Mycelium vs Fruiting Bodies and Medicinal Mushrooms with Jeff Chilton — Episode 30 — Mushroom Revival Podcast
A podcast devoted to the wild and wacky world of Mushrooms!
Episode 30 is a critical episode for demystifying the medicinal mushroom market. Today we are speaking with Jeff Chilton, co-author of The Mushroom Cultivator and trusted medicinal mushroom expert. We dive deep into the science behind producing quality mushroom supplements, with a large focus on the misinformation on mycelium vs fruit bodies.
Jeff Chilton studied Ethno-mycology at the University of Washington in the late sixties and in 1973 began a 10 year career as a large scale commercial mushroom grower. Jeff is a founder of MycoMedia and is the co-author of The Mushroom Cultivator, published in 1983. In 1989 Jeff established Nammex, the first company to supply medicinal mushroom extracts to the Nutritional Supplement industry. And In 1997 he organized the first organic certification workshop for mushroom production in China.
Mushroom Revival is an Organic medicinal mushroom company based in Austin Texas. We help people gain more energy, a better nights sleep, a clearer mind and a bullet proof immune system. We plant one tree for every product we sell, revitalizing health inside and out with organic medicinal mushrooms. We are the biggest producer of Cordyceps militaris mushrooms in the western world and the only certified organic producer in this half of the globe.
We actually provide the hard science and are completely transparent with it. See for yourself below 🙂
Intro: Welcome welcome mush fan to another episode of Mushroom Revival Podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to bridging the gap between you lovely listeners and the mystical magical world of mushrooms. So Mushroom Revival is a medicinal mushroom company based in Western Massachusetts and our mission is to give you more energy, a better night’s sleep, a clear mind, and a bulletproof immune system with medicinal mushrooms. We not only revitalize inside, but also outside for planting a tree for a product that we sell. Our holiday sale is going on. If you’re tuning in December 2019, our sale ends December 9th. So check it out on our website. If you want to catch a deal, also check out all of our free resources, our blog posts, one of our podcasts and lots more. You can download a free ebook, and there’s a lot of fun stuff on our website at www.mushroom-revival.com.
Alex: Other news, we have an amazing guest, Jeff Chilton and super, super grateful to have him on our show and this is going to be an amazing episode.
Madz: Okay, everybody welcome Jeff Chilton, who has studied ethnomycology at the University of Washington in the late sixties and in 1973 began a 10 year career as a large scale commercial mushroom grower. Jeff is a founder of Michael media and is the coauthor of the mushroom cultivator published in 1983. In 1989 Jeff established mnemonics, the first company to supply medicinal mushroom extracts to the nutritional supplement industry and in 1997, he organized the first organic certification workshop or machine production in China. So thanks Jeff, we’re so excited for all those topics we’re going to cover.
Jeff: Hey, thank you very much for having me. I’m really excited to be here today.
Madz: Yeah. So we always ask our guests first off how you got into mushrooms?
Jeff: Well, you know what, I’m looking out right now at a beautiful forest. I was born and raised in Washington state and Washington is the evergreen state, that green forest comes with a lot of rain. So we have, it’s a very rainy climate out here and it’s actually one of the best climates in the world for mushrooms. So I grew up with mushrooms all around me. I had a bit of a fascination with them hunted them early as a teenager with the parents of friends and then at university and went to university of Washington, I decided that well, my major was anthropology because I really interested in other cultures, but I also took mycology courses and ended up basically studying ethnomycology, which is the study of mushrooms worldwide as food as medicine and in shamanic purposes. So an ancient religion. So it was all very interesting to me. I just loved the whole subject and then when I finally got out of university and realized there were no jobs in anthropology, I thought it’d be so cool to grow mushrooms and so I found a job at the only mushroom farm in Washington state, a very large commercial mushroom farm and I was there for the next 10 years. I literally lived with mushrooms for 10 years.
Madz: Wow. Yeah. I think I read that you were producing 2 million pounds of [Inaudible04:09] a year. Is that right?
Jeff: Oh yeah, absolutely 2 million pounds and we had about probably 40 to 50 different what we’d call houses. Some very old style mushroom houses made out of wood and then others that were very new, which were just like big concrete warehouses and so we had lots of crops going on at the same time, but the really cool thing was is that while I was there, we had a Japanese scientist who was in charge of research and development, and he was growing Shataki. He was growing enoki and he was growing oyster mushrooms. So I was involved in the cultivation of these other, what we call specialty mushrooms and so early on, I mean, this is in the seventies. I had a chance to see other mushrooms growing by different growing methods. Also, can you imagine it’s the 1970s and I’m eating fresh [Inaudible 05:17]
Alex: That’s pretty incredible and it’s funny now those are not so specialty here in the United States and beyond which is, it’s really awesome and it’s amazing to see the mushroom industry really evolve and spread across the world. I remember I was in Wahaca, Mexico. I’d say about three years ago and I went to live at this house and this kid was growing mushrooms. I was helping him out and he had the mushroom cultivators really beat up and it was past by his dad onto him and he was like, this is the mushroom Bible. If no one knows who we’re talking about, it is The Mushroom Cultivator, which Jeff co-wrote published in 1983 and it’s used all around the world and it’s thought of as the mushroom cultivation Bible. It’s amazing and even to this day, there’s a lot of amazing, really top notch information in there. That’s how I first heard of you, Jeff and I’m so really grateful to have met you in China, not that long ago which was an amazing trip looking forward to the next time. You actually inspired me to get out there and go to this Minnesota mushroom conference. So I’m really grateful that I listened to you and I bought the ticket and it was life changing. It was really.
Jeff: That was such a great conference and what’s really interesting here is that you talked about being in Oaxaca and have somebody there that is actually growing mushrooms and using my book. You know Alex, that in Wahaca that’s where in the 1950s a New York banker named Gordon Wasson and a French, [Inaudible 07:17] discovered the use of psilocibin mushrooms back in the mountains in Wahaca. They were still being used by the current Daras there and as part of my let’s just say field work, I lived for a year and a half in Mexico after I graduated from university. So I was in Mexico in ’71, ’72 before I started work at the mushroom farm in Washington state, but I spent a year and a half in Oaxaca and the surrounding areas and it’s such a beautiful place. It’s so interesting to hear you talk about it in the fact that you were there three years ago, because at the time I felt like Oaxaca was my home.
Alex: It’s a gorgeous place, the food that are; it’s an amazing place. It’s a little of a bummer to see what happened to Juatla de Jimenez after Gordon Wasson came and the stampede of tourists to that area, me being one of them three years ago. But it’s interesting to see Maria Sabina’s old house turned into a museum and the church with mushrooms painted over it and all the taxis had mushrooms painted over it. But there’s definitely some dark history as well, weaved into it of a lot of tourists taking advantage of the potent medicine there and kind of not respecting the locals burning down Maria Sabina’s old house, but then also on the other hand, it has this rich, beautiful spirit to the place that is really enamoring and I would love to go back it’s it’s a really gorgeous place for sure.
Jeff: Oh yeah. Well, and think about it in the fifties, Wasson and M literally had to ride on horseback back into those mountains to reach that place. So there wasn’t even a road in there until the mid sixties. I visited there amongst other places in Oaxaca. I visited there in 1972, and at that point in time, they had literally shut the place down because in the late sixties, it became overrun with people from the US looking for magic mushrooms and really creating a bit of a stir there. So finally the government came in and they put soldiers up on all the roads in and went in and rounded everybody up and shipped them out and for the next 10, 15 years really next to nobody was allowed back in there. I kind of snuck in in 72, but I went back about 15 years ago, I went back and saw a current era there that I knew and had a really nice experience and the fact is it was really interesting because there was nobody there not a single other gringo. There was two or three Mexican hippies, and everything was very low key.
Now they have a mushroom festival every year in the rainy season, July. So they have embraced it and I feel sad for it because this is what happens to cultures all around the world. It’s happening right now with cultures in South America with ayahuasca where they get overrun with gringos from wherever. They come in and they distort the economy because one of the things they do is they turn these plants or mushrooms into commodities and people start to gather them and sell them and then all of a sudden, you you’ve turned this very sacred plant into a saleable commodity and that distorts the whole local economy and that’s what really is the worst part of it all. But I think it’s settled down there now. Again, like I said, they’ve embraced Maria Sabina as really an important local person in Mexico. She’s revered as almost a Saint. So it’s an interesting phenomena but in a sense, the opening to the world all started right there in Mexico and in Oaxaca and here’s what’s the most fascinating of all is that when they discovered this in the fifties, there was a magazine called Life Magazine that not around anymore, but it was a big color full magazine, very mainstream and on the cover; and because they wrote a story, it was like a big, long story, maybe 10 pages long with photos and illustrations of all the different mushrooms, and the cover had a headline that said ‘mushrooms that cause visions discovered in Mexico’. Now, can you imagine that? Mushrooms that caused visions discovered in Mexico, and this is just the mainstream and essentially it was like, isn’t this so cool.
