Fly Agaric Mushroom (Amanita muscaria) is that large white-gilled, white-spotted, usually red mushroom, commonly depicted in popular culture, including children’s fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland and The Smurfs.
Actually, this is a highly potent hallucinogenic mushroom, which has been used ritualistically for shamanic initiations among other uses wherever it’s found, and it grows in Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. In fact, it is said to be the oldest of hallucinogens used by humans.
The universality of this mushroom is reflected in the its various names in different languages, including French, Japanese, Irish, Hungarian, Welsh, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Polish, Chinese, Celtic, Estonian, Finnish, Slovenian, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Catalan, Spanish, Italian, Afghanistan, Dutch, and others.
Traditional Uses of Amanita muscaria
The Fly Agaric mushroom was used by the peoples of Siberia fresh, cooked, and dried since prehistoric times (until the Soviets prohibited it) for many purposes, including:
- as an entheogenic religious sacrament
- to enter a clairvoyant trance state
- to contact spirits/ancestors
- for healing purposes
- to come up with a name for a newborn
- to deal with threats
- for divination
- to journey to other worlds (astral projection)
- for hedonistic purposes
Siberian shamans would even drink their own urine (or the milk/urine of reindeer who love to trip on this mushroom), which contained psychoactive metabolites of muscimol, the active ingredient, thereby lengthening and deepening their visionary experience.
It has been postulated that Santa Claus may represent this mushroom with his red-white clothes, flying with his reindeer. Terence McKenna explained it nicely. Listen:
Here’s another beautiful video about Amanita, shamans, and reindeer:
Unlike reindeer, opossums do not enjoy the inebriating effects of this shroom, and will only eat it once before developing an aversion to it.
Fly Agaric mush probably have been used throughout Europe, including by the Beakers, the people for whom the Stonehenge in England served as a ritual site.
In Ancient Greece it was used as a ritualistic sacrament, but often substituted by Saffron (Crocus sativus). There is a theory that they may have been the divine ambrosia and nectar, the food and drink of the gods in Ancient Greek mythology.
In America, where it is regarded as a door to the realm of the dead, it was used by Mayan, Aztec, and other shamans who ate it or smoked it with tobacco. In Guatemala there’s a legend about a coral tree (Erythrina rubrinervia), which was standing in the midst of Amanita muscaria mushrooms. A wooden statue of the god Maximón arose from this tree. It was also used (and perhaps still used) by North American Indians, such as the Ojibwe.
According to Robert Gordon Wasson, Fly Agaric is the soma mentioned in the Vedas (others believe soma is Syrian Rue.) It can be found in some areas in India (though not in the Himalayas) and is still used there for psychoactive purposes.
The Persian version of soma, haoma, was described by the prophet Zarathustra as “urine.” Could it be a psychoactive urine of someone or something who ate Fly Agaric shrooms?
Others have suggested the mushroom was the biblical Tree of Knowledge. In some sources Amanita muscaria are said to be the flesh of Jesus which was eaten by early Christians, then a secret Fly Agaric cult which may have been a direct continuation of the cult of Dinoysus, together with Jesus’ blood, red wine. I elaborate on this consumption method later in this article.
In China it was used by Taoist alchemists as part of an elixir of immortality. So perhaps it is the Tree of Life rather than the Tree of Knowledge?
Some Buddhist monks are speculated to use Fly Agaric to induce states of enlightenment.
While some people believe that Amanita muscaria was used by the Scandinavian berserkers, violent viking warriors who fought in a trance-like, ecstatic fury (known as “berserker rage”), this seems to be wrong based on the effects of the Fly Agaric mushroom, which will be detailed below.
The Fly Agaric (and other mushrooms) often grows in circles, called “fairy rings” or “elf dancing places” in Europe of the Middle Ages (and in modern times as well as other parts of the world (such as Japan), giving rise to the belief that they were nightly meeting places of witches, elves, gnomes, goblins, demons, or spirits, who caused these mushrooms to grow, and were dangerous. Why else would they grow in a circle? Interestingly, it’s almost impossible to cultivate them; one must harvest them in the wild (August-November in Europe; October in America).
Witches were believed to use the mushrooms in preparing deadly potions. Nymphs, dwarves, and other magical beings were thought to use the mushrooms as stools, goblets, umbrellas, or bathtubs. Interestingly, rainwater collected in mature Fly Agaric caps produces psychoactive effects when drank. It is known as “Dwarves’ Wine.”
Celts believed that the Fly Agaric was an “elf mushroom,” a mushroom eaten by elves. They were used in their rituals to evoke colorful visions and trance states.
Presumably, the visions induced by Amanita muscaria triggered many of these legends and explains why they occur in a similar manner in different parts of the world. For those who always fantasized about entering the fairy world or other alternate realities and dimensions, Fly Agaric may be the portal.
