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Let’s get Fungi-ed Up!

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The Urban Monk – Let’s Get Fungi-ed Up with Guest Tero Isokauppila

We Come From Mushrooms

Say what? According to Tero Isokauppila, an expert in the world of all things mushroom. Tero is from Finland and grew up on the  organic family farm that’s in it’s 13th generation. He says that about 10 years ago scientists figured out that we actually come from mushrooms, not plants. About 1.3 billion years ago mushrooms came from the sea and were the first things to come to dry land. So these mushrooms were living beings that were eating rocks and creating soil. We as humans are part of the same super kingdom because they breathe oxygen like we do and expel Co2.

Most cultures originally were mushroom friendly, but then some cultures got freaked out by them and turned away from using them. Like North Americans, they are kind of behind the mushrooms trends compared to the orientals and the Europeans because they were afraid of fungal diseases. And it is true, there are some mushrooms that are bad news and could kill us. However,  there are a bunch of mushrooms that are full of great qualities and super beneficial to us.

Different Types Of Fungi 

Mushrooms can fall into a couple different categories. There are the medicinal kind and the culinary kind. The ones you can eat can replace animal protein and have nutrients like Vitamin D. The medicinal ones tend to grow on trees and have amazing benefits. In fact, 40% of all pharmaceuticals use fungi. Tero pointed out, it’s not all new age stuff…ever heard of Penicillin? Yeah, we all have.

Ever heard of Chaga?

This type of mushroom has one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the world and it can really help lower inflammation. It doesn’t look like what a typical mushroom does, almost looks like tree bark but you drink it in a tea. This little guy works wonders on colon health and can really help support the immune system. Everyone likes to talk about the other herbs when they have a cold or flu, but what mushrooms can do is help with people who are sick all of the time and to slow down that inflammation.

Come to find out, the FDA considers most mushrooms as food. They are generally regarded as safe. They are not even supplements. Tero says that hey are often sold in capsules because they usually taste bad, bitter. If one of the mushrooms is an upper, a natural energizer without caffeine, it’s cordyceps. Reishi is the opposite, which is kind of the calming but not sedative. For people that have sleep issues for example it helps. Again, the glands, the endocrine system, but in a more calming, grounding way.

Enough Fungi To Go Around

One of the latest discoveries is one type of mushroom in the Amazon and the coolest thing about it? It destroys plastic. It eats plastic.  So now there is a mushroom that loves to eat plastic away from nature. Tero says that we can help nature by planting mushrooms like this in specific locations to do amazing things. There are lots of problems going on in this world and mushrooms just might be the answer to a lot of our problems.

To check out Tero’s free Mushroom Education Academy, click here.

Notes from the show:

Pedram:
Yeah, exactly. It’s funny, when people talk about mushrooms, everyone wants to talk about psychedelics, because everyone had their little thing in the 60s and the 70s, and shrooms, shrooms, shrooms. There is a hell of a lot more to mushrooms than psychedelics.

Tero Isokauppila:
A lot more, it is an interesting conversation starter I guess. It is a kingdom. That is the first misconception. Even people on, let’s say, a plant based diet. They think, I only eat plants. But then you also have mushrooms. Mushrooms are a separate kingdom from plants, and that’s kind of fascinating.

Pedram:
Just for people who don’t understand the hierarchy of that. Is it Kingdom, genus, species, something like that?

Tero Isokauppila:
Yeah.

Pedram:
It’s been a long time for me.

Mushrooms Were The First Things To Come To Dry Land - @FourSigmatic via @PedramShojai

Tero Isokauppila:
If we go back in time a little question on the exact dates, but about 1.3 billion years ago mushrooms came from the sea. They were the first thing to come to the land, dry land. These mushrooms, this own kingdom, this own world totally separate from other types were starting to much rocks.
They were living beings that were eating rocks and then creating soil, and about 600 million years later, about 700 million years ago, plants started growing. They were very separate from each other. Actually, about 10 years ago, scientists figured out that we humans actually came from mushrooms, not from plants. We are part of the same super kingdom, and mushrooms … Like here is one mushroom, reishi, they breathe oxygen like we, and expel Co2.
Meditation stuff and breathing stuff, they are like us. Where as plants are reverse. They are part of the same … But then it was split into a few things. Animals, animalia, plants, plantai, fungi, bacteria, and then these kind of single cell species or simple …

Pedram :
Protozoa and all those guys. Hold on a second, mushrooms come first out of the water, start chomping on the rock …

Tero Isokauppila:
Make soil.

Pedram:
Creating the soil that then eventually started to create the atmosphere for the plants to then root down and do their thing, in a way.

Tero Isokauppila:
Correct. Fungi still today, they are very good for the soil, and they are actually breaking down, composting, organic matter. We need it for everything, including for growing plants and for a lot of other stuff as well.

Pedram:
How did you get into this? You are a guy from Finland. People don’t really know the shamanism and the abstract thinking that came from there. When you think shamans, you think Peru.

