The Ultimate Guide to
(Fly Agaric, Fly Amanita)
Amanita muscaria is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage or condone the use of this substance where it is against the law. However, we accept that illegal drug use occurs, and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this guide is designed to ensure the safety of those who decide to use the substance.Amanita muscaria is potentially dangerous, particularly at high doses. Consuming this mushroom may result in unpleasant physical side effects or difficult psychological experiences. We recommend caution with experimenting with this mushroom—ensure that it is appropriately prepared, start on low doses, and work up carefully if that is your intention. This mushroom is considered neurotoxic from a clinical perspective.
The idea of this red and white spotted mushroom being able to imbue magical powers or cause transformation is strikingly represented in the context of the Nintendo game “Mario Brothers” and more subtly in Alice in Wonderland (or less subtly in recent film adaptations!). There is a broad mycological literature describing its use and cultural significance, with theories of its appearance among the Viking berserkers , the druids of Europe, the ancient Hindu text the Rig Veda, the shamans of Siberia, cave paintings, and into the depths of time. It is the archetypal mythological fungus.
Amanita muscaria has a mixed reputation; for many, it inspires either love or hate, a cautionary approach, or mild respect and curiosity. If we think of the term mycophobia, the Fly agaric is undoubtedly the first fungus to come to mind. There is a lack of consensus about its toxicity, with many mixed reports about its use. In most identification books, A. muscaria is considered poisonous, yet in many cultures, it is regarded as both edible and medicinal.
Although our cultural narratives imply a mushroom, both mythical and toxic, the name “Fly agaric” actually comes from a far more domestic purpose—as an insecticide that used the mushroom to kill the common house fly (Musca domestica). People would leave a piece of the mushroom’s cap in a glass of water or milk, and the flies landing on the mushroom would be stunned, often drowning in the liquid.
One of the more interesting aspects of the traditional usage of Fly agaric is the use of urine. Muscimol and ibotenic acid pass through the body mostly unmetabolized; therefore, the urine of someone who has recently consumed the mushroom can provide a potent source of the alkaloid. Many Siberian tribes drink their urine to prolong intoxication or share it with others. Reindeer also love the Fly agaric and can be aggressive about not sharing them. There is then a weird partnership between the shaman and the reindeer, where the reindeer will seek out and consume the urine of humans. The shamans will collect and drink the urine of reindeer known to have recently consumed the Fly amanita.
Reading about the Fly amanita is a psychedelic journey in itself; the fairy tales and stories associated with A. muscaria suggest journeys into the inner self. Along the way, we encounter modern ideas suggesting that maybe Jesus was a mushroom. Then there’s the connection to Santa Claus, with his red and white suit mirroring the red and white spots of A. muscaria (and the associated rumors that his reindeers imbibed this entheogenic mushroom to aid their flight). The iconographic representation of this red cap and white spotted mushroom has permeated our idea of fungi very deeply—the cultural associations add so much more to its mystique.
What is Amanita muscaria?
Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam. (1783) is a Basidiomycete fungus from the Genus Amanita. It is formally classified within the Class Agaricomycetes, Order Agaricales, Family Amanitacea [12,13]. The Fly agaric is a large conspicuous mushroom; its red cap with white warts are a vivid contrast against the green and brown of the birch and pine forests where it grows.
Amanita muscaria mushrooms are often found in large groups, usually with examples of all stages of development. When the mushroom is fully mature, the bright red cap (pileus) is approximately 8–20 cm (3–8 in) in diameter. It is typical for the red coating on the cap to fade after rain, particularly with older mushrooms. The gills (lamellae) are white, with a free attachment (meaning they are not attached to the stem), with a white spore print. The stem (stipe) is white, 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) high by 1–2 cm (0.5–1 in) thick, with a slightly brittle, fibrous texture, cylindrical, hollow, with a bulbous base.