What’s In It?
Ibotenic acid and muscimol (agarin) are the psychoactive constituents responsible for the hallucinogenic properties of the Fly Agaric mushroom.
Fresh shrooms contain lots of ibotenic acid (0.03-0.1%) and small amounts of muscimol, choline, acetylcholine, muscaridine, muscazone, selenium, vanadium, bufotenine (which is also found in toads; these shrooms are also called toadstool), and hyoscyamine.
The red color of the Fly Agaric is a complex pigment pattern. Many substances may contribute to it including derivatives of amino acids such as ibotenic acid, serine, threonine, alanine, levodopa, phenylalanine, and tryptophan.
In the process of drying shrooms, much of the ibotenic acid is converted into muscimol.
In contrast to what some people think, muscarine, a dangerous and toxic substance, is only found in trace amounts in Amanita muscaria. Symptoms of muscarine poisoning include blurred vision, shedding of tears, slower than normal heart rate, low blood pressure, and shortness of breath.
Ibotenic acid is an analogue of the neurotransmitter glutamate, and thus, acts as a non-selective glutamate receptor agonist, making it a powerful neurotoxin.
It was first isolated from the Japanese mushroom Amanita strobiliformis (in Japanese ibotengu-take, hence the name of this amino acid, “ibotenic;” tengu are the Japanese fly agaric mushroom spirits.) Porcini mushrooms (Botelus) also have some ibotenic acid.
When ingested, 10-20% of the ibotenic acid is turned into muscimol in the body (due to acidic conditions in the stomach) or when stored. (Or when dried in low heat, not unlike the decarboxylation of THCA to THC in Cannabis.)
A psychoactive dose of ibotenic acid is 50-100 mg. (It can be purchased in its pure form.) The effects of ibotenic acid usually begin within 30-60 minutes of consumption and may include nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness, and after the first hour also confusion, euphoria, visual and auditory distortions, sensations of floating, and retrograde amnesia.
Muscimol (also known as agarin) is a potent, selective agonist for GABA receptors (like Kava, Piper methysticum). Its effects are psychedelic, dissociative, sedative-hypnotic, deliriant, depressant, and hallucinogenic.
In fact, muscimol works in a very similar manner to the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills, benzodiazepines, but without the side effects. One explanation for this phenomena could be that while muscimol exerts its effects by activating the same locations on our sleep receptors as GABA, the brain’s sleep-inducing neurotransmitter, benzodiazepines work on different locations on the same receptors, locations that are not naturally activated.
Muscimol may have health benefits we’re not even aware of. For example, scientific studies have shown that muscimol has suppressive effects on essential tremor in Parkinson’s disease.
In doses higher than 15-20 mg, muscimol becomes a powerful psychoactive substance so if you’re just interested in the sleep-promoting effects of the Fly Agaric mushroom, use lower dosages. Like ibotenic acid, muscimol can be purchased in its pure form.
One hour following the ingesting Fly Agaric shrooms, ibotenic acid and muscimol can be detected in the urine.
Ibotenic acid and muscimol may also be present in species of the mushroom Russula (Brittle caps).
Amanita muscaria may also contain an amino acid called Muscazone, which is toxic. Its effects include visual damage, mental confusion, and memory loss. However, it decomposes in temperature of 190 °C (374 °F) so unless you’re eating the mushroom fresh, you probably don’t have to worry about it.
Fly Agaric also contains beta-carbolines, alkaloids which influence mood and dreaming.
Some species of Amanita may contain the tryptamines DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and bufotenine.
Actinidine, an alkaloid found in Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), may exert its sleep-inducing effects by affecting the neurotransmitter GABA.
The psychoactive dose of muscimol is around 8.5–15 mg (which can be present in as little as 1 gram of dried A. muscaria. Ibotenic acid exerts psychoactive effects at a dose of 50-100 mg.
When using fresh mushroom, one medium cap of Amanita muscaria should suffice.
When using dried mushroom, a light dose, although difficult to determine because of potency variations from one mushroom to the next (with spring and summer mushrooms being much more potent than autumn ones; within seasons the earlier the mushroom fruits, the stronger it will be), is said to be 1-5 grams (1 medium cap).
However, other reports suggest that a psychoactive dose is in the range of 5–10 g (1-3 medium caps), while a strong dose ranges from 10 to 30 grams (2-6 medium caps).
Since the active constituents of the Amanita are water-soluble, a tea can be made, if eating the mushroom is undesirable.
The effects of the Fly Agaric mushroom tend to be sedative and opium-like, conductive to relaxation, sleep, dreaming, and listening to music.
