Observation 217543: Amanita muscaria var. guessowii Veselý

When: 2015-10-02

Collection location: Oneida Co., New York, USA [Click for map]

Who: Eric Smith (esmith)

No specimen available

Proposed Names

Please login to propose your own names and vote on existing names.

Eye3 = Observer’s choice
Eyes3 = Current consensus


Add Comment
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-07-28 05:24:28 AEST (+1000)

I think your reaction to my paper is a bit over the top. Rather than creating “unneeded fear,” I am hoping to create a thinking population that looks at all of the facts and then makes an informed decision. I do state that one can eat these mushrooms, and in fact I have personally done so.

But my paper was in direct rebuttal to the tone of the Rubel/Arora paper, where they downplayed the very real dangers to make their case that these really weren’t toxic and gosh, so many other cultures eat them and think they’re great. Must be a NA mycophobic thing! Field guide bias! When every field guide all over the world lists them as poisonous. Heck, even here in NA in the past they were popular, look at those intriguing references to black folks eating them in the D.C. area in the late 1800s!! Even Peck talked about detoxifying muscaria for food use! But team Rubel/Arora cherry picked the facts that suited their theory and ignored those that didn’t. Peck spent far more time dissuading people from eating muscaria than he did “promoting” it. He actually considered it to be a deadly mushroom, and so depicted it in his illustration in the same issue that Rubel cited in his own paper! It was also Peck who reported that some populations of guessowii were apparently wholly non-toxic, something that Rubel/Arora didn’t seem to discover in their own research (I read a dozen issues of Peck’s annual reports to their one).

What I couldn’t find, try as I might, and I looked at all of the evidence that I could find, both pro and con, was just why everyone talked about this being a deadly mushroom. Who died? How did they die? And where was that evidence from the past?

I hit a brick wall on that one, but someone, somewhere, must have died for this mushroom to have been so feared and reviled, around the world. The evidence that I cited came from modern day ER physicians and toxicologists, and from mycologists who consulted on the deadly muscaria poisoning in Tanzania. Some of it is quite recent, others are well known instances of bad things happening when in a muscaria induced coma. Yeah, their livers didn’t dissolve, but gosh, they are still dead, after eating muscaria.

Would you rather make someone more cautious or less cautious in the face of a known toxic mushroom?

I think that my position is pretty clear. Let the muscaria muncher beware. It is still possible, with a good bit of work, to gain those “I ate muscaria and lived!” bragging rights without dying or even getting very sick, if you are bound and determined to do so. But really, why bother?

My article was not about medicinal use at all, although I did refer to it fleetingly in my paper. It was about foolishly encouraging others to eat muscaria because, to drive home their point, it was widely accepted elsewhere as an edible (not true) and was really not toxic (also not true).

That was a true disservice, encouraging folks to use less caution, not more.

All the deaths that I cited occurred post-ingestion of muscaria, and were implicated in some way in those deaths. I don’t consider muscaria to be deadly like phalloides is deadly, but if you can die if you eat too much, what do you call it? Coincidence? Oooopsies?

I prefer to err on the side of caution. If someone decides not to eat muscaria because I “scared” them by mentioned some real downsides, so what? What have they lost? If someone dies or becomes ill and ends up with a humongous medical bill because they think that eating muscaria is NBD, and they were reassured by someone they trusted that it was a harmless mushroom, eaten by many without any problems, all over the world?

That, my friend, is a very big deal, to me.

My point
By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2016-07-28 04:26:17 AEST (+1000)

Other people’s personal disagreements aside; my point is, the deaths would be apparent and NAMA would not be claiming there are no reliable reports of death from the toxins in this mushroom if there were scientific information to the contrary.

I do think people should use caution and forethought before eating this mushroom, but my argument is your paper puts unneeded fear into the general public. If healthy people start dying directly from the toxins in this mushroom, or if long term health problems occur due to its ingestion, I would change my position. Perhaps balancing your paper with the benefits of its medicinal properties would help create a more accurate overview.

To all of you following this thread at home …
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-07-28 04:23:58 AEST (+1000)

you may or may not be aware that Erlon is a huge proponent of medicinal muscaria. As I have stated here and elsewhere, I agree that it is both appropriate and even appears to be effective for that sort of use, not just as a treatment for PTSD and other mental conditions, but even as a pain unguent.
The UN FAO agrees with us on this use, and lists muscaria as an medicinal mushroom in its extensive listing of edible and market mushroom species around the world. But they don’t claim that muscaria is a safe or accepted edible species, and in fact, make a point of saying that it should be avoided.

An earlier discussion about Erlon’s personal experiences with this mushroom can be found here, on one of my own posts of guessowii:


His story is enlightening and fascinating, but this is also why he is defending its use and “safety” so vociferously. One can certainly use a toxin as a medicine, if one titrates the dose carefully. Look at digitalis, as just one example. But this is not the same situation as when folks eat large quantities for food or for fun, in the belief that this is a harmless mushroom.

