illustration of amanita muscaria with muscimol molecular structure patterned in the background

Meet Muscimol, the Compound Behind the Unique Amanita Mushroom Trip

An exploration of the world’s most misunderstood mushroom.

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DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here.

*This article contains references to violence and injury. 

Last year, Los Angeles-based love and sex coach Nicole Ambrosia partook in a ceremony with Amanita muscaria mushrooms, a type of psychoactive mushroom similar to but distinct from psilocybin mushrooms. Beforehand, she set the intention “to release anything in my life that doesn’t serve my highest purpose.” 

After the ceremony, she had a strikingly vivid lucid dream where she murdered someone. When she got home feeling “lit,” “elevated,” and aware of “how powerful a being I am,” she ended a relationship that had not been working. She felt like her dream represented her “killing the relationship,” as it no longer fit the new version of herself the mushrooms had spawned.

Such experiences stem largely from a compound in these shrooms called muscimol, which acts on the brain in a different way from psilocybin. The result can be a wildly different kind of trip: Muscimol is considered a deliriant and an oneirogen. A deliriant is a substance that can take you out of reality. An oneirogen is a substance that can induce sleep and promotes a dream-like state. 

Muscimol vs. Psilocybin

Low-dose muscimol tinctures are becoming more common as sleep aids and anxiety relievers. But, the truth is complicated. Higher dose muscaria mushroom experiences have ended in hospital stays due to coma. At least one case study reports a fatality after ingesting “six to 10” dried Amanita muscaria mushrooms, although fatalities from this mushroom are thought to be rare. Hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria experiences are not easy trips. Those familiar with psilocybin might be surprised; the muscaria experience may be more volatile. Psilocybin can occasion mystical experiences which cultivate feelings of oneness and connection with others. Muscimol is different. Experiences can be profound, but the compound is more hallucinogenic than psychedelic, so it’s a gamble. 

Safety Note

Journeying on muscimol is not always an easy road. High doses can take you out of reality, making you more prone to accidents and erratic behavior. It’s not recommended to journey on Amanita muscaria mushrooms alone. These mushrooms can also inspire deep sleep, making you more prone to hypothermia if you fall asleep outside or somewhere without proper clothing or blankets. A sober sitter can help you regulate your temperature and respond in an emergency.

The Amanita Muscaria Mushroom

The Amanita muscaria species is also sometimes known as the fly agaric mushroom or, simply, the amanita mushroom—although there are many other species within the Amanita genus. (Including some very deadly mushrooms.) In addition to muscimol, these mushrooms’ psychoactive effects come from the alkaloids muscarine and ibotenic acid, according to Matthew X. Lowe, PhD, research scientist and executive director at Unlimited Sciences

A. muscaria, unlike psilocybin mushrooms, is legal throughout almost the entire United States, with the exception of Louisiana. It tends to grow in “woodsy,” temperate areas like the Pacific Northwest, says Tricia Eastman, an initiated medicine woman, founder of Psychedelic Journeys and Ancestral Heart, and author of Seeding Consciousness: Plant Medicine, Ancestral Wisdom, and Psychedelic Initiation.

muscimol molecular structure
Muscimol’s chemical structure

How Is Muscimol Consumed?

Muscimol can be extracted from A. muscaria mushrooms, ingested by eating the mushrooms, or synthetically produced, says Zach Rieck, LCSW, clinical director of the psychedelic care and education company Cardea. In addition to A. muscaria, muscimol can be found in the less common A. pantherina mushroom, also known as the panther cap, says Lowe.

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Gummies 

Some head shops and online suppliers sell amanita gummies, but these often have little to no muscimol. “I haven’t personally heard any glowing reports,” says Rieck. The advantage to the gummies is that they’re usually made from A. muscaria extract or ground dried mushrooms that have gone through a process called decarboxylation, which converts ibotenic acid into muscimol, reducing the likelihood of side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and sweating. Although, muscimol can also cause these effects, particularly in high doses.

“[T]he manufacturing of Amanita muscaria mushroom gummies is not regulated by the FDA and [they] may have inadequate preparation methods or contain other ingredients, which may be potentially harmful,” says Lowe. Additionally, it can be hard to know what the actual concentration of muscimol is in a given product, which can make dosing a challenge. Accidentally taking too much can lead to an unexpectedly challenging experience.

