Arguably the most popular mushroom, the Amanita muscaria, also called the fly agaric or fly Amanita, has often been of interest to scientists, writers, and collectors. One of the most beautiful and eye-catching mushrooms found anywhere, its byname, is derived from its purported ability to act as an insecticide. Supposedly, if the fungus is crushed and placed in milk, it attracts and kills flies. However, some accounts state that it only makes flies dizzy and buzz around as if they are drunk until they eventually drown in the fluid.
In terms of habitat, these attractive fungi can be seen in groups and are usually found in woodlands. Amanita muscaria can form symbiotic relationships with birches, pines, and spruces and other coniferous and deciduous trees and can often be found growing near them. There are quite many different varieties of Amanita muscaria, and each has its distinct appearance.
Although often classified as poisonous, reports of human deaths resulting from this mushroom consumption are quite uncommon. The fly agaric is edible after it has been parboiled – which reduces its toxicity and breaks down its constituent psychoactive substances. The main psychoactive compounds found in Amanita muscaria are muscimol and the related compound, ibotenic acid. Ibotenic acid and its decarboxylation derivative, muscimol, is water-soluble and can be leached from the mushroom when it is boiled for a long time.
In essence, Amanita muscaria is not actually “poisonous,” but it is considered a hallucinogen/narcotic. Should it be eaten dried, freshly cooked, or if the water with which it has been cooked is drunk, it can intoxicate. Also, it is possible to get sick, tired, and vomit if the fly agaric is consumed. When ingested, ibotenic acid, and muscimol can cause nausea and stupefaction. While this may be quite unpleasant, it is seldom life-threatening. This is often followed by hallucinations, visual distortions, and occasional feelings of hugely exaggerated movements.
Although there is some cultural prejudice against eating it, some people who have eaten Amanita muscaria testify that it is excellent and tasty. However, it is essential that the mushroom is boiled in water, and the water leached to remove the toxins before consumption.