Alex: Yeah, I would love to read that article. I’ve read clippings. I’ve got a CD of Maria Sabina’s e-prose, which are really beautiful. The medicine songs that she that she makes are stunning, they’re magical, highly recommend people listening to it. I’m really curious how psilocybin is going to make its way in Canada and the United States and across the world with doing this clinical research and it’s really impressive. We could do a whole podcast on that, but just for our listeners, we’re going to talk a lot about; we’re going to get really nitty gritty in this episode on a lot of science. I just want to paint the picture of what are mushrooms and I think that the best place to start, and we have the perfect guest, you Jeff, to talk about. Can you talk about the life cycle of a typical, maybe start with the [Inaudible13:45] mycoda, to just to paint the picture of what is a spore? What is the mycelium, what is the fruit body, what are these different parts of the fungal organism?
Jeff: Sure, sure. Well, first of all, fungi, which include mushrooms are their own kingdom. They sit in between the kingdom of plants and the kingdom of animals and they share some traits with both of the other kingdoms. I mean like us, rather than starch mushrooms have a glycogen, which is really interesting and they also need and utilize oxygen and give off CO2. So it’s really kind of an interesting organism and you think to yourself, well, okay, so how do we grow mushrooms? Do we just plant some seeds? No mushrooms do not have seeds. It’s like, well, so how do you grow these things? Well, mushrooms have spores and those spores, they are distributed out into the environment. They land on the ground, they land on wood and when they germinate, they germinate into a very fine filament and that filament’s called hyphae. So when you get multiple of these spores germinating, and the hyphae start to grow and they will grow together and form a network, and this network is what we call mycelium. The mycelium is considered the vegetative body of this organism. So it’s out there, it’s growing in the ground. It’s growing into that wood, into that tree and what it does is utilizing enzymes, it will start to digest its substrate, which is whatever it happens to be growing in and it will build up a lot of nutrients in its cells. When conditions are right, which out here in the Pacific Northwest, when fall comes and the temperatures go down, the rain comes. So the humidity goes up, pops a mushroom.
The mushroom is also called a fruiting body and the mushroom will go through multiple stages from a very, very small primordial to a pin, to a button to a fully mature mushroom. As it matures, it’s like an umbrella and as the umbrella grows and opens up there’s gills on the underside, and those gills are where the spores are produced. The spores will be produced. They would fall out of these guilds and now we have a completion of this lifecycle. So when I talk about mushrooms and what people need to understand is that mushrooms have what are called plant parts, like in this herbal industry, you have a lot of herbal products and one particular plant may have a root, a leaf, a fruit maybe some other part of that that is utilized for its medicinal properties. So that’s why we kind of characterize these plant parts. For a mushroom, it would be a spore, the mycelium and the mushroom, and these are very distinctive. They have very different attributes and certainly that’s something that we can talk about.
Madz: Yeah. And they all have some medicinal value. But we’ll go into more details about comparing and contrasting them. So can you talk about mushroom spawn and how it’s made?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s really interesting because again how do you actually grow mushrooms? What do you use as seed? Well, it’s really kind of cool because what you use as seed is mycelium. So you don’t use the spores. I mean, you don’t plant spores, that’s just not, you will not get what you’re after. But basically over time we have developed cultivars for mushrooms by either a taking a piece of tissue and into the lab, and that tissue will turn into a clone mycela clone of that particular mushroom. So we will grow out the mycelium and then that mycelium, what we do is we put that mycelium onto a carrier material and historically carriers could be just about anything and usually what people use as a carrier for that live mycelium would be what they see it growing on. So maybe it’s grown on chop straw, or maybe it’s in the United States they used to have what they called tobacco stem spawn, where they would use tobacco stems for the carrier material for that mycelium. Other parts of the world, like out in the Philippines, they used to use maybe they still do. They would mix in coffee grounds, cotton seed holes, all sorts of different materials. What’s really interesting about mushrooms is that mushrooms are decomposers.
So what they’re doing out there, and this is fungi in general, but they’re decomposers. They are basically breaking down all of the organic matter that’s being built up all the time, whether it be leaves or branches of trees, or wood, or the tree itself, or plants that are annual plants, that when they die off, you’ve got all of that organic matter. Without fungi, that organic matter is going to build up and we’re going to be neck deep in it. So that’s really important. One of the other substrates or carrier materials for mushroom spawn was developed in 1932 by a man named Dr. James Sinden at Penn State University, and he utilized grain. So he was really, and think about this for a second, because the actual carrier for this mycelium, when you go and plant it in your mushroom beds and what they used to do is they have a bed of substrate, for example, with agaricus and they would plant the spawn, they lie mycelium on the carrier. They plant it every six inches sort of in a pattern, and then it would grow out from there in the beds. But when Dr. Sinden developed grain spawn, well think about it for a minute, in one gallon jar you can have thousands and thousands of grains in there and when you grow the mycelium on that, each grain is covered with mycelium and then you can take those grains and you can just mix it in to whatever your substrate is and you get such a quick and rapid colonization of whatever your substrate is.
This is one of the things about mushroom growing is that once you’ve prepared your substrate, you have to get it fully grown as rapidly as possible, because there are other fungi and bacteria and other microorganisms that would love to get in there and start feeding on that substrate. Any mushroom grower knows that because they’ve seen lots of contamination in the especially initial stages of growing. So the grain spawn that he developed was just a major, major breakthrough, especially in the agaricus or button mushroom industry, because that meant that all of a sudden you could now colonize your substrate in about half the time. So your success rate went way up and it was a much more certain crop now that you were growing. So the production of grain spawn was really, really a major thing.
Madz: Yeah. It’s pretty awesome. Very helpful. To have that stage. Could you also talk about other current developments of propagating this mycelium, like fermentation technologies?
Jeff: Oh yeah. Well that’s something that really right now, I mean, they’ve been using fungi for quite a while, since probably the fifties or sixties to produce all sorts of different compounds and the way they do it is in large tanks of liquid and so what they’ll do is in this tank of, let’s just say water, they will put certain nutrients in there so that you have a nutrient solution. That nutrient solution will be sterilized because again, what we’re doing here is just like with that spawn preparation and again, with that grain spawn, the grain has been sterilized, and there’s nothing else in there to compete with that mycelium that you put in there. Same with liquid fermentation, you’ve got this big tank of sterile liquid, and you’re putting a pure, clean, fungal culture in there. And you inoculate that liquid and the mycelium just starts to grow like crazy. What you’re doing is providing it with the optimum temperature, you’re putting oxygen in there and you’ve also got a mechanism to stir this, to keep this going. Any kind of carbon dioxide that is being built up, because again, it needs oxygen and it’s actually breathing out carbon dioxide that is essentially filtered off as this mycelium is growing.
So in fermentation technology you can actually produce large amounts of mycelium of many different mushroom species and not just mushrooms, but a imperfect fungi as well to grow out interesting compounds, or just grow out the mycelium itself, which they do in China. That’s where I’ve seen it on an industrial scale where they’ll have companies and you’ve got six, eight, ten, very, very large fermentation tanks, and they are producing the mycelium and then they will after let’s just say five to ten days, they will stop it. They will filter off all of the liquid, pull out the mycelium and then that becomes a, a product in China. One of the major products in sort of the mushroom category that they produce there is what’s called CS4, which is a cordyceps mycelium product.
Madz: How different are the medicinal profiles between anamorphics like CS4 and what would be considered like the true cordyceps sinensis?
Jeff: Well, you know, it’s really interesting because the first time I traveled to China in 1989 to a international mushroom conference, I was able to speak to some scientists who in fact were growing CS4, and that was in the early stages and they gave me a really interesting little book that they had produced that had all of the different experiments that they had done with the CS for to demonstrate that it had medicinal and nutritional values that were very close to cordyceps sinensis, or what’s now called ophiocordyceps sinensis. So you can get pretty close and especially with something like opiate cordyceps sinensis because one of the things about opiate cordyceps sinensis and again for, we’ll call it Caterpillar fungus, because it’s an interesting fungus that grows off a hibernating Caterpillar. What’s interesting is that when opiate cordyceps sinensis, the Caterpillar and little fruiting body on it, when it is analyzed, there are very few what we would call unique compounds in it that are actually, that anybody has demonstrated are the, what we would call the main active compounds. So there wasn’t when they went ahead and analyzed the CS4 and compared it to the opiate cordyceps sinensis they had to use metrics like, let’s just say a benyzine or other nucleosides, the beta glucans, they could compare that.