Effects begin 30–180 minutes after consumption and last for 5–10 hours. Ingesting Amanita may cause:
- Euphoria, pain relief, and a feeling of extraordinary lightness. Indeed, chemicals in Amanita were shown to have potent anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects.
- Strong stimulation, physical relaxation, as well as shifts between sleepiness and wakefulness.
- Macropsia (feeling that you’re smaller than you are) and micropsia (feeling that you’re larger then you are).
- A dream-like (lucid) state of mind that can be highly detailed, colorful, and clear.
- Introspection and a sense of internal clarity. Though some people may experience disorientation and confusion.
- Out-of-body experiences and other dissociative states.
- Visual effects may include color and visual acuity enhancement/suppression, magnification, double vision, visual haze, color shifting, after images, tracers, as well as hallucinations. Auditory and visual distortions are common as well as hallucinogenic changes in perception, illusions, delirium, and synesthesia (e.g., hearing colors or seeing sounds). Visions of giants and dwarfs are very common.
- Mood changes. Empathy and love are often experienced, making this a social drug in appropriate dosages. Joy, courage, and a sense of well-being may be experienced.
- Perception of bodily heaviness, loss of balance, muscle spasms, shaking of the extremities, and other physical sensations.
- Increased perspiration/salivation – This are effects of muscarine. If they are pronounced, lower your dose or use a different specimen.
- Contraction of the pupils.
- Libido or the sex drive may increase or decrease (see suggestions below as to how to increase it).
- Spiritually, a sense of unity and interconnectedness and self-realization may be experienced.
- Some people report that the mushroom healed their depression and anxiety. Science recognizes this effect. Apparently, Amanita muscaria was used to develop anxiolytic drugs such as gaboxadol and tiagabine. Gaboxadol also increases deep sleep (much like Fly Agaric; see below).
The most common effect would be euphoria (though sometimes effects are felt as unpleasant; set and setting play an important role) along with synaesthetic visions. Entheogenic effects are only rarely experienced.
When taken before going to sleep, it may initiate vivid and lucid dreams. (Presumably, the lucid dreaming induction effect may be in part due to the choline content of the caps.) It can also induce pleasant dreams, often involving flying. Its influence on dreams is generally positive.
The Fly Agaric is a Sleep and Dream Mushroom, and I recommend ingesting it before going to sleep as it tends to induce sleepiness as well as pleasurable dreams. If you wake up before the end of the trip, you may continue enjoying visionary effects.
In the day after consumption of the mushroom, people often exhibit increased motivation as well as improved mood and mental/physical well-being.
Smoking Amanita muscaria may cause a heightened/refined/altered state of perception and increased muscle sensitivity. They also have synergistic effects when combined with other herbs as I explain below.
As a Herbal Remedy
Traditionally, Fly Agaric shrooms were used internally to treat exhaustion and externally for snakebites. Later it was used internally for epilepsy and fever and externally for ulcerated fistulae.
In homeopathy it is used to treat the nervous system, for problems associated with menopause, bladder/intestinal cramps, and overexcitability.
Methods of Consumption
Different methods of consumption/preparation highlight different active ingredients in the mushroom. For example, eating them fresh or making a cold water infusion brings out ibotenic acid the most. A hot tea maximizes muscimol. Muscazone is said to be generated when the mushroom is dried in the sun.
The mushrooms often were (and still are) eaten fresh for food in some places (e.g., Japan, Germany). For this purpose, they must be soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour to remove the active ingredients (which are water soluble).
The mushrooms can also be sautéed in butter.
However, they can also be eaten for their psychoactive effects. Either chew them or tear off little pieces, roll them into pill shapes, and swallow with a liquid.
Sometimes they are combined with other psychoactive plants, such as the Bog Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), whose juice was mixed by Siberian (and perhaps by other European) shamans with dried Fly Agaric shrooms, and drank (sometimes fermented with the addition of water and yeast to make a beer-like alcoholic beverage). Its effects are like those of strong wine.
Amanita muscaria is usually more effective when dried, and may cause less nausea when consumed in the dry state. To dry the mushrooms, place them in the sun. To dry them in the oven, set it on a temperature of 30-40 degrees Celsius (86-104 degrees Fahrenheit).
The shrooms can also be eaten dried.
When using the Fly Agaric mushroom for food (see above), the water remaining from soaking the mushroom for at least one hour retains the active ingredients, and can be drunk for psychoactive purposes.
It is recommended to use as many caps as possible for each preparation because each cap may have variable concentration of active ingredients. When different specimens are infused in water, the concentration will average out and become uniform.
The most common way to use Amanita muscaria though would be to boil them, which further decarboxylates remaining ibotenic acid to muscimole, then simmer for 2-3 hours in acidic water (water + vinegar). Strain and drink. You may store the resulting potion in a sterile container and in the refrigerator for up to one week (or in the freezer for even longer).