Extracts

Water-based extracts are another common preparation. Eastman recommends the book Microdosing with Amanita Muscaria by Baba Masha for proper microdosing protocols. To date, however, there is little to no research on the long-term impacts of microdosing muscimol, although it’s developing a community of advocates. 

Nowadays, it’s possible to find branded muscaria products sold online or in stores as supplements. They’re often marketed as sleep aids or stress-relievers. But, purchasing muscaria products can be challenging, since it can be difficult to know what you’re buying. Here are some general questions to ask when looking for a product: 

  • What is it’s recommended dosage?
  • Has the product been independently laboratory tested by a third-party?
  • Are the results published on the website? 
  • How many online reviews are there? 
  • Are you able to find independent online reviews elsewhere?
  • How are the mushrooms sourced? 
  • Where is the product manufactured? 

And remember—if you’re curious about a supplement you can always ask your doctor or care provider their opinion.

Boiling muscaria mushrooms 

Muscaria mushrooms are also sometimes boiled into a tea to reduce toxic elements; Uri, Moon Priestess, who leads ceremonies with Amanita muscaria mushrooms, serves mushrooms this way. Sometimes, foragers “detoxify” muscaria mushrooms by boiling them and discarding the cooking water. This process transforms the hallucinogenic mushroom into an edible one. After repeating this process several times and running them under fresh water, the mushrooms are pickled. If this process is not done properly, however, then a person may find themselves unexpectedly intoxicated.

amanita muscaria mushroom
Muscimol can be extracted from A. muscaria mushrooms, ingested by eating the mushrooms, or synthetically produced

Is Muscimol a Psychedelic?

Muscaria mushrooms have a challenging reputation. For a long time, these mushrooms were considered poisonous—and still are by many in the mycological community. However, a growing interest and acceptance of psychedelics has inspired many newcomers to develop a relationship with and understanding of this powerful mushroom.

“My unconscious state would want to act a certain way out of habit, out of subconscious patterns, and when you want to go to that pattern there is awareness that I did not feel before that’s guiding me. It’s like the voice of God, the voice of spirit guiding: ‘um wait a second Uri, this is something that you have made a decision of shifting and you don’t need to do that’ and it’s so clear. It was like God speaking through me. That’s what my experience was. I think that’s what others are experiencing, very clear guidance.”

—Uri Lee

Yet, in hallucinogenic doses, muscaria is a serious endeavor. It’s a mushroom to be approached with caution, respect, and awareness. Reports about the muscaria experience run the gamut from vivid dreams to tales of someone who “thought he was a deer” and subsequently became lost in the forest, cut by a barbed wire fence without recollection. Safe locations, well-vetted trip sitters, and access to emergency services are all important when engaging with hallucinogenic doses of muscaria mushrooms.

What Is the Therapeutic Use Of Muscimol?

Muscimol is a GABA agonist, meaning that it binds to receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA — specifically the GABA-A receptors — and mimics the actions of GABA in the brain, says Anton Gomez-Escolar, a psychopharmacologist and psychedelics expert at Drogopedia. “Z-drugs” like Ambien work in a similar way, says Rieck. Since activation of the GABA system makes the nervous system less excitable, muscimol can have calming, hypnotic, and muscle-relaxing effects, says Zaid Fadul, MD, Medical Director at Better U

But, there is an important caveat to remember: “The effects are dose-dependent,” says Rieck. At the time of writing, muscimol is not commonplace in medical settings. It is, however, used in medical research. Scientists use the compound in animal studies to shut down brain circuits, blocking memory and inducing coma.  

dried amanita muscaria caps
A psychoactive dose of muscimol is between 8 and 15 mg, and as little as 1 g of dried amanita could have that much muscimol

“At lower dose ranges, it causes sedation and sometimes pleasant physical sensations or euphoria. At higher doses, muscimol can act as an inducer of intense visionary states.” But while some find very real and significant personal meaning in these experiences, it would be misleading to conflate the muscimol experience with a psilocybin experience.

