Agaricus muscarius: “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter”

Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) is the prototypical mushroom – it is immediately recognizable to many, even if they are totally unaware of its identity, history, or mythology. So too is Amanita the prototypical fungal remedy in homeopathic medicine (where it is referred to as Agaricus muscarius), having been introduced into clinical practice around the year 1830 by Samuel Hahnemann. Historically, Amanita has held great significance in Siberian and Scandinavia shamanic traditions. It was “consumed as an oracle, to treat diseases, interpret dreams, communicate with spirits and other worlds, or to name a newborn – it is always ‘told’ in a loud voice the reason for its use. The mushroom is said to influence one via the A. muscaria ‘manikins’, little spirits who tell the consumer what they need to know, in the form of song, story, or taking one on journeys to other places and worlds” (Snu Voogelbreinder).

Amanita’s traditional use involved the navigation of interstitial realms of experience: the spaces between life and death, the experiential threshold lying between this world and the worlds beyond. Unsurprisingly, themes of the otherworld and the netherworld are strongly present when we look at Amanita through a homeopathic lens. Characteristic is a tremendous anxiety about death and a preoccupation with suffering, found alongside a weak-willed, fragile and dependant personality structure. The situation of dependency can be so great that the Agaricus patient drives his caregivers themselves to the point of wanting to die! (in the repertory we find: ‘MIND – TORMENTING – others – complaints; everyone with his’, with Agaricus as the sole remedy).

Children requiring this remedy can have an unshakeable preoccupation with death and dying; they may also be irresistibly drawn to the bizarre, the supernatural, and the macabre (e.g. horror stories), and may suffer from vivid, anxious and tormenting nightmares in which they are haunted by apparitions and spectres. These morbid fixations and preoccupations may emerge as a consequence of a child growing up with a parent who is close to death, or who died when the child was very young (premature exposure to the ravages of old age, decrepitude and decay, creating a lasting psychic impression). So too can Agaricus be called upon in situations of a dying person who lacks the courage required to face death, in order to facilitate a graceful passage into the beyond.

An additional indication for children in need of this remedy is a strong obsession with superheros. This fixation can be paired with, or serve as a vehicle through which, the child expresses their impulsive aggression. Agaricus children can constantly be thinking about and playing games involving superheroes. There can be a strong desire to emulate one’s older siblings (those who have more power and strength), and dreams involving the display of incredible superpowers.

We find additional themes of separation or flight from reality when we look to the use of Agaricus in treating states of dissociation, mania, schizophrenia and bi-polar conditions, as well as a variety of autistic spectrum behaviours. The patient in an Agaricus state can be very difficult to communicate with – either keeping totally silent or talking excessively but completely incoherently. When they do engage in dialogue, they may rapidly change the thread of the conversation, and refuse to acknowledge or answer questions put to them. They may love to sing, and singing can be carried out with such vigour and fervour that it peaks into states of delirium or hilarity. Exalted, unbounded states of fancy, marked by immoderate and involuntary laughter and abandon, can quickly alternate into deep states of withdrawal and despondency, or just as easily into fits of uncontrollable shrieking, violence and rage. This stark juxtaposition and alternation of extremes speaks to the confusion of identity and sense of duality that can be manifest in an Agaricus case.

The spatial senses and perceptual (dis)orientation feature strongly in Agaricus. There can be a pronounced tendency towards awkwardness and confusion – clumsiness, dropping things, forgetting what one has just heard or said, what one was just doing, where one is, or where one was going. Things small may appear large, and vice versa. A small hole appears as a frightful chasm. While walking, a foot is raised unnecessarily high in order to step over what is in actuality a very small object. Everything may look smaller or larger than it is in reality, including one’s own body. As the Caterpillar in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ says to Alice, speaking of the mushroom upon which he is seated: “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.”

Atrophy is a central theme in Agaricus. We can see this with respect to sexual atrophy – either a literal shrivelling of the male sexual organs, or a history of strong sexual desire which atrophies into a weakened sexual state, a deflated libido with a corresponding inner feeling of emptiness. The Agaricus patient may be old and atrophied in appearance, an empty and shallow reflection of themselves.

Some additional indications for homeopathic Agaricus include: frostbite, treatment of the negative effects of botox injections, alcoholism, vertigo (especially resulting from sunlight exposure), Alzheimer’s and dementia, narcolepsy (the patient can appear very bright, twitchy, and aggressive and then suddenly lapse into a comatose state), dull headaches that cause the sufferer to move his head to and fro, migraines, neuralgia (the feeling of cold needles running through the nerves), epilepsy, and paralysis.