Decarboxylation: What is it and why is it important? - luminita

Decarboxylation: What is it and why is it important?

Journal Contents:

  • What is decarboxylation?
  • Why do you want to decarboxylate ibotenic acid?
  • What are the effects of these two molecules?
  • Why doesn't everyone decarboxylate their mushrooms?
  • So how do you decarboxylate Amanita mushrooms?


Let's start with the basics, what is decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation is a simple chemical reaction that results in the loss of a carboxyl group on a chemical structure. The reaction releases the carboxyl group in the form of CO2. 

We can also define decarboxylation by breaking down the word:

De = remove 

caboxyl = 2 functional groups connected to a carbon 

ation = process of

But what’s the point of removing a carboxyl group? Basically, by decarboxylating a chemical you are making an entirely new chemical. In the world of Amanita muscaria, that means you are converting ibotenic acid (C5H6N2O4) to muscimol (C4H6N2O2). Notice the number of carbons (C) goes down by one and the number of Oxygens (O) goes down by 2.

Here’s what this looks like:


Why would you want to decarboxylate ibotenic acid?

When freshly picked, Amanita muscaria mushrooms contain mostly ibotenic acid and very little muscimol. Unfortunately, ibotenic acid by itself has some unpleasant side effects. Muscimol, on the other hand, has wonderful and healing effects when microdosed. 

By decarboxylating ibotenic acid into muscimol, we are taking a potentially toxic mushroom and making it healing. 


What are the effects of these two molecules?

Ibotenic Acid:

This is the chemical that is responsible for Amanita’s bad name. Weirdly enough, ibotenic acid has the opposite effect of muscimol. It’s a NMDA agonist, meaning it acts on the NMDA receptor in the brain. By doing this it encourages neurons to fire in the brains. When neurons fire too often, it can causes issues such as cell damage or even dealth.

In several studies, researchers have also found ibotenic acid to be neurotoxic to neuronal cells. In the study, researchers injected ibotenic acid into the hippocampus of rats to see how it affected them. The mice exhibited signs of memory loss and uncoordinated movements. 


This is the chemical that gives Amanita its good name. Its action is as agonist to the GABA receptor. GABA is the major endogenous inhibitory neuron in the brain, meaning it stops the firing of overactive neurons in the brain. When muscimol crosses the blood brain barrier, it acts on GABA cells which then reduce the overactivity of other cells in the brain. In some recent studies, researchers have found that reducing firing of overactive neurons can potentially lengthen your lifespan.

Additionally, because muscimol reduces neuronal firing, this results in some really useful effects. It can:

  • help you fall asleep faster
  • have deeper sleep
  • quiet an overactive mind
  • reduce worry about past and future events
  • reduce a sense of fear 
  • boost confidence
  • reduce inflammation
  • reduce allergy symptoms


Why doesn’t everyone decarboxylate their mushrooms?

There is debate among people familiar with microdosing Amanita muscaria on if you should or should not fully decarboxylate Amanita. Those who are against it argue:

1) The main study claiming ibotenic acid is toxic is unrealistic and is not that harmful when consumed.

In which case you might argue that: yes, this is partially true. The study chose to research the safety of the chemical by experimenting with the worst case scenario (injecting it directly into the brains of rats).  Regardless, ibotenic acid is still a NMDA antagonist and several other in vitro (cell based) studies have shown that overexcitation of neurons can cause cell death.

Most would agree its best to avoid something that could cause harm, especially when there are no major benefits to consuming it. Until more research on the toxicity of ibotenic acid on humans comes out, it’s best to avoid consuming it.


2) Ibotenic acid passes through the body untouched.

Again, this is partially true. “​​About one third of the muscimol and almost all of the ibotenic acid absorbed after mushroom ingestion is excreted unchanged in the urine” Some estimates say its closer to only 10% of muscimol being converted in the body and 90% of ibotenic acid passing through. 

This is most likely the reason there are stories of people in Siberia drinking the pee of shamans who drank Amanita muscaria tea, because there was still unconverted ibotenic acid in the pee to consume. It’s also the reason why some people will be fine even when they consume only dried amanita caps (and not fully decarboxylated ones). They are able to feel the effects off the small amount of muscimol they are consuming, and have no issues with ibotenic acid. 

However, even if it is true, why not convert all of the ibotenic acid to muscimol and save yourself some money and time foraging. Losing 60-90% of potential muscimol to your pee isn’t worth it if there is a simple way to decarboxylate it beforehand.

How do you decarboxylate Amanita mushrooms?

There are many different methods you can use to help decarboxylate ibotenic acid. Most involve heat, acid or pressure, and sometimes all 3. I won't go into the details of how many hours or at what pH, because that's all readily accessible on other sites, and that's not what this website is about. Suffice to say, it's actually pretty easy to do, and ibotenic acid easily loses its carboxyl group when convinced.

Additionally, there is a 4th method that involves using a lactobacillus strain of bacteria that has a specific type of enzyme that breaks the molecule down. This is often the method employed by sites that claim to use no acid and or no heat. It's good to note that lactobacillus does not need to be listed on the ingredients by law, and most companies will choose to not disclose it to protect their "proprietary process".

Whatever method is employed, with a bit of kitchen chemistry:

Amanita muscaria transforms from a toxic toadstool into a magical medicine.

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