Amanita spp. grow from the soil around the base of trees, forming an egg-like structure just under the surface; as the mushroom grows, it breaks apart the protective tissue. This protective membrane that encloses the mushroom is referred to as the “universal veil”. After emerging, the cap is covered with numerous small white pieces of tissue, commonly referred to as warts. The cap changes from globose to hemispherical, and finally to flat, sometimes upturned in mature specimens. In some cases, rain washes away the warts from the cap before the cap has fully expanded. As the cap opens, the partial veil falls away, leaving an annulus or “skirt”. The base of the mushroom is enclosed in the cup-like remains of the “universal veil” which is referred to as the volva.
The Genus Amanita is widespread, with species on every continent. All Amanita spp. are ectomycorrhizal, meaning they grow in a symbiotic relationship with some tree species, sharing nutrients in return for carbohydrates. A. muscaria is endemic to temperate and boreal forests of the Northern Hemisphere. It is found growing in association with deciduous trees, including birch (e.g., Silver Birch, Betula pendula), conifers (e.g., Pinus spp.), and firs. As a result of the commercial cultivation of various ornamental trees, A. muscaria has been introduced to many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and South America. They are recognized as being a “weedy” species —they can be commonly found in a variety of urban environments and are known to be opportunistic.
- Amanita muscaria var. muscaria is the bright red Fly agaric from northern Europe, Russia, and Asia.
- Amanita muscaria subsp. flavivolvata is red, with yellow to yellowish-white warts, and found from southern Alaska to Colombia.
- Amanita muscaria var. guessowii has a yellow to orange cap, the center more orange or perhaps even reddish orange. This North American variety is found most commonly in the northeast.
- Amanita muscaria var. inzengae has a yellow to orange-yellow cap with yellowish warts, and a stem which may be tan.
Is Amanita muscaria psychedelic?
Despite A. muscaria having very strong psychedelic associations in popular culture, it would not be considered psychedelic based on the formal definition. Most compounds considered psychedelic are structurally related to the neurotransmitters serotonin or dopamine (which are 5-HT2A agonists) —for example, the “classic” psychedelics, LSD, psilocybin/psilocin, and mescaline.
Amanita muscaria and the related species Amanita pantherina are, however, considered entheogens. By virtue of its psychoactive effects, A. muscaria is often referred to as a “magic mushroom”, but compared to psilocybin-containing mushrooms, the effects are very different. A. muscaria does not contain psilocybin or psilocin. The active compounds in this mushroom are muscimol and ibotenic acid, with muscimol (a selective agonist for the GABAA receptor) having a sedative, depressant, and deliriant effect .
What to expect
Intoxication results from the ingestion of one to four mushrooms of A. muscaria, with effects beginning within 15 minutes to one hour. Half to one mushroom is considered a low dose (1 – 5 g), with three being the more common dose (5 – 10 g). The main effects may last from four to eight hours, with no significant after-effects. Physical coordination and basic motor skills may be significantly impaired, with some involuntary twitching, drowsiness, sweating, pupil dilation, and increased body temperature. Adverse psychological experiences are also known to occur, with reports of individuals trapped in self-repeating time-loops, visual perception being paused, changes in perception of size, and visionary experiences.
The main psychoactive compound in A. muscaria is muscimol. Many individuals report that the Fly agaric experience can be a positive one, with feelings of euphoria, and a sense of being within a dream-like space. Some visual and auditory effects may be experienced, as well as physical sensations resembling tingling or being touched. Visual effects include the perception of objects or the self appearing either magnified or shrunken. Sometimes, the experience becomes very dissociative, with a lack of awareness of surroundings for several hours.
Care should be taken to prepare the mushrooms properly by thoroughly drying them either in a food dehydrator or oven at a low temperature. The mushrooms should never be eaten raw as this may result in gastrointestinal effects, adverse effects from the ibotenic acid, or allergies to uncooked mushroom proteins.
