Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric) has always been one of those wonder mushrooms for me. I’ve been fascinated with its beauty ever since I was a kid growing up in Lithuania. While not considered to be an edible mushroom, I’ve heard plenty of stories of using it as medicine (joint inflamation) or people pickling them for winter after careful preparation like boiling and pouring out the “toxic” water. Personally, I was interested in one thing only – can this queen of the forest help me sleep better tonight.
There are stories of shamanic use in Siberia, stories of inner journeys and strange dreams, stories of finding peace and tranquility, healing insights, etc. Personally, I didn’t experience any of them. The mushroom didn’t speak to me, didn’t provide any insights, all it did was induce massive insomnia for several weeks afterwards.
Why I Felt Amanita Mushroom Can Help With Insomnia
Amanita has two active compouds: muscimol and ibutenic acid. Muscimol is a very strong GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptor agonist. Simply put it help the brain to calm down and relax. This is how various “GABAergic” supplements like L-Theanine, valerian, passioflower, skullcap and many others work – they increase GABA and inhibit the stimulating effects of glutamate and stress.
So muscimol is what got me curious. Muscimol is what made me so hopeful. Muscimol is what got me experimenting. There’s only one problem: muscimol has to be converted by our liver and it has to be converted from ibutenic acid, which is that second psycho-active ingredient of the Amanitas. Ibutenic acid happens to be a very potent neuro stimulant. As wikipedia says “It is a conformationally-restricted analogue of the neurotransmitter glutamate, and due to its structural similarity to this neurotransmitter, acts as a non-selective glutamate receptor agonist. ” Ibutenic acid is the complete opposite of muscimol.
The idea is simple: treat the mushroom by drying it, store it in some cool place for three months and then make tea. This is supposed to help convert ibutenic acid into muscimol. A process, otherwise known as decarboxylation. I figured once the mushroom is decarboxylated I’ll have nothing but pure goodness of GABA rich muscimol and it should knock me out at night real good.
Who Benefits, Who Doesn’t
I’m guessing that one group of people who feel the benefits of the mushroom the most are the ones that have rather turbulent minds. When they first try Amanita they may report a great sense of tranquility. I am guessing this happens because of the stark contrast between their “normal” self and the Amanita induced calmness. However, if one is an avid meditator or QiGong practitioner (induces GABA states), Amanita may do nothing for you other than make you feel a bit sedated.
The second group are the ones that brave high doses. These are the ones that report some wild trips but you don’t hear about the rest of the 90% that either had a sleepless night, felt very sick or ended up in a hospital with symptoms of acute poisoning.