Every year, people’s daily lives seem to be subjected to increasing regulations, all supposedly for the common good. However, one might question whether this is truly the case.
Throughout history, human beings have coexisted with nature for thousands of years, seeking answers to their questions and finding solace in the natural world. Plants and mushrooms, in particular, have held the secrets to remedies for physical and spiritual ailments that have plagued mankind. This knowledge has been passed down through generations, fostering a deep bond with nature and the ability to listen to its subtle messages. This connection allowed people to tap into the gifts the earth offered. Yet, in just the last three generations, this bond has been drastically severed.
Today, strict rules govern almost every aspect of life, dictating what is considered good or bad, harmful or helpful. Substances, including those from plants, are often pigeonholed into categories and subcategories without considering their holistic nature. An example of this is tansy, which was once widely used for its antiparasitic properties but is now discouraged for internal use due to the isolation of thujone within it.
As far back as the 16th century, Paracelsus wisely noted,
“All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.” In short “The dose makes the poison”.
Every plant and fungus consists of numerous substances that interact in various ways, either neutralizing or enhancing each other’s effects. Treating everything as a uniform entity is limiting and potentially disabling. Another example is the red fly agaric, scientifically known as Amanita muscaria L., which both frightens and intrigues people with its beautiful and distinctive appearance. Fear of even touching its fruiting bodies has been instilled from a young age, as it is believed to cause poisoning and death. However, the truth is that this species is not necessarily poisonous. While consuming it in large quantities or improperly preparing it can cause harm, such as stomach illness, but it is not lethal.
Let's uncover the mystery behind the red hat
Whenever I indulge in mushrooms, my grandfather’s voice echoes in my mind, claiming that mushrooms offer taste but lack nutritional value. Have you ever encountered such opinion?
In truth, mushrooms are abundant in various nutrients rarely found in other foods. They are rich in lipids, proteins, choline, acetylcholine, and sugars. The same applies to Amanita, which stands out due to two enigmatic substances sparking controversy and fascination – ibotenic acid and muscimol.
As early as the mid-nineteenth century, scientists became captivated by the composition of this exquisite mushroom, recognizing its psychoactive effects. Over the next century, discussions and attempts to isolate substances known to us nowadays arose, leading to the discovery of muscarine, a potentially poisonous compound. Its ingestion causes vomiting, sweating, and nausea. However, in Amanita muscaria, muscarine is present in a minute amount of about 0.0002%.
Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, the dose makes the poison, and it’s worth noting that muscarine exhibits neuroprotective properties, guarding against oxidative stress and DNA damage. Consequently, it may be beneficial in countering neurodegenerative ailments such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the hallucinogenic substances, which are likely the reason you came here.
Ibotenic acid, primarily found in raw and fresh specimens, concentrates in the red skin and flesh of the caps. This substance is potentially neurotoxic and psychotropic. Overconsumption by humans may lead to gastric problems, visual distortions, drowsiness, balance disorders, and mild muscle twitching. However, harm typically arises only from regular intake of high doses.
So why Amanita muscaria poisoning?
The recent poisonings of Amanita are attributed solely to ignorance and, let’s admit it, human folly. Just because fly agaric contains psychoactive and hallucinogenic compounds doesn’t mean one should seek out readily available drugs in the woods.
Amanita is indeed a magical mushroom, but utilizing it requires a thorough understanding of the subject. Consuming raw or poorly prepared fruiting bodies can result in food poisoning, though not, as mushroom lexicons warn, in death.
Muscimol, the “miracle drug” within the fly agaric, is indeed a valuable compound. While it naturally occurs in small amounts in fresh fruiting bodies, its abundance increases through processes like drying, where ibotenic acid transforms into muscimol. This transformation can also take place in an acidic environment, unveiling one of the secrets of proper toadstool preparation.
Without delving too deeply into the chemistry, muscimol triggers an elevation in serotonin and acetylcholine levels, while decreasing noradrenaline. Consequently, it enhances well-being, reduces stress, improves and safeguards memory, and mitigates inflammation.