Amanita muscaria effects
Amanita muscaria has a wide range of effects, from euphoria and ataxia (difficulty balancing) to sensory alterations, particularly alterations of hearing, taste, and perspective. A. muscaria may also produce cholinergic symptoms, such as “profuse salivation and mild perspiration” .
Fly agaric can be taken at various doses, starting with one half to a whole dried mushroom (1 – 5 g), with three being the more common dose (5 – 10 g). At medium to higher doses (10 – 30 g), the main cognitive effects often include:
- Looping: when an individual becomes stuck in a looping or repetitive behavior or thought pattern, such as experiencing the same moment over and over again.
- Frame reduction: using the example of modern films or cartoons, these run at 25 frames a second. The experience of frame reduction is as though your perception is limited to one frame per second or less.
- Size distortions: as described in Alice in Wonderland, things seem smaller or larger.
- Feelings of strength: a sense of feeling much stronger than you are.
- Visionary dreams.
- A sensation of flying.
The physiological effects from A. muscaria may include:
- Loss of coordination: feeling drunk, falling over, not being able to respond suddenly to things.
- Muscle twitching: random muscle twitches at varying degrees.
- Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and vomiting.
Amanita muscaria is also known to sometimes contain muscarine. It is present in the mushroom in such small amounts it is generally treated as insignificant. Despite this, it is important to be aware of its effects, especially when consuming fly amanita in higher doses. Specifically, symptoms of muscarine poisoning may include increased salivation, sweating, and lacrimation (crying). Symptoms can also include gastrointestinal distress, confusion, euphoria, loss of muscular coordination, decreased blood pressure, profuse sweating and chills, visual distortions, and a feeling of strength. Effects appear rapidly (within 15 minutes to two hours) and typically last for several hours .
What does an Amanita muscaria “trip” feel like?
Depending on what you read or who you talk to, the “trip” can vary widely. As with many naturally occurring psychoactive compounds, there will be variability in the fungi, from preparation and individual response. The cognitive effects may become apparent within half an hour but usually take an hour. The duration seems to be anywhere from four to ten hours.
Shortly after consumption, there may be drowsiness or a need to sleep, leading to the urge to lie down and rest or sleep. Sometimes there may be a feeling of nausea, along with trembling, sweating, and a mild sense of dissociation. These side effects might result from small amounts of muscarine, a cholinergic toxin affecting muscarinic acetylcholine receptors.
The sleep stage is light, and individuals may often be partly aware of surrounding sounds. In this phase, the central nervous system effects of the mushrooms may become apparent, with strange lucid dreams occurring. After an hour or two, some people awake to a sense of having awoken to a different world—things appear the same, yet undeniably different in an inexplicable way… down the rabbit hole and into wonderland!
BENEFITS & RISKS04
The Koryaks of the Kamchatka Peninsula have a long history of using A. muscaria for shamanic purposes, for healing, and for divination. Amanita muscaria has been used as a homeopathic medicine. There are reports of its use to treat a variety of illnesses, including pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and addiction/withdrawal.
In contemporary Western culture, despite the warnings from mycologists and lingering tales from mycophobia, more people are becoming curious about this fungus and exploring its use as an entheogen, as well as to treat depression and physical ailments. There are reports of individuals microdosing A. muscaria to boost their energy and productivity.
What happens if you eat Amanita muscaria? Is it safe to eat?
Preparation is essential when consuming A. muscaria. Traditionally, the shaman would only ever eat the perfectly dried specimens or consume urine, either from someone who had consumed them or from reindeer known to have consumed them—by collecting the snow the reindeer had urinated on! Eating A. muscaria, even at small doses, will produce some psychoactive effects.
A. muscaria is known to be eaten for culinary purposes in parts of Europe, North America, and Japan. The active compounds in A. muscaria are water-soluble—by parboiling the mushrooms and disposing of the water, the mushrooms can be considered edible. William Rubel and David Aurora (author of the epic Mushrooms Demystified) acknowledge that there is not a lot of published information on the edibility of A. muscaria, but claim that, properly parboiled, it is a delicious sweet tasting mushroom.
