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1. Fly agaric 2. Common name3. Botanical name4. Description5. Effect6. Toxicity7. Use by shamans in Northeast Asia and Siberia8. Use by the Vikings9. Edible10. Use in Japan

Fly agaric

Common name

Fly agaric (English) refers to the old custom where the mushroom was put in milk to kill flies in the house.

Botanical name

Amanita muscaria. The genus Amanita probably comes from the Greek word Amanitai which means: mushroom without details. According to other sources (Person) it would come from Amanos, an island between Sicily and Syria, where the mushroom could be found in large numbers.

Warning: Within the Amanita genus the most deadly mushrooms occur (for example, Amanita phalloides). 

Description

The Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria var.muscaria) is a mushroom with the red color and white dots. She certainly belongs to the very striking mushrooms. When she is young, a white layer covers the entire fruiting body, when she gets bigger this white layer breaks into the white dots, which can disappear more and more with age. The cap can be 3 to 39 cm in diameter and the stem 5 to 20 cm long. The stem has a ring and becomes spherical towards the bottom. The colour of the stem is white to cream. The slats (on the underside of the cap) are separate or slightly attached to each other and are white in colour. The trace print is white.

The Fly agaric occurs in western North America, Europe and Asia. It grows under different tree species, often these are coniferous forests. It grows under pines, spruces, oaks and madrone. Sometimes alone, sometimes in large numbers.

Effect

The Fly agaric contains several active substances that ensure its psychoactive effect. Some of these are ibotenic acid, muscimol and (to a lesser extent) muscazone. In a study (Wieland et al. 1953) the tryptamine bufotenin was extracted from Amanita muscaria. Bufotenin is only of animal origin (including the Bufo toad, for example Bufo alvarius). This substance is very similar in chemical structure to the substances psilocybin, DMT and 5-MeO-DMT.
According to Jonathan Ott, the effects can be described as follows:

"After about 90 minutes after ingestion, the full effects begin. Lifeless objects suddenly all seem to have a soul, wave movements in the field of vision occur, auditory hallucinations and a very clear and silent mental state of being. Side effects include nausea, paralysis and loss of sense of coordination. The effects are very different from those of psilocybin, LSD and mescaline and can last for up to eight hours". 

Toxicity

The Fly agaric also contains several toxic substances. Although not lethal, they can cause very unpleasant side effects, including nausea, fainting, loss of sense of orientation.

Although several books mention that the Amanita muscaria is a deadly toxic mushroom, according to etmycologist R. Gordon Wasson, among others, this is not true. According to him there is no known case in which someone has ingested a lethal amount of this mushroom. According to Jonathan Ott, too little is still known about the toxicity of this mushroom. This source mentions that the active and toxic substances can be present in very different quantities. This depends on the location, the season and other factors. It is therefore very easy to ingest too high a dose, so that the negative effects take over. A dissociative state can occur in which one loses contact with reality and can even end up in a certain coma state.

According to various user experiences the effect of the Fly agaric is not pleasant, and often not psychedelic. By drying the Amanita muscaria, part of the substance turns ibotenic acid into muscimol. This results in an increased psychoactive effect and a reduction of negative side effects.

Use by shamans in Northeast Asia and Siberia

In Siberia there is a very long tradition in which this mushroom played an important role. In Kamchatka (Siberia) the mushroom has many special properties and is used by shamans to promote the healing of various diseases. Here the Fly agaric is called 'mukhomor'. Nowadays the various tribes of this environment are threatened with extinction and the knowledge is only passed on by a single shaman. Information about the use of the mushroom (source: Carter/Jo Norris):

Preparation: Pick the Fly agaric when it grows as a single mushroom, not when it forms a group with other mushrooms. Dig them out with your hand, do not use a knife. Smaller specimens (with the hat open / fleece) are stronger. Dry the mushrooms in the shade, preferably with a breeze, the hats pointing upwards.

Travel: Take a number of mushrooms in quantities of odd numbers. Three or five pieces or specimens. Drink plenty of water. If you take a large dose, you will enter a state of lethargy. Warn the people around you that you cannot be disturbed in the coming period (one hour, three hours, one day, one year).

Medicinal effect: Three fresh pieces of Amanita muscaria would work against a sore throat and cancer. 

Preparation for joint pain: put some young mushrooms in an airtight container. Place them in a dark and cool room (e.g. a basement) and wait for juice to come out of the mushrooms. Take them in your hand, squeeze them and lubricate the pulp in the place of the joint pain. Wrap the bandage here and let it sit overnight. 

Amanita muscaria would also be used by older members of the Koryak tribe as a sleep aid and as a health tonic. They ate the dried mushroom or soaked her in blueberry juice. As a result, "they slept for eight hours and awoke refreshed with more energy than usual." (Lincoff 19595).

There was a real barter trade in Siberia in which the Kamtchatka region had a lot of Fly agarics and exchanged these with other regions for reindeer, among others. One mushroom would sometimes be exchanged for one reindeer (Lewin 1931). Within the people of the Koryaks it was common for the women to chew on pieces of dried Amanita muscaria, make rolls of it and the men would swallow it. Whether the women also got psychoactive effects is not known. It was soon noticed that the active ingredients of the mushroom were absorbed through the urine. In this way one could have several times the effect of one mushroom. It was therefore customary to drink one's own urine, in order to have another effect of the mushroom. The effects would vary greatly from person to person, depending on the dose and potency of the mushroom. Sometimes there would be no effects at all. Description of the effects are as follows: after 1 to 2 hours one began to shiver, and to move a lot. In this phase the users were happy and euphoric, and the visions they talked about with each other and with the persons in the visions began. It was also possible that the users experienced a wide range of emotions, including anger, grief. They sang and danced in cheerfulness or anger. This overactivity was followed by a paralysis that almost resembled unconsciousness. Then the energetic phase could repeat itself, accompanied by hallucinations.

Use by the Vikings

Although it remains speculation, there are several sources mentioning that Amanita muscaria was used by the Vikings. S. Odmann first suggested in 1784 that they used the mushroom during battles. Thus, the Berserker people would use the effects of the Fly agaric to be able to perform superhuman actions during combat. There was talk of the so-called Bereserk Rage, in which the Vikings in battle almost turned into wild animals and attacked friend and foe. 

Edible

In traditional use the Fly agaric is also used as an edible mushroom, but only after the active substances have been removed by boiling the mushroom. In this way, the active substances end up in the water, so the mushroom is safe to eat. The taste of the mushroom is not significant.

Cut the cap and stem of the Amanita muscaria into thin slices (not more than 3 to 4 mm thick). This accelerates the dissolution of the active ingredients. For every 110 grams of mushroom, use 1 litre of water with 1 teaspoon of salt. If necessary, herbs can be added to the water for the taste. Bring the water to boiling point (wait for it to boil) and then add the pieces of mushroom. Boil the mushroom for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mushroom is soft. Drain the water and rinse.

Use in Japan

In Sanada (Nagano, Japan) the dried Amanita muscaria would be used as a seasoning in the kitchen, in order to obtain the taste umami. Also, the dried powdered mushroom would be used in soups and sauces.
 

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