenic acid. They argue that, in these studies, it is injected directly into the brain rather than being taken by mouth.
Indeed, a significant proportion of ibotenic acid is converted to muscimol by the digestive organs, and large amounts are excreted in urine. Even so, most people prefer to err on the side of caution by decarboxylating amanita mushrooms to convert all the ibotenic acid to muscimol.
Muscimol’s chemical structure is similar to GABA, the neurotransmitter responsible for slowing down central nervous system activity. It can bind with GABA receptors and mimic the neurotransmitter's effects.
Muscimol is often described as calming and relaxing. It causes drowsiness, and some say that it helps them fall into a restful sleep.
Muscimol also has therapeutic potential and has been studied as a treatment for neuropathic pain and essential tremor, among other conditions. It is considered far safer than ibotenic acid, and for many, it is the most desirable component of Amanita muscaria.
How to Decarb Amanita Mushrooms
It is challenging to achieve complete decarboxylation without specialist equipment. However, it is possible to convert most of Amanita muscaria’s ibotenic acid into muscimol using some everyday household items. It involves simmering the mushrooms to create a potent amanita “tea.” Keep reading for our simple how-to guide.
You Will Need
- Amanita muscaria mushrooms
- Lemon juice or citric acid
- Stainless steel pan with lid
- pH meter
- Measuring jug
- Cheesecloth or coffee filter for straining
- Storage bottle or jar
- Ice cube tray (if freezing for microdosing)
- If you are using dried mushrooms, cut them into small pieces, but do not grind. Grinding them to powder could mean you end up with sediment in your tea. If you are using fresh mushrooms, remove any dirt and cut them into cubes.
Note that dried mushrooms are already partially decarboxylated, whereas fresh mushrooms are not. If you are using fresh, pay extra attention to the pH and simmer for the maximum recommended time.
There is some debate as to whether you should include amanita stems in your tea as they are far less potent than the caps. However, they do still contain some active compounds, and many consider them worth including.
- Weigh your mushrooms so that you can calculate your tea’s potency later. When discussing dosage, people tend to refer to dried mushrooms. If you are using fresh mushrooms, divide by 10 to get the approximate equivalent weight. For example, 100g of fresh mushrooms is equivalent to around 10g of dried mushrooms, and so on.
- Place the mushrooms in the pan and cover them with water. You will be simmering for up to 180 minutes, so add enough water that your pan won’t boil dry.
- Measure the water’s pH and add a small amount of lemon juice or citric acid to reduce it, then stir. Acidic conditions aid decarboxylation, and the optimal pH is between 2.5 and 3.
- Put the lid on the pan and bring the water to a boil. Keep a close eye on it, and as soon as it boils, reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer.
- After 30 minutes, remove the mushrooms from the water. At this point, all of the active compounds will be transferred into the liquid, and leaving the mushrooms in longer can result in a goopy tea. Recheck the pH and use more lemon juice or citric acid to reduce it if necessary.
- Keep simmering for a further 150 minutes to convert as much ibotenic acid to muscimol as possible. Some people prefer to simmer for less time to make tea with a mixture of both chemicals. Keep checking the pH every 30 minutes or so and adjust it if necessary.
- Once you have simmered your tea for the desired amount of time, use the cheesecloth or a coffee filter to strain it into a measuring jug.
You can calculate its potency by dividing the weight of the mushrooms by the volume of the tea. For example, if you used 10g of dried mushrooms to make 100ml of tea, each milliliter of tea would contain 0.1g of amanita extract. Therefore, a 10ml dose would be equivalent to 1g of dried mushrooms.
It is generally recommended to make a large batch of tea using as many mushrooms as possible. This is because individual mushrooms can vary greatly in potency, so making smaller batches can lead to difficulties with dosing. It is also more energy-efficient to make a larger batch and store any excess for later.
The tea will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator or can be frozen indefinitely. Many people like to make it into ice cubes for microdosing, with each ice cube constituting one dose.
Exercise caution with dosing, even if you are experienced with Amanita muscaria. Remember, every batch can vary considerably in strength. Start with a minimal amount and increase it gradually until you find your optimal dose.
There you have it, our simple guide to decarboxylating Amanita muscaria and converting ibotenic acid into muscimol. If all of the above seems like too much hassle, why not try our amanita gummies instead? We’ve done the hard work for you to produce a product that’s rich in muscimol and provides a reliable dose each time.
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