This is an excerpt from an article I wrote on deadly Amanitas for the upcoming winter edition of Plant Healer Magazine. For the full article, and an incredible collection of botanical, wellness, environmental and social justice writing, subscribe here: www.planthealermagazine.com
The Roman emperor Claudius had bad luck with women. After three disastrous marriages, along came wife number four. Rumor has it that she and her accomplices killed him with Amanita phalloides, the Death Cap mushroom, so that her son Nero could take the throne. But, many of the described symptoms — low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and death within 12 hours of ingestion — don’t quite jive with Death Cap poisoning. Instead, they are more in line with muscarine poisoning; muscarine being a toxin present at high levels in Inocybe and Clitocybe mushroom species.
Someone whose dirt nap may actually have been via Death Caps was another emperor, Charles VI. The timing of his death was consistent with his stewed mushrooms being a deadly Amanita, and his mushroom-assisted demise resulted in all hell breaking loose in Europe, politically speaking.
In the first installment of this Amanita series, we explored Fly Agaric, the famous red capped, white spotted mushroom depicted on fridge magnets everywhere. Many folks here in North America are afraid of Fly Agaric, equating it with the more scary Amanitas. The chemistry is actually quite different. And, as discussed in the first installment, Fly Agaric is a great edible when prepared properly. Now the focus shifts to it’s scary cousins: Death Cap, along with Destroying Angel mushrooms (A. ocreata, A. bisporigera here in North America).