Note: Ensure that you collect the correct species. Some experts recommend only collecting specimens that are clearly red, as lighter shades approaching orange may easily be confused with other species. Never consume an Amanita sp. that is cream or white.
While people do experiment with various psychoactive compounds as part of a microdosing regimen, there is little known about the positive effects of microdosing Fly Agaric. A. muscaria has been used as a homoeopathic remedy for depression, tics, epilepsy, etc., and in combination with a tincture of Mandragora root as a remedy for Parkinson’s Disease. 
There have been no formal studies on the use of A. muscaria for microdosing. One person reported, “I’ve had good success with Amanita as a daily tonic for wintertime blues”. Another said, “My brain works so much better, my intelligence is highlighted in a way that I truly feel as if I’m using much more of my potential and my intelligence itself!!!”  Others have reported increased productivity, improved ability to focus, and improvement in mood.
If you are curious about how to microdose with A. muscaria, and would like to learn how to start microdosing using a science-based, step-by-step process, Third Wave’s new and improved Microdosing Course can show you how. The course will guide you through the basics—then dive much deeper, helping you tailor your routine to meet your personal goals. The course does not explicitly teach you how to use Fly agaric, but can help you create a strategy to incorporate it into your life for optimal benefits.
Is Amanita muscaria legal in the US?
Amanita muscaria is legal in all states, except in Louisiana, where growing, selling, or possessing A. muscaria is prohibited by the Louisiana State Act 159. The main active compound, muscimol, is not considered a controlled substance by the federal government of the United States.
While cultivation, possession, and distribution of A.muscaria is unregulated by the United States federal government, it has not been approved for human consumption. According to the Erowid Center’s website, “If sold as a supplement, sales must conform to U.S. supplement laws. If sold for consumption as a food or drug, sales are regulated by the FDA.” 
Are there any countries where Amanita muscaria is legal
Amanita muscaria is legal in most countries. As a result, it is easier to list the countries where it is not legal. These include Australia, Romania, The Netherlands, and Thailand.
In Thailand, Thai law includes hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Five Category of drugs.
In Australia, muscimol is considered a Schedule 9 prohibited substance under the Poisons Standard. A Schedule 9 substance is one “which may be abused or misused, the manufacture, possession, sale or use of which should be prohibited by law except when required for medical or scientific research, or for analytical, teaching or training purposes with approval of Commonwealth and/or State or Territory Health Authorities.” 
Ibotenic acid is the prodrug for muscimol—during the drying of the mushroom, ibotenic acid is decarboxylated into muscimol. Muscimol is five to six times more potent than ibotenic acid, with fewer harmful side effects. Ibotenic acid and muscimol are both excreted in the urine after consuming A. muscaria. It has been reported that a substantial fraction of ibotenic acid is excreted unmetabolized between 20 and 90 minutes after ingestion—almost no muscimol is excreted when pure ibotenic acid is eaten.
The cap of the Fly agaric mushroom has a higher concentration of psychoactive substances than the stem . The minimum dose to produce psychoactive effects is 30–60 mg of ibotenic acid and around 6–10 mg of muscimol. Care should be taken with dosage as a single mushroom can contain between 292 and 6,570 micrograms/g of ibotenic acid and between 73 and 2,440 micrograms/g of muscimol . If the average weight of a mushroom is 60 g, then a single mushroom is enough to cause hallucinogenic effects.
Ibotenic acid is a potent NMDA agonist, and powerful agonist of the groups I and II metabotropic glutamate receptors, causing dissociative effects, euphoria, visual and auditory distortions, sensations of floating, and potentially retrograde amnesia. Muscimol is an agonist of GABA receptors, acting as a neurotransmitter for GABAA, producing a depressant effect as well as visual distortions/hallucinations, loss of balance, slight muscle contractions, and altered sensory perceptions .
