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Iconic Toadstool Or Sacred Mushroom?

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Amanita muscaria, aka the Fly Agaric Mushroom

Here at Moxie Mushrooms, we cultivate most of the produce we bring to our customers. Our relationship with mushrooms (other than your common 'buttons') began with foraging, though, and we do still bring seasonal foraged products to market alongside our cultivated wares. Unlike many gourmet mushroom growers, we have outdoor grow beds for seasonal mushrooms, such as our popular Wine Caps, so we've always let a little of the outdoors in.

Some mushrooms resist attempts to cultivate, most often because they depend upon certain trees in the forest. Arguably the most recognisable of these is the brightly-coloured Amanita muscaria, or 'Fly Agaric' mushroom. The red cap with white spots appears in fairy tale images, literature ("Alice in Wonderland"), videogames (e.g. "Mario") and cartoons (the homes of the Smurfs!). Anyone would be forgiven for thinking this mushroom is the stuff of legends, but it is real, and there is a real reason for the association with legends.

The first thing we should say about this mushroom is that it is conventionally described as "Poisonous," and that it contains chemical compounds rightly identified as "Toxic." If asked to describe a 'Toadstool', the image of A. muscaria would probably be the first to come to mind. It belongs to a genus of mushrooms that includes both some of the most deadly poisonous ("Death Cap" and "Destroying Angel" mushrooms) and some of the most highly-sought gourmet edibles. A. muscaria's toxins are rarely, if at all, deadly, however. Instead, they are intoxicating and psychoactive.

A. muscaria is perhaps the most 'magic' of mushrooms. It contains a different set of compounds to the 'normal' magic mushrooms of the Psilocybe genus. When ingested, these are known to cause intoxication, delerium and a range of hallucinatory effects. When Alice ate from the mushroom in Wonderland, she experienced metric distortions and dissociation. Shamanic peoples throughout this mushroom's wide range traditionally use this mushroom as an entheogen in their spiritual practices, whilst others use it as a medicinal or even recreational drug. Still others forage the mushroom as a gourmet edible, with a preparation process that removes most of the toxins prior to preservation. We've adapted traditional methods to prepare our own special edition gourmet offering, styled MOX13: Fugu of the Woods.

Although Psilocybe mushrooms are currently illegal in Canada, A. muscaria is not. In fact, it's classed as a Natural Health Product. It contains two main active compounds responsible for its psychoactive effects: muscimol (an average of 6mg per mushroom) and ibotenic acid (an average of 60mg per mushroom), a pro-drug which can be decarboxylated to form more muscimol. Of the two, ibotenic acid is responsible for most of the unpleasant physical effects of ingesting A. muscaria: nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.

To varying degrees, decarboxylation occurs:

during dehydration, so drying the mushroom increases its potency before use

after ingestion, with the body naturally processing and excreting the toxins in urine - a variety of practices of collecting and drinking urine from humans and animals (reindeer! Ever wondered why Santa's reindeer fly?) that have eaten the mushrooms exist around the world, taking advantage of the initial eater to increase the potent muscimol content whilst reducing the unpleasant concentration of ibotenic acid. The old practice of household servants drinking the urine of their masters after they had purchased and ingested A. muscaria recreationally is where we derived the expression "Taking the piss!"

by chemical reaction through prolonged boiling in an acidic solution. We use this method at Moxie Mushrooms to prepare our Amanita muscaria Tincture, a concentrated muscimol-majority extract intended for microdosing, medicinal and entheogenic use.

Here at Moxie Mushrooms, we are confident that the fungal kingdom, the mysteries of which are still being unlocked by scientific method, harbours many beneficial compounds to enhance human life quality, promote health, longevity and wellbeing. Anglophonic societies tend to be more fungiphobic than others, where wider ranges of edible mushrooms more regularly form part of the diet and folk medicinal practices. By cultivating and promoting the consumption of gourmet edible mushrooms, we hope to raise awareness of the benefits of mushrooms in our local community.

By now, most people have heard about the potential mental health benefits and clinical applications of magic mushrooms (Psilocybe). A. muscaria's different compounds have different effects and potential benefits. So far, anecdotal evidence from long term users of this mushroom suggests that microdosing can be used to treat stress and anxiety, alleviate symptoms of PTSD, insomnia, chronic treatment-resistant depression, benzodiazepine withdrawal, and helps in chronic pain management. Sooner or later, the science will catch up. Until then, we encourage people to make their own research, find reputable sources of information, consult their doctors, and use their own best judgement when exploring this new frontier.

Our Limited Edition "Batch 13" AAA grade Amanita muscaria buttons harvested on Friday 13th October 2023

Entheogenic users recognise ingesting A. muscaria is a notoriously unpredictable experience, due to the practice of eating a single dried cap as their 'trip dose'. Individual mushrooms vary so greatly in their active content that on any such occasion a psychonaut could be taking up to ten times the expected dose! By replacing individual mushrooms with a decarboxylated tincture formed from a large batch of premium quality mushrooms (see "Batch 13" image, above), the active content of which is averaged out throughout the batch, we provide a more consistent, manageable and potentially beneficial experience.

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