Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Amanita muscaria Toxicity/Info

Amanita muscaria poisoning occurs in either young children or people ingesting it to have a hallucinogenic experience. Occasionally, immature button forms have been mistaken for puffballs. Additionally, the white spots can be washed away during heavy rain and it then may seem as the edible A. caesarea.
Amanita muscaria contains a number of biologically active agents, at least one of which, muscimol, is known to be psychoactive. Ibotenic acid, a neurotoxin, serves as a prodrug to muscimol, with approximately 10-20% converting to muscimol upon ingestion. A toxic dose in adults is approximately 6 mg muscimol or 30 to 60 mg ibotenic acid; this is typically about the amount found in one cap of Amanita muscaria. However, the amount and ratio of chemical compounds per mushroom varies widely from region to region and season to season, which further confuses the issue. Spring and summer mushrooms have been reported to contain up to 10 times as much ibotenic acid and muscimol compared to autumn fruitings.
A fatal dose has been calculated at an amount of 15 caps. Deaths from this fungus A. muscaria have been reported in historical journal articles and newspaper reports; however, with modern medical treatment a fatal outcome because of the poison of this mushroom would be extremely rare. Many older books list it as "deadly" but this is a mistake that gives the impression it is far more toxic than it actually is. The North American Mycological Association has stated there are absolutely no reliably documented fatalities in the past century. The vast majority (90% or more) of mushroom poisoning deaths are from having eaten either the greenish to yellowish death cap (A. phalloides) or perhaps even one of the several white Amanita species which are known as destroying angels.
The active constituents of this species are water soluble, and boiling and then discarding the cooking water will at least partly detoxify A. muscaria. However, drying may increase potency as the process facilitates the conversion of ibotenic acid to the more potent muscimol. According to some sources, once detoxified, the mushroom becomes edible.



Muscarine, discovered in 1869, was long thought to be the active hallucinogenic agent in A. muscaria. Muscarine binds with muscarinic acetylcholine receptors leading to the excitation of neurons bearing these receptors. The levels in Amanita muscaria, however, are minute when compared with other poisonous fungi, such as Inocybe erubescens or small white Clitocybe species C. dealbata and C. rivulosa, and are too insignificant to play a role in the symptoms of poisoning.
The major toxins involved in poisoning are muscimol (3-hydroxy-5-aminomethyl-1-isoxazole, an unsaturated cyclic hydroxamic acid) and its prodrug ibotenic acid. Muscimol is the product of the decarboxylation (usually by drying) of ibotenic acid. Muscimol and ibotenic acid were discovered in the mid-20th century. Researchers in England, Japan, and Switzerland showed that the effects produced were due mainly to ibotenic acid and muscimol, not muscarine. These toxins are not distributed uniformly in the mushroom. Most are detected in the cap of the fruit, rather than in the base, with the smallest amount in the stalk. (Lampe, 1978; Tsunoda et al., 1993) A substantial fraction of ingested ibotenic acid is excreted in the urine unmetabolized quite rapidly, between 20 and 90 minutes after ingestion. Virtually no muscimol is excreted when pure ibotenic acid is eaten but muscimol is detectable in the urine after eating A. muscaria, which contains both ibotenic acid and muscimol.
Ibotenic acid and muscimol are structurally related to each other and to two major neurotransmitters of the central nervous system: glutamic acid and GABA respectively. Ibotenic acid and muscimol act like these neurotransmitters, muscimol being a potent GABAA agonist, while ibotenic acid is an agonist of NMDA glutamate receptors and certain metabotropic glutamate receptors which are involved in the control of neuronal activity. It is these interactions which are thought to cause the psychoactive effects found in intoxication. Muscimol is the agent responsible for the majority of the psychoactivity.
Muscazone is another compound more recently isolated from European specimens of the fly agaric. It is a product of the breakdown of ibotenic acid by ultra-violet radiation. Muscazone is of minor pharmacological activity compared with the other agents. Amanita muscaria and related species are known as effective bioaccumulators of vanadium; some species concentrate vanadium to levels of up to 400 times those typically found in plants. Vanadium is present in fruit-bodies as an organometallic compound called amavadine. However, the biological importance of the accumulation process is unknown.


