Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Edible Amanita Muscaria?!

As cliché as any other subject related to Toxicology I present you this "lady" mushroom, Amanita muscaria. Clap clap clap! White circles spotted red mushroom, a symbol of tripping and widely known for possessing hallucinogenic properties (contains muscimol - psychoactive alkaloid and ibotenic acid - powerful neurotoxin) this fungus among us is gaining, yet slowly, a new  function rather than making some feel shamanic. Amanita muscaria is an hallucinogenic species, nevertheless, it is rarely lethal and even less related to its gastronomic properties!!! In fact, this is exactly what I want to tell you about today. I came across some new information on the web, some might call it, by a crazy science blogger that decided to experiment it and go all "wild" on... that´s true... cooking with Amanita muscaria.

The tea produced as an infusion of these mushrooms are known for the clear reasons we all can easily observe, but this blogger followed William Rubel´s guide describing techniques for safely preparing mushrooms. The later calls it traditional cuisine, we all would agree on a more incisive definition, probably, tripping cuisine, or maybe not, as expressed in his article. He teaches ways of detoxifying dangerous mushrooms and get them at our service, dinner-wise. Would Gordon Brown use them in the F Word? 

How to make Amanita muscaria edible then? Well, the whole process is described in his blog and it is based on the fact that the amanita toxicants are water soluble; I could go on, line by line and tell you more in-depth about it, but it would be strong plagiarism as unfair to the awesome quality of the article describing the whole process (credits to the author because the article is quite catchy). Nevertheless, in a resumed way, it goes down to as follows:

a) Set a large pot of salted water to boil, [by all means do not let the water boil off before you add the mushrooms];
b) Boil the slices of mushrooms for about 13 minutes, repeat the procedure three times replacing the water each turn;
c) The cartoon tinted red colour fades away to be replaced by a yellowish hue, as stated in the article, thus, water replacing is a very important step;
d) Sauteing the mushrooms may convert the ibotenic acid into bioavailable muscimol and play a trick on you, as it might offer traces of the alkaloid who can cause you nausea and other side effects. So finally, saute on butter, salt  and olive oil (I personally would add some oregano and nutmeg, but that´s me);
e) Enjoy the feast responsibly!

The first experience drove the tester to a mild 'voyage' on a sort of "mood elevation and body high" as stated on his report, but he also mentioned the mistakes he probably did, and I  corrected, as advised by his article, on those 5 steps mentioned before. He wrote and I quote:  <<In the further interest of science, I may need to try this again with a more solid boiling protocol. I might also need to try a more active preparation of the mushroom to compare to Sunday’s mild experience. After all, some would consider detoxifying Amanita muscaria a sin of the same magnitude as decaffeinating coffee or skimming of milk>>.  Above: A munch of Amanita muscaria.

He will try again as it has been tried successfully before by, for example, Sofia, in Lithuania, they actually demystifiy the toxicity issue by stating <<Once mushrooms of this type have been properly prepared for eating there is no longer anything toxic about them. (See Alan Phipps Master’s Thesis (2000) on the place of Amanita muscaria in the traditional diet of Sanada, Japan, for a modern study on detoxifying A. muscaria)>>. The report will further be made available on this link.

The disclaimer is always necessary, do not attempt anything of these if you are not professionally qualified to do it, as there are non-detoxifiable mushrooms in the genus Amanita! See you next time on some more enjoyable, enriching domestic toxicology issues.

On the left: Sonia, with a basket of Amanita muscaria in Lithuania


  1. Amanita muscaria is indeed a toxic mushroom that causes many unpleasant poisonings around the world. It has been known for many generations that these toxins (ibotenic acid and muscimol) are water soluble, but very very few individuals around the world will bother to undergo the elaborate preparations necessary to make this mushroom edible; most folks fear it for its unpredictable and often unpleasant effects.

    Its historic use as an accepted edible species was way over-estimated in the Rubel/Arora paper, and in fact I believe that it has historically been a "hot topic," in other words, it got written about in years past for the same reason that it gathers press attention today: it's a "naughty" mushroom to admit to having tried.

    There is no evidence that it was ever a widely accepted edible species, both here in the US and around the world. Most folks everywhere, including in Japan and Russia, shun this mushroom, and rightly so.

    Some folks in Northern Russia and other places used it as an inebriant, but in NA that can be problematic, since our local versions appear to have more nasty toxins than entheogens. Your experience may vary.

    The Phipps thesis on muscaria use (made into pickles) in Sanada Town, Japan (NOT the entire province of Nagano, by any means) clearly stated that edible muscaria use, first begun when the salt roads were built into this mountainous region, is a fading tradition, and its consumption is limited to holidays (New Years) and for other special occasions.

    The same Sanada Town restaurants that might serve a non-toxic (through elaborate detoxification methods) muscaria pickle to American tourists like David Arora, also serves unboiled, grilled muscaria to local men, as a type of land-based fugu. It provided these men with a similar thrill of "cheating death."
    In fact, the Japanese government considers muscaria to be a poisonous mushroom, and so educates its populace.