Adding juice from a half of a lemon will increase the amount of muscimol converted from ibotenic acid even further (a method known as lemon tek), but the downside would be that the resulting preparation will go bad quicker. Alternatively, decarboxylate the mushrooms in the oven by setting the temperature to 70-80 degrees Celsius (158-176 degrees Farenheit) for half an hour before eating or preparing them.
Amanita muscaria tea is sometimes drank in Wiccan neo-pagan rituals that are based upon Celtic, Siberian, or Norwegian rituals. A cold tea brewed from the red skin of the mushroom is drank on Samhein (November 1).
They were sometimes added to wine in antiquity. Some people believe it may have been used consumed by the maenads and in the Dionysian mysteries, a secretive ritual practiced in ancient Greece and Rome. The shape of wine chalices sometimes resembles the shape of a mushroom, and some have suggested it may have been a symbol of psychoactive mushroom use. In the cult of Dionysus, Ancient Greek god of wine, was honored with ambrosia. Could this be a symbolic referral to extracting Fly Agaric in wine?
The Kykeon, a drink used in the ancient Greek Eleusinian mysteries, initiations for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis, may have also contained Fly Agaric.
It is said that Amanita muscaria combines well with vodka, and it is sometimes consumed this way in Russia.
The dried shroom can be crumbled into a drink, such as beer or wine, and drank.
Warning: While traditionally this mushroom has been used with alcohol, there are some who warn against this combination and recommend to abstain from alcohol at least 1-2 days before and after ingesting Amanita mushrooms.
Fly Agaric Schnapps Recipe
- Put 1-3 fresh mushrooms inside a bottle of vodka (or other alcoholic drink).
- Place the bottle on a windowsill in the sun or a warm place for one week.
- Drink a glass.
Amanita Margarita Recipe
- 1/2 cup ice
- 2 oz (60 grams) silver tequila
- 1 oz (30 grams) orange liquor (I used Cointreau)
- 1 oz (30 grams) fresh lime juice
- 1/4 oz (10 grams) agave syrup
- Amanita potion (made by boiling 15 grams Amanita muscaria with 1-2 cups of water for 30 minutes.)
Microdosing Amanita muscaria
The safest way, and some say most efficient, is to microdose Amanita muscaria. Microdosing refers to the practice of ingesting minute amounts of a psychoactive substance. In fact the dose should be such that no (or almost no) psychoactive effects are felt, yet have profound effects on the physical and mental health of the individual.
How do you microdose Fly Agaric mushrooms?
One simple way would be to boil a bunch of mushrooms in acidic water for 2-3 hours, then strain, and start experimenting with different doses until you find your sweet spot. For example, start with an eighth of a teaspoon and see how you feel. If you wish, increase to a quarter teaspoon, a half of a teaspoon, and so on. If you become inebriated, then you have exceeded the microdose and have entered the psychoactive dosage range. Simply, dial down on the dose to the last dose you took which produced no psychoactive effects.
When you find your ideal microdose, stick to it, and behold the wonders this fantastic mushroom can do for you.
Note that if you create a new potion with new specimens, the microdose may change due to potency variations.
Smoking Amanita muscaria
Amanita muscaria shrooms (especially their dried red skin) are sometimes smoked on their own to produce a more subtle effect than when they are eaten.
They can also be used in smoking blends:
- It is often combined with Cannabis for a more profound psychedelic experience or to minimize the dry mouth symptom of weed (and plants from the nightshade family).
- Atropa belladonna (Deadly Nightshade), and other deliriants, such as Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet), are sometimes added. This might be because atropine present in these plants counteracts the effects of muscarine.
- To make an aphrodisiac smoking blend, add Henbane (Hyoscyamus). Alternatively, use toasted coca leaves (Erythroxylum coca), Cannabis, or Datura.
- White Hellebore (Veratrum album) can also combine well with Fly Agaric.
- Some American Indians smoke it mixed with wild tobacco for divination.
- A creative euphoria blend contains Cannabis, Damiana (Turnera diffusa), Salvia divinorum, and Yohimbe bark (Pausinystalia yohimba) in addition to Fly Agaric. Damiana may also have a synergistic effects on dreams when used with Amanita, though I haven’t confirmed that yet.
Vaping Fly Agaric Shrooms
The boiling point of muscimol is 175 °C, which is 347 °F.
So if you have a vaporizer that reaches this temperature (most do), you should be able to vape your Fly Agaric mushroom instead of smoking it.
I recommend setting the vaporizer on at least 190 degrees Celsius to lower amounts of inhaled Muscazone.
The only concern I have about inhaling Amanita muscaria is the possibility of inhaling spores. For this reason, I’d recommend taking it orally in the manner described above.
