Many people are familiar with “magic” mushrooms, the psychedelic mushrooms that contain psilocybin and sends people on mind-altering “trips.” However, Amanita muscaria is a different type of psychoactive fungi. It contains various active ingredients, but its main psychoactive compound is muscimol.
This article explores muscimol, including its psychoactive effects, uses and benefits, differences from psilocybin, safety, and legality.
What is Muscimol?
Muscimol is a principal psychoactive compound that gives Amanita muscaria and related mushroom species their intoxicating effects. Muscimol is structurally similar to GABAa, a receptor in the brain that helps regulate feelings of calmness by responding to a neurotransmitter called GABA.
- When someone consumes muscimol, the compound activates GABAa receptors by binding to specific sites in multiple brain regions, including the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum.
- This interaction reduces central nervous system activity, contributing to its characteristic relaxation and potentially hallucinogenic effects.
Amanita’s Other Active Compounds
Amanita muscaria mushrooms also feature other active substances, with psychoactive and toxic qualities. In addition to muscimol, Amanita muscaria mushrooms also contain:
- Ibotenic acid is a neurotoxic compound in Amanita muscaria and a prodrug to muscimol. That means ibotenic acid converts to muscimol when someone dries, boils, or ingests the mushroom. Consuming too much ibotenic acid can cause hallucinations, confusion, vomiting, and nausea. In severe cases, ibotenic can cause seizures. This risk is why Amanita products contain little-to-no ibotenic acid and high muscimol content.
- Muscarine is a natural alkaloid (active psychoactive compound) with toxic properties found in several wild mushrooms. It occurs in Amanita muscaria in trace amounts in most varieties. However, muscarine can still cause harmful effects in rare cases, such as excessive sweating, crying, salivation, and abdominal cramps. As a result, consumers should look for lab-tested Amanita extracts that do not contain this compound.
Muscimol Effects: Is Muscimol Psychoactive?
Muscimol is the most potent psychoactive agent in Amanita muscaria and is responsible for the mushroom’s psychoactive effects.
Muscimol effects are consistent with its role as a GABAa activator, or aganist, so muscimol tends to be sedative and soothing, similar to a muscle relaxant. However, unlike the effect profiles of other sedative drugs, muscimol can also be hallucinogenic at higher doses. It can alter hearing and taste, cause changes to sensory perception, and induce vivid dreams.
High muscimol doses can cause:
- Euphoria and tranquility
- A dream-like or lucid state of mind
- Out-of-body experiences
- Synesthesia (experiencing one of the senses through another, such as seeing words in color)
Falling asleep is a common muscimol, hence amanita muscaria effect, and many people who consume Amanita muscaria mushrooms experience visions and insights that occur in dreams.
What Does Muscimol Do? Uses and Benefits
Muscimol derived from Amanita muscaria has been used medicinally for hundreds of years among tribal groups in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia. As a GABAa agonist, modern medicinal chemistry and research back up these traditional uses, finding that muscimol can help with various mental and physical health issues, such as:
- Treating stress and anxiety
- Easing muscular pain
- Promoting restorative sleep
- Reducing insomnia
- Memory-protecting activities
- Helping with addiction
Studies on muscimol are in the early stages but show promising results, including:
Reduces inflammation: A 2022 animal study showed muscimol could protect against systemic inflammatory responses, highlighting the compound's potential anti-inflammatory effects.
Fights disease: A study on the potential antioxidant properties of muscimol shows it has possible applications in a broad range of health conditions.
Anecdotal reports suggest muscimol microdoses (a small, measured amount, such as found in about 1/10th of a gram of a dry, pre-packaged Amanita msuhroom product) are considered the ideal amount for microdosing and the most pleasant for therapeutic effects. These doses aren’t enough to trigger muscimol’s stronger psychoactive qualities, such as hallucinations and altering perception, but can help users stay in the compound’s “warm, relaxed” stage, where they note feelings of euphoria, pain relief, and relaxation. These effects make muscimol a good candidate for over-the-counter wellness solutions.
According to users, such as this Medium report, small-dose effects often include:
- Relaxing euphoria
- Warm body sensations
- Analgesia (pain relief)
- A sense of peace and sleepiness
Muscimol effects begin around one hour after consumption, and usually peak at three hours, and can last 10 to 24 hours.
Muscimol vs Psilocybe Mushrooms: What’s the Difference?
A muscimol mushroom like Amanita muscaria is very different from Psilocybe mushroom species that contain psilocybin. While both are psychoactive, muscimol and psilocybin differ greatly in how they work in the body, their effects, and their medical potential.
How It Works: Psilocybin engages serotonin receptors in the brain, influencing how various regions interact and forming novel connections amongst networks that never previously communicated. This random neurological activation alters normal functions such as the fear response, mood, cognition, and perception.
