Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (2022)

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (1)

A mature fly agaric, the well-known version with a red cap from Europe.

With it’s bright red cap and white spots, the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is probably the most well known of all wild mushrooms in the world. It’s also one of the only mushrooms I know that I would call edible, hallucinogenic and potentially poisonous.

While many people in North America know it as the mushroom from Alice and Wonderland, it’s also been credited with everything from the origin of Santa Claus and Christian Christmas celebrations, to being the mythical Soma drink of the ancient Vedic culture. In this article I’ll tell you everything I know about this fascinating fungus: the good, the bad, the weird, and the in-between.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (2)

A young fly agaric.

Identification

These mushrooms are widespread and mycorrhizal, forming a symbiotic relationship with trees in temperate and boreal forests in the northern hemisphere. With their brilliant red and white cap, fly agarics are pretty easy to identify. Cooking them is more complicated. Here’s a few key points on identifying them.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (3)

Note the bulbous base and ring around the stem.

Amanita Muscaria

  • Always grow directly from the ground.
  • Have a brilliant red generally covered with warts that are the remnant of the universal veil that covers the young mushrooms as they grow. The warts are typically visible, but can be removed by rain.
  • Amanita Muscaria var. guessowii, found in North America, has a yellow or reddish-orange cap.
  • Young buttons are often completely covered in white warts.
  • The mushrooms will usually have a volva at the base of the stem- the remnants of the universal veil that covered them when they were young.
  • Very young mushrooms can resemble puffballs, but instead of being pure white they’ll have a mushroom cap inside when cut in half.
  • The stem base is often bulbous or swollen.
  • These are large, sturdy mushrooms, but the cap easily detaches from the thick stem.

Look A Likes

Amanita flaviconia is a look a like where I live. It’s much smaller than muscaria which can be as large as dinner plates. Amanita pantherina is another and should be avoided as it contains higher amounts of ibotenic acid. Fly agarics are also related to deadly amanitas like A. bisporigeria.

(Video) Youtuber eats DEADLY mushroom!!!

Muscaria Variation Guessowii

This is the version we have in the Midwest that I see and harvest on occasion. I see them almost exclusively with young aspen stands in the fall and late summer. It’s widespread and common.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (4)

Amanita muscaria guessowii.

History and Mythology

There’s all kinds of stories and legends about the famous red-capped mushrooms. Here’s a few of my favorite anecdotes.

Vikings

Some people claim Viking berserkers would eat or Amanita pantherina before going into battle to induce their legendary berserker rage. I’m skeptical, but some people definitely believe it. This theory seems hotly contested and others say the consumable in question was a plant.

Soma

Gordon Wasson’s research and study of the mushroom is pretty well-documented in his book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. The book’s thesis postulates that Amanita muscaria mushrooms are the true identify of a sacred plant used in religious rituals in Indo-Aryan culture, or what’s now Punjab in India.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (5)

Amanita guessowii in Minnesota. These are large mushrooms.

Koryak

Gordon Wasson says the Koryaks, a nomadic Lapland people who herd reindeer that probably have the most colorful reputation with these mushrooms, and the use of them has become something of an urban legend. Apparently the mushroom is important in entheogenic traditions and rituals.

A shaman eats the mushrooms, and a portion of the narcotic compound is filtered into his urine, which participants drink to experience a hallucinogenic effect. While it sounds disgusting, it’s entirely probable with what we know of mushroom toxicology. Personally, I’ll pass.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (6)

Another flush of guessowii from a different patch. Note the red center on the caps that more closely resembles the classic cherry-red muscaria. I often see slightly color variations.

(Video) Toxic or Edible?? Amanita muscaria and other Mushroom Forager FAQ, Part 2 - S2E5

Use as a hallucinogen

The most well-known aspect of fly agaric mushrooms are their hallucinogenic properties. I’m not trying to tell anyone to eat muscaria to get high, unless you want to go to the hospital. But, as I have a bit of experience in the area and other websites tip-toe around it, I’m sharing what I know.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (7)

Small buttons.

