Reference: Tuco, (2006), cd [ONLINE]. Available at: http://mrg.bz/a3010a [Accessed 9 August 2016].
Mushrooms have been picked and harvested by mankind for centuries and originally our ancestors referred to poisonous mushrooms as toadstools. Fortunately poisonous mushrooms only make up a small amount of organisms in the Fungi kingdom capable of being potentially being harmful or fatal when consumed. Poisonous mushrooms usually contain toxins and the chemical structure of these toxins vary depending on the specific species. The most common toxins found in mushrooms include protoplasmic, muscimol, hallucinogenic, and gastrointestinal toxins.
The infamous Death Cap, Amanita phalloides widely distributed across Europe, contains protoplasmic toxins. The protoplasmic toxin is a cyclopeptide, meaning the toxin’s molecules are made up of amino acids arranged in multiple strains. These toxins can show symptoms quickly or slowly depending which species of mushroom gets consumed. Symptoms include abdominal pains, diarrhea, vomiting, extreme fluid loss and exhaustion which can be fatal.
The Fly Agaric mushroom is most famous for being used by fairy-tale illustrators, but this mushroom contains the Muscimol toxin. Muscimol toxin is an ibotenic acid which affects the nervous system causing hallucinogenic experiences, these toxins usually show symptoms quickly. Other symptoms include blurred vision, profuse sweating, vomiting, blood pressure disturbances, delirium and sometimes convulsions. The intake of this toxin is very dangerous but not all poisonings can be fatal.
The ancient Aztecs of Mexico used a sacred mushroom as for thousands of years, they called it ‘the flesh of gods’ and it contains hallucinogenic psilocin toxins. The Aztecs used it for religious experiences because the mushrooms toxin effects the central nervous system causing hallucinations. Symptoms include optical distortions, smothering sensations and unrealistic visions. Mushrooms with hallucinogenic toxins such as the psilocin toxins are used as drugs, depending on the species, but mushrooms containing the psilocybin toxin are much more likely to be fatal upon much smaller doses of consumption.
Some mushrooms such as the Agaricus xanthodermus have gastrointestinal toxins which causes severe digestive upsets. Symptoms include digestive upsets such as nausea, hallucinations or alcohol like intoxication, this type of poisoning is seldom fatal.
There are the exceptions of course, some mushrooms contain different types of toxins such as the Gyromitra Esculenta more commonly known as the False Morel mushroom. This mushroom contain a monomethyl toxin and is responsible for 4% of fatal mushroom poisonings. Mushrooms containing different toxins are the exceptions and the most common and most lethal types of toxins, are mentioned above.
Photographer: Hungary, G
GaborfromHungary, (2009), x [ONLINE]. Available at: http://mrg.bz/55c616 [Accessed 9 August 2016].