Danielle Broida, RH is an herbalist, mycologist, and holistic nutritionist. Working with progressive companies such as Four Sigmatic, her life’s work is bringing back the 5,000 year old tradition of incorporating medicinal mushrooms into our daily practice. Imagine being able to naturally increase your immune health, improve brain function and memory, or even unwind from a stressful day without becoming dependent on medications. These powerhouse superfoods such as lion’s mane, chaga, and reishi provide so many incredible health benefits and countless more yet to be discovered.
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Joe: [00:00] Well, we are here at the Cured HQ with Danielle from Four Sigmatic, who at one point, was going to help us out with some projects. We were actually quite sad to see that we didn’t get to work together; but where you ended up is the most amazing place for you to be – in the ‘shroom world and education world, and that’s Four Sigmatic. It’s been really cool to watch Four Sigmatic over the year and you come in and be the educator that you are. I randomly saw you one time on the IG and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s Danielle!” I didn’t know fully what you were doing, but it really seems you’ve taken on a massive role there and are a leading educator in the space. So ,I’m super stoked to have you here, and thank you for everything that you’re doing in the world of the ‘shrooms.
Danielle: [00:47] Thank you. Yeah, I’m so happy to be here and it was totally a natural, wild, organic flow to join forces with Four Sigmatic. And it’s been great.
Joe: [00:57] Yeah, I know that as a herbalist, as somebody that understands fungi and herbs and basically, natural medicine, as maybe as an overarching kind of category or terminology, I know that you’re now focused in like a specialty. But I want to talk about your background in this whole world to begin with to really understand how you got so excited and then also educated more and more on this world that you live in, and now specialty, in the ‘shrooms.
Danielle: [01:29] Yeah, so it’s kind of been one step at a time and I had no idea that I was going to end up really focusing and dedicating my life to functional mushrooms. It started – I was an undergraduate, environmental studies major, so became really passionate about Earth and soil health and organic agriculture, and just kind of followed one step at a time what that led me to. So, after undergraduate, I decided to move to Asia and I lived out there for about 3 years and just jumped into every opportunity I could to study holistic health and food systems and natural medicine. I ended up studying with a naturopathic doctor and becoming a raw food chef and detox coach at one point. I studied ayurveda in India and lived on the Ganges River and did yoga for several months.
Joe: [02:20] Full immersion.
Danielle: [02:21] Full immersion. Studied with like, medicine men up in Thai hilltribe villages. I mean, it was kind of all over the place. Ended up moving back to Boulder, Colorado to really formalize my studies in herbal medicine.
Joe: [02:36] So, your undergraduate was at CU?
Danielle: [02:40] My undergraduate, no, was actually at Whitman College up in Washington state.
Joe: [02:43] Ok, so you met the mutual friends in Boulder from just moving back there? You weren’t originally – ok, you were saying moving back; so are you originally from Boulder?
Danielle: [02:53] No, I’m from Santa Barbara, California.
Joe: [02:55] I’m all off then! I was like, I know you ended up in Boulder. I know we got connected via Christian, and I don’t know how that actually happened.
Danielle: [03:03] Full disclosure, I fell in love in Asia with a man that was from Boulder, so brought me back there, and it kind of was all just meant to be a step at a time. But yeah, was able to formalize my education there and I actually teach at the grad school that I went to, so I teach mycology there now. It’s just kind of one thing led to another. After going to grad school, I opened up a private practice, so I worked clinically for several years. And the type of people that were showing up at my door – and I think this might be just what kind of is the case with herbalists – but there was a lot of chronically ill, a lot of auto-immunity, people that had basically gone to every other doctor and practitioner and are like, “Hey, you’re my last resort.”
Joe: [03:49] Can’t find an answer.
Danielle: [03:50] Yeah.
Joe: [03:51] And this world that you live in has existed for a very long time, so there’s a proven track record, especially being over in Asia, and then really seeing where this all came from; and then being in the U.S. and kind of really seeing how our healthcare system works, and there’s like this massive disconnect, and it’s unfortunate for a lot of people because those people that come to you, they’re on their like – this is my last option, it seems like. I bet there was a lot of… I’m assuming there was a lot of impact, and the feeling of actually really helping people through that.
Danielle: [04:26] Yeah, absolutely. I think people are just looking to be heard, and there isn’t really the space or time in our typical medical system for people to just share what they’re going through. Right? And healing is just mind, body, spirit. It’s so much more than take this pill. So, it was amazing to have people come into my office and share what was up, and be like, “Wow, you’re the first person that’s listened to my story and doesn’t think I’m crazy.” I would make medicines for each of my clients specifically for their body type and what they were going through. And no one has done that before, even though throughout history, thousands of years, that’s always been the way that we’ve dealt with whatever condition. It’s like, if you show up at my door and someone else does, and you’re both dealing with stomach pain, exact same symptoms, the treatment for you is going to be totally different from that other person because of who you are, and what else you eat, and what you do, and how you sleep, and-
Joe: [05:27] What’s your lifestyle. It’s a whole intake analysis, which I’m sure is pretty involved for every single person that you’re working with.