So they compared the polysaccharides and they looked at the amino acid profiles, all these kinds of things, but there was really nothing in there that was so different. Again, primarily because nobody’s really found what we would call the real active opiate cordyceps sinensis. So is it the same as Ophiocordyceps sinensis? Close and they’ve certainly done a lot of studies because part of this book that I got from them was a lot of clinical studies that they did with this and one of the reasons that they were actually producing it in fermentation was that it was becoming expensive and so they wanted to produce more of this. So more people could have the benefits of it, but I personally don’t really think that CS4 is all that great. Part of the reason I say that is that I’ve had so many different samples of CS4 over the years and I used to sell it but it was also variable. There was no very good production standards, and there’s so many different factories to start producing it. It was just like all over the place. So you really couldn’t be sure even of what you were getting after a while, but again, when it comes to the mycelium versus let’s say the mushroom, there’s really a world of difference between the two in terms of what compounds they produce.
Mycelium is actually a very simple structure. It’s primarily, its purpose and again, the mycelium is the actual vegetative body in a sense it’s the it’s that which ultimately will produce the mushroom and its main purpose is just to, again, in terms of actually our world, it’s a decomposer, it’s re-purposing all of that out there. It produces enzymes that can break down all sorts of different organic matter. But when it comes to producing an actual mushroom, the mushroom has a totally different set of genetics that will produce all sorts of really interesting compounds that the mycelium absolutely does not.
Alex: Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up because that’s a topic that I really want to focus on in this podcast because it was funny being in China at this medicinal mushroom conference the gathering of all the lead scientists in the world about medicinal mushrooms and I think I went to over a dozen different lectures with these phenomenal PhD professors that have dedicated their whole lives, studying this topic and the way they described and presented their research, they were like, yeah, it’s not even up for debate that the comparison between mycelium and fruit bodies. I’ve heard many people at the conference say it’s like, duh, it’s like, it’s not even up for debate that the actual mushrooms are more medicinal than the mycelium. It’s like, we’ve been over this. This is an old topic. It’s an accepted fact and it’s interesting being in the United States where because a lot of people are microilliterate and mushrooms are so new for a lot of people, it’s like mycelium and mushrooms, fruit body, I don’t know what any of that means and these a lot of companies can get away with calling, you’re talking about these different plant parts, a root versus a fruit versus a stem, versus a leaf. Because people do not know a lot about mushrooms these companies can label their products as a mushroom when it’s really not.
It’s concerning for people who are actually mycologists and know anything about what’s really in there and it’s concerning. Especially when I haven’t found one scientific paper that displays mycelium or mycelium on grain being more potent than the actual fruit body or the actual mushroom and I found dozens and dozens of papers that prove the opposite. I just wanted to get your opinion on this because I know there’s just a lot of false information going around with zero scientific backing and a lot of people in the United States and Canada and all over the world, frankly, are going on this bandwagon without knowing the science about what’s going on. So what is the difference in medicinal value between mycelium and the fruit bodies?
Jeff: Okay. Well, here’s what’s really interesting, Alex, is that the fact is that first of all mushrooms are very expensive to grow and this is something that’s very important to what we’re talking about here. Because now I can take Shiitake mushrooms and I can put them out there into the market. As a grower, USDA says that on average, right now, growers are getting somewhere around $3.50 a pound. So that’s wholesale. So $3.50 a pound, but if you want to, and this is for a fresh mushroom, again wholesale, if you want to sell those as a supplement, supplements are dried powders. So now mushrooms are 90% water, like most vegetables. So you dry that pound of mushrooms out, and now you have to get $35 for that same pound of mushrooms. I mean, when you look at it from how we sell, which is by the kilo, we’re talking about up to $80 a kilogram wholesale for nothing more than a dried mushroom. Well, think about if you wanted to make an extract out of that and you needed four kilos of raw material. Now you’re looking at over $300 for four kilos of raw material. That’s going to go into one kilo of extract product. The economics simply don’t work, and there’s nobody in this country, no company will be able to purchase your dried mushrooms because they’re literally too expensive.
I mean, what a lot of people need to understand too, is that mushrooms are actually picked by hand still we’re in the 21st century mushrooms when they’re cultivated, they are picked by hand. Think about that for a minute. So first of all, there’s that. So, A, if you look out there and I’ve seen the market’s statistics as well, where these any sort of specialty mushrooms that are grown in the US where are they go? They all go to the fresh market. They cannot be sold as supplements. So what do I do if I’m an American company and I want to get into the supplement industry the whole medicinal mushroom category. Well, first of all, geez, I can’t get mushrooms, but you know what they do? So what companies will do is they will produce grain spawn. So they will grow mycelium very different grains, whether it be rice or oats or other grain, they will grow out the mycelium on the grain and then at end of the process and it’s about a 30 day process. And remember, we’re talking about mycelium on a sterilized grain. I mean, I’ve heard people out there say, oh mycelium, it’s out there in this harsh environment and it’s growing out and there’s so many things that are trying to stop it from growing. So it has to secrete all of these interesting compounds. So this is what it’s doing. Hey, look, this mycelium is being grown in sterilized grain. There is nothing in there to stop it from growing or challenge it in any way.
So you grow the mycelium out in the sterile grain, after 30, 40, whatever, 50 days of growth, you then harvest it, dry it, grind it to a powder grain and all, and then these companies sell it and call it a mushroom. It is absolutely the most ridiculous thing. Here’s the big issue is A, it’s not mycelium, it’s myceliated grain. What I like to characterize it as is tempe, you’re familiar with tempe, right Alex?
Alex: Yeah. I love tempe. Just not in a pill to take as a supplement.
Jeff: Can you imagine tempe is basically cooked soybeans with a fungus growing on it, and that fungus is mycelium. So when you get a block of tempe, you’re actually eating myceliated soy beans and this is what people are actually producing in the United States drying it, grinding to it powder and then selling it as a supplement. I mean, think about just the whole, the cost factor here, you’re getting one gram of this myceliated grain, and they’re telling you, this is a mushroom supplement. In fact, that’s nothing more than like 10 grams of fresh, whether it be tempe or mushrooms. Well, look one agaricus mushroom, one button mushroom weighs 40 grams and they’re trying to tell you that you should take one gram, a thousand milligrams of this, myceliated grain, and that somehow going to give you the same benefits of a mushroom. What’s happened is in 2015, I did a study it’s called redefining medicinal mushrooms and I took 95 different samples. I took dried mushrooms and we analyzed those. I took our mushroom extracts and we analyzed those and then I went out and bought 40 different products, different species from about a half a dozen different major companies that were selling myceliated grain. I brought those in and I analyzed them and we use what we call the Megazyme test, which is an absolutely rock solid test for beta glutecans and the beauty of the Megazyme test it also measures what are called alpha glucans.
Alpha glucans are the starches or alpha glucans would be basically that glycogen that a mushroom has. We analyzed all of these 95 different samples and what we found were that dried mushrooms or mushroom extracts had between 25 and 60% beta glucan, and that they all had less than 5% of glycogen in them. All of these so-called mushroom products that were this myceliated grain, they were exact opposite. They had somewhere around a mean of 5% beta glucan and 30 to 70% starch. So the basic, the whole premise of those products, it was like, well hold on a minute here. Not only are you not mushrooms, but you’re the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to be getting when we buy a mushroom product. Can you imagine it’s like here it is for one; and it’s funny because they will talk about, first of all, most of those companies will say they’re selling mushrooms, but then when they have to talk about the fact that it’s actually mycelium that they’re growing well, it’s not pure mycelium.
In fact, it’s only got a 5% beta glucan, which basically means there is very little fungal matter in those products and what they’re mostly selling is grain powder. This is not what people expect to be getting when they’re buying these products, you get out there and you look in the stores and you see all these different products and they say reishi mushroom, or Shiitake mushroom and they have a picture of a mushroom on the front panel and people think, oh great, I am going to buy that product. I’ve heard from this celebrity that his product is so great. So they buy that product and the fact is, what they’re mostly getting is starch from all of the grains that are in those products. They are not mushroom, and they’re not actually what I would call a true fungal product because the amount of even mycelium in them is so low.
Alex: Right. To make the point, I love to give the analogy of an Apple tree and we were talking about different plant parts and you can think of the mushroom as the apples. So imagine shopping for Apple pie and your Apple pie has apples in it, and then you have another Apple pie it says made with real apples and it just has twigs and roots in it. It’s like, I don’t want to eat that and it’s labeled as apples. So it’s the same thing that mycelium is the roots of the mushroom basically and how much grain do you think are in these products? Because I’ve heard a range between 70% and all the way up to 90% grain powder.
