Basic Drying Chemistry
Updated: Oct 23, 2022
Information on drying amanita muscaria to convert ibotenic acid to muscimol and for preservation and to store. I'm making this to clear up a lot of the misinformation, and a lot of the questions we get.
I want to give you some really basic information on conversion science and how it works so that you can answer your own questions, hopefully.
So in the most basic chemistry, one of the very first things you learn is what is needed for a chemical reaction. Most chemical reactions need heat to be able to push the reaction, and they need time. Then, they need an aqueous solution to work in, or some other fluid to work in, so you can have oil-based chemistry, and you can have aclcohol-based chemistry. But, for what we're discussing, we're talking about water. We do discuss oils and we do discuss alcohols in some of the higher-level stuff and other methods of use. But, for this, let's just talk about these basic components. You need the actives, you need heat, and you need a fluid medium. Yes, there is photoconversion, and this mushroom engages in it, but it's still in a fluid medium because it's still using the fluid that's in the mushroom itself while it's still in the ground interacting with the sun, but that's another subject for another article. There are exceptions, but they are rare exceptions and they are oddities and not for common chemistry or basic chemistry.
Knowing that these are the basic things needed for a chemical reaction, let's talk about the myth that's out there, that if you dry a cap, it is fully converted. So when you take a mushroom cap that is filled with water, and then you put it in heat, this is the perfect situation for a chemical reaction to take place. So when you first start it, you're immediately going to start getting some conversion. Well, what about when you're letting it air dry? You've got the fluid, but you don't have the heat, so you're not going to drive a chemical reaction. That right there should tell you, even drying at room temperature, you're not going to get the conversion. Without the heat, just drying it in open air, you might convert about 10% of it. But when you put it in a dehydrator and raise the heat up a bit, you're going to get a little bit more conversion, but the best conversion happens over 72 degrees celsius. That is when you drive the fastest amount of conversion in the shortest amount of time. That seems to be the breaking point.
Again, if you understand basic chemistry, you understand that there's a point when you talk about reactions that are driven by heat, they move very slowly until this tipping point where all of a sudden the chemical reaction takes off. For this particular decarboxylation reaction inside the mushroom tissue, that is 72 degrees celsius (about 165 degrees fahrenheit). When that happens, you take off on this chemical reaction, this decarboxylation reaction. However, here's the problem. You're also losing water rapidly because it's not in a pot, on a stove with a lid. It's a mushroom, and it's dehydrating. That's the whole point, you want it to dehydrate. So it's losing water rapidly. So while you've got this chemical reaction speeding up because of heat, you've got the amount of water going down, and at some point these two things will cross, and where they cross, that's where the chemical reaction turns around and slows down again, and you've got less and less water rapidly. When you dry at heat in a dehydrator, under the best possible conditions, the most you're going to get is about a 30% conversion.
And then there are some of you who are saying that you can take them dried and put lemon juice on them and reconstitute them, and fully convert them. It sounds good in theory, but the problem is when you dry this mushroom you start cracking the cell walls, so when you reconstitute them they're gonna turn into a blobby mass. Yes, some of that will get converted, but some of it has been already destroyed, and we need to get some science on that and some measurements on it.
If you want to talk about re-drying it, once you've dehydrated it, added acid- this tissue, even though it's got chitin walls that are strong, once they break- we're talking about a very fragile molecule, and the destruction of that molecule. And while it's got a higher heat tolerance, physical changes can destroy it.
There's no science on it, so people that tell you you can do that, they don't know because there's no science on that. We don't know what that does. I'm going by the chemistry, and I would think that if you didn't get it dried at heat, if you put lemon juice on it, based on what you're losing, and based on the damage, and then based on the conversion, that when you do that you might convert another 10%, maybe 15%, but you're also losing a lot of actives in that process by drying it again. So, that's problematic.
You need a fluid, too much fluid and you're not going to have enough of the reactants interacting with each other and you won't get much of a reaction. Too little fluid, and you can't drive the full reaction. Time- not enough time and you won't finish the reaction. Too much time with this heat, and you start dealing with degrading your actives. So, there are these sweet spots for everything.
This is the study of chemistry, this is what you learn in chemistry. Any time you go into a new chemical reaction, you want to know the heat, the fluid, and the time. How much, what temperature, how long. This is basic chemistry. I hope I helped answer your questions and also gave you information to help answer your own questions later!