Friday, 23 September 2011

Hallucinations

Walking along the old colliery route yesterday, we were struck by the large number of Fly Agaric mushrooms growing among the Birches.
Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) are the archetypal toadstool.  Get anyone to draw a poisonous toadstool and you will probably get a picture of a red topped, white spotted mushroom.
These handsome fungi pack quite a punch when it comes to toxins.  They contain many different poisonous compounds, but the most well known would have to be one called Muscimol.  This substance is powerfully psychoactive, has hallucinogenic properties and as such has been widely used in folk medicines over the years.  It has even been used in ritualistic, religious ceremonies, especially in northern Europe and Siberia.
Deaths are rare from ingestion of these fungi.  It is thought you would have to eat as many as 15 to kill you.  The mind-altering qualities are what it's known for mostly.  Reindeer, feeding on mosses in the far north are sometimes to be seen suffering from the effects of eating them.  Accidentally ingesting small toadstools as they break through the soil surface, these unfortunate creatures have been noted staggering about as if drunk, no doubt seeing stars and thinking everything is 'far out man'!
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