Jeff: Well, have you ever, I mean, you’ve grown lots of grain spawn. One really interesting thing to do is take a grain spawn and just dry it out. But what you’d know for one is that mycelium, just like a mushroom is 90% water. When you grow out grain spawn, your grain is basically 50% water. So when you dry those down, you will end up with what is mostly grain and with just hardly any mycelium in there and I’m going to estimate that those products just based on our beta glucan test and also the other test we run is ergosterol, ergosterol is the fungal sterol, just like our cholesterol, all fungi have ergosterol. All in fact, ergosterol testing is used in the grain industry to test grain for the presence of fungi because grain producers are really worried about mycotoxins. And so there are imperfect fungi that will get into the grain should there be enough moisture and start to grow? So ergosterol is one of the tests that grain producers use to gauge the amount of fungal matter in their products and so we use ergosterol in the same way, because it’s a really great marker compound and what we found was that the amount of ergosterol in these, myceliated grain products was somewhere around 10% of what would be in the mushroom itself.
Madz: Yeah. So I think it’s worth bringing up because a lot of people, including myself, like being introduced to mushrooms while back are told that there’s different compounds in the mycelium versus the mushroom, and to get this full spectrum medicine, you want a bit of both and I’ve also heard there’s that defensive chemistry, if they’re wildly cultivated, that you can benefit from this immune system that they’re building up for themselves and we can reap the benefits from, but also the fact that they’re secreted enzymes and those enzymes are supposed to be beneficial to us. Another example I can think of, and I’ve heard different things here, so hopefully you can enlighten me, but with lion’s mane, how there’s a compound in the mycelium, that’s not found in the mushroom. And yeah, I mean, this was a common misconception, maybe that was going around, but if you could just kind of enlighten us on if there are different compounds in the mycelium that don’t show up in the mushroom, whether they be medicinal or not and if that’s something that is worth at all introducing into medicine?
Jeff: Sure, sure. First of all, there are very few compounds that are that occur in the mycelium that would not be found in the mushroom. There are some, one of which would be the erinacines that are in lion’s mane mycelium. But I think what’s really interesting about that is A, you’re not, erinacines actually occur in very, very small amounts and think about it for a minute. If you’re buying one of these grain products, you’re not buying pure mycelium. If you had pure mycelium, you’d be getting a small amount of these erinacines. But if you’ve got myceliated grain, the amount of erinacines that might be in there would be so slight, there’d be so little. I mean, you literally would not get any benefits from those particular erinacines from that product. Now, the other thing too, which I think fascinating is the idea that these companies put out that you’re getting enzymes from your mushroom product. Since when are we taking mushroom enzymes, this is ridiculous. I mean, it’s one of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve ever heard. Not only that, what is really funny to me is that these companies talk about that. If you really want to get enzymes out of whatever it is you’re eating, you have to eat it fresh. These companies who talk about enzymes well, they also talk about the fact that they sterilize their final product, or at least subject it to high heat of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is going to destroy any enzymes that happen to be in there.
So the idea that you’re taking these things for enzymes, or that there would be any active enzymes in these products is so outlandish. It’s kind of like, they talk about that and people don’t really think about it enough to really go, oh no, wait a minute. You’re actually heating your product up to 200 degrees. How can those enzymes still be active? And not only that, look, if you want an enzyme supplement you can go out there and you can buy enzyme supplements. They are a hundred percent enzyme. They’re not like, Oh, well, okay. So please tell me how, what percentage of enzyme is in your myceliated grain product? Well, of course they never tell you that because of course it would be so minimal that they probably couldn’t even detect it.
Alex: Yeah. So I was actually stumped on the lion’s mane. I was hearing from a lot of people that the erinacines were only in the mycelium and then fruiting bodies had hericinones and that was what I thought for the longest time until I was listening to a podcast about how you should take lion’s mane mycelium and I was kind of like well, they have the erinacines, I can get that point. I can stand behind that. That makes sense until I actually looked at the scientific research for myself to actually read what was going on and I found this really great paper and was the only paper that I could find that really described what was mind blowing to me it’s called chemistry, nutrition, and health promoting properties of [Inaudible49:10] in parentheses lion’s mane, mushroom, fruiting bodies, and mycelium and they’re bioactive compounds
Jeff: Was that by the USDA, a guy, Mandel?
Alex: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So in this paper was a wonderful paper and I was expecting to read that for lion’s mane, mycelium is great for nerve growth factor has the erinicine A which is been shown for nerve growth factor. But instead in this paper, it talks about how for the longest time they thought that erinicine A was just in the mycelium, but after the use of HPLC, LCMMS and NMR facilitated the elucidation of the structures of six compounds, including erinicine A and it also talked about how they also include erinacines which were not found in the mycelium. So this idea that these erinacines are just in the mycelium was just proven wrong by this paper. Actually that the fruiting bodies have the erinacine A, which is great for nerve growth factor, but also that erinacines which are not in the mycelium. So it was funny because I was brought to this website, mushroom references as proof quote unquote, that mycelium was better, especially for lion’s mane and what I thought and what was being told me was actually wrong. It was the exact opposite and the first of my knowledge reading this, that the erinacines are actually in the fruiting body as well and they have hericinone B through E that are in the fruiting body, but not in the mycelium.
So that’s something that was a shocking for me. I read this last week that really, I mean, I’m looking for evidence. I’m really just scouring because as we were just talking about as producers, we grow cordyceps militaris, and it takes us two weeks to grow mycelium on rice and the biomass that we can produce is ridiculous. The amount of fruiting bodies, it takes us two and a half months. And if we could do mycelium on grain, if it was like more potent, we would do that in a heartbeat. We would do that in a heartbeat. But the fact of the matter is it’s just I cannot find any research on it. Like not even one paper, I want like, please, if anyone has one, please send it to me because I will switch my business practices in a heartbeat and retract everything I’ve ever said, but I’m just finding more and more and more evidence that the actual mushrooms, I mean, duh, like you want the actual mushrooms are more potent. So it’s just really funny, especially as you were saying a lot of people can’t make these claims and there’s the evidence that they claim is out there really says the exact opposite of what they’re saying.
Jeff: Well, the other thing about lion’s mane is that they’ve also found compounds called erinocerins, which are in the fruit body. So what’s [Inaudible52:54] it’s really, there are so many different, very interesting compounds there that will in fact stimulate nerve growth factor. The idea that somehow the mycelium is better is simply propagated by the people that are growing mycelium green and it’s just sort of like the idea of what a lot of these companies will say, oh, we were selling full spectrum products and that means we’ve got spores and we’ve got mycelium and we’ve got mushroom and we’ve got primordia and it’s just like, this is the stupidest thing and yet it sounds so cool. Wow, full spectrum, true full spectrum is actually the mushroom itself, which has all of the different compounds you expect to get from product. First of all, when you’re growing myceliated grain, which these companies do and they claim that there’s mushroom in there and a lot of times that mushroom claim is predicated on the fact that they will start to form primordia on this block of mycelium and that occurs with a number of different mushrooms when you’re growing in mycelium out and you reach a certain stage and if you’ve got it light, the light will basically stimulate the formation of primordia. Primordia is nothing but a mass of mycelium. There’s no actual differentiation at that growth stage into the mushroom. It’s just a very, very initial beginning.
In fact, it’s just a really a hyphal knot is what it is. It’s very, very small. So it’s disingenuous for people to say the thumb that somehow qualifies the product as having mushroom in it and so in that sense too, for them to then say oh, and there’s spore as well, it’s like, well, wait a second, you don’t have an actual mushroom in your product. How can you have spores as well? And then some of them will say, oh, and there’s secondary metabolites. That is specious is, well. I mean, if you have secondary metabolites in that block of myceliated grain, please show me the analysis, prove it to me and this is one of the real keys Alex. This is where I really exploded the myth with my white paper redefining medicinal mushrooms, because what that white paper proved was that all of these myceliated grain products were primarily starch again, as much as 70% starch from the residual grain in there very low in actual fungal matters, low in beta glucans, low in air Gaastral and we also measure a compound that’s really interesting called ergothianine which is also low end. But here’s the thing that for me just says so much about it. What we did is we basically got the proximate analysis for these different grains, rice, and oats and one of the other grains that’s being used, I believe it’s sorghum grain, and we charted them.
What’s the protein, fat, carbohydrate and then we added beta glucan and alpha glucan. Let’s just see what the profile of this looks like. We put up the profile of the grain. We put up the profile of these myceliated grain products. Guess what? They followed the nutritional profile of the grain exactly. Then we also charted and we put up the profile of the actual mushroom itself that they said they were selling. It didn’t come close. The only thing that was close if I remember, I think that the protein, was it the protein? I don’t think it was the protein. It was like, so, so perfect in that you could see that these products really were mostly the grain because that’s what they charted on this proximate analysis, fats, carbohydrates, proteins. It was all the same as the grain and it was not at all like the profile of the actual mushroom itself.
