Exploring Muscimol: Amanita Muscaria’s Most Prevalent Psychoactive Compound
Exploring Muscimol: Amanita Muscaria’s Most Prevalent Psychoactive Compound
- Exploring Muscimol: Amanita Muscaria’s Most Prevalent Psychoactive Compound
- What is Muscimol?
- Is Muscimol a Psychedelic?
- Is Muscimol Therapeutic?
- What Other Active Ingredients Does Amanita Muscaria Contain?
- Muscimol vs. Psilocybin: What’s the difference?
- Muscimol FAQ
Amanita muscaria, the iconic red-capped mushroom, holds an allure that transcends cultures and time. While the fungi, also known as Fly Agaric, contains an entourage of psychoactive compounds, central to its intrigue is muscimol, the most famous psychoactive compound identified. Known for inducing altered states and relaxation, muscimol has become a focal point for those interested in natural substances' psychoactive and therapeutic potential.
This article investigates muscimol, including its psychoactive effects, therapeutic potential, safety, and legality.
What is Muscimol?
Muscimol is the primary compound that gives Amanita mushrooms their psychoactive and therapeutic effects. Chemically, muscimol is a potent agonist (activator) of GABA, a brain neurotransmitter known for calming effects. This activation plays a significant role in controlling body functions like mood, anxiety, and sleep.
How it works:
- GABA is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, which dampens nervous system activity. Imbalances in GABA levels are often linked to conditions like anxiety disorders, insomnia, and epilepsy.
- When muscimol interacts with GABA receptors, it reduces central nervous system activity, contributing to the compound’s characteristic sedative and relaxing qualities.
- At high enough doses, muscimol’s GABA action can cause sensory deprivation, leaving users with a deep sense of tranquility, a dream-like state of mind, and an altered perceptive state.
Is Muscimol a Psychedelic?
Like psilocybin (magic mushrooms’ active ingredient), muscimol will produce different dosage-dependent effects but is mainly psychoactive, meaning a change of mind state, but not overwhelmingly psychedelic like traditional magic mushrooms. People won’t experience the same intense effects as psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms, such as intricate visual patterns and intense body sensations. Its influence is much more nuanced and subtle. However, high doses of muscimol can have psychedelic effects, altering hearing, taste, and sensory perception. Visions from muscimol commonly occur in vivid dreams while asleep.
Dosage Based Effects
Amanita’s cultural heritage traces back thousands of years. Yet, it is a relative newcomer to the Western world, so the body of traditional research around its physiological effects is scant.
While a microdose may produce subtle physiological changes, Reports indicate a psychoactive dose of muscimol is between 5 and 15 mg, which as little as 1 gram of dried A. muscaria might contain. Muscimol doses in this range and higher can cause psychoactive effects, such as:
- Euphoria and tranquility
- A dream-like or lucid state of mind
- Out-of-body experiences
- Strong visions
- Religious insights
- Synesthesia (experiencing one of the senses through another, such as seeing words in color)
Is Muscimol Therapeutic?
Various cultures have harnessed the muscimol derived from Amanita muscaria as a traditional medicine for millenia. Modern medicinal chemistry and research back up these conventional uses, finding that muscimol’s interaction with the body’s GABA system has multiple mental and physical health benefits.
While still in the early stages, studies on muscimol show promising results among several therapeutic categories, including:
- Treating stress and anxiety: A 2021 study showed that muscimol’s ability to suppress the central nervous system gives it anxiolytic properties that may effectively reduce anxiety. Another animal study showed that muscimol increases dopamine, a chemical released in the brain that makes people feel good and boosts mood.
- Relieving inflammation and pain: A 2022 animal study showed muscimol could protect against systemic inflammatory responses, and a Psyched Wellness study showed Amanita muscaria could fight inflammatory diseases such as atopic dermatitis and hives. In a 2014 study, three evaluated doses of muscimol gave patients a significant decrease in acute neuropathic pain.