There are people who think that Amanita muscaria may have been an ingredient in Witches’ ointments, allowing them to fly. While Fly Agaric mushrooms can induce a sensation of flight or even out-of-body experiences, they do so when they are ingested internally. There is no evidence that they can exert their psychoactive effects through the skin.
The name Fly Agaric, by the way, refers to the insect and not to flying. Apparently, the mushroom can be used as a fly trap. Simply crush and place in milk to make a trap for flies.
Risks & Warnings
I haven’t mentioned any clear recommended dosages because the effective dosage varies between different specimens. Always start with a very low dose (1 gram is not too little with some specimens), and gradually increase the dose if needed.
While Amanita muscaria have only trace amounts of the muscarine, a dangerous substance that can damage the liver, if you’re planning on taking the mushroom regularly, I’d recommend to also use Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), a plant with antihepatotoxic effects, on a daily basis. Not only is a liver tonic, but it can protect the liver (and treat it) from damage by chemicals, such as ethanol, solvents, acetaminophen, psychotropic medications, as well as mushroom toxins such as phalloidin and alpha-amanitin.
In cases of muscarine poisoning that involve shortness of breath or slow heart rate, atropine serves as an antidote. (However, muscasone may have atropine-like effects, so some warn against using atropine as an antidote.) Interestingly, atropine is present in nightshade plants, such as Datura, that as I mentioned above, is often combined with A. muscaria in smoking blends. Other potential muscarinic antagonists include diphenhydramine, dimenhydrinate, and scopolamine.
Set and setting are highly important in determining the effects of Fly Agaric. If you believe it is poisonous and dangerous, you may experience an unpleasant trip. If on the other hand you know it is a pleasurable inebriant, you most likely will have an enjoyable experience.
Do not combine this mushroom with sleeping pills, including benzodiazepines or barbiturates.
It is best to consume this mushroom dry to minimize the amount of ibotenic acid you will be taking in.
Amanita muscaria is not addictive or dependence-forming.
A dose of 100 grams fresh Amanita muscaria may be dangerous. Needless to say, you should not exceed this dose. You should probably not even approach it.
It is not recommended to take Amanita muscaria without a trip sitter to watch over you. (Check if, and where, I’m available to serve as a trip sitter.)
Fly Agaric mushrooms may be illegal in some countries, including but not limited to Australia, Romania, The Netherlands, Louisiana USA, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
Identifying Amanita muscaria
The colors of the Fly Agaric mushroom are unmistakable are allow for easy identification. However, there are also varieties which are completely white (found in Idaho) or which have a yellow or orange-yellow cap. There are also other red mushrooms, but they are usually not dangerous.
Puffballs (Lycoperdon) shrooms are sometimes confused and identified as young Fly Agaric mushrooms. Luckily, this isn’t dangerous since puffballs aren’t poisonous and may also be used as Dream mushrooms.
There are other mushrooms in the Amanita family, some of which may be poisonous, including:
- Amanita phalloides (Also known as Death cap, Avenging Angel, and the Destroying Angel) – according to the legend, this mushroom was used together with Aconitum, another psychoactive plant, to poison Claudius, an ancient Roman Emperor. It contains the toxins phalloidin and alpha-amanitin and can kill in a matter of 3 days. Treatment with Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) within 48 hours of ingesting this deadly mushroom may save one’s life.
- Amanita pantherina (Panther cap) – found in Eurasia and North America, this mushroom is stronger (and some say also more pleasant) than A. muscaria. Its cap is brownish or brown. It may have been used as a Sake additive in Japan and has a long tradition of culinary use. They contain bufotenine, a tryptamine which is almost identical to melatonin, and closely related to DMT, as well as ibotenic acid, muscimol, and amino acids. It is said that it induces beautiful visions, that its effects may last for up to 10-15 hours, and that dosage is 1-4 mushrooms.
- Amanita citrina (False death cap) – containfs bufotenine, DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT.
- Amanita porphyria – contains 5-MeO-DMT.
- Amanita regalis – recognizable by yellow patches on the stem as well as a yellowish-brown cap.
- Amanita caesarea – which is a culinary mushroom.
- Amanita rubescens – This pearl mushroom is neither poisonous nor psychoactive. It turns red when bruised.
- Amanita verna – highly poisonous.
- Other psychoactive species of Amanita mushrooms include: A. cothurnata (Booted amanita), A. gemmata, A. parcivolvata, A. porphyria, A. strobiliformis, and A. tomentella.
- Other poisonous Amanita mushrooms include: A. bisporigera, A. ocreata, A. suballiacea, A. tenuifolia, A. virosa, and others. They contain amatoxins (such as alpha-amanitin, amanin, amanullin, amanullinic acid, and proamanullin) and phallotoxins (phallacidin, phallacin, phallisacin, phallisin, phalloidin, phalloin, and prophalloin) which destroy the liver if untreated.