Madz: That’s was going to be my next question. If you compared a myceliated substrate versus the same substrate but without the fungus introduced how different the actual grains, it seems like there is no difference.
Jeff: There is no difference and see that just shoots down their whole narrative and that’s what it is. It’s just a story. It’s a narrative, it’s people and companies that are trying desperately to claim medicinal mushroom status when actually what they are is nothing more than tempe and my thing is, look, say what it is and sell it for what it is, which is a food product. Put it out there as a food product. It’s so funny because back in 2005, 2006, I had a friend who’s a vegetarian and he was a long time. He’s a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. He had a very large company doing herbal extracts, and he really wanted to produce some kind of a meat substitute, which we hear all about today. And so we got together and he wanted me to create something with mycelium. I got to put all these different grain blends together, seeds and grains, and I’d grew up garage mycelium and oyster mycelium, different mycelium on them into a block and then we’d slice these up into these rounds sort of hamburger style patties, and we’d cook them and we did taste tests on them. The only person that ever really liked them were, were him. He liked one of the recipes and I forget which which particular species that was, but he liked one of them and I thought it was sort of okay, but all the other people that we did this with went ah, no, that taste is terrible.
Finally I moved and no longer had access to my labs. So I don’t live where my lab is, so I sort of stopped it, but I was just sort of thinking because he was like, look, I know people at McDonald’s and if we could just find the right patty, the right burger, we could sell it to McDonald’s thinking, oh yeah, that would be fun. But in a sense, it’s like, okay, we’re talking, tempe here. We’re talking fungal mycelium, grown on different materials, food materials, it’s a food. It’s not a mushroom and in the case of these myceliated grain products, when they start talking about A, it being a mushroom, it’s not and B even when they say, oh, well it’s mycelium and our mycelium has, it’s not mycelium. The amount of mycelium is low. It’s actually a grain product. It’s actually, you think about tempe, it’s fermented grain. This is the other thing that’s going on out there. There are companies that are actually selling what they call fermented mushroom and what they’re actually selling is fermented grain. I’m sorry, you’re not fermenting a mushroom. You’re not doing anything like that. You’re fermenting grain. You’re growing mycelium on grain. That’s what you’re selling.
Alex: So it’s interesting. So on the fda.gov website there’s a section CPG section 585.525 and it’s called mushroom mycelium fitness for food labeling and the policy is mushroom mycelium grown in acceptable media is regarded as suitable for food use. Any food in which mushroom mycelium is used, should be labeled to state that fact. Labeling should not suggest or imply that the food contains mushrooms. This is from the FDA and it’s really unfortunate as we were talking about before of all these companies that are really just skating by and it seems like any day there’s a huge company out there. I’m not going to name names, but they had to redo all of their labels too and they used to promote on their product. They used to say mushrooms and they had to change, they had to pull off all their products off the shelves and it’s probably one of the most popular companies out there. I’m not going to name any names, but they had to change their label to actually say mycelium and it’s like, say what it is, you’re lying to people at that point and it’s really unfair to people that know what it is.
Madz: Well, because if you want people to experience mushroom medicine and revolutionize their health and their first experiences with this rice powder, it’s like, what are you missing out on? And these people might just give up, right? They could have really help themselves if they had access or knew what they’re buying.
Alex: And the full spectrum, I had a chance to tour one of the biggest mycelium grain companies. Also again, not going to name any names, but I was touring their floor where they had the mycelium on grain growing in these plastic bags. And they promote that they grow medicinal mushrooms and they grow mushrooms and I was like, looking around, I’m like, so where do you grow the mushrooms? And they point the bags and they were like right here. And I was like, what do you mean? And it was right when I was getting into mushrooms and I just didn’t have the micro literacy and I just didn’t understand at that point. I was really genuine and I was like, well, I thought that was mycelium like, where are the actual mushrooms? And I had the production manager, like pull me aside and he was like, yeah, I know like and he had to like point and we had to crouch down and really look like really, really hard at the mycelium growing on this grain. And he’s like, well, we started saying that because on one hot day, when an order didn’t go through and when we had to wait another week before they picked it up, these little primordia started pinning. So the marketing guy at the company said, we can market this as mushrooms. We can market it as full spectrum and we had to crouch down and we almost needed like a microscope to look at these tiny little dots on the mycelium, which are primordia, at the beginning of primordia, it’s a mycelium knot, it’s not a mushroom. So I think that that’s a really big thing for consumers to know what you’re spending like 60 bucks on a bottle of capsules it’s like is 90% of that, just rice powder?
Jeff: Yeah. I know. And you know what, I pointed out the FDA compliance document in my white paper because it was just so blatant and the FDA has got that policy out there. It’s been in place that a compliance document actually was first published in 1976. So it’s been there all the time and finally about a three years ago, I went to my trade organization, which is the American herbal products association and I said to them, look, I’m talking to the president of it and I said, look, and I’d had my white paper out there. I was really getting it out and really pushing back on the whole issue. It was certainly irritating the companies that were producing myceliated grain, but I went to the trade associates and said, look, this is what’s going on. It’s actually an unfair trade practice because here they are, they’re growing this really cheap material. They’re mislabeling it and that’s what was going on. It was totally being mislabeled and so they actually, it was funny because a couple of those companies joined the organization that year. So he brought together a bunch of us and we did a conference call and I was the only one there that was defending the position that I brought up. All the other people there with the exception of maybe one or two, there’s at least a dozen of us. We’re discussing this whole issue and this went on for two or three calls and none of those companies wanted to make any changes to their labeling because that was all it was all about, and I was saying, look, this labeling is incorrect.
Well, from that ABA actually came out with a policy and it’s not binding at all, but the policy was like, look, if you are going to put out a myceliated and grain product, you have to say on your label and what we were talking about was the front panel, the main panel that you see when you walk into a store, you had to put mycelium on there. Now my argument was like, okay, you have to do that, but you should say reishi mycelium, shiitake mycelium, you should not be able to say reishi mushroom mycelium, because mushroom and mycelium are two different plant parts. If you were to go out there and talk to anybody on the street, in the store, you name it and say what’s up mushroom. Well, you know what? They would tell you, they know what a mushroom is. So the minute you have mushroom on that front panel with your picture of a mushroom. They have in their mind what they think they’re getting. So for me, it was like, no, no, no, you cannot say mushroom mycelium. It’s like saying sort of like apple root or something like that. No, it’s not that bad, it’s like one of those things, which is mycelium and then in the other, you had better put the fact that you’ve got grain in there and some companies will actually, in the other ingredients, when you look in the supplements facts, they will put, okay, myceliated rice, or myceliated oats or something like that.
But those companies, although they have retail price, they also sell raw materials and when they sell raw materials, they tell their customers for those raw materials that they’re selling them mushrooms and so those companies will very often put out the product and it will not have mycelium or grain anywhere on the labels because those companies have been completely misled and they think they’re actually selling a mushroom product, which they are not. This is what’s really so unfortunate because so many people out there think that they’re consuming a mushroom product when they’re not, they’re taking two capsules of mostly grain powder.
Madz: So I think we covered that pretty well, mycelium versus mushrooms and I’d like to move on and talk about the compounds in the mushroom medicine. I know we’ve talked about beta glucans and chitin and try terpines and all these things, and then there’s stuff like vitamin D and yeah, I was wondering if we could just cover the whole spectrum of what they have to offer?
Jeff: You bet. Yeah. Where do you want to start?
Alex: Well, it started with beta glucan, so mushrooms 1-3 and 1-6 beta glucans plants, 1-4 beta glucans.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, the fact is that the fungal beta glucans are very different from serial beta glucans, serial beta glucans have a different branching. So they’re beta 1-3, 1-4 glucans, whereas fungal beta glucans are beta 1-3, 1-6 and that branching meets everything in terms of any kind of actual beneficial activity and that’s the actual branching, even a beta 1-3,1-6 glucan, can have a different architecture. So there’s a reason why some mushrooms are more medicinal than others and a lot of that is due to the architecture of the beta glucan. So beta glucans are in all mushrooms. They make up the cell walls, 50% of the cell walls of almost all mushrooms, but that doesn’t mean that all mushrooms will have that same level of activity. Some will be much more active, and those would be like our top 12 medicinal mushrooms. The thing with beta glucans is what they do is they actually potentiate the immune response and potentiation basically means they are going to strengthen your immune response and in that sense, what they’re called is biological response modifiers.
