Sunday, January 12, 2020

Amanita muscaria

The Amanita muscaria mushroom is a fascinating fungus. It is a mushroom belonging to the basidiomycete division of fungi, having a distinguished appearance with a bright red cap, white stem, and white-to-yellow warts covering the cap. Known by other names like fly agaric, fly amanita, and devil's hat, A. muscaria contains the psychoactive compounds ibotenic acid and muscimol, and is classified as poisonous. The mushroom loses its poisonous compounds when properly cooked, however. Essentially, parboiling the mushroom twice weakens the mushroom’s toxicity and activates the psychoactive compounds.

Despite this, people throughout the world have traditionally consumed this mushroom. The effects felt after consumption vary greatly between users, likely due to the large variances in potency between each individual mushroom. Their popularity is growing in the modern-day due to them being legal in large parts of the world, including the United States, where other psychedelics are not.

Shamans may have been using it since the stone age in Siberia. Purportedly, the A. muscaria mushroom played an important role in the origins of Santa Claus. Above the arctic circle, Siberian shamans collected these bright red and white-spotted mushrooms, in a red and white outfit that matched. Around the winter solstice, they consumed the mushrooms along with the reindeer native to the region, and delivered it to tribesmen and women for healing purposes.

The safe consumption of A. muscaria involves drying the mushroom, then either ingesting them or smoking them. The drying process slightly varies depending on whether the intention is to ingest the mushroom or smoke it. Once you have a batch of fresh Amanita muscaria mushrooms, they must be dried to ensure poisonous compounds degrade prior to eating them.

To safely dry out these mushrooms, place them on a newspaper or cloth then store them in a dark and dry environment. This process typically takes several weeks. To speed the drying process, chop them into small pieces or heat them in an oven to no more than 167 degrees Fahrenheit. After completion of the drying process, the mushrooms are safe to eat. They can be consumed as is, baked into any type of food, or even made into a tea. To make them into a tea simply grind them into small pieces or a powder then place them in boiling water. This extracts the psychoactive compounds out of the mushroom and into the water.

To dry A. muscaria mushrooms with the intention of smoking them, you must first peel the red skin and orange goo from the gills. Once the skin has been removed, place it on a pan with the red skin facing upwards. Place them in an oven at slightly under 167 degrees Fahrenheit, checking frequently. When air bubbles form simply press them down with a fork or knife to ensure the entire piece dries thoroughly. Once the pieces are dried, you can grind them in a typical herb grinder and smoke them through a pipe or in a cigarette.

in the early 19th century when Russian travelers began exploring eastern Siberia, they found shamans and the people using the mushroom. The shaman consumed the mushroom, then the tribespeople drank his urine to ingest the psychoactive compounds. Some believe this process of drinking the urine of someone who just consumed the mushroom effectively filters out the compounds that produce adverse effects such as sweating and twitching. Unlike eastern Siberia, western Siberian tribes only allowed the shamans to consume the A. muscaria mushroom as a way to produce a trance-like state.

While the effects of consuming the A. muscaria mushroom typically lasts between 6 and 8 hours, the duration and effects vary drastically. These huge variances in duration and effects are caused by the differences in potency between individual mushrooms. This also makes determining an appropriate dose extremely difficult. However, in general, effects include:
  • Euphoria
  • Pain relief
  • The production of a vivid dream state similar to lucid dreaming
  • Strong and varied internal dialogue
  • Synesthesia
  • Clarity of thought
  • Heightened internal focus
  • Lack of external focus
  • Difficulty socializing
  • Increased or decreased levels of sexuality depending on the person
  • Sedation or highly energetic depending on the person
  • Altered perception of the body
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Running nose
  • Loss of balance
  • Pupil dilation
  • Nausea and discomfort of the stomach
  • Muscle twitches and trembles
  • Salivation
  • Perspiration
  • At high doses, strong dissociation including delirium
As with all mushrooms, misidentification of the mushroom poses a risk, although the unique appearance of the A. muscaria reduces this. Another risk involves the improper preparation of the mushroom leaving leftover toxins, most notably ibotenic acid. While A. muscaria mushrooms can technically kill you, it is highly unlikely. This risk is minimal, however, with the North American Mycological Association recently going as far as stating there are “no reliably documented cases of death from toxins in these mushrooms in the past 100 years.” The other risk comes from the huge variances in potency found between individual mushrooms, particularly when picked during different seasons or in different geographic locations. 

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