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Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria is a mushroom. A. muscaria var. muscaria, var. flavivolvata and var. formosa are commonly called Fly Agaric.

Variety muscaria is a classic mushroom. Fully grown, the cap is usually around 12 cm in diameter (up to 30 cm) with a distinctive yellow, orange or red colour, scattered with white, removable "warts" which are remnants of the "universal veil" or volva, a membrane that encloses the entire mushroom when it is still very young. The stem is white, 5-20 cm, with a basal bulb that also bears the remnants of the volva in the form of a ragged collar or ruff that circles the base of the stalk (or stipe) where the rest of the volva tore away with the cap as it expanded with age. It grows on the ground in a number of different woodlands, although pine, spruce and fir are common. It is considered poisonous,though rarely fatally so. The name "Fly Agaric" comes from its use as an insecticide - crushed in milk, but it is sometimes consumed for its psychopharmacological effects.

It contains a number of entheogenic constituents - ibotenic acid, muscimol, muscazone and muscarine, of which muscimol (3hydroxy-5-aminomethy-1 isoxazole) is the most significant. Consuming the mushrooms in doses of over 1 g can cause nausea but also can cause a number of other effects, depending on dosage, ranging from twitching to drowsiness, cholergenic effects (lower blood pressure, increase sweat and saliva), visual distortions, mood changes, euphoria, relaxation, hallucinations and in near fatal doses swollen features, high rage and madness, characterised by the individual acting in a manic manner followed by periods of quiet hallucination; then another bout of activity. Effects appear after 60 minutes or so, peak within three hours, but certain effects can last for up to ten hours. The effect per volume consumed is highly variable and individuals can react quite differently to the same dose. Deaths from A.muscaria are extremely rare, as would be the case with any toxic mushroom eaten in sufficient amounts. The amount and ratio of chemical compounds per mushroom also varies widely from region to region, season to season, further confusing the issue. As well, many older books on the subject list it as deadly , giving the impression that it is far more toxic than it really is. The vast majority of mushroom poisoning (90+ %) fatalities are from having eaten either the Death Cap(see below) or one of the Destroying Angels, several overall white Amanita species.

This mushroom, like its psychoactive relatives the Psilocybe species, have been used in rituals throughout history, wherever they occur in the northern hemisphere - from Europe through Siberia to Japan to North America. The active ingredient is excreted in the urine of those consuming the mushrooms, and it has sometimes been the practice for a shaman to consume the mushrooms, and the rest of the tribe to drink his urine: the shaman in effect is partially detoxifying the drug. It has been suggested that the berserkers took the fly agaric before battle.

Amanita Muscaria is widely thought to be the Soma talked about in the hindu scriptures, and is less often also thought to be the amrita talked about in Buddhist scriptures.

Garden ornaments, and children's picture books depicting gnomes and fairies very often show fly agaric mushrooms used as seats, or homes; it is rather uncommon for any other mushroom to be shown in this role. How this artistic convention arose is a matter of speculation. See also: Amanita virosa (Destroying Angel), Amanita phalloides (Death Cap)

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