So they will activate macrophages, T lymphocytes and K cells, and essentially to enhance our cell mediated immune response. So the activation of those immune cells is the key to their activity. Mushrooms, the chitin, which there is chitin in mushroom cell walls. I mean, chitin doesn’t make up a lot of the mushroom. It’s maybe five to 10% of it, but it does bind a lot of nutrients. So that these nutrients are not broken down in the stomach at all and they pass through and they are essentially absorbed in our lower intestine and that’s where they will activate these immune cells. By certain immune, we have actually immune receptors down there specifically for beta glucans. They also will feed our microbio, mushrooms are a prebiotic and mushrooms partially because of chitin and beta glucan, are very, very high five. So because of the fiber, the chitin and also a compound in mushrooms called mannitol, which is a very slow to digest sugar. They are something that essentially will slowly make it way. They’ll make their way through the, the stomach into the intestines and that’s where they really do their job. So beta glucans are the key medicinal compound in mushrooms.
Now certain mushrooms make other compounds, which is why mushrooms are so cool. They have these other things like reishi mushroom, reishi mushroom has bitter compounds in it called triterpenoids and triterpenoids are; terpines are these compounds like the SAP from trees, they’re an oil and the triterpenes in mushrooms are anti-tumor some of them actually haven’t direct cytotoxic abilities. They also help the liver. So any kind of liver dysfunction triterpenes are great for that. They’re also a very strong antioxidant, the mushrooms that have it again, are reishi. The other machine that has triterpenes is the chaga. So triterpenes, and triterpenes actually are in a lot of the poly pores and poly pores are those mushrooms that normally grow off of trees, they’re wood decomposers and instead of having gills like normal mushrooms, they have pores. So you have like thousands of pores in this pore layer on the underside of a poly pore. So your reishi mushroom, you look at it, there’s no gills there. It’s just got a layer of pores. So triterpenes are really an important compound in those particular mushrooms. Other of the mushrooms and what we found too is that now there’s a lot of talk about a compound called aerogocyanine and aerogocyanine is a naturally occurring amino acid. The interesting thing about aerogocyanine is that it’s only found in certain plants and fungi and mushrooms are particularly high in aerogocyanine and aerogocyanine is found in a lot of our organs in specific areas.
So scientists are trying to figure out, well, what is that compound doing there? Why do we need this aerogocyanine and so that now, I mean, some scientists are actually saying aerogocyanine should be considered a new vitamin. It’s kind of like that important compound. So that’s just another one of those compounds that they found in mushrooms. The thing is that a lot of people will say, oh, mushrooms, they’ve got hundreds of different compounds in them that make them what they are and what I would say to that is that yes, science has found a lot of interesting compounds. Part of that hundreds of compounds is like, okay, they’ve got like a hundred different variations of beta glucan or a hundred different triterpenoids in a reishi mushroom, things like that. But the thing about it is, is look, now we’re talking about drug discovery and that’s where we learn about all these different compounds, because what scientists do, especially those that are in that part of the industry out there, pharmaceutical industry, as they will take any natural product, and they will fractionate, fractionate, fractionate and produce all these different fractions and each fractions they will do in vivo tests, in vitro tests to see if they can find any type of activity that’s interesting to them and looking for unique compounds.
So yeah, they’re all these unique compounds in there, but what happens sometimes is I just will find some unique compounds, say, oh, look at the activity in this and I’ve seen this so many times in, for example, oh, this one has an anti HIV properties and next thing you know, there’s a headline out there, mushrooms cure HIV and it’s like, no, no stop. No, that’s not how it works. That’s why we have to be very careful when we read scientific papers, because the thing is, is that yeah, they can find a lot of these interesting compounds that occur in minute amounts but what I’m really interested in is I’m interested in the compounds that A, are in there in sufficient quantity that we know can give us benefits and I’m also interested in compounds that can provide markers, quality control markers, because I totally believe in analysis, but I don’t believe in trying to find and analyze for these compounds that occur in minute amounts. Those are very, to me they’re not very interesting. They’re interesting in certain ways, but I’m really interested in the compounds that I know will be in enough quantity that they will actually have benefits from people. Because when you’re telling people to take two 500 milligram capsules of something, I don’t care, unless it’s a very strong extract, that’s not a lot of mushroom or fungal matter and certainly not a lot of the compounds that you’re looking for that are going to give you the benefits.
So really and that’s something where in traditional Chinese medicine, they normally give people very high amounts of the different herbs because they want to see something happen. So part of the issues with the supplement industry is that often times people are putting out these products and saying, take two capsules a day. That’s normally not enough, unless the extract is super concentrated and you’re really getting more than just say straight mushroom powder or something like that. So when it comes to the actually what compounds are in mushrooms that are beneficial and which ones, if we’re taking a supplement, we’ll actually have enough activity. That’s something that’s really important to me and what I really tell most people too is look, you’re going to have to take more than oftentimes what it says on the label. For one is, think about it for a minute, you’re buying this product and it says, take two capsules and it’s like, okay, now is that for 120 pound person versus a 220 pound person? Should they will take two capsules? Well, it doesn’t make any sense. And when you look at all of these products, what are they doing? It’s like, okay, that bottle has 60 capsules. Why is that? There’s telling you 60 capsules and you take two a day. Well, it’s a months supply. So it’s like you have to; and look, the lion’s mane studies just as an example, the people, and these studies by the way, were done with actual mushroom powder, lion’s mane, mushroom powder and it’s funny because I actually just heard somebody claimed that the studies out there were on mycelium. They’re not.
Jeff: There all done with the mushroom and people are taking three grams of the lion’s mane, mushroom powder and that actually demonstrated that when they did all of these different tests and these were cognitive tests, the people taking the lions mane, they had control groups, they did better then the control. Again, that was three grams of lion’s mane powder. So you look at that and go, okay, now there’s a metric that I can sort of utilize if I want to take lion’s mane and where does that leave me two capsules a day? Well it may leave you taking more than two capsules a day. So these are all things that, that have to be considered when we’re dealing with mushroom products and again, I totally believe in analysis and I totally believe it’s important and when we sell our mushroom raw materials, we guarantee that they will have a minimum of X amount of beta glucan in them and we’ve been working on these other and we’ve been analyzing air Gaastral and aerothianine now for over two years, we have a tremendous body of data and that’s really important to me to qualify these products.
Madz: Yeah. I also want to point out it’s probably worht knowing if your product has been extracted or not. So for example, like the powders, the mnemonics makes, on the label, it will say an eight to one. So you have brought eight pounds of reishi mushroom, and it turns out into one pound of powder and getting rid of a lot of the fiber or the chitin. I was wondering if you could walk us through how you do that and how you’re making sure that these compounds aren’t being broken down within that process?
Jeff: Well, sure. The way it works is we start out with dried mushrooms. So let’s just say it’s a factor of it being a concentrate. Let’s say we take a for example, and these are in very, very; there is a big industrial plant that makes these extracts, but let’s just say we take 10 kilos of dried mushrooms. We will, first of all, what we’ll do is we will grind them and depending on whether we’re making what we call our one-to-one extract, or whether we’re making a more concentrated extract, the one to ones we’ll grind them to a complete powder. But with the concentrates will kind of be a coarse grind. It’ll go into this extraction vessel, which is filled with water that dried mushroom will then be cooked at 80 degrees celsius for three hours. The fluid will then be pulled off. We will fill it up with some more water. We will cook it again with the concentrates, we’ll cook it for at least two and sometimes three times with water or with certain mushrooms like chaga or reishi, we will do one of those cooks with alcohol. Again, three hours, 80 degrees Celsius and then with the concentrate, obviously we can’t get eight kilos into one kilo of final powder.
So what you have to do at that point is you essentially filter out all the fiber and then you concentrate the fluid down into approximately a syrup. Again, the specific gravity of that is something that is worked out and will work properly with the spray dryer. So we take that syrupy fluid and we send it to a spray dryer. It’s in the spray dryer for seconds and it’s sprayed. The sprayer has got a very, very large cyclone, which is like a big cone and it operates at a very high temperature, maybe somewhere around 180 degrees C at the top where it goes in, there’s air in there and it spins this fluid around and it comes out at the very bottom and it’s maybe at least 20 feet tall maybe even 30 feet tall. So it goes in the top, it comes out the bottom as a very, very fine powder and ultimately those 10 kilos of raw material ended up being one kilo of the final product. So that’s the basics of it. What we’re really looking for is we’re looking for something where we’re not losing anything. So we like to think that after three cooks we’ve gotten everything out of that fiber. You can do this at home essentially. You can take whatever mushroom you want. You can grind it up, throw it into a pot, cook it with water strain off the water, cook it again, you can cook it two or three times until let’s just say the water’s not turning color anymore and you know you’ve kind of got everything out of that mushroom it’s kind of the same process.