Effects: Psilocybin induces psychedelic effects like LSD, including sensory enhancement, visual hallucinations, and introspective experiences. Common psychedelic effects include:
- Visuals such as halos around lights and objects
- Geometric patterns when eyes are closed
- Vivid colors, tracers, and distorted vision
- A sense of the world breathing
- Enhanced creativity
- Spiritual insights
Medical Research: Psilocybin is currently under medical trials that focus on using it as a natural treatment for various mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
How It Works: Muscimol interacts with GABAa receptors, located throughout the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. It produces “dissociative” psychoactive effects that reduce (or block) signals to the conscious mind from other brain parts, causing sensory deprivation.
Effects: Experts say that the muscimol in Amanita muscaria doesn’t elicit the hallucinatory effects of classic psychedelics like psilocybin, such as vivid colors and geometric patterns. Many users describe muscimol’s effects as a laid-back experience that is more sedative and dream-like. Muscimol effects can include:
- Dream-like state
- Better sleep quality
- Hallucinations in high doses
Is Muscimol Legal, and Can I Buy It Online?
Amanita muscaria mushrooms and their active ingredients, including muscimol, are largely unregulated. Unlike psilocybin, muscimol does not appear on the DEA’s controlled substances list, making it federally legal to possess and distribute in the United States. Many brands sell A. muscaria legally, and muscimol extracts online.
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 main active ingredient, muscimol.
Although muscimol is legal to buy online and ship throughout most of the U.S., remember that the FDA, which oversees ingredients in food, has not approved muscimol for consumption. That means some products may not be safe for consumption. Consumers should only purchase from reputable brands that test their products for purity and potency.
Is Muscimol Safe? Muscimol Side Effects
Whole, unprocessed Amanita muscaria mushrooms can be poisonous and extremely dangerous. However, the toxic effects result primarily from compounds other than muscimol. From a chemical standpoint, research indicates that ibotenic acid and muscarine are most responsible for the negative side effects of Amanita muscaria.
Fresh mushroom specimens contain mostly ibotenic acid, a powerful neurotoxin. Adverse effects from too much ibotenic acid can include:
- Loss of balance
- Involuntary bodily movements
Muscarine is not present in Amanita muscaria in significant quantities. However, it can contribute to concern in rare cases of Amanita muscaria poisoning. Muscarine can also lead to undesirable user effects, like blurred vision, increased salivation, and excessive sweating.
Consumers should look for muscimol extracts and products from verified sellers that remove or convert (also called “decarboxylate”) ibotenic acid to muscimol before consumption.
Muscimol is well tolerated when consumed as a purified Amanita extract with minimal ibotenic acid and muscarine content. However, it can have adverse effects in large doses. Exposure to high volumes of muscimol can result in effects such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
Common Questions About Muscimol
What is the psychoactive dose of muscimol?
Many experts say muscimol doses of 10-15 mg are enough to feel psychoactive effects, and just 1 gram of a dried Amanita product can contain this amount. However, first-time Amanita consumers should keep the dose smaller, as little as 1-2 mg to start, to focus on muscimol’s therapeutic effects, such as for relaxation and pain relief.
What is muscarine and muscimol?
Muscarine and muscimol are natural psychoactive alkaloids found in Amanita muscaria mushroom species. Muscarine is a toxic compound that occurs in small quantities in Amanita muscaria. Muscimol is one of the principal psychoactive compounds of Amanita muscaria. It is structurally similar to GABAa receptors and generally well tolerated,
What effects does muscimol have?
In low doses, muscimol users report effects such as relaxation, euphoria, warm body sensations, significant pain relief, and a sense of peace and sleepiness. Falling asleep is a common muscimol effect. In larger doses, muscimol can cause hallucinations, lucid dreaming, and out-of-body experiences.
What is muscimol similar to?
Muscimol is a potent GABAa receptor agonist. It interacts with the central nervous system and works mostly as a central nervous system depressant. Muscimol's effects on behavior and brain metabolism are similar to sedative drugs, such as benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium), because it decreases motor activity and has sedative, soothing effects.
Does muscimol affect serotonin?
Muscimol does cause an increase in serotonin; however, this effect is not significant compared to classic psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD. Muscimol is a GABAa receptor agonist, the brain's principal inhibitory neurotransmitter, so it can temporarily slow down nervous system activity by mimicking GABAa’s inhibitory neural effects.
Is muscimol addictive?
Muscimol does not have addictive properties. Muscimol works similarly to sedative pharmaceutical drugs in the benzodiazepines family used to treat anxiety and insomnia, such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). However, while these substances can lead to dependence and even addiction within weeks of prolonged use, scientific studies show muscimol is a non-addictive GABAa agonist, and its pharmacological effects contrast with the effects of BDZ drugs.