Tero Isokauppila:
Totally. I grew up in Finland at our family farm. I’m the 13th generation of our farm, and it happens to be in a very … Kind of a focal point of organic farming, very famous for organic farmings. One of the most famous herbalist’s places is our neighbor. I grew up there, my dad is an agronomist, my mom teaches physiology and anatomy.

They put me into this foraging school where you collect mushrooms and berries that my great granddad starting. Think of Waldorf meets Steiner type of school. That’s my background to it. I attended my mom’s classes, learned a lot, and then just out of passion I studied … My first degree was in chemistry, that helps a little bit. I studied nutrition, but a lot of the stuff is first hand learning and coaching people. About 12 years of helping athletes and what not. About 10 years ago I bumped totally by accident into this Japanese truffle called Machutake, which was thought that it doesn’t grow anywhere else except this northern island of Hokaido in Japan.

Then me and my college friend pretty much as a joke entered into this innovation context in Finland, and won an innovation award for finding the mushroom growing also in Finland. Because it’s very expensive. Yeah, it kind of started as a joke, but then sometimes in life things just stick. The more you deep … It’s like a rabbit hole. The more deeper you go the more excited you get almost. That’s what happened to me about 10 years ago.

Pedram:
Europe for sure, I remember as a kid I’d visit my family in Switzerland. My uncle, who was Swiss, would just take me out foraging for mushrooms. As a kid who grew up in America, I’m like, I don’t even know what the hell this guy is doing, and they all look the same to me. But it was this passion of his. There is this kind of undercurrent of mushroom hunting, farming … not farming, but gathering, in the European culture. Did it come from kind of earlier shamanic traditions?

Tero Isokauppila:
Yeah, pretty much all indigenous cultures would have used mushrooms because once you go foraging you quickly realize that there is a lot of medicine out there, there is not a lot of calories out there. That’s why things like mushrooms are amazing also, to get actual calories to live out.
Most cultures originally were mushroom friendly, but then there was a couple of cultures that would get micro phobic. For example, Anglo Saxons, one of the reasons why North Americans are kind of behind the mushrooms trends compared to the orientals and the Europeans is because probably of some fungal diseases. When we talk about fungi kingdom, or any kingdom, there is things that can kill us, and then there is things that can heal us or help us.

Think of animals, not all animals are friendly. Some of them are … Most of them are not domesticated. Same with plants, some things can totally kill you and certain things can heal you. It’s the same with fungi and there are certain fungi that are really bad for you. Candida, and molds, but then there is a big part of them that are actually good for you.

Certain cultures would just hit bad. Even within Europe for example, in southern Germany there is more mushroom friendly people and it was because the Slavic came to Bavaria, southern Germany, and they got excited over the mushrooms. Generally eastern Europeans, northern Europeans are more mushroom friendly, and then kind of the British are a little bit less than the others.

The Fungi Kingdom Can Both Kill And Heal Us @FourSigmatic via @PedramShojai

Pedram:
Interesting. I wonder how much it has to do with climate, and then kind of the fogginess that creates mold and all the things that were causing trouble with their lives, but who the hell knows. Dave Aspery is a good buddy of mine, and he is actually going after the black mold and all that. He started teaching me a lot about this early on of just, “Hey, there is an entire universe, and that the fungal kingdom has to work with a dynamic balance with bacteria. A lot of the stuff that we are seeing with mold and infestation and all that may be because of our rampant use of insecticides and fungicides, and all of these things that have wiped out the balance there.”

Tero Isokauppila:
There is a lot truth to that, but the funny part is that as we are taking you are breathing in mushroom spores. Every breath you are taking, or if you are meditating, or you are doing chi Kong or whatever, you are breathing in mushroom spores. That’s part of us. But the fact that mushrooms and bacteria have suffered from this food racism almost in the last few decades …

pedram:
That’s great.

Tero Isokauppila:
You have to be honest. People are debating, should I like plants or animals, what should I do, what’s my macro nutrient ratio and what not. We have forgotten the whole … It’s cool that sour kraut is trending, or that people understand the difference between good fungi and bad fungi. Dave Aspery for example is for sure taking medicinal mushrooms. A lot of people that notice that bad kinds of mushrooms also know a lot about the good kinds as well.

Pedram:
Sure. We are talking about culinary, we are talking about medicinal, and then we are talking about the fun stuff, the psychedelics, which is a very different sub class. I personally, I will go on the record and say, it is a form of medicine. It’s a powerful form of medicine, I just think that it’s abused by people that go to Disney Land and be morons on it versus using them for that. But that’s not this show. This show is about the medicinal value, and what we can do, and how we can find just so much variety and interest in a kingdom. It’s almost, I re titled the show, The Forgotten Kingdom.

