Revisiting Wasson's Soma: exploring the effects of preparation on the chemistry of Amanita muscaria

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2010 Dec;42(4):499-506. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2010.10400712.


In 1968 R. Gordon Wasson first proposed his groundbreaking theory identifying Soma, the hallucinogenic sacrament of the Vedas, as the Amanita muscaria mushroom. While Wasson's theory has garnered acclaim, it is not without its faults. One omission in Wasson's theory is his failure to explain how pressing and filtering Soma, as described in the Rig Veda, supports his theory of Soma's identity. Several critics have reasoned that such preparation should be unnecessary if equivalent results can be obtained by consuming the raw plant, as is done with other psychoactive mushrooms. In order to address these specific criticisms over 600 anecdotal accounts of Amanita muscaria inebriation were collected and analyzed to determine the impact of preparation on Amanita muscaria's effects. The findings of this study demonstrated that the effects of Amanita muscaria were related to the type of preparation employed, and that its toxic effects were considerably reduced by preparations that paralleled those described for Soma in the Rig Veda. While unlikely to end debate over the identity of Soma, this study's findings help to solidify the foundation of Wasson's theory, and also to demonstrate the importance of preparation in understanding and uncovering the true identity of Soma.

MeSH terms

  • Amanita / chemistry*
  • Hallucinogens / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Mushroom Poisoning / etiology
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Plant Preparations
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Vomiting / etiology


  • Hallucinogens
  • Plant Preparations