The other thing too is, is a lot of people think that for example, with a water extract, they think, oh yeah, well, you’re not going to get the triterpenes because you got to have alcohol. Well, I hate to tell you this, why don’t you just cook up some reishi, mushroom into a tea with water and tell me if it’s bitter. Well, of course it’s bitter, hot water can certainly take triterpenes out. Is it going to take a hundred percent of them? No, you’re probably going to need some alcohol to get everything out of it and the fact is that because triterpenes are our sort of oils, they are a lipid of sort, people say, oh gee, you can’t do that in a water extract because it’s an oil and what they’re kind of talking about is they’re talking about the fact that, well, okay. Yeah. It’s not soluble in water, but it’s still there in that fluid. It’s kind of like when you cook up a chicken soup, do you get any fat at all? Are you getting the fat out of that chicken? Well, of course you are. There it is. It’s right there. I mean you can remove all the fiber and everything, but you’ve still got the majority of those oils out of that chicken.
So it’s the same kind of concept with the extract. We will test and it’s not always, you don’t always see an exact 10 times more of this or 10 times more of that. We are generally speaking, getting more of these compounds. They do accumulate more, but it’s not always a direct relationship to that, but that’s just sort of the basics of how we do our extractions. When we actually do our one-to-one extracts, we don’t filter out the fiber. We keep the fiber with that extract because I think well, for one the fiber does contain insoluble beta glucans. So the fact is that when we are screening out the fiber in our concentrates, we are removing the insoluble beta glucans that have not come out. But all of the research on beta glucans has primarily said that it’s the soluble beta glucans that are the active ones and the insoluble are not that active, but they can be fiber, but listen it’s like taking to taking one gram of mushroom powder and thinking you’re getting a lot of fiber is like, no, no, that’s not really sure really where you’re going to get much fiber. Really, if you want to get fiber from mushrooms, eat mushrooms and that’s what I say, eat mushrooms, put them into your diet. It’s really a very important food and so I recommend that to everybody.
Alex: Yeah, for sure and I liked your tempe comment, it’s pretty funny. It was really amazing to take a tour with you at L phase facility in China and to see what we took a tour of, I don’t even think is their production facility. It just seemed like a huge multimillion dollar GMP certified facility just for tours. We’re passing by these like really, really high tech, expensive equipment that would blow any US facility out of the water with the level of production and high-tech extraction facilities and the level of integrity behind what they’re doing and it just seemed like it was for show, like it was a tour. Then they had the real more high tech facilities somewhere else. That was my view of it, but it was cool seeing the spray dryer and the liquid fermentation tanks and as we were taking the tour is really funny. Someone asked so do you use the mycelium? Do you have these liquid fermentation tanks and the tour guide said, yeah, I mean, we produce it because some people want cheaper products. So we give them the mycelium and this is pure mycelium. This is what we were talking about in the beginning with the fermentation technology, it’s in a liquid broth and they can strain out the pure mycelium. It’s not any of the starch involved and then this spray dryer, which is a really cool piece of equipment that has blown my mind. I can think of like powdered milk or anything else that either it’s freeze, dried, dry water, it’s incredible spray dried, but yeah, it’s really cool technology.
I just wanted to talk about that, of China, it’s a big topic of debate. After going to China, that was my third time going and it was pretty astounding. I mean, I got my whole world rocks on what the actual mushroom industry look like, and I’ve written a grain of sand of the Sahara desert of really what the mushroom industry was, but a really solid glimpse on; there are all these frankly racist comments on just really saying how China is bad and Chinese bad. Don’t buy from China. They hear the word China, and immediately they shut off and they’re like, that’s toxic, that’s bad, if it’s made in China, it’s terrible. It’s the worst thing on the planet and these comments that people say it’s just, it’s astounding in one sense especially from people who have never been and they don’t, especially for mushrooms where medicinal mushrooms really, I mean, the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine and the use of medicinal mushrooms were the bulk of this research is being done is in China. So to say that you don’t want to have anything to do with Chinese mushrooms is like a slap in the face of the history of mushrooms, and really the bulk of the technology and the infrastructure and the research and the mushroom lore and the mushroom history and so I’m just curious, your insights and your perspective of Chinese mushrooms.
Jeff: First of all, I understand a lot of that kind of negativity towards China, but I think, I think it’s unfortunate that right now in the United States, there’s a very anti China campaign and it’s really because the fact of the matter is people should, if they really want to be anti anything, they should be anti the companies that back in whenever took their production over to China and I mean, it’s like the US companies that went to China, set up production over there so that people in the United States could have a cheaper products and the people who are making them could be essentially the companies that are doing that could make more money. Now they’re kind of blaming China for that. It’s like really the person with the iPhone in their hand, you’re blaming China, come on.
Jeff: And the fact is that look like anywhere in the world, like the United States, there are places where you’re not going to want to eat the products that come out of that area, like down there in chemical row n the Gulf coast of Texas, you’re not going to eat produce that comes out of there for God’s sakes. It’s like, no, there are places, I mean, the US pores millions and millions of tons of pesticides and chemicals on its food every year and there are places that are horribly polluted in the US. There are certainly industrial areas in China where you’d go, yeah, I don’t want to eat the mushrooms growing out of this area because of the air pollution and so on. But the fact is that China is a huge country where we grow our mushrooms is way back in the mountains. In some cases it’s almost like the end of the road, and there’s not a lot going on back there and the mushroom farms are set up and the thing I love about it is that today in China, there’s tens of thousands of small growers that are producing mushrooms, and it’s a great cash crop for them. China produces over 85% of the world’s mushrooms and one of the reasons they do is that one, they have a long history of actually eating mushrooms and ate all throughout Asia, they’ve been eating mushrooms for thousands and thousands of years, but also they have a tremendous amount of agricultural waste products. That’s what mushrooms grow on.
Even in the United States, we grow our mushrooms on agricultural waste products, whether it be straw or different types of cotton seed meals, or rice bran, or any of these types of supplements that we put into our basic substrates sawdust. I mean, that’s the beauty of mushrooms. They’re re-purposing all these different materials. China’s got lots of them. They produce mushrooms in the most natural way I have ever seen. In the United States we like indoor climate control, lots of equipment, and it’s expensive, and all of that in China, for example, it’s mostly shade houses where mushrooms are grown and reishi loves warm temperatures. So it’s growing all throughout the summer and it’s harvested in the fall, whereas Shiitake, they don’t really get [Inaudible1:36:55] to fruit until probably early October. They harvest it in November. Same with mytaki. Lion’s mane is harvested in late November, December where the temperatures are cooler. So they’re actually cropping their mushrooms with the temperatures of the season, because everything is open in these large greenhouse style structures with shade cloth over them. So it’s a very, very natural process.
I went to China in 19, I mean, I traveled throughout China all through the nineties. I had my first trip over there was 1989. I’ve seen such amazing changes. In 1997 I took OCIA one of the largest organic certifiers in the United States with me to China. We have the very first organics certification workshop for mushrooms in China, 1997 all our products organically certified. We test them for pesticides, heavy metals before they even shipped. We test them again once they arrive in the United States, you can do it. You can actually produce mushrooms without pesticides, without chemicals. It can be done, and we are doing it and have been doing it for the last 20 years. So for people that are like, oh, I’ll worried about it. Look, certainly there have been problems in China about certain products being contaminated with different things. It’s just like I read about a E coli recall in the United States last week. These things happen, but you can’t just use a broad brush and go anything from China I’m not going to consume or whatever. If you want do that, you will never ever have a true medicinal mushroom product that you will be able to take because nobody in the United States can’t afford to do that.
Now, having said that there are some very small companies that might go out and they might wildcraft some chaga, they might wildcraft some of their own reishi mushrooms, they might make small batches, that is probably happening out there. There are some companies that can do that, but on the larger scale for the companies that are putting out the products into the stores, the whole foods, the health food stores and so on, that’s not going to happen. So I think people have to really kind of get over this whole thing of blaming China for it all. China right now and look the other thing is that they, and I’ve seen this with over the last 30 years, all of the old buildings in China are just being torn down. Everything in China is brand new. The factories where we make our extract is brand new. It is the most beautiful facility you’ve ever seen with equipment from all over the world, from Germany, from you name it, even in China, they produce high quality equipment, stainless steel. I mean, it’s just beautiful, these factories. So really the best products you’re going to get are going to come out of China and that’s the only place where you really going to get affordable medicinal mushroom products.
Madz: Hopefully one day the US will get there and as medicinal mushrooms become more popular, then more facilities can pop up. But right here and right now it seems like this is going to be your most integral source.