Danielle: [05:35] Absolutely.
Joe: [05:36] Which is, really, it’s interesting because we talk about that here at Cured and being able to design products just like is done at Four Sigmatic. You design them for specific usages. To be able to relax, to be able to have better cognitive function, to focus, to be able to whatever it may be – a great anti-inflammatory type of approach – and that can be hard to do as a brand and really be able to meet every single person exactly where they are; so, it’s very important to have people like you, in your prior profession, to make those custom formulas and be able to help people. But all that said, the world that we do live in here with these brands is really helping a lot of people and the other piece to that is the education behind it and having people be able to understand why they should be taking what they’re taking rather than it’s just because it’s popular and I see other people taking it. I think that we’ll get into a whole, deep conversation on the industry, but now you’re living in the fungi world. I wanted to really start the dive into that with, what are we talking about? Because I say mushrooms and some people might think psychedelic mushrooms. There’s so many different forms, uses, purposes, and I think that there’s kind of a general misunderstanding of the differentiation between all the components; so can you start with that and get us all aligned with what we’re talking about here?
Danielle: [07:09] Definitely. So, we’re just going to zoom out really big – and fungi are their own kingdom, first of all. This actually wasn’t even discovered until the 70s. They were thought to be a lower form of plant, and now we know so much more about them, but I love that fact that it was only 50 years ago that we even knew that they were their own kingdom. We’re still discovering so much about them and really, it’s like the brink of the unknowns, so I love digging into this. They’re their own kingdom, right? So, animal kingdom that we’re part of, plant kingdom, fungi kingdom – and it’s a huge kingdom. There’s actually 6x as many species – 6x – some people are even saying up to 10x as many species of fungi as all plants on Earth.
Joe: [07:54] Wow. And aren’t they some of the largest living organisms? I can’t remember what the size of the one I’ve heard that’s in the Pacific Northwest, but it just blew my mind when I heard that, how expansive one organism can actually be.
Danielle: [08:09] Yeah. It’s called the Honey mushroom, and it’s actually up in Eastern Oregon, and it’s the largest organism on Earth.
Joe: [08:15] That’s crazy.
Danielle: [08:16] Oh my gosh, there’s so many wild, amazing fun facts about fungi that we could dig into, but yeah – my whole idea is how can we unravel the mysterious, right? Like really get to know, and today, I want to try and simplify what we’re talking about and how to super easily incorporate Cured and Four Sigmatic products into peoples’ lives to reap the benefits of this ancient form of healing and medicine, really.
Joe: [08:45] So, functional mushrooms. What are we talking about versus psychedelic mushrooms?
Danielle: [08:48] Alright, so we got this huge kingdom. There’s about 15 million species on Earth; 6 million or so are fungi, so this is a huge amount of diversity. It’s wild to me, like I ask people “what do you think of when you think of mushrooms?” and people really tell me, it kind of falls in 3 categories. They’re like, “I think of psychedelics; I think of portabellas or culinary mushrooms on a pizza; or I think of mushrooms that will kill you,” like Amanita poisonous mushrooms. And there’s this whole category that we refer to as functional mushrooms, which are mushrooms that have known and studied benefit to the human body and that have actually been used for over 5,000 years by humans. This is nothing new and it’s a totally separate branch of mushrooms. To make it super simple, and this isn’t 100% the case, but you can think of culinary mushrooms, poisonous mushrooms – those are mostly mushrooms that are going to be growing on the ground or soil – and then, the functional mushrooms are mostly growing on trees. So those mushrooms we’re going to be talking about, right? Those are our reishis, lion’s mane, even shiitake, chaga.
Joe: [10:03] So when I say medicinal mushroom, am I wrong in saying that? Because that’s what I’ve heard a lot. But I guess what just I connected in my head right now was now the medicinal benefits and the therapeutic benefits that are actually starting to be studied in the psychedelic mushroom world. So, if I say… so you’re saying functional. Am I saying something different when I say medicinal, or is that like, has that been connected? Am I saying that wrong, basically.
Danielle: [10:33] You’re not saying it wrong. The category of mushrooms we’re talking about is the same, and we’re just switching the diction and we’re all kind of playing with this. We’re walking into this unknown world together in the way that we talk about this. Because cannabis has kind of been associated with the word medicine, like medicinal herb, we don’t want the association with these functional mushrooms, functional fungi, to be automatically conflated with psychedelics.