Muscaria is labeled as a poisonous mushroom or even deadly in most field guides. This is probably due to the death of Italian Count de Vecchi in the United States (link at the bottom of the post to that) and the number of poisonings and occasional deaths that occur from consuming it for a hallucinogenic experience.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (8)

Most people I know that have taken muscaria say it feels like you’re drunk. I’ve never used it personally, but I know a couple people that do. Muscaria are very different from common magic mushrooms, and should be treated with caution.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (9)

Eating too many muscaria caps can also be fatal, and as mushroom foraging is gaining in popularity, it’s something that will probably continue to increase as more people discover the hobby.

A fatal dose of muscaria has been said to be 15 caps, dried or fresh, but the size and weight aren’t usually specified. To make things more risky, the compounds are thought to vary in concentration between collections. My friends in the mycological community have told me spring mushrooms can contain much more muscimol than fall mushrooms.

For more on poisonings from ingestion of fly agarics, see the 30 Year Poisoning Study by the North American Mycological Association at the bottom of this post.

(Video) Eating fly agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (10)

Amanita muscaria var guessowii in Wisconsin.

Preparation

To prepare Amanita muscaria as a narcotic dried mushrooms are usually boiled in water and taken as a tea, or eaten dried as for psilocybin mushrooms like the liberty cap. Muscaria should never be eaten fresh.

I did a podcast with a man who ate fresh muscaria and his experience terrified me. Please don’t do that. Some people also claim you can smoke muscaria, but that seems like an urban legend to me and most information I see seems to disagree. I wouldn’t try that either.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (11)

Toxicology

Fly agaric mushrooms contain ibotenic acid. When the mushroom is ingested fresh or dried, the acid converts into the psychoactive compound muscimol by losing carbon dioxide (decarboxylation).

Legal Status

Possession of Amanita muscaria or muscimol is legal in every state except Louisiana as of this writing. As a young mushroom-hunting line cook who needed some extra cash, I can also tell you that dried muscaria is sold under the table in Wiccan and alternative religion stores across the United States every year.

To dry the mushrooms for sale or consuming they can be treated like any other mushroom. Rinse and spot clean the mushrooms if needed, then cut into slices and dehydrate at 145F (high setting) until crisp and bone dry and stored in a pantry. Dried mushrooms appear to lose their potency over time.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (12)

Cooking

Besides being a potentially toxic hallucinogen, muscaria is edible and a documented, traditional food in Japan, although the tradition is only said to be found in a small area around Ueda. The mushrooms are boiled to detoxify the psychotropic compounds, and then eaten after fermenting in brine, often in miso soup.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (13)

(Video) Identifying the Deathcap. Amanita phalloides

A man boiling muscaria in his restaurant in Japan. Photo credit: David Arora.

To prepare muscaria for culinary purposes, they can be cut into slices and boiled. Some boil it twice. Mycologist David Arora was the first person I heard of who showed this to other people, and I’ve cooked and eaten a good number of muscaria inspired by his research.

Amanita Muscaria: A Poisonous Edible Mushroom (14)

Japanese-style muscaria pickles.

The fermented muscaria I’ve made were great in miso soup. If you want to know how to make the mushrooms safe to eat, there’s a link below. This could be potentially dangerous and should only be attempted by skilled foragers who can identify amanita mushrooms.

Look A Likes

Amanita flaviconia

Amanita pantherina

References

A Study of Cultural Bias in Field Guide Determinations of Edibility Using the Iconic Amanita Muscaria as an Example

North American Mycological Society: Poisoning of Count Achilles de Vecchi

Healthline.com: Can you Smoke Magic Mushrooms?

Japanese Amanita muscaria Mushroom Pickles (Fermented)

(Video) 7 Common Poisonous Mushrooms You Should Know

Related

FAQs

Is the Amanita muscaria mushroom edible? ›

Besides being a potentially toxic hallucinogen, muscaria is edible and a documented, traditional food in Japan, although the tradition is only said to be found in a small area around Ueda. The mushrooms are boiled to detoxify the psychotropic compounds, and then eaten after fermenting in brine, often in miso soup.

