The Amanita Muscara Mushroom
The Amanita Muscaria mushroom, common known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a basidiomycete of the genus Amanita. Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the mushroom grows around conifer and deciduous woodlands. The mushroom is red, with a large white gill and further white spots. In fact, the Amanita Muscara mushroom is probably the most famous and easily recognisable mushroom in the world.
Widely popularised by Lewis Carrol’s The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, the mushroom is red with white dots, and features as a very popular emoji However, its fame in popular culture is not accidental. The Amanita Muscaria mushroom has been used in traditional healing practices for centuries.
Shamanic tribes across Central and South America have turned to Amanita Muscara to repair the mind, body and spirit for over five thousand years. In Northern Europe, Siberian tribes used the restorative property of the mushroom during winter solstice ceremonies.
Physically invigorated by the mushroom, shamans would be able to face the blistering cold and bestow gifts of food and supplies down chimneys of families trapped in snow. This tradition is said to have given birth to what we know today as “Santa Claus”.
In Vedic Aryan traditions, the Amanita Muscaria was known as “Soma”, which translates as “The Divine Mushroom of Immortality”. The mushroom was celebrated for its relaxing effects, inducing restorative sleep, which not only meant healing the body, but in fact rejuvenating it.
The Amanita Muscaria mushroom has 3 main components which activate the nervous system: ibotonic acid, muscimol and muscazone. Isolating muscimol compounds have shown to treat stress and anxiety, ease muscular pain and promote restorative sleep. Indeed, Muscimol has been shown to act as a potent agonist of the Gamma amino-butyric acid A receptor, in turn inhibiting the CNS neurotransmitter and thus promoting sleep.
Ibotonic Acid, on the other hand, is a potent psychoactive compound which not only induces hallucinatory effects, but may even be detrimental to human health in large quantities. It is due to the ibotonic acid that in fact the Amanita Muscaria mushroom had been widely considered poisonous and dangerous for human consumption.