Daniel Pinchbeck describes a profound experience he had with the Amanita in his book Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. He saw three human-sized Amanitas standing in front of him, warning that if he eats them again, they will kill him.
The world is PULSING with energy. Each item in the room is alternately expanding/contracting (PULSING), with life and energy. Colors are very intense and vivid and the light seems to penetrate everything. Objects have an inner glow much as I remember seeing things when I was a child. Lighting seems like that within the Big Top, at the Circus. This is a very high energy buzz; intellectual, religious, physical. […] This is the greatest drug in the world! I feel God pulsing through my muscles. Just realized “anyone can dance to every song because the beat is God. The pulse of energy that emanates through everything is God. I am dancing with God, literally. God is a mushroom, or rather — God created the mushroom so that man could participate in God’s consciousness.”
Another experience report was provided by a person who attempted to take a recreational dose. He made tea from about 8-10 grams of the mushroom, eating the mushrooms after sipping the tea. He reported that for the first hour he only felt lightheaded, but later he started shaking and felt bliss and euphoria. Three hours into the experience he fell asleep and said he “dreamt a thousand dreams and could remember all of them.” Three days later, he still experiences feelings of bliss, love, and euphoria.
Based on reports (and my own experience; see below), microdosing Amanita seems to be highly useful for improving sleep. People report getting deeper and longer sleep consistently with zero side effects. One person summarized a month-long microdosing experiment: “I was finally able to stop taking Lunesta after being on it for a year.”
Amanita muscaria – The Sleep Mushroom
Approximately 10-15% of US adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Sleeping pills are not a solution for chronic insomnia because you can’t keep taking them forever. But during the process of treating the root causes of insomnia, they can be useful to get some sleep every once in a while. In this article I’d like to share with you a natural, and I believe safer, alternative to the most commonly used sedative-hypnotics in the United States, such as the benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepine GABA agonists (zolpidem, zaleplon, and eszopiclone): Amanita muscaria (fly agaric mushroom).
Amanita muscaria is a powerful sedative. This Sleep Mushroom may be particularly beneficial for people with insomnia, to those who are hooked on sleeping pills, and to sufferers of anxiety, depression, or chronic pain.
How Sleeping Pills Work?
The most common sleeping pills work by affecting the “sleep receptor,” in the brain.
This receptor is normally only activated by an inhibitory neurotransmitter our body naturally produces: γ-aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA (the sleep neurotransmitter).
GABA produced in cells within our brains cause an inhibition by acting at GABAA receptors (GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor complex).
In people with insomnia, this doesn’t always work. They just can’t seem to make enough GABA to “turn on” sleep.
Could it be possible to activate the sleep receptor in a different way?
Can you just take a GABA supplement?
Unfortunately, using GABA as a nutritional supplement doesn’t work since GABA does not cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it cannot get from your gut to the brain.
Sleeping pills, such as zolpidem, flurazepam, triazolam, eszopiclone, estazolam, temazepam, and zaleplon, exert their effects by binding to locations on the sleep receptor, indirectly activating it. However, because these don’t work exactly the same as GABA, they have various side effects.
Among zolpidem’s list of side effects for example you can find: headaches, clumsiness, unsteadiness, confusion, depression, difficulty with breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, falling, fast heartbeat, hallucinations, irritability, and ironically… trouble sleeping.
If there was only a substance we could ingest that mimics GABA itself, and therefore most closely resemble natural sleep in their effect, drug companies could be raking millions selling the perfect sleep aid…
No need. Thankfully, Mother Nature already took care of that! It is called muscimol and it is present in the Amanita muscaria mushroom.
In fact, muscimol, a GABA reuptake inhibitor, was used in the development of a range of GABAergic agents including tiagabine (Gabitril), nipecotic acid, Gaboxadol, and 4-PIOL, which have analgesic, sedative, and anticonvulsant effects.
Effects of Muscimol
One of the active ingredients in this mushroom is called muscimol. It works in a very similar manner to the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills, benzodiazepines, but without the side effects.
In doses lower than 10-15 mg, muscimol is not hallucinogenic.
In low doses, the effects of the Fly Agaric mushroom tend to induce sedative, euphoric, and opium-like effects, conductive to relaxation and sleep.
Some people report that the mushroom healed their depression and anxiety. Listen to this testimonial for example:
Amanita muscaria can also help people who are addicted to benzodiazepine and other medications.
Here’s another testimonial from the same person, the “Amanita Dreamer.”
When taken before going to sleep, the Fly Agaric mushroom may not only induce sleepiness, but also initiate pleasurable, vivid, and sometimes lucid dreams, often involving flying.