Is Amanita muscaria toxic? ›

Amanita muscaria is not poisonous in the sense that it can kill you. It is poisonous in the sense that if not parboiled in plentiful water (the “toxins” are water soluble), then raw or undercooked mushrooms eaten (in moderation) will cause you to become inebriated and possible nauseous. (Rubel, 2011).

What is Amanita muscaria good for? ›

Derived from the iconic Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric mushroom, muscimol has been shown to treat stress and anxiety, ease muscular pain and promote restorative sleep.

How hallucinogenic is Amanita muscaria? ›

All Amanita muscaria varieties, but in particular A. muscaria var. muscaria, are noted for their hallucinogenic properties, with the main psychoactive constituents being the neurotoxins ibotenic acid and muscimol.

What is the most poisonous mushroom? ›

The world's most poisonous mushroom, Amanita phalloides, is growing in BC. ABSTRACT: Amatoxins in Amanita phalloides, commonly known as the death cap mushroom, are responsible for 90% of the world's mushroom-related fatalities.

Is Amanita muscaria a drug? ›

United States. Neither Amanita muscaria nor muscimol is considered a controlled substance by the Federal government of the United States. This means that cultivation, possession, and distribution are unregulated by the United States Federal Government.

How do you make Amanita muscaria edible? ›

The dried mushroom can be eaten directly, cut up, or by making an infusion with hot water, filtering it and drinking the water. It seems that the second method reduces stomach discomfort. The effects of A. muscaria can take up to 2 or 3 hours to appear.

Is Amanita muscaria poisonous to touch? ›

As deadly as some toxins may be, touching the mushroom is harmless. The harmful toxins in mushrooms must be consumed in order to harm you.

What does Amanita muscaria taste like? ›

I tasted butter and salt at first, always nice, but then I got a little crisp, then the squinchy crunchiness of the mushroom, then that nutty flavor everyone who's eaten muscaria talks about.

Can you eat fly agaric raw? ›

Fly agarics are poisonous and should not be eaten. Reports of deaths are rare, but ingestion often causes stomach cramps and hallucinations.

Do people eat fly agaric? ›

Fly agaric mushrooms are poisonous. Ingestion of them is one of the most common causes of mushroom poisoning.

Where do Amanita muscaria grow? ›

Amanita muscaria is a cosmopolitan mushroom, native to conifer and deciduous woodlands throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including higher elevations of warmer latitudes in regions such as Hindu Kush, the Mediterranean and also Central America.

Can I touch fly agaric? ›

So, this autumn when you are out running around, look for the Fly Agaric. Be safe, don't even touch it, just enjoy it with your eyes or camera.

Are all Amanitas poisonous? ›

Of course, not every species in the Amanita mushroom genus is poisonous. Some, such as Amanita caesarea (Caesar's mushroom), are edible. Yet given the danger involved in eating the wrong amanita, it's best to avoid the genus entirely unless you really know what you're doing.

How do you detoxify fly agaric? ›

Detoxification of Fly Agaric
  1. Slice clean specimens (cap and stem) into pieces up to 5mm thick. ...
  2. Weigh the chopped mushrooms. ...
  3. Add the chopped mushrooms to the boiling salted water and start a timer once the water returns to the boil. ...
  4. Strain the mushrooms. ...
  5. Rinse the boiled mushrooms in plenty of fresh water.
26 Oct 2011

What is the death cap mushroom? ›

Amanita Phalloides

The Death Cap Mushroom is a deadly, poisonous introduced fungus that is responsible for 90% of all deaths related to mushroom consumption. There have been 4 fatalities and 12 reported incidents of poisoning associated with Death Cap Mushroom in the ACT(1).

What happens if you touch a death cap mushroom? ›

Tip: The death cap is perfectly safe to touch, as its toxin is only dangerous if ingested. If you're uncomfortable touching the poison mushroom, though, try wearing a pair of gloves. Collect a spore print and look for white spores left behind.

How can I tell if a mushroom is poisonous? ›

Mushrooms with white gills are often poisonous. So are those with a ring around the stem and those with a volva. Because the volva is often underground, it's important to dig around the base of a mushroom to look for it. Mushrooms with a red color on the cap or stem are also either poisonous or strongly hallucinogenic.

