The Fly Agaric is one of the most famous-looking mushrooms. Its iconic red cap with raised white dots is often used in Alice in Wonderland images and was briefly mentioned in Harry Potter. It was also once used as a fly poison.
As psychedelic mushrooms, typically those that contain psilocybin , grow in popularity for mental illness treatments, the amanita is also gaining attention. It is often billed as being the “legal” version of a psychedelic mushroom.
So, the ensuing questions are: Is it really legal, and is it really as psychedelic as psilocybin?
“The use and legality of the amanita muscaria mushroom is becoming an increasingly popular subject within the psychedelics community,” Courtney Barnes of Skip Intro Advisors said. “Although it is known for its psychoactive properties, the mushroom itself and its primary active compounds (namely, muscarine, ibotenic acid, and muscimol) are not currently classified as controlled substances under U.S. federal law. Accordingly, it is not a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act to cultivate and possess the mushroom.
“Uniquely, Louisiana classifies amanita muscaria as a ‘hallucinogenic plant,’ prohibiting its production, manufacture, distribution, and possession; however, most state laws do not regulate it,” she continued.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all for the fungi.
“Even though the mushroom is not currently controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, its distribution – depending on intended use – would still likely fall under the purview of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Barnes advised.
That’s because the FDA regulates food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and drugs – “among other products,” Barnes noted – and that agency has safety requirements that must be met before a products in any of those categories can be lawfully marketed.
“Thus, while the Amanita muscaria mushroom is not explicitly prohibited from use in commerce, a legal analysis specific to the product’s manufacture, intended use, marketing, and planned distribution would be required to make a usability determination,” Barnes said.
According to Britannica, the Fly Agaric is the mushroom responsible for the most poisoning cases. Improperly ingesting these fungi can cause many symptoms, including:
- Excessive salivation
- Watering of the eyes
- Slowed and difficult breathing
- Dilated pupils
The illness usually begins within a few hours after eating the mushrooms, and recovery usually occurs within 12 hours. Luckily, the poison rarely causes the consumer death.
Amanita contains bufotenine , which is a weak hallucinogenic agent. Britannica wrote, “Structurally, bufotenine is an indole hallucinogen that is capable of blocking the action of serotonin found in normal brain tissue. Bufotenine also functions as a powerful constrictor of blood vessels, causing a rise in blood pressure . In modern medicine, bufotenine has been used only experimentally to simulate psychotic disease states for the purpose of the psychiatric study.”
So, is it as good as psilocybin? Apparently not.
It is sometimes referred to as the delta-8 of the psychedelic world. Delta-8 claims to get people high, but not as high as typical THC, which is the delta-9 compound. Delta-8 is often called cannabis light.
Eric Chudler, who wrote Neuroscience for Kids , best explained the difference as follows: “The chemical structure of psilocybin and psilocin is similar to the neurotransmitter called serotonin. In fact, the primary effect of psilocin is on the receptors for serotonin. There is also evidence that psilocybin reduces the reuptake of serotonin by neurons in the brain allowing this neurotransmitter more time to act in the synapse.”
Whereas Amanita’s “muscimol and ibotenic acid appear to act on the GABA neurotransmitter system, muscimol activates GABA receptors on neurons. The GABA neurotransmitter system is one of the brain’s major inhibitory systems. Therefore, muscimol acts to inhibit the activity of neurons in the brain.”
Chudler went on to write, “People who eat these mushrooms usually fall into a deep sleep. Some people describe the effects of eating Amanita muscaria as similar to being intoxicated by alcohol.”
There you have it, a deep dive into Amanita mushrooms.
There are plenty of products for sale containing the psychoactive properties of Fly Agaric, mostly gummies. It seems you can buy them legally and the effects are likely to be milder than a full-force psilocybin trip.
If you aren’t ready to take the psilocybin plunge, then maybe the Amanita is a good first step.