Additionally, fly agaric contains vitamin D, a crucial but often overlooked component in therapies, offering significant health benefits. Its deficiency leads to fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, and reduced overall resistance to diseases and infections. Given that Amanita primarily thrives in temperate climates with limited sunlight, its consumption among Siberian tribes likely acted as an essential dietary supplement.
What other health properties can Amanita boast?
Research conducted on a group of volunteers dealing with various issues like
revealed promising results. As many as 80% of the participants confirmed the effectiveness of the therapy, with 55% opting to discontinue their previous medications. This showcases the substantial therapeutic potential of the red hero, the fly agaric.
Especially addiction is notoriously challenging to address. Therapies often lead to replacing one substance for another. However, in the case of fly agaric and muscimol, subjects managed to break this vicious cycle. Muscimol influences the brain without causing addiction, relieving withdrawal symptoms and reducing dependence on common stimulants like alcohol, opiates, anti-anxiety, and sedatives.
Regarding ailments such as general fatigue and pain, Amanita proved to be almost 100% effective. This comes as no surprise considering its historical and cultural use among the peoples of Siberia, Russia, and Europe. Ethnographic studies attest to Amanita being employed as a stimulant, enabling individuals to endure longer hours of work in harsh Siberian conditions. Even today, in Russia, analgesic ointments and creams with fly agaric extract can be found, perpetuating its use for such purposes.
The Oldest Entheogen?
Anthropological sources suggest that fly agaric is possibly the oldest hallucinogenic substance used by humankind. Evidence across Europe indicates the use of mushrooms in various ceremonies and rituals dating back to the Stone Age. This knowledge then spread to Asia and further migrated to North America through the Bering Strait. Scientific researchers from around the world have described rituals involving fly agarics among various cultures, including those in Siberia, Mesoamerica, Germanic, Nordic, Celtic, and Japan.
Primarily utilized by shamans, Amanita aided them in entering trances and activating their healing powers. Among the Koriaks, the fly agaric was believed to grow from the saliva of the supreme god, rendering it sacred. Other tribes also revered Amanita as a sacred substance, deserving utmost respect, as its consumption allowed individuals to connect with ancestors, gain profound knowledge, glimpse into the future and past, and even journey into other dimensions.
Have You Heard of Soma?
In ancient Indian texts known as the Vedas, Soma is described as a divine elixir of immortality. The depiction portrays it as a red and fleshy substance without mentioning leaves or fruits. It was said to enable direct contact with the gods, induce visions, and potentially grant immortality.
Interestingly, Gordon Wasson proposed a notion in 1968, suggesting that Amanita muscaria might be the legendary Soma. However, this theory has not been universally accepted or definitively proven. You can read more about Wasson theory in his book “Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality”.
Nevertheless, Amanita’s allure continues to capture the human imagination, and delving deeper into its history reveals a wealth of fascinating information. Some even speculate that the entire foundation of Christianity could be linked to a toadstool cult, a notion proposed in 1970 by John Allegro in his book “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross,”
The subject is so wide that a separate, dedicated series of articles could explore the ritual use of Amanita muscaria across different tribes and societies, both in ancient times and the present. As interest in entheogens grows, more people worldwide seek answers to their inner struggles and problems by reconnecting with nature and exploring ancestral roots. In a world suffocating with technology and modernity, an increasing number of individuals understand the value of maintaining contact with nature.
This article aims to encourage readers to question the veracity of information presented by the media and to adopt a broader perspective on certain issues. However, it is essential to exercise caution, as the consumption of Amanita muscaria demands skillful preparation, dietary changes, and body detoxification, including the exclusion of salt, alcohol, meat, and processed foods.
In conclusion, there is a need for a balanced approach that appreciates the complexities of nature’s offerings and acknowledges the wisdom of past generations. By reestablishing our connection with nature and recognizing the intricate interactions within natural substances, we can make more informed and empowering choices for our well-being.