Amanita muscaria also contains small amounts of muscarine, which was originally thought to be the psychoactive compound because it binds with muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. It is present in such small amounts that it is generally treated as insignificant.
Muscimol and ibotenic acid are lethal in very high doses. For muscimol, the LD50 (lethal dose for 50% of the test sample) is 45 mg/kg in rats. For ibotenic acid, the LD50 is 129 mg/kg. In another study, the oral LD50 for muscimol was found to be 10 mg/kg in rabbits, and the oral LD50 for ibotenic acid was 38 mg/kg in mice . No data for humans has yet been published.
Is ibotenic acid a neurotoxin?
Ibotenic acid is classified as a potent neurotoxin through excitatory amino acid mechanisms, where it acts as a non-selective glutamate receptor agonist . It has been used extensively in animal research to create lesions in rat brains where intracerebral injections of ibotenic acid produce cell loss in several cerebral areas. This degeneration is limited to the injection site and does not affect axons, passage, or synaptic terminals originating in other areas.
There are no studies to determine the levels of toxicity or long-term effects, and while A. muscaria is technically poisonous (keeping in mind that alcohol is poisonous), it can be safely consumed in controlled doses.
HISTORY & STATS08
The first ethnomycological references to the mushroom began in 1730 with Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, who published an account on the use of A. muscaria by the Koryaks of the Kamchatka Peninsula. This report was later corroborated by Stepan Krasheninnikov and Georg Wilhelm Steller in 1755 and 1774, respectively. The use, tales of urine ingestion, and subsequent “intoxication” have been reported by numerous writers who visited the Kamchatka Peninsula in the ensuing centuries.
Interestingly, one of the cultural legacies of the early literature describing the Koryaks of the Kamchatka Peninsula is the word “shaman”. The word is probably derived from the Tungusic word šaman, meaning “one who knows” . This word has been appropriated to describe traditional healers of many cultures, particularly as a result of the New Age movement and the incorporation of indigenous healing practices to create the modern construct we refer to as “shamanism”.
Amanita muscaria was first described by Carl Linnaeus as Agaricus muscarius in his Species Plantarum in 1753, muscarius referring to musca, the common housefly. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck transferred the species to Amanita in 1783, hence the formal taxonomic reference to “Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam. (1783).”
In 1860, British mycologist Mordecai Cubitt Cooke published The Seven Sisters of Sleep, containing chapters on various psychoactive plants and their effects, including A. muscaria. The book is closely associated with the story Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, which some consider to be inspired by a psychedelic experience. Paradoxical riddles, disappearing cats, a caterpillar sitting on mushrooms smoking from a hookah, and—most telling of all—the eating of the mushroom with the advice that “one side will make you grow taller, the other side will make you grow shorter”. That said, there is no evidence that Lewis Carroll ever took A. muscaria. Given the mycophobia of the time, it is very unlikely. Instead, it has been proposed that the story of Alice closely follows the description of the experience as outlined in Seven Sisters of Sleep.
With the publication of Mushrooms, Russia and History in 1957 by Valentina and Gordon Wasson , a new generation was introduced to descriptions of shamans consuming Fly agaric and drinking urine. R. Gordon Wasson was a New York banker and amateur mycologist who, with his wife, was researching the indigenous use of mushrooms. They were introduced to Maria Sabina, of whom he wrote in his 1957 article for Life Magazine, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom.” But the modern popularization of A. muscaria started with Andrija Puharich’s 1959 book The Sacred Mushroom: Key to the Door of Eternity, which referenced the book by the Wassons. An interest in fungi led many during the 1960s to embrace the folklore and myths around mushrooms and toadstools in general and the Fly agaric in particular.
