Uses. These mushrooms are found in much of the Northern Hemisphere and are known to grow elsewhere. Due to the possibility that an effective dose is close to a poisonous dose, and because of variations in potency, these mushrooms are easily poisonous and have even been mixed with milk as bait to kill flies. Persons seeking amanita sometimes accidentally ingest Amanita phal-loides, also called Death Cap and Death Cup, which can be deadly poisonous to the kidneys and liver. Confusion with other dangerous mushrooms has also harmed people seeking Amanita muscaria.
The Amanita muscaria mushroom has been used to treat alcohol overdose and to relieve nervousness, fever, and pain of sore throat, nerves, and joints. The natural product contains muscimol, a chemical that initially acts as a stimulant but that can later produce temporary loss of muscular control as the drug action proceeds. Muscarine chloride can be prepared from amanita. In various animal species muscarine chloride can cause spasms and constrictions and lower blood pressure. The relevance of those studies to humans is unclear; for example, a dose that would poison a human leaves a monkey unfazed. Bufotenine has been reported in amanita, but the report is disputed. The ibotenic acid in amanita can produce hallucinations; a case report mentions visual hallucinations lasting for days after ingesting the mushroom. The mushroom is said to produce euphoria and to cause changes in sensory perceptions. Some persons consume the fungus for spiritual purpose, a practice that some authorities date back to ancient Buddhist times, with the Buddhists perhaps learning the custom from still older examples among forest peoples in northern Europe and Asia. Usage by Siberian shamans has been documented in modern times. Drug-induced insight into personal psychological issues is reported.
Drawbacks. One user describes the experience as lacking in feelings of happiness, or love, or sexual impulses—a lack that sets amanita apart from many drugs that are used recreationally. A scientist who engaged in self-experimentation had similar results of emptiness. Of 6 subjects who received the mushroom in an experiment, all were nauseated, 2 vomited, 1 had hallucinations, and several had sensory distortions. None cared to repeat the experience. The supervising researcher wondered if variations in supplies of the natural product explained why the experiment's results differed so greatly from hallucinations and pleasures reported by other persons. Personality, expectations, and surrounding environment can shape the experience. A researcher interviewed 18 persons who ate Amanita muscaria or Amanita pantherina; half had eaten the mushrooms deliberately, and half thought they were consuming something else. Every person who accidentally ate the substance found its actions unpleasant. In contrast, the mushroom's effects were enjoyed by every individual who deliberately ate it.
Because active chemicals from the natural product are excreted into urine, people can dose themselves again by drinking their own urine, a dosage method that may horrify Americans but that a few other cultures have accepted calmly.
Unwanted amanita effects can include twitching, cramps, abdominal discomfort, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, difficulty in moving around, high body temperature, and convulsions. Users can become manic and then sleepy, with those conditions alternating back and forth until a person collapses. Scientific journals contain many articles about brain damage caused by ibotenic acid, although conditions of experiments do not necessarily duplicate what happens when mushrooms are eaten. A person who received a dose of ibotenic acid in an experiment developed a headache for two weeks. Under laboratory conditions amanita extracts cause red blood cells to clump together.
Abuse factors. Not enough scientific information to report.
Drug interactions. Not enough scientific information to report.
Cancer. Not enough scientific information to report.
Pregnancy. The muscimol in amanita causes birth defects in rats.
Additional scientific information may be found in:
Davis, D.P., and S.R. Williams. "Amanita Muscaria." Journal of Emergency Medicine 17 (1999): 739.
Fabing, H.D. "On Going Berserk: A Neurochemical Inquiry." Scientific Monthly 83 (1956): 232-37.
Horne, C.H.W., and J.A.W. McCluskie. "The Food of the Gods." Scottish Medical Journal 8 (1963): 489-91.
McDonald, A. "The Present Status of Soma: The Effects of California Amanita muscaria on Normal Human Volunteers." In Mushroom Poisoning: Diagnosis and Treatment, ed. B.H. Rumack and E. Salzman. West Palm Beach, FL: CRC Press, 1978. 215-23.
Ott, J. "Psycho-Mycological Studies of Amanita: From Ancient Sacrament to Modern Phobia." Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 8 (January-March 1976): 27-35.
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