Amanita muscaria was widely used as an entheogen by many of the indigenous peoples of Siberia. Its use was known among almost all of the Uralic-speaking peoples of western Siberia and the Paleosiberian-speaking peoples of the Russian Far East. However, there are only isolated reports of A. muscaria use among the Tungusic and Turkic peoples of central Siberia and it is believed that entheogenic use of A. muscaria was largely not a practice of these peoples. In western Siberia, the use of A. muscaria was restricted to shamans, who used it as an alternate method of achieving a trance state. (Normally, Siberian shamans achieve a trance state by prolonged drumming and dancing.) In eastern Siberia, A. muscaria was used by both shamans and laypeople alike, and was used recreationally as well as religiously. In eastern Siberia, the shaman would consume the mushrooms, and others would drink his urine. This urine, still containing psychoactive elements, may actually be more potent than the A. muscaria mushrooms with fewer negative effects, such as sweating and twitching, suggesting that the initial user may act as a screening filter for other components in the mushroom.
The Koryak of eastern Siberia have a story about the fly agaric (wapaq) which enabled Big Raven to carry a whale to its home. In the story, the deity Vahiyinin ("Existence") spat onto earth, and his spittle became the wapaq, and his saliva becomes the warts. After experiencing the power of the wapaq, Raven was so exhilarated that he told it to grow forever on earth so his children, the people, could learn from it.[87] Among the Koryak, one report held the poor would consume the urine of the wealthy, who could afford to buy the mushrooms.


 In 1968, R. Gordon Wasson proposed that A. muscaria was the Soma talked about in the Rig Veda of India, which received widespread publicity and popular support at the time. He noted that descriptions of Soma omitted description of roots, stems or seeds, which suggested a mushroom, and used the adjective hári "dazzling" or "flaming" which the author interprets as red. One line described men urinating Soma; this recalled the practice of recycling urine in Siberia. Soma is mentioned as coming "from the mountains", which Wasson interpreted as being brought with the Aryan invaders from the north. However, Indian scholars Santosh Kumar Dash and Sachinanda Padhy noted that both the eating of mushrooms and drinking of urine were proscribed, using as a source the Manusmṛti. In 1971, Vedic scholar John Brough from Cambridge University rejected Wasson's theory; he noted that the language was too vague to determine a description of Soma. In his 1976 survey, Hallucinogens and Culture, anthropologist Peter T. Furst evaluated the evidence for and against the identification of the fly agaric mushroom as Vedic Soma, concluding cautiously in its favor.


A single source for the notion that Vikings used A. muscaria to produce their berserker rages was first suggested by the Swedish professor Samuel Ödmann in 1784. Ödmann based his theories on reports about the use of fly agaric among Siberian shamans. The notion has become widespread since the 19th century, but no contemporary sources mention this use or anything similar in their description of berserkers. Today, it is generally considered an urban legend or at best speculation that cannot be proven. Muscimol is generally a mild relaxant, but could create a range of reactions within a range of people. It is possible that it could make a person incredibly angry, as well as make them "very jolly or sad, jump about, dance, sing or give way to great fright".


Biblical scholar John Marco Allegro controversially proposed that the Roman Theology was derived from a sex and psychedelic mushroom cult in his 1970 book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, although his theory has found little support by scholars outside the field of ethnomycology. The book was roundly discredited by academics and theologians, including Sir Godfrey Driver, Emeritus Professor of Semitic Philology at Oxford University, and Henry Chadwick, the Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford. Christian author John C. King wrote a detailed rebuttal of Allegro's theory in the 1970 book A Christian View of the Mushroom Myth; he notes neither fly agarics nor their host trees are found in the middle east even though cedars and pines are found there, and highlights the tenuous nature of the links between biblical and Sumerian names coined by Allegro. He concludes that if the theory was true, the use of the mushroom must have been "the best kept secret in the world" as it was so well concealed for all this time.
In Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy (formerly called Strange Fruit), Clark Heinrich interprets A. muscaria usage by Adam and Eve, Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Jesus and his disciples, and John of Patmos. In the book Apples of Apollo the mushroom is identified in a wide range of mythological tales such as those involving Perseus, Prometheus, Heracles, Jason and the Argonauts, Jesus and the Holy Grail.

Christmas decorations and Santa Claus

Fly agarics appear on Christmas cards and New Year cards from around the world as a symbol of good luck. The ethnobotanist Jonathan Ott has suggested that the idea of Santa Claus and tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace is based centrally upon the fly agaric mushroom itself. With its generally red and white color scheme, he argues that Santa Claus's suit is related to the mushroom. He also draws parallels with flying reindeer: reindeer had been reported to consume the mushroom and prance around in an intoxicated manner afterwards. American ethnopharmacologist Scott Hajicek-Dobberstein, researching possible links between religious myths and the red mushroom, notes, "If Santa Claus had but one eye [like Odin], or if magic urine had been a part of his legend, his connection to the Amanita muscaria would be much easier to believe.".
The connection was reported to a much wider audience with an article in the magazine of The Sunday Times in 1980, and New Scientist in 1986. Historian Ronald Hutton has since disputed the connection; he noted reindeer spirits did not appear in Siberian mythology, shamans did not travel by sleigh, nor did they wear red and white, or climb out of smoke holes in yurt roofs. Finally, American awareness of Siberian shamanism postdated the appearance of much of the folklore around Santa.