In 1968, R. Gordon Wasson published the book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, in which he proposed that A. muscaria was Soma, mentioned in the ancient Hindu text, the Rig Veda. Wasson used several arguments, all based on the text and how they could be interpreted. One description of Soma uses the adjective hári, meaning “dazzling” or “flaming”, which Wasson interpreted as being “red”. The descriptions fail to mention important features such as roots, stems, or seeds, which Wasson interpreted as suggesting that Soma was a mushroom. The Rig Veda also mentions urine, with one line describing men urinating Soma, a practice recalling the use of urine in Siberia. Soma is also mentioned as coming “from the mountains”, which Wasson interpreted as the introduction of A. muscaria by the Aryans who invaded India from the North. The story reflects a set of ancient practices that were lost, and therefore gained a sense of mythology. There are strong arguments that Soma could be Ephedra, a potent stimulant, or Peganum harmala, a plant that contains harmine and harmaline.
Examples of their recent encroachment into new habitats include Victoria in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, where they are invading the native Nothofagus forests and displacing the native mycorrhizal species. If you have been around A. muscaria, to avoid spreading spores, it is recommended that you wear clean clothes and clean your shoes with alcohol before you enter these forests.
If you are foraging for this species, check local laws about foraging and find out where it is legal for you to collect; there may be restrictions on where you can forage and what you can forage for. In some countries or states, you may need a collection permit to collect on public land legally. Collecting on any private land requires the owner’s permission.
Was Jesus Christ a mushroom?
In 1970, philologist, archaeologist, and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Marco Allegro published his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross in which he claimed that early Christian theology was derived from a fertility cult which consumed A. muscaria as their sacrament. Despite being widely criticized by academics and theologians alike, the book has been of interest to some ethnomycologists, with some of the ideas remaining popular. The ideas within the book have been paraphrased by some as “Jesus Christ was a mushroom!” For an excellent easy-to-read analysis, check out Andy Letcher’s book Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom.
Was Santa Claus a shaman?
A modern theory suggests that A. muscaria may also be closely associated with the origin story of Santa Claus. “An old gentleman dressed in a red and white costume… all the while being in a very merry mood and intoxicated”, loosely quoting Rogan Taylor from this radio show. The red and white suit, the climbing in and out of the chimney, the fact that reindeers love eating the mushrooms have all contributed to the very close similarity with the mushroom-consuming shamans of Siberia. Despite this nexus, our modern red and white Santa Claus image, while falsely attributed to Coca Cola, was created by artist Thomas Nast.
Can Amanita muscaria kill you?
There are a variety of opinions about this. R. Gordon Wasson claims that there’s not a single firsthand account of lethal poisoning by A. muscaria. That said, deaths have been reported to occur in association with A. muscaria, so caution is advised.
Does Amanita muscaria have any look-alikes that people mistake it for?
The stark red cap, with the white spots of Amanita muscaria var. muscaria are very distinctive; there are few other mushrooms you could confuse these with. That being said, taking into consideration the different varieties, this becomes more problematic. Some varieties have orange, yellow, or white caps, making correct identification challenging, given the array of Amanita species. Never consume an Amanita with a white cap.
Can you smoke Fly agaric?
Apparently, Fly agaric can be smoked. According to Jonathan Ott, “Smoking produces a more rapid effect of shorter duration.” 
Which Amanitas are deadly?
The Genus Amanita contains some of the most poisonous mushroom species. Names like the “death cap” (Amanita phalloides) and the “destroying angel” (A. bisporigera and A. ocreata in eastern and western North America, and A. virosa in Europe) are fairly self-explanatory. With A. phalloides, as little as half a mushroom contains enough toxin to kill an adult human. Having consumed a meal of “death caps”, some people have no immediate effects while others may feel ill within a couple of hours, and then recover after several hours. Meanwhile, the amatoxins and phallotoxins begin causing damage to the liver and kidneys. Without treatment, from six to 16 days after the poisoning, individuals start to feel weak, then very ill, and soon after that, organ failure and death.
NOTE: if you think you or a family member may have consumed either “death caps” or “destroying angels”, either call emergency or report to the emergency department of your local hospital ASAP.
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