And you might fall into a deep but strange sleep. In low doses, muscimol is becoming more popular as a sleep aid (although it’s not researched like other, more common sleep aids.) In high doses, you may fall into a stupor or fall asleep unsuspectingly. Lucid dreaming, like Ambrosia experienced, is a common result of consuming muscimol at night. Ambrosia also remembers going into a “lucid dream-like state” while awake on the mushrooms, which is not unheard of. It’s also common to have hallucinations and “mystical experiences” from muscimol, says Lowe. But don’t expect a psilocybin-like journey: Muscimol is a different substance.

The potential therapeutic benefits of muscimol include “pain relief, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects, symptomatic relief to patients with tardive dyskinesia [a disorder involving involuntary facial movements], and anticonvulsant effects, which may benefit patients with epilepsy,” says Lowe.

Spiritual Understandings

Indigenous Siberian communities Chukchi, Koryak, and Kamchadal use muscaria mushrooms in their practices today, as do the Ostyak and Vogul tribes, west of Siberia. Those who develop a practice with A. muscaria have a different way of communicating about the experiences the mushrooms occasion. Uri says muscaria mushrooms are unique in that they help you access your subconscious mind and break long-standing habits.

“In the space of psychedelic medicine, you’re still dealing with your conscious mind the majority of the time,” Uri tells DoubleBlind. “But with the amanita, what I have noticed is that the true healing that needs to be revealed will happen within your subconscious. It takes you to a place where you are hiding even from yourself.”

The Muscimol Trip: Experiences with Muscaria

Eastman has microdosed A. muscaria extract, but she doesn’t enjoy taking higher “journey” doses, as she’s found the experiences more dissociative than meaningful. “One time, I took a little bit more than usual, and I closed my eyes and saw dancing elves,” she remembers. “It just didn’t feel like something I was drawn to work with on a deeper level. Seeing dancing elves in this context didn’t make me feel like ‘wow, I’m connected to the entire cosmos, and I want to write Rumi poetry.’”

While psilocybin mushrooms may make you feel “euphoric or blissful,” amanita “will take you to another dimension, but it’s not necessarily something that will make you feel better,” says Uri. Psilocybin might reveal that you have a fear of abandonment and need to trust others more, but amanita might bring you back to the memory of when you were first abandoned, she explains. “It is, in my opinion, deeper work.”

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Due to her own work with A. muscaria mushrooms, Uri describes herself as “much more empowered,” adding, “I am more at peace than being fearful and anxious about what will happen. No matter what, I feel very grounded in my space.” 

“Focus on breathing deeply and slowly, and distract yourself with calming activities, like listening to soothing music. If the situation feels beyond control after some time — or worrying physical symptoms appear — seek medical assistance.”

—Anton Gomez-Escolar

Muscimol Harm Reduction

As with most mind-altering substances, muscimol is best consumed in a comfortable, safe environment with a sober friend or guide and access to hydration, says Rieck. You will want to avoid situations where you could get into accidents or engage in dangerous behaviors, as this is the primary cause of death for those under the influence of muscimol, says Gomez-Escolar.

It’s hard to gauge the amount of muscimol you’re consuming, as “factors like the mushroom’s age, where it was grown, and how it was prepared can vary the muscimol content significantly,” Gomez-Escolar adds. A psychoactive dose of muscimol is between 8 and 15 milligrams, and as little as 1 gram of dried amanita could have that much muscimol, according to Lowe. The right dose depends on your unique physiology and emotional state, and too high a dose may take you someplace in your psyche where you’re not ready to go, says Uri. So, start with a low dose — no more than one small to medium-sized dry cap — to assess your tolerance. Fadul advises against mixing muscimol with other drugs, alcohol, or medications, and depressants are particularly risky, says Gomez-Escolar.

If you are microdosing A. muscaria, Eastman recommends taking breaks so that it’s not too taxing on your liver. “Let’s say you have a lot of anxiety; you’re going through a period of anxiety and you were using amanita to support you through that process … you might take it for a month, then take a break — then you might go back to taking it again.”

Lastly, if you’re experiencing a bad trip on muscimol, do your best not to panic. “Try to stay calm and remind yourself that the effects are temporary, while staying in a safe, comfortable place with someone you trust,” says Gomez-Escolar. “Focus on breathing deeply and slowly, and distract yourself with calming activities, like listening to soothing music. If the situation feels beyond control after some time — or worrying physical symptoms appear — seek medical assistance.”

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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