Jeff: Well, you guys know what it’s like to grow mushrooms, the cost and the labor, and you guys know what it’s like to take a crop from start to finish and then have to take it to market, and then look at all the hours you put in and go, oh my God, I think I made $5 an hour.
Alex: Yes. It’s the second most labor intensive crops in the world behind the strawberries. And it’s a lot of work.
Madz: And you need a lot of equipment. I mean, at least to do it the way that we you know, autoclave is not a casual thing that people know.
Jeff: Same with the same with a steam boiler. I mean, you’ve got to have a steam boiler to drive your autoclave and then if you’re not mechanized enough to help produce your substrate with some kind of machinery, then there’s a lot of hand labor that goes into just like filling all sorts of bags, whether it be an autoclave bubble bag or whether it’s a jar and then ultimately great and you think, oh my God, we finally done all that and it’s wonderful. I’ll look at all these mushrooms grow, and then you go, oh my God, it’s like Friday night and I’ve got to start harvesting these things.
Alex: Yeah. It was pretty amazing going to the medicinal mushroom conference and seeing there are whole companies who specialize in ground up facility making, they make whole 600,000 square foot facilities that are fully automated robotics, AI controlled systems that will crank out mushrooms for you and very limited employees. I don’t know if they figured out harvesting yet. I’m sure some mushrooms they figured out and maybe they’re keeping that technology proprietary for now or behind closed doors. But yeah, it’s amazing seeing the technology and the level of where China is at compared to the US like we’re dribbling babies comparative. It’s interesting to see it side by side with the cannabis industry and no new cannabis companies selling a weed roots, the roots of a cannabis plant and selling it as weed.
Jeff: Selling the sticks and stems.
Alex: Right and that’s where we’re at with medicinal mushroom industry in Canada and United States and hopefully we’ll get to the point where you’re talking about a whole medicinal compound fingerprint and really baseline. Back in the day I remember in the cannabis industry, it was like, well, what’s the THC content, and that was pretty much it and now we have all these triterpenes and CBG and CBD and all these different things and we’re getting a whole entourage effect of all the whole organism, the whole fingerprint of what is acceptable in the industry and what are the standards and what is the integrity that we hold ourselves to and it’s amazing to see the industry develop those standards and that high level of integrity. I’m really grateful for your research and your dedication to bringing that integrity to this industry, which we really need it at this time, because there’s a lot of false information. There’s a lot of bad science and publicity, and just a lot of false information going up and about, and we need that high integrity really backbone to this industry to really lay it down, backed by science and to really give people the best mushroom products that they could ever get.
Madz: You’re redefining medicinal mushrooms paper. I want to say thank you for making it, but also it’s so accessible and people who have no scientific jargon can read this and understand it. So that is also so important.
Alex: You can download the whole paper for free online, by the way. So it’s not, you don’t have to pay for some research gate subscription or whatever, you don’t have to buy the paper, it’s totally free.
Madz: There is nothing cryptic about it, so straightforward and easy to digest. So thank you.
Jeff: Well, you know what thank you guys for helping me spread the message, because there’s so many people out there that think they’re taking a mushroom product when actually they’re just taking myciliated grain, mostly grain powder, and that’s just such a shame. I feel so sorry that that’s going on out there and help me spread the message because it’s really important.
Alex: So we have your paper and we have a couple other papers that we found that talk about fruit bodies, mycelium quality control, things like do you have any other papers that you have read out there that you’re like if anyone wants to read more about fruiting bodies versus mycelium, where can they read this information apart from your amazing paper Redefining Medicinal Mushrooms?
Jeff: Well, I’ll send you some of those papers and if you have a place to put them, then go ahead. I think we might have some links in our educational area to some of that kind of information. In fact, I highly recommend people to come to the website namex.com because we do have a section there with a lot of educational materials. We’ve got just a lot of information about medicinal mushrooms in general and I don’t know if you saw it, but we did a really interesting report on this medicinal mushroom conference that you and I both just attended. I mean, that was really, really lot of fun. I mean, wasn’t it amazing Alex that we’ve got a country now that is growing 680 tons of morels, and that now is actually learning how to grow cordyceps and is growing also is growing now the cauliflower mushroom and it was just, it’s absolutely amazing. They’re doing so much research over there and that’s the thing I love about China and I realized early on after my first trip there in 1989, was that they have hundreds and hundreds of mushroom scientists. They have dozens of mushroom research institutes and then they have all of these different growers there. So it’s really the heartland when it comes to any kind of mushroom growing research, scientific effort, it’s all happening in China and it’s just an amazing, amazing place. I’m so happy for the Chinese people too, because the fact of the matter is that they have been 400 million people have been pulled out of poverty in the last 30 years. It’s just unbelievable and I feel so happy for them and all of my associates and partners over there, I mean, they’re doing so well compared to what it was like, say 50 years ago or something like that and I’m just happy for them all. I really am.
Alex: Have you heard about the cortisol symposium in China?
Jeff: I haven’t, no.
Alex: I just found out about it and I’m really interested in when the next one is, but I can’t find any information. I was hoping you would know.
Jeff: The person that might know for sure it would be, have you ever come across a man named Daniel Winkler?
Alex: He’s amazing. We love Daniel.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, Daniel, I would assume if anybody knew about it, it would be Daniel.
Alex: Amazing. Well, we’re about wrapping up with this episode. I don’t know; do you have any other points that you think our listeners would love to hear? Do you have any other things that you would want to talk about?
Jeff: I mean, I’ll just leave you with one thing and that is people really should put mushrooms into their diet, all of the recent research and studies that has come out, demonstrate that populations that eat mushrooms live longer, they’re healthier and I really think that’s kind of what is the missing food out there. I think that’s something that in a way, it’s the missing dietary link and so get to the market buy Shiitake, put Shiitake for one into your diet, and they’ve got all these other mushrooms out there. If you’re close to a metropolitan area, you can probably get oyster mushrooms and maitake, I love enoki mushrooms. I mean, it’s just like, go for it, put mushrooms into your diet. It’s a great food and it’ll help you in many ways.
Alex: Amazing. So we have one final question that we ask all of our guests on our show and the question is if mushrooms could talk and had the microphone and could talk to the whole human race, what would they say in one to three sentences?
Jeff: Well, I’ll tell you what how I’m going to answer that. I’m going to answer that with one of my favorite ancient Chinese poems and the message I think is what we all need to hear and so here it goes without leaves without buds, without flowers, yet they formed fruit as a food, as a tonic, as a medicine, the entire creation is precious.
Alex: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that and the whole show. You’re a wealth of information and I think I’m looking forward to going back to China, with you and to keep working with you and keep discovering all the amazing things in research that you’re doing. I really thank you for your dedication to my whole mycology world.
Jeff: Thank you so much and I’m very happy. It’s been really a pleasure talking to you both, and I love what you’re doing too. I think it’s just fantastic and I really support people like yourself and your endeavor. So absolutely let’s keep in touch and so it’s a mushrooming world out there, mushrooms are thing these day.
Alex: Yeah. So everyone check out mnemics.com. That is Jeff’s website and also check out the paper Redefining Medicinal Mushrooms is really amazing white paper that Jeff has written also the Mushroom Cultivator is another amazing book. Are there any more resources that you want to point people to?
Jeff: Yeah, if they’re looking for an actual retail product. They can come to real mushrooms.com. That’s where they can get our products on a retail basis. They just missed out on black Friday, but at any rate they can they can go there. That’s where all our products, one of the cool things is we just came out with a mushroom based vitamin D product.
Alex: I saw that, that’s really amazing.
Jeff: Yeah. I think it’s so cool. I’m really stoked on it.
Alex: I know we need it in the East coast, in the US because we do not have enough sunlight over here. We’re currently in a snowstorm right now. So as much vitamin D as possible, I currently have my happy lamp on and yeah, I take vitamin D every day, but definitely want to switch to mushrooms. I think that’s a good source.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s cool.
Alex: Cool. Well, that wraps up another episode of mushroom revival podcast. If you want to check us out www.mushroom-revival.com, check out all the free resources that we have, our blogposts, our other podcasts, and we would love your feedback as well. So if you want to reach out to us, you can text us, call us, send us an email, a message on any of our social media platforms. If you have an idea for another guest that we can bring on a show or an idea of a topic that you want us to talk about, we’d love to talk about it. Anything that you want us to add, subtract, we’d love your feedback. Other things going on. If you are listening to this before December 9th, 2019, we have an amazing sale going on is our holiday sale. You can get 25% off and free shipping. So the coupon code is jollyshroom. If you want that and if you want to other special discount, sign up for our mailing list to get an extra discount on that. If you have missed that sale, I am so sorry. You have to wait till next year. Other than that much love and may the spores be with you.