- Improving memory and brain function: Research on muscimol indicates Amanita muscaria could treat symptoms associated with Huntington's Disease and Alzheimer's. Another study showed muscimol microinjections successfully reversed essential tremor symptoms in Parkinson’s patients.
- Promoting restorative sleep: An animal study and a study using muscimol microinjections showed muscimol increases the number and duration of REM episodes, the sleep stage most important for mood, memories, and learning. In some cases, muscimol can also improve deep sleep needed for rest and rejuvenation.
A growing body of research and anecdotal evidence indicate that microdosing muscimol could also be therapeutically beneficial. Microdosing is taking small doses of a substance to experience therapeutic effects without the profound mind-altering properties. A starting muscimol microdose is 1-2 milligrams for many people and maybe less for others.
Many users describe muscimol’s small-dose effects as a more calming, laid-back experience. Common effects include:
- Relaxing euphoria
- Warm body sensations
- Analgesia (pain relief)
- A sense of peace and sleepiness
- Increased ability to meditate
- Better sleep quality
- Anxiety Reduction
The book “Microdosing with Amanita Muscaria” explores some of these effects in a large-scale review of 5,900 microdosers. Participants attested to several medicinal benefits, including:
- Depression relief
- Energy and virility
- Creativity boost
- Sleep and insomnia support
- Relief for pain, digestive issues, and skin conditions
Several brands already offer Amanita muscaria products featuring low, therapeutic muscimol doses of 1-5 mg. Many receive five-star consumer reviews, such as:
- Calm, a muscimol extract by Psyched Wellness, is intended to soothe the body, tackle physical distress, and help with sleep. Users say it is “soothing and effective,” gave them “more quality sleep than normal,” and had them “waking up refreshed and nourished.”
- Amanita Muscaria mushroom gummies by Exhale Wellness contain 500 mg of amanita extract and 5 mg of muscimol. Users say it had them “floating on celestial waves” with “no ill effects, only good ones.”
What Other Active Ingredients Does Amanita Muscaria Contain?
Muscimol is not the only active substance in Amanita muscaria. These mushrooms also feature ibotenic acid and muscarine, compounds that contribute to the mushroom’s psychoactive properties.
- Ibotenic acid: Ibotenic acid is the precursor to muscimol. When Amanita muscaria mushrooms are ingested or dried, the ibotenic acid they contain can be decarboxylated, which means the carboxyl group (-COOH) is removed, forming muscimol. This decarboxylation process is often initiated by heat, drying, or even the acidic environment of the stomach
Ibotenic acid activates glutamate NMDA receptors. This action can provide for enhanced neural plasticity, learning, and memory. However, overstimulation from ingesting a large amount of Ibotenic acid can cause adverse effects such as confusion, delirium, gastrointestinal distress, sleepiness, and ataxia (drunken gate).
Typically, these symptoms will subside as the ibotenic acid is converted to muscimol in the body. However, it’s preferable for this conversion to happen before ingestion through processing methods.
- Muscarine is a neurotransmitter that activates muscarinic receptors of the cholinergic parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), also known as the ‘Rest and Digest’ system of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The contrasting ANS system is referred to as ‘Fight or Flight’ which releases stress hormones like adrenaline, dopamine, and cortisol when activated.
Activating the ‘Rest and Digest’ system can diminish the effects of an activated Fight or Flight system, causing enhanced feelings of relaxation. However, overactivation of PNS with muscarine dose can cause adverse effects, slowing heart rate and lowering blood pressure. This can lead to feelings of weakness, dizziness, and fainting.
Consuming large amounts of unprocessed fresh or dried Amanita muscaria can lead to adverse effects. Consumers should exercise caution when self-prescribing and start at the microdose level. Ideally, consumers also review the product’s third-party certified laboratory test results through the Certificate of Analysis (COA) before purchasing. The COA will indicate the muscimol, ibotenic acid and muscarine levels.
Muscimol vs. Psilocybin: What’s the difference?
