Fungus of the Week: Amanita muscaria

You are unlikely to find the story-book red spotted caps of this fungus so late in the season, but I nominate it for illustrating that primitive tribes – in this case from Siberia – can show a sophisticated understanding of pharmacology. Groups of Siberian tribesmen would get their women to chew the fungus – ensuring that they absorbed most of the water-soluble muscarine and got most of the muscarinic poisoning. The men would then swallow the chewed remnants and go into trances caused by muscimol, the main hallucinogen. Then they would drink each other’s urine to prolong the pleasure. Delightful.