Most people recognize Amanita muscaria as the red and white-spotted mushroom associated with folklore and fairytales. However, only some realize that it has potential medicinal uses. Furthermore, some individuals take Amanita muscaria for its psychoactive properties, although its effects are unlike those of other “magic mushrooms.”
Amanita muscaria has played a crucial role in the shamanic practices of Siberia for centuries, and some have speculated that it could be the key ingredient in soma, an inebriating beverage mentioned throughout the Hindu text Rigveda. Now, Amanita muscaria use is becoming more widespread in the United States. Therefore, understanding its possible medicinal and recreational uses is more important than ever.
Unfortunately, research on Amanita muscaria is scarce, but we have compiled the existing evidence in this article. Read on to learn more about this mysterious mushroom and its interaction with the human body and mind.
Medicinal Use of Amanita Muscaria
In recent years, there has been an increased interest in the therapeutic properties of mushrooms. These include species like reishi and chaga, which have been used in traditional medicine for millennia, and psilocybin-containing “magic mushrooms” that are emerging as a promising adjunct to psychotherapy.
Research into the medicinal uses of Amanita muscaria is in its infancy, and far less is known about its potential benefits. However, scientists have identified the primary compounds responsible for its effects, which has led to some interesting findings.
It was initially thought that the compound responsible for Amanita muscaria’s effects was a centrally-acting chemical called muscarine. It has since been proven that muscarine exists in the mushrooms in quantities too low to have a significant impact. Nonetheless, it contributed to the discovery of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the development of some valuable drugs still used today.
We now know that the key active compounds in Amanita muscaria are ibotenic acid and muscimol. The two have similar chemical structures to the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, respectively. Therefore, they significantly affect the central nervous system (CNS).
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, speeding up signals in the CNS, and ibotenic acid acts similarly. Ibotenic acid has stimulating effects, but many have expressed concerns over its safety due to studies that show it has potentially neurotoxic effects.
Conversely, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, slowing signals in the CNS, and muscimol has similar effects. Muscimol is said to be calming and relaxing, and some of the most common reasons for using Amanita muscaria are relieving stress and aiding sleep.
Recreational Use of Amanita Muscaria
Those who have used Amanita muscaria tend to describe the experience as spiritual or educational rather than recreational. Although high doses of the mushroom can be hallucinogenic, it differs significantly from magic mushrooms and can be dissociative, disorienting, and frightening.
Nevertheless, many people find the experience enlightening in some way, and using Amanita muscaria for its psychoactive effects is an ancient practice. In shamanic cultures, it would be taken ritualistically and revered for its visionary qualities. Some of these societies are also believed to use lower doses of the mushroom in a more casual setting.
Low doses can be enjoyable and are often compared to feeling drunk. The precise effects depend on the preparation method since this influences the mushrooms’ ibotenic acid to muscimol ratio. Remember, the two chemicals have opposite effects, with ibotenic acid being stimulating and muscimol relaxing.
Research suggests that the effects of muscimol are sedation, inebriation, and hallucinogenic states, while the effects of ibotenic acid are confusion, agitation, and euphoria. However, most people recommend preparing the mushrooms to contain as much muscimol as possible, as this compound is considered safer.
Anyone considering using Amanita muscaria recreationally should research it thoroughly to ensure they know what to expect. Those planning to personally harvest the mushrooms should take extra care and familiarize themselves with proper identification and preparation methods.
Learn more about how to prepare Amanita muscaria here on the VidaCap blog.
Contemporary Perspectives and Practices
One of the more contemporary ways of using Amanita muscaria is microdosing. This practice involves using tiny amounts of the mushroom to produce subtle effects without intoxication.
People often microdose with muscimol-rich amanita extracts and say they induce a sense of calm. Many also suggest that microdosing can enhance sleep and bring about a general sense of well-being.
There is no clinical research on microdosing Amanita muscaria, and all of the available information is currently anecdotal. However, there are numerous websites and social media pages promoting the practice.
Once again, we recommend that anyone considering this conduct thorough research and approach this mushroom cautiously. Start with a minimal dose and only increase it once you are comfortable with its effects.
Many people recommend beginning with a teaspoon or less of extract and working up from there. However, homemade extracts vary in potency, making calculating an accurate dose difficult. Therefore, some prefer products like amanita gummies that contain a pre-measured muscimol dosage.
These products are legal in most US states, with the only exception currently being Louisiana. Therefore, they are readily available in stores and online. We recommend buying online and only using suppliers that provide lab reports to confirm their gummies’ precise muscimol content.
Even then, it is essential to use Amanita muscaria in a safe setting and avoid risky activities like driving while under the influence.
Final Thoughts on Amanita Muscaria Medicinal and Recreational Use
Amanita muscaria is a mushroom with a rich history that is gaining scientific interest in the modern world. There is still much to learn about its medicinal and recreational applications, but the existing research and anecdotal reports suggest it may have some benefits.
However, it is crucial to use Amanita muscaria responsibly. Check with a physician to confirm its suitability for you and, wherever possible, use well-manufactured and lab-tested products for optimal safety and effectiveness.
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