Muscimol is not a “classic psychedelic” compound like psilocybin in magic mushrooms. The two differ significantly in many respects, including how they work in the body, effects, and medical value.
How they work: Muscimol works through GABA neurotransmitter activation, primarily affecting nervous system function. Psilocybin’s chemical structure is similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin. When psilocybin activates serotonin receptors, neural regions process information and communicate differently, affecting mood, cognition, and perception.
Effects: Unlike muscimol, which is more sedative, psilocybin’s psychedelic effects tend to be more intense and entail visual effects, sensory enhancement, and vivid colors and geometric patterns. Some users experience spiritual insights.
Medical value: Currently, most muscimol trials and studies focus on pain relief, sleep, and relaxation. Psilocybin studies focus on the compound’s power to help with mental and emotional conditions like depression, PTSD, and addiction.
Is Muscimol Legal?
Muscimol does not appear on the DEA’s controlled substances list, making it federally unregulated and legal to buy in most of the United States.
On the state level, only Louisiana regulates muscimol under Louisiana State Act 159, which bans the possession and cultivation of Amanita muscaria mushrooms and outlaws preparations intended for human consumption. These bans include Amanita’s principal active ingredient, muscimol.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not specifically approve or regulate mushrooms for consumption, such as cremini, portobello, or Amanita muscaria as they do other food additives or pharmaceuticals.
Consumers should only purchase from reputable brands that test for purity and potency with DEA-certified labs like ACS Laboratory. These tests confirm the extract’s active ingredient potency and ensure it’s free from dangerous contaminants. Consumers should look for QR codes on packaging or websites to find a product’s test results on a Certificate of Analysis.
Is Muscimol Safe?
Research indicates muscimol is generally safe and well-tolerated Amanita muscaria compound, especially in amounts well below the adverse effects threshold. Additionally, muscimol exhibits beneficial therapeutic properties.
Fresh Amanita mushroom specimens contain mostly ibotenic acid. In fact, the ibotenic acid to muscimol ratio in an Amanita muscaria’s fungal cap tissue is about 9 to 1 or greater. This ratio is lower in dried samples, but ibotenic acid often still exceeds muscimol at a ratio of three to two. When Ingesting Amanita Muscara in large quantities mainly containing ibotenic acid, one could experience adverse effects, such as:
- Loss of balance
- Involuntary bodily movements
As stated earlier, producers of Amanita Muscaria products should employ techniques that convert or “decarboxylate”) the ibotenic acid to muscimol for efficacy and safety purposes. Fortunately, manufacturing processes can create a 90-to-1 or better ratio of muscimol to ibotenic acid, rendering the ibotenic acid effects less taxing.
Why should I try muscimol?
Muscimol offers a unique opportunity to explore altered states and therapeutic benefits depending on the dose. In psychoactive doses, muscimol can induce euphoria and dream-like visions. It can support sleep, pain, and anxiety conditions in smaller amounts.
Is muscimol similar to THC?
Cannabis and muscimol are both psychoactive substances that can make people feel happy and relaxed. Cannabis strains with high THC content and sedative terpenes and cannabinoids tend to be calming, similar to muscimol’s soothing qualities. However, other cannabis strains make people talkative and uninhibited, the opposite of muscimol. Some compare muscimol to THC from a therapeutic perspective because both can help with anxiety, depression, and physical discomfort.
Is muscimol addictive?
There are no recorded instances of muscimol dependence. Most agree muscimol is safe and non-habit-forming, even in larger, psychoactive doses. However, muscimol misuse is theoretically possible, as is true with all chemical substances, such as those in McDonald's french fries.
The Bottom Line
Muscimol holds significant potential for mind-altering experiences and therapeutic applications. It primarily acts as a GABA agonist, calming the central nervous system and offering a range of effects from mild tranquility to profound altered states. While not a classic psychedelic like psilocybin, muscimol offers its own psychoactive and medicinal properties backed by emerging scientific research. The safest way to explore muscimol's benefits is through lab-tested products from reputable sources.