How to Use Amanita muscaria to Enhance Sleep?
Based on reports, microdosing Amanita seems to be highly useful for improving sleep.
People report getting deeper and longer sleep consistently with zero side effects. One person summarized a month-long microdosing experiment: “I was finally able to stop taking Lunesta after being on it for a year.”
My own experiments using Fitbit sleep tracking while microdosing Amanita muscaria have confirmed that. I spend less time awake during the night. It’s also much easier to wake up in the morning and I tend to wake up earlier than I normally do and with less tiredness (even when I sleep less than usual).
These stats exemplify my sleep on a microdose of Amanita muscaria:
As you can see, I had 24% deep sleep compared with my usual 15%. 24% is remarkable. The normal benchmark range on the Fitbit app for deep sleep is 12-23%.
The wake time is also much lower (9% versus my average 15%). Amanita contains mannitol and hence is slightly diuretic hence the awakenings, I will try to drink less water in the evening and believe my sleep score will be even higher.
And my sleep score that night… an amazing 92%! Previously, I was never able to enter the 90’s.
Others have reported similar results. One person told me that they get a slightly deeper sleep, but also that their sleep-maintenance insomnia is gone while using the mush, comparable with the effects of Ambien.
Someone else said that they were able to break an addiction to Lunesta since beginning to microdose the shroom.
One important thing to keep in mind with Amanita (as well as with sleeping pills), I noticed that if I took my potion right before bed like at 22:30, I would still be sleepy until late next morning or noon. So it seems to be better to take it at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Using Amanita muscaria in Daytime Naps
Based on my experience, the mushroom may make it easier (and faster) to fall asleep and make sleep deeper even when taken before a daytime nap though the sleep may be light and feel as if one is awake the whole time (paradoxical insomnia).
How to Ingest Amanita muscaria?
As with many other powerful herbal remedies, you should be careful with the dosages.
For people who are looking to improve their sleep, microdosing is sufficient and there is no need to take large doses.
I recommend making a tea by simmering 15 grams of Amanita muscaria with acidic water. After 2-3 hours, strain, and drink with lemon juice. Not the whole thing! Just an eighth to a quarter of a teaspoon (or no more than 1-2 grams) of the resulting extract is the first dose. Then, if needed, increase the dose very gradually. For example, you may take a quarter teaspoon the first day, then a half of a teaspoon the next, a whole teaspoon the third day and so on and so forth until you find the dose that works best for you.
You may store the resulting potion in a sterile container and in the refrigerator for up to one week (or in the freezer for even longer).
Warning: When microdosed, Amanita muscaria does not seem to be dangerous, nor does it cause any significant side effects. However, in high doses, it may be poisonous and toxic. Do not combine this mushroom with alcohol or sleeping pills, including benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Actually, do not consume them at all before consulting with your physician, especially if you suffer from any health conditions or are taking medications.
My Personal Experience with Amanita muscaria
I’m still experimenting with this amazing mushroom so this section is a work in progress. I will keep updating it with new experiences and insights.
For my first experience with Amanita muscaria, I used my Mighty Vaporizer. I loaded it with 0.3 grams of crushed dried mushroom. Soon, I felt very calm, perhaps a slight euphoria, but really nothing spectacular. I felt satisfied, a bit meditative, but also rather sleepy. After several minutes, I realized that I’m much happier than I was, more patient. I felt slightly drunk. Loose, happy. For the first time I felt a not unpleasant stinging sensation in the eyes that will become my main sign that the Amanita is working. My eyes looked normal, but they felt warm, as if I smoked pot. I didn’t.
For my next experience, I rolled a large cigarette with 0.55 grams of the crushed, dried mushroom. Again, a wave of relaxation and euphoria enveloped me. A bit of a headache may have been present, as well as extreme sleepiness. I never tried opium, but from what I know, my experience was very opium-like. There may have also been an aphrodisiac effect.
On a different occasion, I rolled a cigarette with a mix of 0.6 grams Amanita and an unmeasured amount of Cannabis. I only smoked a bit, and felt very high, tough I cannot say for sure that I got higher than usual since I haven’t smoked weed prior to this for several weeks. I also felt warm, focused, and stimulated, yet very relaxed. It was like dreaming while being awake. Everything seemed slower and I was aware of dream-like thoughts loud in the background of my mind. After 30 minutes, I experienced the typical burning sensation in the eyes.
When I later finished that cigarette, at first I felt very high because of the weed, but when that was over, the effects of the mush started coming up, about 1 hour after I finished smoking, heralded by that familiar sensation in the eyes (which lasted until the next morning). I didn’t fall asleep that night before enjoying beautiful, colorful open-eye hallucinations of gnomes and fairies playing among giant Amanita mushrooms. I was not able to stop smiling/laughing…
I also experimented with oral ingestion of Fly Agaric mushroom. For that purpose I made a tea by boiling 13.15 grams of Amanita muscaria with 375 ml water. I then simmered the tea for 30 minutes and poured the resulting extract into a sterilized container through a cheesecloth.
