Muscimol is one of the key active compounds in Amanita muscaria mushrooms. It is largely responsible for their psychoactive effects and may also have some therapeutic applications.
However, research into muscimol is just beginning, and there is far more we need to know before its use becomes mainstream. Here is our summary of the current evidence regarding muscimol’s effects, uses, and potential benefits.
What Is Muscimol?
Amanita muscaria contains two primary active compounds, ibotenic acid and muscimol.
Ibotenic acid is predominant in raw Amanita muscaria mushrooms, but preparing them in a specific way converts it into muscimol. The process is known as decarboxylation, and many believe it renders the mushrooms safe for consumption and reduces the risk of side effects.
Muscimol is an organic chemical with the formula C4H6N2O2. It comprises a five-member ring and a short carbon chain with a functional amine (NH2) group at the end.
This structure makes it similar to the neurotransmitter GABA, which lacks the ring but has the same functional amine group at the end of its carbon chain. Therefore, muscimol can bind with GABA receptors, specifically GABA-A, and mimic the neurotransmitter’s effects.
Muscimol’s Effects Are Similar to GABA
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and slows down signals between nerve cells. Its functions include reducing unwanted nerve signals, controlling respiratory rate, integrating sensory information, and facilitating smooth movement.
Moreover, GABA insufficiency is associated with several psychiatric conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. It is also implicated in autism. Therefore, treatments targeting the GABA system are of significant clinical interest.
As mentioned earlier, muscimol can bind with GABA-A receptors and mimic the neurotransmitter’s effects. It is officially classed as a GABA-A agonist, meaning that it switches on activity at these sites.
Although there is little clinical research into the effects of muscimol, anecdotal reports suggest it induces a state of relaxation, followed by drowsiness and deep sleep. This description matches the well-known effects of other GABA-A agonists, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates.
Muscimol’s effects typically become apparent 20-30 minutes after ingestion and may last as long as eight hours.
Muscimol Is Finding Its Way Into Medicine
Muscimol is probably best known as a psychoactive compound, but it could have some medicinal properties, too.
Because of its similarities to GABA, muscimol could help slow down signals in the central nervous system. Therefore, it might be useful for various conditions, such as neuropathic pain and essential tremor. It has also been researched as a treatment for seizures, although there is not currently enough evidence regarding its efficacy.
Although muscimol is understudied, many people use Amanita muscaria extracts to alleviate common complaints. Anecdotal reports suggest it could relieve pain, improve mood, and promote restful sleep.
A 2023 study found that the most common reasons for using the mushroom included reducing pain and skin problems, relieving stress, and alleviating depression and insomnia. However, little is known about whether muscimol is the compound responsible for these effects, the optimal dosage, and the safety of long-term use.
Estimates vary regarding how much muscimol constitutes a dose, with 6-10mg being suggested as the threshold for psychoactive effects. Higher doses can result in strong intoxication, including side effects such as vomiting.
Unfortunately, it is challenging to calculate how this dosage translates to Amanita muscaria mushrooms. An average-sized cap contains approximately 6mg of muscimol and 70mg of ibotenic acid. Therefore, one cap may be enough to produce psychoactive effects in human adults.
However, the precise ratios of compounds will depend upon the preparation method, with partial or complete decarboxylation resulting in a higher muscimol content and lower levels of ibotenic acid. Moreover, mushrooms naturally differ in their concentration of active chemicals, and humans naturally differ in their responses to muscimol.
Therefore, when using Amanita muscaria mushrooms or extracts, always start with a minimal amount and gradually increase until you find your optimal dose. Another option is to choose lab-tested products like our amanita gummies, so you know exactly how much muscimol is in each serving.
Safety Considerations and Precautions
One commonly asked question is: “Is muscimol safe?”. The answer depends on numerous factors, including:
- Ingestion method and environment
- Medical history
- Other medications or recreational drugs
As mentioned earlier, it is crucial to go low and slow when dosing Amanita muscaria. Choosing well-prepared products and using them in a safe and controlled environment is also essential.
Muscimol can cause drowsiness, so do not attempt to drive or operate machinery while under its influence. It is best to take it at home when you have nothing planned for the rest of the day. If possible, enlist a sober friend or relative to sit with you throughout the experience and keep you out of harm’s way.
Certain medical conditions, pharmaceuticals, or recreational substances may also increase the risk of adverse effects. One particular combination to avoid is muscimol and other GABA-A agonists, including alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. These drugs could increase the risk of dangerous side effects like respiratory depression.
If you are unsure whether muscimol or Amanita muscaria is safe for you, consult a physician before use.
The Bottom Line on Muscimol
Muscimol is one of Amanita muscaria’s key active compounds and is responsible for many of the mushroom’s effects. It is similar to the neurotransmitter GABA, meaning it tends to induce relaxation and sedation and may have several therapeutic benefits. However, research into muscimol is in its early days, and there is still much we don’t understand about this potent chemical.
Always use muscimol and Amanita muscaria products responsibly and start with the lowest possible dose. If you are unsure whether muscimol is suitable for you, ask your healthcare provider for further advice.
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