Tero Isokauppila:
Just a quick note on the psychedelic because it’s a topic that comes up, a lot of people when you talk about mushrooms, or shrooms, or whatever you want to call it, it’s a topic that people want to think about. It is there, and you can study about it. It is used, for example, where I come from, for seasonal depressions. Mushrooms are one of the few sources of vitamin D. When there is like … Finland for example is on the same level as Alaska. Summer, you have 24 hours of sunlight but winter is pretty dark, how to get vitamin D.

It can be used for medicinal and health purposes as well, but the most focus is on these two groups. These are the culinary mushrooms, or nutritional mushrooms, and then there is these medicinal mushrooms. If I put in layman’s terms and kind of oversimplify, the culinary mushrooms give you protein. There is usually a good source of a non animal based protein. They have some micro nutrients like vitamin D and minerals, iron and zinc. People for example that might have thyroid, it might be useful. They tend to be edible so you can chop them up.

Now there is this other group of mushrooms that are these medicinal mushrooms that tend to grow on trees. That’s also a thing that people don’t realize, that mushrooms can also grow on trees. A lot of them grow on trees. You have to prepare them. You have to cook a soup, or a tea, or what you call a decoction or [inaudible 00:09:38], you do an alcohol extraction out of them.

But they offer these amazing benefits, and actually surprisingly about 40% of all pharmaceuticals use fungi. They are partly derived from fungi. Out of the 20 best selling drugs in the world, about 10 use fungi. It’s an unbelievable world that has a lot of scientific, evidenced based stuff. It’s not all new agey stuff, but it’s actually pretty well … Penicillin is.
 
Pedram:
Penicillin is the quintessential example.

Tero Isokauppila:
Exactly. There is a lot there. Obviously we are discovering constantly more. A few years ago there was a drug made for [Enmis 00:10:17] disease, which was an incurable disease for a while that Novar, a [inaudible 00:10:20] company made, using a strain of quarterceps mushroom. It’s surprising that it’s coming more and more out, but it’s definitely well studied.

Pedram:
This might be getting a little off topic but it’s just my brain wanted to cruise on this.

Tero Isokauppila:
Go for it.

Pedram:
The original guys who came out of the ocean, started chomping rocks and creating soil. These guys look like they have eaten trees?

Mushroom Spores Are All Around Us @FourSigmatic via @PedramShojai

Tero Isokauppila:
Yes. Sometimes I even joke that one of the optimal diets is to eat the soil and the trees. But because we cannot eat the soil, we cannot absorb it, we take things that grow from the soil. We should eat trees, but a lot of people have removed that from their diet. Having sap from birch or maple, or having medicinal mushrooms that grow on trees bring a lot of amazing health benefits.
A lot of for example chaga, which this is kind of the king of the mushrooms. Zach, there are 46 different drugs derived from a compound found in chaga, betellinic acid. It’s actually from the cover of the tree that grows in. It’s from the birch but the chaga has utilized it. It’s fascinating how the mushroom can take some of this life force, or minerals, or nutrients, or however you want to call it from the tree and make it into a way that we can also utilize it.

Pedram:
This chaga, may I see it?

Tero Isokauppila:
Yeah go for it.

Pedram:
It doesn’t even look like a mushroom in some ways, it looks like a piece of wood.

Tero Isokauppila:
Yeah.

Pedram:
This is a mushroom spore based organism that grew out of birch. It almost feels like wood.

Tero:
Yeah.

Pedram:
Because that’s what it ate.

Tero:
Yeah, it doesn’t look like you stereotypical portabella mushroom does it?

Pedram:
Right, it doesn’t have the same shape, it doesn’t do the same ..

Tero:
You can chew it as you can see. That’s one of the … You would have to cook it.

Pedram:
You would decoct this?

Tero:
Yeah, you would cook it into a tea. Funny enough, it was used as a coffee substitute during the second world war. It’s a great … There is an urban monkey if you want to find alternatives and ways how you can substitute or reduce the amount of caffeine, chaga is one of the more fascinating ones.

Pedram:
Tell me about the health benefits of this.

Tero:
Chaga is gram per gram probably the highest source of anti oxidants in the world. This is a thing that the internet loves to debate, but the uric values of that are kind of off the charts. It’s especially this SOD, super-oxide dismatuse, very high in it. What anti oxidants can do is lower inflammation.

The name chaga originally comes from Russia. It was used there mostly for colon health. We can go deeper into that, how certain mushrooms and the certain compounds like poly saccharides can help with gut health and macro [biop 00:13:00] but especially for skin inflammation.
It’s also very high in certain minerals and trace minerals, like zinc and other things. But I would say that most people drink it for [inaudible 00:13:08] support and immune system, skin, and inflammation. I use it mostly for travel, it’s good at that.

 
Pedram:
In what capacity, just to boost your immunity?