The first night I drank about 2 grams of the extract with the intention of taking a microdose (a dose with no noticeable psychoactive effects). After 10 minutes, I started feeling a bit anxious and a sensation of heat coming up. After 1-2 hours, I noticed I may be a bit euphoric and happy, but the effects were very mild. I also felt very sleepy, though it was night so it’s hard to say if the mushroom had any sleep inducing effect. I discovered that this was indeed a microdose.
The second night I took 2.43 grams of the extract and mixed it with 5 grams lemon juice (“lemon tek,” see above). After 30 minutes I started feeling the sensation in the eyes, a warm, burning sensation, which again was not unpleasant. I also felt happy, euphoric, even drunk, yet I was energetic. The effects lasted around 2-3 hours.
The third night I took 1.65 grams lemon tek right before going to bed. This didn’t produce any noticeable effects on my sleep, though my Fitbit sleep tracker showed I spent 3% less time awake than usual. (Which may have been an underestimate since my daughter was sick and have also contributed to my awake time.) It was also much easier to wake up than usual, and I woke up earlier than I normally do and with less tiredness (even though my total sleep time was less than my normal 7 hours.)
Perhaps the best sleep of my life, however, was induced one night after ingesting 3.07 grams lemon tek before bed. Not only that I had a most amazing and significant lucid dream, but also my Fitbit tracker showed stats I had never seen before:
As you can see, I had 24% deep sleep compared with my usual 15%. The wake time is also much lower (9% versus my average 15%). I suspect Amanita may be slightly diuretic hence the awakenings, I will try to drink less water in the evening and believe my sleep score will be even higher. (I was later able to confirm that Amanita contains mannitol, a diuretic, which apparently also enables more efficient transportation of the active substances into the brain.) And my sleep score that night… an amazing 92%! Previously, I was never able to enter the 90’s.
Others have reported similar results. One person told me that they get a slightly deeper sleep, but also that their sleep-maintenance insomnia is gone while using the mush comparable with the effects of Ambien. Someone else said that they were able to break an addiction to Lunesta since beginning to microdose the shroom.
One important thing to keep in mind with Amanita (as well as with sleeping pills), I noticed that if I took my potion right before bed like at 22:30, I would still be sleepy until late next morning or noon. So it seems to be better to take it at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
After a period of microdosing, I took a long break from Amanita. I then started experimenting with higher dosages.
In the microdosing period, I made a tea from 13 grams and divided it to around 18 doses (on average approximately 0.7 grams per dose). The problem is that after about 2 weeks (~14 daily doses), I noticed a drop in potency.
So now I made a tea from 5 grams of Fly Agaric mushroom and drank it in one sitting. (Along with some lemon juice.) Strangely, no noticeable effects were experienced. Even my sleep was only fair with insufficient deep sleep. However, after about 9 hours of sleep, I had a dream in which I felt incredibly confident, powerful, and joyous. Then I started flying…
Next is 10 grams. Stay tuned!
Obviously, I’m not yet in a position to draw any generalizations about the effects of Amanita muscaria, but I will continue experimenting and will update this article with the results of my trials.
I’m also interested in smoking mixtures, such as Datura and Amanita, which I will have to try as well but the use of Datura is highly dangerous so I’m hesitant.
Moreover, I’m planning on studying the effects of the mushroom on dreams by taking it just before daytime naps and early morning sleep (WBTB), which is mostly comprised of REM sleep. This requires taking the mush about 3 hours before the planned nap because of the long onset of effects.) I realized that once after taking 1.7 grams lemon tek during a WBTB (wake back to bed; a lucid dream induction technique involving waking up after a few hours of sleep, and then going back to sleep with the intention of having a lucid dream.) I was listening to binaural beats. While it took me just 6 minutes to fall asleep (as my sleep tracking later showed), it felt as if I’m awake the whole time. I even entered deep sleep 17 minutes after falling asleep. It seems like the mushroom is capable of inducing paradoxical insomnia when taken right before going to sleep. It’s interesting that I had a lot of deep sleep for early morning (52 minutes), and very little REM (25 minutes). From this trial I also learned that Amanita may boost deep sleep even during naps.
I’m also planning on testing different methods of consumption, including:
- Amanita without lemon tek
- Daytime microdosing with Amanita
- Raw Amanita (fresh/dried)
- Amanita Stipes – I hear they may have stimulant effects
- Amanita alcohol extract (tincture) – mostly for external use