Joe: [11:04] I see.
Danielle: [11:05] It’s just, how can we talk about them as clear as possible? And we’re learning together.
Joe: [11:11] Yeah, so even within the functional mushroom realm, what are we… what different types of mushrooms are we talking about; and when you say that they’re growing mainly on trees, I know that cordyceps are a little bit different there. So, when you say, when you’re talking about this category, what mushrooms are we talking about, and kind of the names that people hear every day, day-to-day?
Danielle: [11:38] So, there’s 4 big players that I think we can dive into today, and those are reishi, chaga, lion’s mane, and cordyceps. Then there’s a couple of others that we dig into as well. There’s pretty much like 4-10 that are taking the spotlight in the functional fungi marketplace.
Joe: [11:53] Is that because of how available they are or just because the actual function and the benefits that we’re seeing?
Danielle: [12:03] Several reasons. Two of those – the reishi and chaga – are some of the oldest fungi that have been used. What that means is there’s so much history, there’s so much tradition, and there’s also the biggest bulk of research behind both of those fungi. Of course, in our modern world, people want to be like show me the studies, and we have those.
Joe: [12:23] Of course. Which is good.
Danielle: [12:25] Which is good. Right. Which is necessary, and I hope more and more studies continue to come out as they become more popularized. I think the tradition and the research really makes them kind of the key players rather than accessibility or ease of use.
Joe: [12:43] Cool. So, reishi and chaga, and then cordyceps and lion’s mane. Why would I be using those individually or in combination, and how do you guys use them at Four Sigmatic?
Danielle: [12:54] We’ll start with reishi.
Joe: [12:56] Cool. Yeah, I like reishi.
Danielle: [12:57] Love reishi. We call her the queen of mushrooms, and she’s the oldest, most revered. She’s been used a lot in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and there’s so many – I like to think of these fungi as human beings – they’re so complex; they have so much to offer.
Joe: [13:16] They have feelings too.
Danielle: [13:17] They have feelings too, for sure! And with that, it’s really hard for the general public – like we’re already talking about mushrooms – they’re like whoa, am I still with you. So, we want to come up with one word, or kind of like a personality to tag on to those mushrooms, so people can remember this is what it’s for and this is when I use it. For reishi, at Four Sigmatic we call reishi the chill mushroom.
Joe: [13:43] I think that’s what it says, “chill with reishi” on the mushroom cacao mix with reishi. We’re dumbing it down. We’re simplifying it.
Danielle: [13:52] Yeah! There’s so much more – we’ll make that little plug – but reishi is great for occasional stress, nervous system, relaxation, unwinding. I explain reishi like that feeling at the end of the day when you’ve maybe gone running or had a big work day, or maybe like for us, skiing, and you take off your ski boots or your shoes, and you put your feet up – that’s kind of what reishi does to your body.
Joe: [14:17] I like that. The imagery, it’s perfect.
Danielle: [14:21] Right on. So, reishi, kind of like the evening mushroom before bed. And really, if people don’t know where to start within the world of functional fungi, I point them towards reishi because most of us are dealing with some layer of chronic stress. With all fungi, and really with all plant-based medicine, we’re trying to look at the issues of whatever someone’s dealing with from the root, so we’re addressing the root rather than the symptom. We don’t want band-aids here.
Joe: [14:53] Stop the band-aid.
Danielle: [14:54] Yeah, like no more band-aids. We’re beyond that. We really want to heal from the root up, so it’s sustainable and long term. If people are having stomach issues, or headaches, digestion issues, and they don’t even think it’s related to stress, often when they start taking something like reishi, and a support that underlying stress response, these secondary symptoms go away.
Joe: [15:20] How is that actually working in the body, and is that consistent through every type of functional mushroom? Like the word adaptogen is thrown around a lot. Can you kind of explain what’s the function in the body?
Danielle: [15:35] Totally. All functional mushrooms are considered adaptogens, and that’s basically this umbrella category of plants and fungi that help your body to better adapt to certain stressors. That can be internal or external stressors. I think the easiest way to think about what is happening in your body is to go back to the way that we evolved to deal with stress as humans. Typically, when we would have a stress response, there would be an animal coming to attack us; so, our body rushes our bloodstream with adrenaline and cortisol, these stress hormones, in order to have enough stamina to either fight that animal or run for our life. Fight or flight. And in that time, you’re in survival mode. Your body’s pumping with these hormones, and you have so much strength to keep yourself alive. So, the last thing your body’s thinking of is, am I hungry? What’s my sex drive like? Am I tired right now? Like, you’re in survival mode; and we would move that energy, we would fight or flight, and pump those hormones out of our bloodstream. But now-
Joe: [16:46] Not so much anymore.