Tero:
Yeah, that’s interesting. I find that people don’t care about the immune system. It’s like some of those topics that people don’t … Unless they are sick people just don’t give a shit. It’s like, unless you have a flu or cough. Then when you have it what most people do is they go for these immuno stimulants, the garlics and the echinas and the others, which work, but they stimulate you. They stimulate your immune system when your natural security officers, your natural killer cells and [inaudible 00:13:47] have gone on a vacation and left your house unguarded, and you get an intruder, then you put them to work.

But there is also a very common situation when people’s immune system is hyperactive. But the security officers are not letting you and your family members into the house. That’s a lot of allergic reactions, auto immune disorders come from that. When they are attacking your healthy cells. What mushrooms do, they are immuno modulatory. It’s kind of like driving on a highway and putting your cruise control on 60, if you go to slow it’s going to speed you up, if you try to speed, it’s going to slow you down.

That’s what mushrooms do, they are one of the few that does it. They possibly can help with people who have been sick all of the time, but also people have this inflammation and this auto immune type of over stimulation.

Pedram:
Is that all mushrooms or those that have adaptogenic qualities?

Tero:
Not all mushrooms. Like any kingdom, there is good and bad kinds. When we talk about medicinal mushrooms, we talk about a few hundred mushrooms. Especially the top five to ten mushrooms that are pretty widely studied, these are chaga, reishi, turkey tale, shitakke, mitakke, just to name a few. These are great. Most of them grow on trees but definitely out of estimates vary from hundreds of thousands to a few million of different kinds of mushrooms, only a few hundred have been seen to have these medicinal properties.

Pedram:
Interesting. So most of the good stuff grows on trees. This is chaga, this is reishi. It looks very different, obviously it’s got kind of a regal red about it. This grows on what kind of trees?

40% of All Pharmaceuticals Use Fungi - @FourSigmatic via @PedramShojai

Tero:

This is interesting actually when you think of an ecosystem. Birch is a pioneer. When we think of the most nutrient dense things in the world, they tend to come from when the ecosystem is about to get born, or it’s at the end of it’s lifecycle. It goes in a circle. Birch, in the Nordic countries, it’s the tree that comes if you chop everything out. It comes first. It’s going to build the soil, the phosphorous, for the next tree, which is the spruce. Then finally comes pine.

My dad also takes care of forests, so I learn a lot about how it works. Essentially what it does, it’s a pioneer. Think of an olive tree in the mediterranean, or something like that. Then the forest goes hundreds of years and it comes to the end of it’s life cycle. Hemlock for example is kind of at the end of the … When it’s an old, grown forest or something like that. Then comes reishi. The reishi is said to be the queen of medicinal mushrooms, and this is said to be the king. They have partly similar benefits and partly different.

But it’s funny that a lot of the healthiest things on the planet come from early, they are pioneers, extreme [inaudible 00:16:30]. Where they grow when nothing else grows, or they come in a lush environment, when the forest is really, really old. Or the rain forest, the biodiversity is amazing, and there is all kinds of birds and animals and plants.

Pedram:
Interesting. This guy, the chaga, is living at the place where the original kind of kingdom was breaking inorganic matter into organic. The beginning of the life cycle. They are basically working to create life from inorganic. In that there is fulvic acid, there is a lot of really interesting kind of research in that space. This is kind of where it all springs and begins, so I can see how there is …

Tero:

It usually involves another matter, like fulvic acid is rock. Or in this case it’s the Birch tree that is actually hurt. This is actually kind of a parasitic fungus, it comes when the tree is hurt and it lives in a symbiotic, or a parasitic capacity with the tree. It’s also very fascinating how they are all interconnected and how different matters and organisms work. But not to get too crazy on it.

I brought you a gift related to that. The indigenous people, the first nations, the Native American Indian of our land, the Sami people. They live in northern Norway, Finland, Sweden. They have a tradition of having this kuksa mug. It’s made from the same tree that the chaga grows in. It’s the birch tree and they carve it. There is a saying that nobody will ever really own this mug, you just take care of it for the next generation. This is for your kids and grandkids.

Pedram:
Thank you, I’m honored. It’s beautiful.

Tero:
It’s awesome in a way that you don’t have to wash it. You just rinse it. It’ll get darker as the years go by, but it’s all good.

Pedram:
Fine by me, thank you. This is great. I’ll be drinking mushroom tea out of this.

Tero:
Yeah.

Pedram:
I personally come from a tradition where I have studied a fair amount of Chinese herbalism and there is a lot of really interesting stuff on adrenal fatigue and just kind of bouncing back from the lifestyles that we have all been saddled with. cordyceps, there is a few others, a ratio of which we’ve talked about. But there are a few others that kind of spring up. Can we talk about the medicinal value of this and kind of the dual direction value for people who are just beat up in our modern world?

Tero:
Yeah, that’s actually great. Because the Chinese, we have a lot to thank about the knowledge that we know about mushrooms. We have to thank the traditional Chinese medicine. They are really pioneers on documenting it. We can assume that all of these indigenous cultures would have used them, but they really documented it.

Especially from the health benefits point of view. They were really specific in how it helped for generation after generation. We know that especially reishi. Reishi is actually a japanese name, they would call it lingzhi, is actually how it works, or cordyceps. Both of these are the top, most prestigious herbs as they call it, even though they are in the fungi kingdom, of the traditional Chinese citizen.

I think for an urban citizen who wants to be an urban monk, or already on the way, I think one of the interesting ones is the cordyceps, because it was used for adrenal support. Who is not stressed out in general, and who has not had a few too many cups of coffee, or stimulants? Rebuilding that. It was funny, they actually found cordyceps high in Tibet by looking at these animals grazing on this mushroom.

They were so tired at first but when they ate this mushroom they got all this energy. Then the people were like, “Oh, we should probably try that as well.” It’s funny how observing animals you’ll find this. It was used a lot of lungs, people that have asthma. People for lower back pain. What Ben Western Research figured out, it actually improves oxygen intake, which is obviously one of the absolutely fundamentals in health and wellness is breathing … Meditation, yoga, chi Kong, running. Whatever form it is, getting more oxygen in your lungs.

What this seems to do is these compounds, few compounds in cordyceps, help the ability of us getting more oxygen in our lungs. It’s used a lot by runner, triathletes, MMA fighters. But for an average person, just getting more oxygen in your lungs and supporting your adrenal glands. Being a little bit adaptogenic is probably a quite nice hack. By just adding it to your coffee, or having a cordyceps tea, can hopefully help with rebuilding the adrenals.

Pedram:
I got a question about delivery on that, because traditional Chinese medicine will do a sun, it’ll … Let’s cook this stuff together, let’s extract the active ingredients, and let’s get the sauce, the soup, and drink it. Where as a lot of kind of herbalism we see now, you don’t really go through the extraction process. I could see just ground up bark in a gel capsule. It’s like, how do I know what form to take of this for the optimal delivery? Nowadays you’ll see tons of cordyceps on the shelves. The consumer wouldn’t know the difference.

Mushrooms Are One Of The Few Sources Of Vitamin D - @FourSigmatic via @PedramShojai

Tero:
Totally. There is no shortcut to it. You have to know what part to use. You can use the leaf when you are supposed to use the roots. In the case of mushrooms, it tends to be the fruiting body, the visible part if you ever go foraging mushrooms, the part you see is the part you would use usually.

You would have to know, and there is actually several hundreds of different types of cordyceps. It’s cordyceps [sinens 00:22:00] is the variety that has been most traditionally used. There is many strains of cordyceps sinenses, the cordyceps strain number four is the most famous one.

Like I mentioned, a lot of these medicinal mushrooms are inedible. Which means that they have this substance [kitein 00:22:00] which is kind of the same substance if you try to eat lobster shell, you cannot eat it. What they did with that cooking is essentially they kind of extract it. Think of a bone broth. It’s how you extract the goodness out of it.

Actually, that’s only part of it. The water will only extract part of it. Then alcohol or certain lipids can extract the other part which is the fat soluble compound. Not to go into the nitty gritty of it, you have to extract it, you have to cook it. Preferably you have to texture it, or do both, which is called a dual extraction. You have to choose the right strain and the right part of the fungi. Different mushrooms or herbs might have different things.

You got to kind of do your background research on it, or otherwise you might pay 60 bucks for capsules that don’t do anything for you. That happens a lot.

Pedram:
Right. There is a lot of expensive urine in our world. People don’t know the difference, so the consumer is kind of stuck.

Tero:
If you don’t do it, you are eating sawdust essentially, in a lot of cases it can even hurt your digestive tract.

Pedram:
Sure, it doesn’t sound like a good thing to pass through you.

Tero:
Not fun, yeah.

Pedram:
In terms of looking at how the adrenals are just beat up, cordyceps seems like a good opportunity for everyone to kind of just break things [crosstalk 00:23:23].

Tero:
Yeah, it’s like a Jhing thing if you go to the TCM. It’s great to help rebuild your adrenals. It works kind of the HB axis, from a more western point of view. It’s fascinating how it does. Like with a lot of the adaptogens, we are not quite sure how it actually does it. We know some of the isolated compounds that might work it, but we seem to have this non stimulative but energizing effect of it. That’s what we’ve kind of figured out and it’s been used for over 2,000 years, so it’s nothing new.

Pedram:
It’s not toxic, we know that this doesn’t hurt people.

Tero:
Yeah, the FDA considers most of these mushrooms as food. They are generally regarded as safe. They are not even supplements. They are often sold in capsules because they usually taste bad, bitter. If one of the mushrooms is an upper, a natural energizer without caffeine, it’s cordyceps. Reishi is the opposite, which is kind of the calming but not sedative. For people that have sleep issues for example it helps. Again, the glands, the endocrine system, but in a more calming, grounding way. In a TCM system it would have more Shen, and we see it used for blood pressure and blood sugar type of stuff in western research. We see it kind of as a grounding one.

Pedram:
Would you take it as a tea? What time do you take it? How quickly before bed to decelerate?

Tero:
Yeah. I normally would recommend 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Just that if you are sensitive you don’t want to pee in the middle of the night. But the fascinating part about these is these adaptogens are good in the morning and in the evening. But western people just don’t get that. They want to know. Cordyceps is morning, afternoon. Reishi is late afternoon, evening.

Pedram:
Tell me what to do …

Tero:
Yeah, exactly, tell me when and how.

Pedram:
Yeah. Great. Reishi is something that you can get pretty much anywhere?

Tero:
Pretty much. I would say reishi along with ashwagandha are some of the safest and most steady things for stress management. If you want to kind of use the super herbs and super foods.

Pedram:
Ashwagandha, give us a little background on that. People hear about it all the time, and I know it’s not necessarily the same wheelhouse, what is it?

Tero:
It’s sometimes called Indian ginseng.

Pedram:
It’s a root, it’s not of this kingdom?

Tero:
No it is.

Pedram:
It is?

Tero:
Not it is not. It’s a plant, it is a root. Mushrooms like reishi and cordyceps are often lumped into the same group of these adaptogens or rasayanas, or emperor herbs, however you want. Different names but it’s essentially two directional. They are not stimulative or sedative, but they have somewhat an element of an uplift and a stress reduction both.

Ashwagandha would be the top Indian probably, and then we have rhodiola which the top Nordic. You have Siberian ginseng … Which none of them are ginsengs actually, they just call them ginseng. Or sumeru da in South America, or Makha in the Andes. But ashwaghanda would be a root that would probably help with stress reduction.

Pedram:
it has some buffering elements that help with cortisol levels from what I understand.

Tero:
Yeah actually a lot of the adoptogens including reishi and cordyceps work that blood circulation. I drove to meet you and it was a few hours of traffic and you are in the traffic …

Pedram:
Oof, sorry.

Tero:
No, that’s okay. Because once you have these adaptogens, it kind of helps your blood pressure, and you have this buffer. You get this safety essentially once you have started to consume different kinds of adaptogens. This is what I’ve seen from my own life. I just don’t get stressed that easily anymore. There is a limit when you do, but you get a little bit of a buffer that I didn’t use to have.

Pedram:
Sure, I call it a fuse lengthener.

Tero:
That’s a good name.

Pedram:
It’s really hard in the world that we live in to not have adaptive qualities because you will snap, you will kill people.

Tero:
Totally.

Pedram:
Especially in southern California traffic. Thank you for making it out though.

Tero:
No worries, happy to be here.

Pedram:
A lot of people I know are starting to kind of mess with this stuff, trying to kind of hack their caffeine consumption and find ways to stimulate without aggravating. What would you look at as a strategy for that, and how would you go about it in a healthy, kind of sustainable way?

Tero:
I’ve been playing with mushrooms for quite a few years but the fascinating part is that for example, the immune system, people just don’t care. But whenever you talk about a better for you coffee, or a way to manage the coffee, it usually gets people’s attention. It’s actually probably one of the first ways that you can start. There is a few reasons for it.
One is that coffee, while having antioxidants and brain support possibly against Alzheimer’s and other things, we all know that it is kind of a devil, isn’t it?

Pedram:
It aint great for you.

Tero:
Yeah, it has benefits, but it’s like a lot of these modern day things from smart phones … It’s a bad master. But if you use it as the right tool, it’s great. A couple of the big problems with coffee is … Just to name three big problems. One, it’s very acidic forming.

For example, that’s why my dad for example, kind of how your stomach handles it. The other one is it’s kind of taxing for the adrenals, which we’ve already kind of addressed. Thirdly the blood sugar impact of it. I guess you had some experience of that, how that can then correlate to other things. If your blood sugar just goes up and down you might start craving for sweets and other things.
Essentially, mushrooms surprisingly help with all of them. Cordyceps for your adrenals, or reishi for blood sugar, and the chaga that we talked about was used as a coffee substitute during the second world war when there was a lack of coffee beans. It’s very … because of the minerals and trace minerals it’s very alkaline forming, it will make the coffee a lot more smooth. You can either try to replace your coffee habit with this mushroom tea elixir, or you can add, even better for people first, add it and you will not notice a big difference in the flavor if you add a little bit of mushrooms to your coffee.

That’s a great hack, how you can reduce the acidity and also support your adrenals in your coffee, while still having your habit. Because one of the big problems with coffee is that when people build that habit, that ritual, it’s almost harder to break the ritual than the actual …

Pedram:
Yeah. It’s the warm liquid, it’s the texture, it’s all of it.

Tero:
And the bitters. Bitters are usually good for you, it’s a good habit in that way.

Pedram:
Yeah. It’s a mixed bag, and that’s the challenge. For you, you would just take chaga on it’s own in the morning type of thing? How would you hack your coffee? What do you drink in the morning, just a cordyceps tea?

Tero:
I had a matza this morning, but yeah, normally I would put it in the afternoon. For me, usually between noon and 2:00pm is kind of my tough spot. When I know that especially if I have to get work done, that’s my … that’s when the time if I would have coffee, I would usually have it that time. I would do half and half. I would essentially only have half a cup of coffee, and add mushrooms to it. I’m still getting the flavor, and kind of the neurotransmitter activating parts of the coffee, but I would have it in a much, much, much less taxing form.
Plus, a lot of these medicinal mushrooms are bitter. They don’t taste anything like your normal portabella mushroom. One of the reasons that they are sold in capsules, or why people haven’t taken them into their daily ritual, even though they have all these scientific evidence, is they taste straight up bad.

They taste bad, very bitter. But the two bitters that people usually like is cacao, or chocolate, and coffee. Adding to your hot cocoa or adding it to your coffee might be a great way of both making the coffee or the hot cocoa healthier, but also a fun way and an enjoyable way of consuming these mushrooms.

Pedram:
Yeah, buffering the flavors here and there.

Tero:
Totally, a lot.

Pedram:
Look, the translation for kung fu actually has two. One is hard work, and the other one is eat bitter.

Tero:
Oh is it? I didn’t know that.

Pedram:
It’s part of the culture in Chinese, it’s like, you want to get ahead in life, eat bitter. We know that the epigenetic expression of all sorts of wonderful thing happen in the guy. All sorts of things happen with bitters because traditionally that’s been the flavor of medicine.
Then we have just such a terrible palette for that in the west because we are so hooked on sweets. Our palette doesn’t even know what to do with bitter. I’d say getting a little bitter, and working bitter into your life is probably a good things.

Tero:
For kids, we have a lot of people who are parents, so that’s a good habit to teach for your kids. A little bit before a meal, have a little bit of bitter first to kind of teach them for that palette, probably going to serve them later on.

Pedram:
I love that. There is all sorts of other stuff. Aside from the dietary kind of medicinal. You got guys using mushrooms to break up trash in old spills. Now mushrooms are being used as compost for fertilizer for soil and all of that. I’d love to get into … We’ve got earth day coming up and all sorts of interesting movement around what mushrooms can do, and what the promise of mushrooms are.
Again, it’s almost like this forgotten kingdom if you will. How else can we use mushrooms?

Chaga is The Highest Form Of Antioxidants In The World! - @FourSigmatic via @PedramShojai

Tero:
We are just learning so much all the time. I’ve now seen people make surfboards out of them, I’ve seen Ikea use them in packaging. You can … It’s amazing what you can do with them. Essentially, especially the mycelium, a quick mushroom lingo thing. We talk how we want to use the visible part of the mushroom, the actually mushroom of the fungi …

Pedram:
That includes the whole thing, right? That’s a mushroom.

 
Tero:
Yeah, and it pops up, reishi pops up once a year and stuff like that, but then the roots will live a long time. For example the world’s oldest and largest living organism is this honey mushroom in eastern Oregon that is the size of about 20,000 basketball courts. One mushroom, one cell level thick. Think, our skin has about, what, six, seven … You probably remember.

Pedram:
Layers, sure.

Tero:
Yeah, layers. It has one and it’s 20,000 basketball courts.

Pedram:
20,000, or 20?

Tero:
20,000. It’s in eastern Oregon. It’s about 2,000 years old. These are these mycellial matter that grows everywhere. Actually, what it originally did was it’s breaking down organic matter. Just so if we would not have mushrooms in I don’t know how many years, but in a very short time period we would have the level that land would grow, because we have all this matter coming in and nobody is composting it. That’s what it does.

But interestingly enough for the earth day element, it can also break down a lot of the worst things on the planet. Radioactivity, for example what they found at Chernobyl is a certain type of mushroom can collect the radioactivity into one hot spot. Essentially it’s a vacuum cleaner of the bad stuff.

There is oil spills of how a very good culinary and partly medicinal mushroom, oyster mushroom, can break down diesel. Essentially this oil that has been given to the soil, how you put it in wood chops and it will just take it away. Or, these chemical warfare weapons that because of fighting we put into our ecosystem, they are going to be there for a while. We can remove them with mushrooms. Mushrooms are the vacuum cleaners, or the cleaning people of the forest.

For earth day especially, if we can as a … Start looking at using specific types of mushrooms to remove areas that we have polluted as human beings, there is a lot of promise. There is a lot of ways how we can potentially save the planet. I always find that really outrageous when people say we are going to save the planet, but essentially help the planet if not.
And, one of the latest discoveries is one type of mushroom in the Amazon that is actually the first thing that we found that can destroy plastic. It eats plastic. This old saying is that because we use plastic everywhere, plastic is not going to go away. Actually, now there is a mushroom that loves to eat plastic away from the nature.

How we can, as human beings, help nature in that way by … These mycelium, we can plant them in a way. We can put them in specific locations. There is a lot of promise there, a lot of smart people working, a lot smarter than I am, working on very specific problems around the world with very specific types of mushrooms. I’m more interested in the human health, but acknowledging the fact that there is a lot of stuff there.

Pedram:
It’s like a renaissance in stuff. The shamans knew about it, our ancestors knew about it. Unless you are Anglo Saxon.

Tero:
Even they knew about it until a few generations it …

Pedram:
It just took a hit?

Tero:
Yeah. It just took a hit for a while.

Pedram:
Yeah. Now, it’s making a resurgence. I know that you have been putting it into teas. You have a whole company and you do what you do to kind of promote getting this out there. What is it that is the kind of most popular in your line? And what is it that you would want to be the most popular in your line?

Tero:
Look, it’s … We urban people ask what’s in it for me? We like to save the planet, and help the planet, and do all of these great things, support charity. But first we ask, what’s in it for me? For a lot of people it is coffee. We do sell mushroom coffee and that’s clearly the thing that gets people’s attention. Because if you know that you can get a bitter for your coffee …

The second one is the hot cocoa. It’s like if you know that what if you can serve your kids a healthy hot chocolate? People get excited.

Pedram:
No sugar added kind of thing.

Tero:
Yeah, a healthy alternative to the habit, and also giving them a little bit of this immune supporting actogenic properties in smaller dosages. People get excited of those. I think the mushroom coffee is probably going to be the California roll of mushrooms. Same way as … I don’t know I guess California got it first, but just 10 years ago my mom was shocked that somebody would eat raw fish.
Sushi is a fairly new thing. Obviously here it’s a little bit longer time, but people were scared of sushimi. But when people bought a California roll that isn’t going to look like raw fish, it was an entry level product, the gateway thing. I think mushroom coffee is going to be that for a lot of the fungi stuff. I think when people feel the health benefits in any way. Is it through chaga or reishi, or is it through psychedelics, they realize that the power of the fungi, and they realize what they can do for you, and also for others. Then they get humble. They get like, whoa. Then you are like, “Okay.”

Pedram:
It actually makes me think a lot about that, because the psychedelic element is you are almost tapping into a collective consciousness of an ancient kingdom that has been there. It’s kind of the basis of life for a very long time. It’s almost like an information network that we tend to not really access given the foods that we consume, and the company we keep.
There is a lot layered there and I’d love to kind of unpack that and explore it in future shows with you. Because this is fascinating. This is fascinating stuff to me. It’s ancient wisdom and ancient medicine for modern people who are looking for answers in all the wrong places. Obviously the big pharma is making billions of dollars exploiting this kingdom kind of in a hush, hush way. Because they are getting all of these drugs out of it, and quote on quote, patenting life. Here we go, it’s right in front of me. This is the life that grew out of other life that has a really interesting narrative.

I love what you are doing, I want to keep up with this. I’d like to actually take a mushroom challenge and start doing some of this and experiencing it in my own life, and report back to my audience. I’m in, this is awesome stuff. Tell us where you can find your work and where we can find more about the products you have put together?
By the way, he was at my book launch even, and I started getting. I was so busy signing books and being off and I started getting all this feedback from people saying, “Hey, that mushroom stuff that came in your little goodie bag thing, that stuff was awesome. Here he is, Tyron is the guy. It was really, really well received by the 200 people that were at that party.

Tero:
Yeah awesome, that was a fun event. My company’s name is Four Sigmatic, a very geeky name. We are kind of geeky guys, but the Finnish fungi sometimes people call us. But yeah, four sigmatic, you can find us from whole foods to Amazon, to Thrive, whatever. It’s foursigmatic.com. If it’s a call to action, we launched a free mushroom academy. If this got you excited of mushrooms, we have I think about 12 videos and written content on just learning the one on one on mushrooms. It’s free, you can find it on our website, and just learn more. That’s already a lot. Just spending one hour of learning more I think will be pretty interesting.

Pedram:
I’m doing it, I want to know. Spell Four Sigmatic, just so we know.

Tero:
Four, number four …

Pedram:
Yeah, but written out four.

Tero:
Four sigmatic. Essentially if you take all the world’s plants … Essentially we want to represent the 50 most researched foods in the world. About 10 of them are mushrooms. Essentially if you take all the world’s foods and you look at their nutrient density, like in a lot of science, it will form a normal distribution, a bell curve. From the mean, every standard deviation is called a sigma. Four sigmas means it’s better than 99.999% of the world’s foods. Very geeky, but that’s what it means.

Pedram:
But it means something very special.

Tero:
Yeah.

Pedram:
Thank you for doing the work that you do, thank you so much for this. Y’all will see me drinking out of this from here on in. This is my new tea much right here, and it carries some good chi. Thanks for coming out, and fighting traffic, and thanks for doing what you do.

Tero:
Thanks a lot for having me on this podcast.

 

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