    For the long version of this rebuttal to the Rubel/Arora paper, see the upcoming December 2012 issue of FUNGI magazine.

    Debbie Viess
    Bay Area Mycological Society

    1. I cannot tell you how valuable your comment is and what it means too me. Thanks a lot for your participation in discussing this issue with this blog's audience.

  2. Hi,
    At long last, my rebuttal to the Rubel/Arora article on eating Amanita muscara is in print and online.

    "Further Reflections on Amanita muscaria as an Edible Species" is now in print in "Mushroom, the Journal of Wild Mushrooming," Issue 110, Fall 2011-Winter 2012. Copies are available through Leon Shernoff, Publisher.

    The full text can also be viewed online at:

    All the Best,

    Debbie Viess

  3. Debbie Viess, you, and Arora, should make a distinction, an expressed discernment (if you were honest and not hysterical) between the medicinal use and the culinary use of mushrooms such as amanita muscaria. Instead of fear-mongering, we could have a real discussion of the fly agaric, its actual medicinal uses, and culinary traditions. For medicinal use, the mushroom is smoked over open fire (to kill any bugs inside) then dried thoroughly. Larger (but still reasonable and safe for an adult) amounts of this dried mushroom (1 to 3 caps?) can procure 'psychedelic' experiences, most notably in the realms of sound and music, as well as kinetic (movement) and balance related. Great lethargy and/or great energy may be experienced. In much smaller doses, such as a quarter of a cap, the effect is much more subtle, but very distinct in character. This mushroom should always be taken with copious amounts of water, and actually becomes clearer the more water you drink with it. It is easy to make a cold infusion tea of this mushroom, changing the water once after a half-hour and mixing the two infusions... To misrepresent this mushroom as a 'terrible killer' that will at best make you throw up at worst kill you sounds to me just like more fearmongering. The misuse of a medicine by fools and the unwise does not make the object of this misuse the culprit. Many great medicines are this way: it is the preparation and dose that counts, and the mushroom cannot be held responsible for the stupidities of overly avid or foolhearty humans.

    1. @ Simpler Thomas:

      I have been fairly busy with my newborn, now turned baby, and my ongoing PhD, to be able to respond to every comment or question in good time and opportunity. Nevertheless, I could not procrastinate more in responding you just because of the tone used and wrong assumptions from our words. Never at any point of this conversation (this is how I like to see participation from all of those who comment in my blog) people used any type of arrogance or forced others to believe in our personal opinions. Actually, most of the information provided is supported by scientific articles that are available online or at any good science online library. I am not going to rebate our statements and especially Debbie's opinion because she already did it much better than I possibly would, but I have to state that I feel sorry that you've misinterpreted a healthy discussion of ideas with campaigning against this specimen. I invite you to participate in our sharing of opinions, but please, for future reference, refrain from using wording as "(if you were honest and not hysterical)
      'terrible killer'
      The misuse of a medicine by fools and the unwise does not make the object of this misuse the culprit.
      the mushroom cannot be held responsible for the stupidities of overly avid or fool-hearty humans" because it is unfair, rude, arrogant, and actually offensive. In addition, I am preparing my own opinion on Debbie's article that it took me some time to read just because i am extremely busy at the moment with so many different responsibilities, but I will do it eventually, and it is a good article, try and read it for once. It is supplemented with loads of references to other articles in order to support her opinion, something that is completely missing from yours. All the ideas you've proposed need to be based on something, not just kitchen talk for friends. You are more than welcome to visit and share your opinions and ideas in this blog, but the moment you offend others who are willingly presenting their ideas to healthy discussions, I am afraid to say it but you ask yourself out. Have a nice time and visit us whenever, in good heart.

  4. Simple Thomas,
    Both Rubel and I are speaking of muscaria as used and accepted as an edible, not as a medicinal species. I agree that muscaria has medicinal uses (documented even in modern times on the Kamchatka Peninsula, and also used in topical preps), and I mention that in my article. Have you actually read it?

    No one is claiming that muscaria is a "terrible killer", but it HAS been implicated in several recent deaths here in North America, when folks who considered it to be "harmless" overindulged, as well as in Tanzania, where it was recently introduced into a place where several, commonly eaten, red caesars amanitas occurred. Mistaken IDs caused several documented deaths when it was treated as a harmless edible. Even people who are far from being "fools" have gotten poisoned by trying to treat it as an edible species through a parboiling procedure.

    I believe in presenting all of the facts available, not just the ones that suit my bias.

    I do believe that it is you who is a bit of over the top here, but I understand that sometimes eating muscaria can create an agitated mind. ;)

    There is a big difference between instilling reasonable caution and fear mongering.

    Debbie Viess

  5. I don't know much about eating it, however I have used it recreationally on a pill i got and let me tell you it has been insane. My crown chakra is unbalanced my right eye is going the opposite direction etc. It is a mystical spiritual experience yet it can be hard to handle. Please be very cautious and if you have a bad experience go get some acupuncture done. I still have my crown chakra unbalanced but some grounding acupuncture was a good start. Na maste

  6. Hello Again! The old M the J link is now broken. I have a new link to my original paper, now up on the BAMS website, here: