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Dr. Sandra Carter | Weird, Wonderful Mushrooms: Their Role In Regeneration & Health

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 The Mushroom Kingdom is vastly similar to the Animal Kingdom, making a lot of their compounds connected and related in many different ways. Dr. Sandra Carter has dedicated herself to fully understanding how mushrooms can restore ecosystems and help humans achieve a much healthier lifestyle. She joins Corinna Bellizzi to present sustainable practices in extracting the most beneficial elements within the weirdest and most wonderful mushrooms in the world. Dr. Sandra also talks about the impact of microdosing psychedelics, the best mushroom formulation and cooking practices, and their mushroom-based food supplement.

 

About Dr. Sandra Carter

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful MushroomsDr. Sandra Carter has an extensive background in the areas of sports performance, disease prevention and health promotion through diet, exercise and integrative medicine. Dr. Carter has applied her medical background to product development and whole food mushroom formulations to create efficacious finished products.

 

 

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandra-carter-3b6b3241/

Guest Website: https://ommushrooms.com/, www.m2ingredients.com

Guest Social:

https://www.instagram.com/ommushrooms/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWRXMAQKyvD3rlboiaMoWLA/videos

https://www.facebook.com/ommushrooms

 

Show Notes:

Career Path – 01:22

Mushrooms – 02:53

Sustainable Practices – 08:01

Cordyceps – 14:40

Recommended Resources – 19:00

Culinary Mushroom – 27:04

What’s Next – 31:16

Microdosing Psychedelics – 36:21

Buying And Harvesting Mushrooms – 41:29

Supplement Tips – 47:02

Closing Words – 51:16

 

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Dr. Sandra Carter | Weird, Wonderful Mushrooms: Their Role In Regeneration & Health

We’re going to dive into what I call the weird and wonderful world of mushrooms and their role in doing things that are critically important for life on Earth, including restoring ecosystems, assisting in the traffic of water and nutrients between plants and to plants, and ultimately also supporting climate health by increasing the ability of our soil to sequester carbon as well as their incredible role in impacting the health of humans and animals. I even give my dogs mushrooms to support their longevity.

To explore this topic, I’m joined by Dr. Sandra Carter. She has an extensive background in the areas of sports performance, disease prevention, and health promotion through diet, exercise, and integrative medicine. Dr. Carter has applied her medical background to product development and Whole Foods mushroom formulations to create efficacious ingredients and finished products that you might already know. She’s the Founder of M2 Ingredients and the popular mushroom brand, Om Mushroom Superfood.

‐‐‐

Dr. Carter, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me. I am very excited to have a little time to talk about health and wellness.

Career Path

I thought we would start by learning a little bit about what inspired you first to dive into this weird and wonderful world of mushrooms.

I get asked a lot, “How did you segue from your background in integrative medicine to now being 100% in the mushroom world?” With so much experience in health and wellness, my approach has always been on integrative medicine, so looking at nutrition as being key. I was aware of mushrooms and their benefits, but it happened when I was at a Scripps Integrative Medicine conference and a colleague of mine introduced me to Steve Farrar, my cofounder, who’s a mycologist.

Steve, at the time, had segued into growing functional mushrooms, the different types of mushrooms that we look to for more unique benefits. He was looking at possibilities for formulating products. Initially, I said, “I’ll lend a hand. I’d like to learn more about these different species you’re growing.” As I dove more into the research, I became really amazed at how diverse the fungal kingdom is and how limited awareness and education are in Western culture. I could see there was a real opportunity to help educate and, importantly, innovate new products.

Mushrooms

Let’s talk about the role of mushrooms and what makes them so special. We can start with a perspective on soil health. Our audience is already a bit familiar with concepts of regenerative agriculture if they’ve been following along for a while. It’s so fascinating and will really help the end user who might even be interested in mushrooms understand what makes them so different as far as consumables in our daily lives.

First of all, the DNA in the fungal kingdom is much more similar to the DNA in the animal or the mammal kingdom than in botanical DNA. The botanical kingdom split off about nine million years prior to the fungal kingdom splitting off from the animal kingdom. There is a tremendous amount of similarity between the mushroom kingdom and the animal kingdom.

We find compounds like ergothioneine. It is a unique antioxidant that you can only find in the fungal kingdom and lichen. You can find it in plants, but only if that plant has a mycorrhizal relationship with the fungal kingdom. Meaning, there was mycelium in the soil that allowed for the takeup of that antioxidant. What’s so fascinating is it is the only antioxidant that’s been identified that all mammals have an active transport mechanism for that specific antioxidant.

What we have found in research is the levels of this important, very stable antioxidant are less than 50% than they were in the 1950s. That relates to our agricultural practices where there aren’t any mycorrhizal relationships in much of our modern agriculture anymore. The mushrooms play such a key role in how they transport nutrients across our forests and our agricultural soils, how they battle with viruses and bacteria, and, ultimately, how they have developed a very strong and unique immune function to be able to live long periods of time. Many mycelial fields can last for hundreds of years, for instance, and be spread out over hundreds of acres.

The mushroom play a key role in transporting nutrients across forests and agricultural soil. They have developed a strong and unique immune function to live very long periods of time.

This leans into the conversations we’ve had prior about reasons that you might not want to till your soil because you’re breaking that mycelium network. It’s the honeycomb that exists within the soil and holds it together that helps it retain more moisture so that plants are more drought-tolerant and require less water to grow. We covered this as well when I connected with Caryl Levine and Ken Lee on the other show I host, Nutrition Without Compromise. We did share that episode as a bonus episode on this show.

They talked about something as simple as getting more crops per drop through mitigation of how you’re managing your growth and that you might not even need to use flood agriculture to grow rice. Even these simple things that we’ve learned with time, some of which are more novel or new and some of which have been around for what seems like since the dawn of civilization, like the use of mushrooms in traditional Chinese medicine.

I also want to mention that how we manage our forests really relates to that fungal network. If you saw Avatar and they talk about the Tree of Life and how they communicate, that’s real on our planet. Those mother trees through the mycelial network have an ability to shunt nutrients to the saplings around them. When you clear-cut a forest, you eliminate those mother trees and reduce that fungal network, thereby improving the health of the overall forest.

That is so true. It’s really nice to hear you reflect on that as well. While we have so much wisdom that may be buried in ancient culture with the use of mushrooms for generations, even understanding that when a tree dies in the forest, what happens? They get covered in mushrooms.

They play a very key role. People maybe aren’t aware of how it’s such a key role or a vital role. We need fungal enzymes. We have enzymes inside our stomachs. Mushrooms produce enzymes outside of their cell wall. That’s how they digest a tree in the forest. They decompose organic matter so plant life can take it up in individual constituents. It’s vital for our planet.

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful Mushrooms
Wonderful Mushrooms: Mushrooms produce enzymes out of their cell wall to digest trees in the forest. They decompose organic matter so that plant life can take it up to individual constituents.

 

Sustainable Practices

As we continue this conversation, you have been growing mushrooms in an organic way for some time. The Om Mushroom Superfood products have been on the market for some time. You’ve even gone through a packaging iteration or two by this point. I’ve seen an earlier iteration and a newer one. What have you learned? What sustainable practices have you brought into how you’re growing mushrooms to maximize their potential human and animal benefit?

I’ve learned a lot, which I love. I am a lifelong learner. I know that mushrooms are bioaccumulators. They will accumulate whatever is in the air, whatever they’re growing on, and the water that they’re utilizing. They will take up and accumulate the items that are in their surroundings, so it is extremely important that you grow mushrooms in a very pristine and careful manner.

We supply mushrooms all over the planet to different companies. It was interesting. We supply South Korea. The South Korean FDA has mandated that all mushrooms coming into Korea have to be tested for radiation. The reason is this. Wildcrafted Chaga in that part of the world is often grown downwind of Chernobyl. It is a very slow-growing mushroom. It can grow for over seven years. During that time, it has an opportunity to consolidate and accumulate radiation from the air. They’ve realized that much of this wildcrafted chaga has high levels of radiation. Likewise, if you’re growing mushrooms in a polluted area, it can consolidate heavy metals, pesticides, fungicides, and so on.

We are growing our mushrooms, first of all, on an organic substrate. We grow them on organic gluten-free oats. We grow them in a controlled-growing environment. Meaning, it’s got filtered water and the air is filtered for any contaminants. We are able to control not only the environment in terms of any potential pollutants, but we also can optimize the growing conditions.

Many of the mushrooms that we grow are what we consider tropical. They like warm weather environments, but many of them also like cold environments. Some like it warm and then they like it cold, and then they like it warm again. We can modulate for each species the environment for that mushroom and therefore optimize those compounds that will contribute to your overall health and wellness. We are looking at things like beta-glucans or cordycepin and cordyceps, for instance.

Some of the mushrooms you’re growing are a little tougher to grow whereas some of those that you might get to grow in your home. Back to the Roots sells these kits where you can grow on their substrate, oyster mushrooms. I’ve grown the golden, the grayish, which they might call something else, and a tan version.

I’ve personally tried this. Sometimes, I have a box that seems to go off and produce a ton of mushrooms. Other times, it seems to have a harder time getting going. I imagine this is in part due to the season in my home or the temperature in my home and how dry it is, how moist it is, and how often I’m spraying it down. What makes it hard to grow mushrooms? What makes this a science as opposed to a kitchen experiment?

You’re right. You can grow your own mushrooms. I’m so happy to see the popularity of these wonderful kits so people can have their own mushroom garden in their homes. Environment plays a key role. Lion’s mane is a mushroom, for instance, in much cooler environments. They also like a lot of oxygen. That, for most people growing in a home environment, isn’t an issue.

When you’re growing in a very commercial environment, it’s extremely important because they are producing a lot of carbon dioxide. You have to make sure you’re removing that from your growing spaces. It is making sure that they have the right not only temperature, but also, there’s potential for contamination. You’ve got a sterile whatever it is you’re growing on, and then you could have invading bacteria or invading fungal species coming in. They could retard the growth of your mushrooms, so you want to have a more pristine opportunity for your mushrooms to grow in.

I read on the Back to the Roots packaging that ideally, it would grow a little slower but produce more fruiting bodies if it was grown in my cupboard. If I wanted bigger mushrooms, I’d grow them outside on my counter in indirect light, so to speak. One of the amazing things about mushrooms too is that when you do put them out in UV light if you happen to be growing them at home, they will improve their levels of vitamin D.

You can even do this with store-bought mushrooms like cremini or whatever button mushrooms, you put them out in the sun for a half hour before you slice and dice them, cook them, or whatever. The vitamin D that they provide could be similar to taking 1,000 IU of a vitamin D supplement, which is amazing. It goes to showcase how unique and different this part of the animal, plant, and fungus kingdom really is. In another way, it almost has an attribute that’s similar to ours where if we spend time in the sun, we can build vitamin D.

They convert ergosterol into vitamin D. We have melanin in our skin. It is a very similar process. You’re right. Those mushrooms, even if you bought them from the store, still can have that conversion occur. You see more culinary mushrooms being labeled with high levels of vitamin D because, in those growing facilities, they have lighting that helps with that conversion. If you have some that don’t have that label on them, you can achieve the same goal at home.

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful Mushrooms
Wonderful Mushrooms: More culinary mushrooms these days are being labeled with high levels of Vitamin D. If you have mushrooms that don’t have that label on it, you can achieve the same goal at home.

 

Cordyceps

When I got my start working in this industry, I first worked for a traditional Chinese-oriented company, Draco Natural Products. They produce herbal extracts and also mushroom extracts. The first mushrooms I was exposed to were things like cordyceps, which people have heard of because they watched a certain TV show.

The Last of Us.

The mushrooms are taking over and making people zombies. That is not how the killer strain of mushrooms works. It tends to stick to the insect world. You grow this then on a medium, and typically, that medium would be rice or a grain of some sort. You said you’re using organic oats. Is that correct?

Yes. Our cordyceps love those oats.

As it compares to cordyceps that are wildcrafted, because you’re growing it in this way, how different is it? Does it retain the same medicinal properties that the first youth from that wildcrafted space might?

That’s a great question. It is one that we really have been focusing on. We have developed our science team. We have a chief science officer, Julie Dow, who has a PhD in natural product chemistry. We have five mycologists and another PhD researcher on board. We’re looking at the metabolomics of these different species. We are looking at cordyceps as an example, what are the cordycepin levels, where are we finding the cordyceps in the fruit body stage and the mycelial stage, and then how does that relate or compare to wildcrafted material as well.

What’s really amazing is in many of the products, cordyceps is a good example. What we are cultivating in a commercial manner is quite equivalent to wildcrafted. There may be some cordycepin that you’re finding in the high Tibetan plateau that is growing on a caterpillar. That, honestly, will have higher levels, but the price tag, and talk about not sustainable. This is a very sad story because there has been interest in that. For the Tibetan people, it’s a little bit of a cultural issue because the high demand and high cost of that material have had an impact on that culture.

For instance, we did a major metabolomics and cell line study of our lion’s mane mushroom. We found unique nootropic compounds in the mycelium that are different from the fruit body stage of the mushroom. In those kinds of instances, it’s better to have this full spectrum, whole lifecycle mushroom. The traditional Chinese medicine folks at the time had no way to capture. They didn’t have sterile processes. They had no way to capture that mycelial stage of the mushroom. As we dive deeper into the science, we’re learning more about the importance of the different parts of the lifecycle and how we can grow them to optimize the compounds.

That’s incredible. One of the things that I’ve seen in this natural products industry over the 25 years that I’ve been working in it too is that sometimes, we’re able to best understand what nature does or really works to help the plant along or, in this case, the mushroom, so that it can thrive in a different way. Sometimes, in those cases, you’re able to get more out of that mushroom or the mycelium.

I know that as knowledge continues to be gained with time, we’ve shifted our thinking to parts of the mushroom that are most valuable. In some cases, in some mushrooms, it seems to be more the mycelial network whereas in others, it’s more focused on the fruiting body. The fruiting body is the part of the mushroom that you traditionally associate with. That’s the mushroom, so to speak.

Recommended Resources

This can be very confusing for people, so where do they go? What resources do you recommend for their continued knowledge if they’re a budding mycologist, so to speak, and they really want to learn more, and are even potentially interested in harvesting some of their own responsibly when they come across it in the wilds?

Fortunately, the mycology world is really growing. There are a lot of fabulous books that are being written and articles that you’re seeing with individuals who have a very scientific approach and understand the chemistry and compound makeup of different mushrooms. They can provide a lot of valid information. There has been a lot of conjecture I’ve seen on social media in particular.

We’re even seeing them advertising mushrooms in a gummy and saying it’s a microdose because of the rising popularity of microdosing psychedelics. They’re referring to even a lion’s mane in a gummy as a microdose and that somehow, it is going to help your brain as a nootropic. Frankly, that’s like taking a placebo because the amount they’re providing is so little. It’s candy.

I’m really curious to see what your perspective is on that because people hear broadly something like, “Lion’s mane is great for the brain. Maybe it could even help to prevent something like this disease state of Alzheimer’s.” Whether or not that’s a false promise, I don’t want to get into that. I’m not making any of these claims. This is to understand what they can trust or how they should even think about something as an added tool for their cabinet as opposed to window dressing. Where’s the fact and where’s the fiction?

What we feel is that we are at the very beginning stages of really understanding this kingdom. We are, as a group and as a company, humble about what we know and have an understanding that there is so much we don’t know. Mycology has not got the breadth of research that the botanical kingdom has. If you look at the botanical kingdom, we know there are certain plants where the leaf may have the bioactivity or the roots may have the bioactivity. Maybe it’s in the flower. There are all different kinds of plants and parts of plants that have more or less applications for health and wellness. The same applies to the fungal community.

When you hear broad statements such as it has to be an extract or it has no value, that’s a vast oversimplification when you think of the thousands of different mushrooms, or millions, a much larger kingdom than the botanical kingdom, and the fact that there are unique compounds in these different parts of the mushroom life cycle and each of the different species. That’s the learning that we should all be striving to really understand.

We have formed a collective or a collaborative of the mushroom growers and the mycologists in our community. We are all meeting and contributing to that knowledge and ongoing awareness. Going to the end state of a product, there are two most important things. One, where is the mushroom grown? It is to make sure and to see if there is transparency and whether this needs to be an organic product for sure.

Why we would even debate that to me is crazy.

That’s a given. Secondly, what’s the dosage level? You are right. Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Things seem to have gone very slowly in a way in the mycology world and then fast. All of a sudden, there’s all this attention, and because of all the attention to mushrooms, a lot of new products are being launched with varying degrees of efficacy. It is looking at that dosage like, “Is it 0.25 of 1 gram of something and that’s the serving size?” It is unlikely that that’s going to be an efficacious dose to produce the benefit that you’re looking for.

I will speak as somebody who’s on the other side and sometimes doing formulation. I’ve used a lion’s mane. In one case, it was reasonable to use a whole powder. In another case, it was reasonable to use an extract. The reason for both of those things had to do with formulation, the amount of the ingredient that would be required, and what we were seeking to get out of it in the end.

All of those things have to be considered. I’m going to say this in general terms when it comes to something like a gummy vitamin. I’m not going to say all of them necessarily, but generally speaking, they don’t have a very high level of that particular ingredient. With that said, that would be a reason too to perhaps go to a higher extract that is standardized because you can’t put quite as much of the material into a gummy as you might another delivery system.

We have a very talented R&D team. For our own brand, we have half a gram in the gummy. That took a lot of R&D and a lot of work, but we were not going to compromise on launching something with no promise behind it.

They say microdose and you’re like, “Okay.”

That’s maybe a keyword right there. You are right. We certainly recognize there are many products where an extract is the best application for that product. As a formulator, you need to understand what the consumer experience is going to be at the other end. Is this a solubility? We’re seeing applications and potential in personal care. You’d want something that is going to be highly soluble. That’s another area that we are working on. Importantly, that dose and understanding what is the dose for that specific species too.

I’m also seeing different companies that have a blend of mushrooms with small amounts and then claims against every single species. Generally speaking, to achieve the claim, for instance, for lion’s mane around cognitive health, you need a certain dosage level of that one species. These are as unique as the botanical community.

I’m encouraged that there are more responsible brands out there too. This is a comment I would make across the board. You can formulate any number of products that are on trend, put a dusting of material in them, and still be irresponsible and make claims along those lines or you can do it right. The products that do it right are sometimes a little more expensive.

Culinary Mushroom

Frankly, price doesn’t seem to be the dictator. I’ve seen all sorts of products on Amazon that make all the claims and that are relatively high prices capitalizing on the present trend. You’re going to have to dig a little deeper. You’re going to have to read your labels. Taking a few key examples of responsible brands can help you select something that’s going to work for you and deliver the thing that you hope it will as opposed to something you’re taking mindlessly. We can get too little of these mushrooms, but if you are going to consume something like a lion’s mane consistently with time, that’s what shows its benefit, seeing that it’s taken consistently. I consume lion’s mane as a fresh mushroom too. I wonder what your thoughts are on that as a culinary treat.

The one thing that we need to point out is you need to cook your raw mushrooms. When you’re buying a culinary mushroom, it’s not grown in a sterile environment. You do need to clean and then cook the mushroom to make sure that you’re getting rid of any bacteria or anything on it. It has attributes in it as well. I love to go to the produce areas and see how much they have expanded the different types of mushrooms. At farmer’s markets, you can find pink oysters and all different kinds of mushrooms. When you think back to several years ago, it was a button mushroom, and then the shiitake mushroom came along. That was big news. People can find different ways to use mushrooms as a meat replacement.

We’ve been active with The Mushroom Council. The Mushroom Council has made a lot of efforts over the years to help encourage people to use mushrooms either in combination with meats to reduce the amount of meat or as a straight-across meat replacement. They’ve had a lot of success in that effort in helping with the education of finding different sources of protein as well.

I have to mention a story here, and this may help people get an understanding of where we’re headed. I got to spend a day with June Jo Lee who’s a food ethnographer. She was one of the keynote panelists at Expo West. I met her after her presentation specifically on how Generation Z, our generation alpha, is engaging with food. This is the post-Millennial generation, the people who came of age during COVID.

We meet up in San Francisco and go by this little shop that’s over at Pier 1. You notice that they have all these beautiful wildcrafted mushrooms. We bought their first harvest from Oregon, wildcrafted morel mushrooms, and took them back to her place. She grilled them up in a simple sauce of oil, herbs, and a little bit of spice. Since morels have these little pockets within them, she’s like, “I’m sorry. They’re a little gritty,” because you couldn’t quite brush all of the little bits out of the wild. That would be one of the reasons that you want to make sure that you’re cooking these things because there could be other bacteria in the soil that’s coming along with it.

The texture, the taste, and everything were divine. Considering that I have shifted to being a vegetarian myself, I’m looking for other creative ways to get these nutrients into my diet. I did not know I would have to cook lion’s mane. I thought I could eat that raw, and I have eaten quite a bit of it raw. I’m curious if you think I might have put myself at risk with that.

It’s a good rule of thumb, good precautionary. If you’re growing it yourself and you know where it’s coming from and how it’s being handled, that’s one thing. Oftentimes, when people say they have allergies to mushrooms, it is more related to the substrate that it was grown on and the allergy to the substrate itself.

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful Mushrooms
Wonderful Mushrooms: If you are growing mushroom yourself, you know where they are coming and how they are being handled.

 

What’s Next

That’s incredible. My little excursion into the culinary delights of mushrooms will be paused. I’m curious to know what’s coming next for your business and the things that you’re working on, perhaps on the research end, to help bring more great information to all of us who are trying to divine how these mushrooms should be really used and ultimately deepen our understanding.

A historical context for people, when I started working in this industry many years ago selling mushroom extracts, we were focused on one thing, full-spectrum and standardized at the same time. We were using aqueous tea-like methods of brewing that herb and then working to capture as much of its essence before spraying it dry so that it could then be used in other applications.

One of the challenges we were posed with is that a lot of times, this would create something that was very hygroscopic, meaning it would attract water, and have a difficult workability for that reason. With advances in technology and understanding, we know in some cases mycelium is better for this and the fruiting body is better for that. It enables us to get a little smarter about how we’re growing and how we’re extracting these particular ingredients for use, whether it be for culinary or beyond these medicinal applications.

Exactly what you’re saying is the journey that we have been on. Looking at even the test methods and starting at that level, we have a lot of challenges finding commercial labs that can vary reliably and validly repeat measurements and get consistent results. If you don’t have that to start out with, then it’s hard to do research because you don’t know what you’re measuring against and to see improvement.

With this coalition of other interested mycologists, growers, and brands, we are teaming up together with labs to help develop good, reliable methods. We encourage commercial labs to have those readily available for formulators who can retest and get the same results back again. We’re looking to really understand the different compounds in the different species of mushrooms and where we find them in the fruit body and the mycelial stage.

Also, after we harvest the mushroom, how do we process the mushroom? Heat can play a role both positively and negatively on different compounds. We do see that heat can harm nootropic compounds at very high levels, so there is a band within which you want to process lion’s mane in particular. On the other hand, heat can help make available beta-glucan compounds by loosening the tightness of the cell wall. The processing portion of how you’re handling these great, wonderful, different species of mushrooms is also something that will relate to how much bioavailability is present in that final product itself.

Looking at applied research is also a very exciting area for us to be in. We’re looking at clinicals on our lion’s mane and measurements of depression, mood, and cognitive improvement. We’re seeing great results, particularly in younger cohorts who tend to struggle with anxiety, depression, and so on. We’re really excited about that.

We’ve been involved in sports performance research looking at max VO2, which is a measurement of endurance. With our cordyceps, cordyceps is a mushroom that helps with the availability of oxygen. It’s such a very simple concept. More oxygen means more capability of your muscles to produce energy in the presence of oxygen, so aerobic endurance. We’ve seen great results there.

We have great cell results on the immune front, but looking at prebiotic models to establish the gut health and microbiome relationship. This is all important as it relates to the type of mushroom species. We’re looking at a number of different species, and we’re looking at different dosages as well. It is so we can provide great guidance to consumers and formulators about, “If this is the claim that we want to be able to attach to these species, you need to have this amount of mushroom in your product to have that final claim.”

Microdosing Psychedelics

Ultimately, you’re talking about building responsible products. It’s also really interesting the time that we’re in. Especially here where I am in California, microdosing specifically with psychedelics is very popular. While it’s still of questionable legality, I’m even seeing websites selling psychedelics. I’m curious where you sit when it comes to something like these newer advents and treatments.

Many of you are saying that these psychedelic mushrooms taken at microdoses where you aren’t going to experience the psychotropic effects of the mushroom can support building different pathways within our brain so we can overcome things like post-traumatic stress. Where do you sit on this? Do you support the use of psychedelics? Do you speak on that?

I’m certainly part of a lot of discussions on psychedelics and their application for them. It’s interesting in California. I rarely go to a meeting where someone doesn’t turn to me and say, “I microdose every single day. Are you growing psychedelics?” I have to remind people, “It’s not legal. You’re not going to see psychedelics on the Whole Foods shelves in the next little while.”

What has happened in the research related to PTSD, depression, and addiction is truly remarkable. Those are all areas where pharmaceuticals have not made a lot of progress very sadly when you look at rates of suicide or addiction issues in our country. This is a really important discovery that was halted for many years. That research relates to high doses of the psilocybin mushrooms that are being delivered in a clinical setting. There is a lot of screening that happens before that. You have professionals who are guiding you through that experience. It is a wonderful application and solution for many people.

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful Mushrooms
Wonderful Mushrooms: Pharmaceuticals have not made a lot of progress when you look at suicide rates and addiction issues in our country.

 

On the other end of that spectrum though is microdosing. A lot of people microdose small amounts of mushrooms. You’re right. You see it on Amazon and all kinds of places and websites. They report having more clarity and more focus. That is generally what I hear from people who are microdosing. That could be true. There is a lot more science that needs to occur on consistent use of microdose over time. That’s something that has not been well-documented. There’s some important research that needs to occur.

The other thing is that our products are very highly regulated. We have a big team of quality and regulatory specialists here. When you’re buying a chocolate bar from someone and it’s not regulated, how do you know how much is in there? How do you know the quality of the material in there? This is a really emerging area. There may be some very positive outcomes for people, but there also is potential for negative outcomes. It’s a little bit of the Wild West. It’s great to see the awareness of mushrooms, but I would like to see the research catch up to that interest so we can provide guidance to consumers.

The same thing exists in the world of CBD. When we’re talking about things like the medicinal use of cannabidiols that are present in hemp plants, the claims outpace the research. Part of the rising popularity of mushrooms as a whole is also because of the rising popularity of this concept of microdosing. People then start to gravitate to, “This is becoming mainstream. I can talk about tripping now. Is that okay?”

Buying And Harvesting Mushrooms

Many of us, and I’ll include myself in this bin, experimented with magic mushrooms in our earlier years or in college. Many of us have been on a medicine journey in some way, whether it be ayahuasca or medicinal mushrooms, in a controlled environment with someone who’s supporting our journey. This has become very popular. That level of acceptance has also broadened people’s minds to think about all of the mushrooms in the kingdom. I’ve also heard Paul Stamets isn’t really a fan of Portobello mushrooms. I’m curious about your thoughts on the mushrooms that are available on our grocery store shelves. Is it a tool or something we should avoid? Where do you stand on that?

I know some of his concerns are about the safety related to allergens, for instance, that can be a part of Portobellos. That goes to this issue of cleaning and cooking. When you look at how some of these mushrooms are grown, it’s not in a pristine environment by any means. When I think back to many years ago, we always had raw mushrooms on a salad bar. That probably wasn’t a great idea. Having the availability of different mushrooms really helps educate and help people think about the utilization of mushrooms in different ways. They will all have beta-glucans and vitamin D if they’ve been in an exposed area to light. It is how you’re going to ultimately handle them that will be the concern there.

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful Mushrooms
Wonderful Mushrooms: Having the availability of different mushrooms helps educate people about their proper utilization in various ways.

 

It’s springtime here. The chanterelle mushrooms in my neighborhood are going off because we’ve had so much rain. I plan to harvest some. Is there anything we should be aware of when we wild harvest mushrooms that we know we’ve identified properly?

That’s the important one. Steve Farrar, our wonderful cofounder, says, “All mushrooms are edible, but some only once.”

That’s right. It may not be the trippy journey that you imagine you might go on. It could be something far worse.

If you’ve identified and you’re very comfortable, then it is making sure you’re cleaning them and handling them appropriately. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that you can expand your culinary horizons? At one of the Golden Globes dinners, and this was a few years ago, they served king trumpet mushroom, which has a very large stem. It looked like a scallop dish. It was so beautiful and creative. I saw photos of it. People are thinking differently about mushrooms and how they can incorporate them into their cooking regimes.

I love that. I had these beautiful morel mushrooms. I grew up in Southern Oregon, and I never had them when I lived there. I thought they were poisonous when I saw them in the forest. I got to experience them. The texture reminded me of octopus or tako. I haven’t had an octopus in years because as soon as I started scuba diving and realized how cool these little critters are underwater, I couldn’t imagine eating them anymore.

I also felt like they didn’t have a ton of flavor. They take on the flavor of whatever you put them in, which is very similar to some of these mushrooms. They might be innocuous, but they provide that texture or something similar to it. If that’s something that you’re looking for and you’re also going more plant-based, then mushrooms can really help with that.

They are adding more protein to your diet since a lot of them have a fair amount of protein and also polysaccharides. That is part of the reason some of those extracts can be so hygroscopic and attract water. The polysaccharides are incredible antioxidants. They are so health-supportive that even if you don’t like mushrooms and eat them, maybe find a supplement. They can go to you at Om Mushroom Superfood for that too, right?

Yeah. We did some analysis of antioxidants in our mushrooms. For several of the species reishi, turkey tail, and Agaricus blazei, it was higher than a standardized blueberry extract, which shocked us.

If you look at the ORAC value, the actual ORAC value is higher.

It was amazing. This is where humility comes from. It’s, “Let’s be open-minded and try to seek to understand more about this incredible kingdom.” Isn’t that great news? Usually, you associate antioxidants with very colorful fruits and vegetables. Mushrooms aren’t usually colorful with the exception of Cordyceps militaris because that’s bright orange, but no reishi, turkey tail, and Agaricus blazei. Those have incredible amounts of antioxidants. We’re going to go down a wonderful path looking to discover more about those antioxidants.

Let us be open minded and seek to understand more about the incredible Mushroom Kingdom.

While reishi and turkey tail can be a little bitter, they’re fairly simple to disguise. You can put them in a capsule or blend them into a smoothie too.

Likewise, even chaga, which is a woody, very dark mushroom. I describe many of these mushrooms as being chameleon-like, to your point. They take on the flavor of whatever you formulate them with. They are available in terms of something that you can disguise with different other ingredients.

Supplement Tips

I could talk to you for hours about all of this, but we’ll have to call it another conversation for another day. In the meantime, I want to be sure that people know that they can come to you directly. I didn’t know if you’d want to give them a coupon code or anything like that that they can explore your website with.

I’m sorry. I don’t have one, but I am going to send you one. I’d love to do that.

People can go ahead, grab that, and explore the variety of products that you offer. See if there is something that fits you that you want to try out. Frankly, I have tried so many mushroom products out there. The variety you offer is exceptional. I know that you’re working to make your packaging more responsible as time goes on too. I know I bang that drum often here, like, “Let’s try to reduce plastic,” but this is a journey for most companies too. They’re working to solve these big problems as well.

I was going to finish with, “The best product for you is the one that you will take every day.” Being consistent with a product is likely the most important part of it because if it’s sitting in your cupboard, it’s not doing a lot of good for you. We’re very happy we have a lot of variety in our different product offerings.

Care More Be Better | Sandra Carter | Wonderful Mushrooms
Wonderful Mushrooms: Be consistent in consuming food supplements. It will not do good for you if you keep them sitting in your cupboard.

 

This is why I have a daily shake habit. I’m going to share this with the world. I have a cabinet of supplements, but I will not remember to take them if I don’t have my shake. Also, some of the supplements that I take are in powder form, so I toss them in. It makes my life really easy. I love ceremonial green tea or matcha. I know it’s health-promoting for me. I want to be sure I drink it every day, but I don’t make time to drink it every day.

I have a green tea matcha powder that I add to whatever smoothie I’m making. That gives me all of the benefits of that high-quality green tea, which I may or may not have made time to drink that day, in addition to any of the supplements I’m taking. The added benefit of that is that I’m blending it with all these berries, which are super health-promoting, and any pills I’m taking.

Frankly, I do more in powders, so less in pills. They’re super easy to swallow. They go right down because you’ve got a thick shake that you’re doing with it. The way I make my shakes is delicious. It’s a treat for me. It’s a way to get in all these valuable antioxidants. I put nuts in them. I like to put walnuts. I put chia seeds. I’m getting these superfoods along with it and plant-based omegas. All these things are going to benefit me.

I have one more tip for people because I was told by a dear friend in the industry for a long time that I saved him minutes a day and a whole lot of pain. I put this on TikTok as well. If you’re taking your pills with water, when you go to take them and put them in your mouth, toss your head back to put the pills in the back of your mouth, and then when you sip your water, shake, or whatever, point your chin down a little bit to swallow. You can take 5 or 6 pills at the same time, and they’ll go right down.

If you’re trying to lean up to swallow, that closes your esophagus. You’ll have a harder time swallowing pills. That’s our instinct to do it that way when we never eat that way in real life. Take your supplements, something like a mushroom you do need every day and something like lion’s mane in particular. I know it’s really popular, but you’re not going to see the benefit of it unless you take it consistently. That’s the case with a lot of these things. If you’re not going to be consistent, it won’t work. You’re throwing your money away.

That’s great advice.

Thank you so much for joining me. I would love to have you back as you produce more research so we can talk more deeply about a particular mushroom perhaps or a particular endeavor that you’re undertaking.

I would love to anytime. I would love to stay in touch.

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You can find these resources and so much more when you come to our website, so visit CareMoreBeBetter.com. Sign up for our newsletter. We send one email a week, and additional resources come in everyone. Those include great books that we suggest that you read from our past guests on the show, resources so that you can live a little more sustainably every day, and direct links to past episodes that are relevant to the conversation. Thank you now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we really can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even improve our connections to one another and create a new, healthier environment as the mushrooms do. Thank you.

 

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