How do you detox Amanita? ›

When you detoxify the “Fly Amanita” by leaching out the water soluble toxins by parboiling thinly sliced mushrooms in plentiful water for at least ten, and preferably fifteen minutes, you transform Amanita muscaria into a prime edible mushroom.

Is fly agaric a psychedelic? ›

Fly agaric contains two toxins, ibotenic acid and muscimol, which are responsible for its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects.

How long does fly agaric last? ›

Amanitin produces symptoms within nine hours of consumption, but these symptoms diminish and disappear in one to two days. Unfortunately, symptoms return with a vengeance in a week.

What are the white spots on fly agaric? ›

How the fly agaric gets its spots - YouTube

How poisonous are fly agaric? ›

Uses of fly agaric

Fly agaric is poisonous and infamous for its psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties. But, reports of human deaths are extremely rare. It was traditionally used as an insecticide. The cap was broken up and sprinkled into saucers of milk.

How do you pick Amanita muscaria? ›

How to pick an Amanita - YouTube

How do you make Amanita muscaria edible? ›

The dried mushroom can be eaten directly, cut up, or by making an infusion with hot water, filtering it and drinking the water. It seems that the second method reduces stomach discomfort. The effects of A. muscaria can take up to 2 or 3 hours to appear.

What happens if you eat fly agaric? ›

Fly agaric is listed as both poisonous and psychoactive. It synthesizes ibotenic acid and muscimol, which are both poisonous and psychoactive. Symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, hallucinations, involuntary movements, delirium and seizures.

How do you make fly agaric for eating? ›

Eating them raw is a great recipe for getting sick. By drying them between 165 and 195 degrees F first, you convert about 30% of the ibotenic acid into muscimol. That's a great first step. Cooking them will often break down the substance entirely, so users that do this may not feel many symptoms at all.

Are Amanita muscaria poisonous to touch? ›

As deadly as some toxins may be, touching the mushroom is harmless. The harmful toxins in mushrooms must be consumed in order to harm you.

Does Amanita muscaria grow in the US? ›

Amanita muscaria var. guessowii American fly agaric (yellow variant) Amanita muscaria var. formosa has a yellow to orange cap, with the centre more orange or perhaps even reddish orange. It is found most commonly in northeastern North America, from Newfoundland and Quebec south all the way to the state of Tennessee.

What does Amanita muscaria taste like? ›

I tasted butter and salt at first, always nice, but then I got a little crisp, then the squinchy crunchiness of the mushroom, then that nutty flavor everyone who's eaten muscaria talks about.

How do you detox Amanita muscaria? ›

When you detoxify the “Fly Amanita” by leaching out the water soluble toxins by parboiling thinly sliced mushrooms in plentiful water for at least ten, and preferably fifteen minutes, you transform Amanita muscaria into a prime edible mushroom.

What happens if you touch a death cap mushroom? ›

Tip: The death cap is perfectly safe to touch, as its toxin is only dangerous if ingested. If you're uncomfortable touching the poison mushroom, though, try wearing a pair of gloves. Collect a spore print and look for white spores left behind.

Can I touch fly agaric? ›

So, this autumn when you are out running around, look for the Fly Agaric. Be safe, don't even touch it, just enjoy it with your eyes or camera.

Can mushroom toxins be absorbed through the skin? ›

Even touching the fungus can cause inflammation and dermatitis, researchers from James Cook University (JCU) said. "Of the hundred or so toxic mushrooms that are known to researchers, this is the only one in which the toxins can be absorbed through the skin," said Dr Matt Barrett.

Videos

1. Drinking Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms
(Psyched Substance)
2. Amanita muscaria poisonous mushroom
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3. The American yellow fly agaric Amanita muscaria var guessowii The Yellow mushroom with white spots
(Myco Gio)
4. Amanita family: Phalloides Verna Pantherina Muscaria Rubecsens & Vaginata. poison & edible mushrooms
(herbs & mushrooms)
5. The Misunderstood Magical Mushroom - Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric)
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6. Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric), A Closer Look. Tea Experience?
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