Muscaria is not a harmless mushroom. It is disingenuous to ignore the wealth of data that reinforces that claim.

By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-07-28 04:10:14 AEST (+1000)

I am aware of everything that you listed here, altho whether it is the ibotenic acid or the muscimol that is the toxin I have no idea. They are usually both present, one the decarboxylation product of the other. Who will do those human experiments to “prove” just what it takes to kill a human with ibotenic acid?

Shades of Dr. Mengele. It ain’t gonna happen, or at least I would fervently hope not.

Who is testing bodies for the presence of these toxins, when there is an unknown cause of death? No one, that I know of.

Ingesting toxic amounts of muscaria produces very scary, unpleasant and sometimes dangerous symptoms. I am aware of what treatments don’t work and I am aware that mostly these poisoning are self-limiting. That doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes they go bad, and people do die.

It’s funny that you would quote Beug’s work at NAMA, because he was vociferously against the idea of eating muscaria. He advised that the original Rubel/Arora paper not get published at all, because he did see the big downsides of muscaria ingestion, and just like me, he thought that downplaying the dangers was foolish.

Quibbling about how much is a toxic dose, and just how these folks died after a muscaria ingestion is beside the point. These deaths did occur; caution is advised. This is NOT a benign mushroom, and is a poor choice for an edible species, for most.

The Count thought that he was eating caesarea, so no “foolishness” was involved. A greedy appetite was, though, along with an over-weening ego that led him to believe that he was an “expert” identifier of mushrooms! Life is a pre-existing condition, too. If he had eaten two dozen boletus, he would have ended up with a bellyache, not dead.

Funny that these “non-toxic” mushrooms killed Pouchet’s original experimental dogs, as reported by Pouchet. Why would you not think that the same could be true for people, at larger doses? We actually do share similarities with dog physiology, much more so than with cats.

My advise is still to avoid these mushrooms as food or as recreational drugs.

What you do with your own body is your business. But we are talking about a far wider population that just you and I.

You may discount the deaths that are strongly linked to muscaria ingestions, but to what purpose? Better to exercise caution than dig a grave.

By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2016-07-28 03:26:08 AEST (+1000)

I did track down your references, they appear to be anecdotal and not based on scientific fact. Regarding the Count, he was in very bad health to start with and ate an extraordinary amount. No one with pre-existing health conditions should act so foolishly. Everything is toxic in quantity. That does not mean we should label everything as toxic/deadly. The cases you bring up and use in your paper are not scientifically sound references for your determination. I will refer you to NAMA which states no one has died as direct result of this mushroom group. "There is a great deal of confusion concerning these toxins, and much misinformation about their treatment. Atropine is NOT indicated in cases of poisoning by ibotenic acid or muscimol but is frequently cited as a treatment for A. muscaria poisonings in the medical literature, where the toxin is erroneously listed as muscarine! Atropine’s effects are close to those of ibotenic acid, and may even exacerbate the symptoms.

Symptoms appear within 30 minute to 2 hours after ingestion, and last for several hours. Nausea and vomiting are quite common, but the principle effects are on the central nervous system: confusion, visual distortion, a feeling of greater strength, delusions and convulsions. Drowsiness is a common symptom, and many who ingest these mushrooms fall asleep and can not be roused. In rare cases the coma-like state can last for more than 24 hours. This facet of the syndrome can be particularly frightening for the attending physician, as most cases involve patients who arrive in this apparently comatose state. The resulting panicked reaction and overtreatment, generally produces no benefit to the patient. In humans, there are no reliably documented cases of death from toxins in these mushrooms in the past 100 years, though there is one case where a camper froze to death while in the comatose state. Dogs and especially cats can die from these isoxazole toxins, though it is important for the vet not to euthanize an animal even though the chances for recovery appear remote — once the animal awakens from the comatose state recovery is normally complete over the course of a week or so.

Treatment of humans and animals is largely supportive. Measures to reduce anxiety can include reassuring the patient that the effects are only temporary. If there has been extensive vomiting and diarrhea, measures to replace fluids and electrolytes can speed recovery. Recovery is normally spontaneous. To reiterate: Muscarine plays no documented clinical role in poisonings by Amanita muscaria or A. pantherina. Atropine is not indicated." http://www.namyco.org/mushroom_poisoning_syndromes.php

neither “mycophobic” nor dishonest.
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-07-28 03:12:40 AEST (+1000)

just stating the facts.

did you actually go to my cited references? you will need a good University library for some.

Several young folk here in NA recently died after eating muscaria. No one claimed that it was from direct muscimol toxicity per se, altho it was likely true for Count de Vecchj, who died in the throes of violent convulsions. It mostly occurs when the victim is in a coma state, where bad things happen, like aspirating ones own vomitus or freezing to death. Just how the local people in Tanzania died is unknown, but one was in hospital when she did. All of my references can be found and verified.

On the other hand, I am well aware that muscaria, in controlled doses, can be used medicinally, and can have great benefits. That is not what I am arguing here. I am saying that this is NOT a benign mushroom if abused or prepared carelessly, and people right here in NA HAVE died from sequelae after ingesting this toxic mushroom. No muscaria, no coma, no death.

How can you argue with that?

By: Erlon (Herbert Baker)
2016-07-28 02:52:30 AEST (+1000)

No one has died as a direct result of muscimol intoxication from fungi. To claim otherwise comes across as mycophobic and perhaps dishonest. I read your paper Debbie but could not substantiate your references as evidence.

lots of folks end up in the ER after a close encounter w/muscaria or pantherina
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-07-28 01:48:33 AEST (+1000)

and as I said, you don’t know if that single fb of guessowii is toxic or not until you eat it … and then, it’s too late!

If you make an attempt to detoxify by boiling tho, and if you remember to throw out the water, and the ratio of water to mushrooms is correct and you do it a second time, just to give yourself a margin of safety, well, at worst you might get a little nauseous or feel a bit sparkly with those Alice in Wonderland looooong limb perceptions.

Even so, most will not repeat the experience. It’s once and done and wasn’t I brave to do so!

If you get it wrong, it’s not fun, it’s unpleasant.

The real danger is when folks buy the hype and think that muscaria isn’t really a dangerous or toxic mushroom, and eat lots to get high. Or, in a few documented cases in Tanzania, eat introduced muscaria which has been misidentified as one of their local native, orange-red caesars, with no special prep.

Some of those folks can die, and they have.

A few years back…
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2016-07-27 11:10:54 AEST (+1000)

a colleague of mine showed me a photo of some mushrooms that allegedly had prompted a stay at a local ER for someone who had eaten them. The mushrooms were guessowii. I have no info regarding preparation. For all I know, they may have been consumed raw.

Hey, Eric, is your ring
By: Judi T. (AvidAmateur)
2016-07-27 02:30:57 AEST (+1000)

finger the same length as your index finger? That gene is supposedly associated with risk-taking personalities=)

interesting aside on guessowii and its toxicity
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-07-27 01:12:57 AEST (+1000)

when I was doing my extensive research for my rebuttal to the Rubel/Arora muscaria paper, I went to the UCB library and looked up several of Rubel’s more important references, like his quotes about Peck. Whereas Rubel looked at just one of the Peck journals, I searched over a dozen, and looked for not just pull-quotes to show my own point of view, but looked for evidence both pro and con.
I found plenty.

Peck strongly advised AGAINST eating muscaria, and even had two color plates, one of phalloides and one of guessowii, BOTH labeled deadly! And this was the exact Peck issue that Rubel had cited as proof that muscaria was broadly eaten in NA.

But it was by reading all the other Peck journals within a dozen years of that one where I found this interesting fact: apparently, in four separate instances directly reported to Peck, guessowii was completely non-toxic. In other words, no special preps were used to make them edible. No “trips” were taken, no illness occurred. Peck was well aware of the possibility of boiling muscaria to eliminate toxins, although he reiterated that was a poor choice, for anyone. These were clearly non-boiled muscaria meals, and in one case, a farmer wrote Peck to tell him that one of his sheep had eaten muscaria, also without harm. The farmer was not in the habit of parboiling that pasture fodder.

So … the point being, eating guessowii is a bit like Russian Roulette. Some of those fbs may well be wholly non-toxic, but you don’t know until they are down the hatch! I have never heard this about the red capped muscaria, however, although certainly the toxic levels vary within them as well, although perhaps not to the point of being wholly non-toxic.

At any rate, those beautiful young caps would have been the ideal age for par-boiling and eating, if you were willing to chance it and were willing to go through the several parboilings, throwing out the water and then caramelizing those then tasteless muscaria slugs.

Did you?

By: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)
2015-10-05 01:28:34 AEDT (+1100)

Have a safe trip! :-)

Thanks IG
By: Eric Smith (esmith)
2015-10-05 00:45:45 AEDT (+1100)

I kept them because there wasn’t much chance of most of these opening and sporulating. There were plent of other buttons and a couple mature ones left behind. They’re on my kitchen table. Was considering trying to eat them.

Nice line up, Eric
By: I. G. Safonov (IGSafonov)
2015-10-03 12:41:14 AEST (+1000)

Did you stick them back into the ground after you were done with them? :-)

Created: 2015-10-03 09:21:25 AEST (+1000)
Last modified: 2016-07-27 14:02:34 AEST (+1000)
Viewed: 195 times, last viewed: 2018-01-22 06:37:05 AEDT (+1100)
Show Log