Danielle: [16:48] Not so much, right? Like, we’re driving to work, someone cuts us off – boom – stress response. Get into the office, boss yells at you – boom – stress response, and it just sits there and is circulating in our body. We’re like why are these other parts of my body not working? You’re in survival mode, almost all the time.
Joe: [17:09] So that’s what adaptogens are doing. They’re helping that. They’re helping… manipulate that stress response, or ease that stress response. I’m really trying to dumb it down.
Danielle: [17:21] Yeah. Every adaptogen is going to do – again, they’re part of this category – but they’re each their own player. They’re each like, we all live in Colorado together, we all have these similarities, but they each have a slightly different action in the body. So, you want to choose your adaptogens wisely, and if you’re dealing with any sort of more complicated issue, see an herbalist. Shameless plug.
Joe: [17:47] We might know one.
Danielle: [17:48] Yeah, right! But they’re all supporting, like if there was one common thread among them, they’re all really supportive. They’re tonifying to our adrenal glands, which is helping us deal with whatever stress. It’s almost – and you want to take them before the stressors occur to basically, they’re like builders; they’re like nourishing builders. Metaphors are really big for me. I think they’re a great way for people to remember things. If we all have – like think of us, each of our bodies as a city – and cities have reservoirs, right? And when drought hits, you need to pull water from that reservoir to be able to most appropriately deal with the issue. If our bodies are that city, the adaptogens are coming in and feeding our reservoir.
Joe: [18:40] Got it.
Danielle: [18:41] I call it our vital reserve.
Joe: [18:42] That makes complete sense.
Danielle: [18:44] So we basically, it gives us these tools so when stress comes, we can respond both more quickly and more efficiently so we’re basically not entrapped by whatever stressor. We’re not pulled down and incapacitated by it.
Joe: [18:57] Cool. So, I took us off on a tangent after I said reishi, but let’s talk about chaga, lion’s mane, and cordyceps, and then I want to talk about the value proposition behind Four Sigmatic and kind of educate people on what to look for. Let’s talk about chaga and lion’s mane and cordyceps. At Cured, we have lion’s mane and cordyceps in our Rise product, which is our focus and mental clarity product. Then we have the reishi in our nighttime calming supplement. Does chaga kind of live in the same world as reishi?
Danielle: [19:31] So, reishi’s the queen and chaga’s the king. Chaga’s a super cool mushroom. Most mushrooms are parasitic or symbiotic, so they’re going from or with another species. Chaga are parasitic to birch trees primarily. At Four Sigmatic, we wild harvest ours from the largest birch forest in the world. It’s in Siberia, it’s called the Taiga Forest.
Joe: [19:54] Have you been there?
Danielle: [19:55] I would love to go there. I haven’t been yet; have you?
Joe: [19:58] Sounds mystical. No.
Danielle: [20:00] Totally mystical! Yeah, we gotta go. Next podcast in Siberia.
Joe: [20:04] Live on site!
Danielle: [20:05] Under the birch trees. Love it. But the big thing about chaga is it’s super abundant in antioxidant properties. Who do you think of when you think of people that need antioxidants?
Joe: [20:19] Me!
Danielle: [20:20] Yeah!
Joe: [20:21] But anybody that’s… I mean, that’s in an environment where they’re teaching a bunch of kids, or they’re in a healthcare, a nurse, anything like that where you’re around a bunch of people.
Danielle: [20:33] Exactly. Spot on. So anytime you’re exposed to free radicals, to antigens, chaga, again, talk about that nourishing, building effect; at Four Sigmatic we have a little superhero image on all our chaga boxes. It’s this idea if your body is full of antioxidants, you’re really strong; even if there’s antigens or sickness going on and you’re in that environment, you’re not going to be a host for it. You’re going to be strong enough to-
Joe: [21:01] Building some resilience.
Danielle: [21:02] You bet.
Joe: [21:03] Cool.
Danielle: [21:04] So, be well with chaga, super immune, and antioxidant fungi.
Joe: [21:07] Got it. Cool. And then lion’s mane and cordyceps.
Danielle: [21:11] Oh, which to talk about first.
Joe: [21:13] I don’t know, you tell me,
Danielle: [21:14] So you use-
Joe: [21:15] I use lion’s mane in a lot more – lion’s mane is in a higher concentration in our Rise product – and I actually take on top of our Rise product, I actually take even more lion’s mane outside of that. I actually take like a gram and a half to two grams per day.
Danielle: [21:31] Right on.
Joe: [21:32] Which I don’t know if that’s wild or not, but I just see that that works for me. Yeah, let’s talk about lion’s mane.
Danielle: [21:37] Lion’s mane is such a cool mushroom. It’s one of my favorites.
Joe: [21:43] It actually looks like a lion’s mane.
Danielle: [21:46] I mean, so many people are getting more familiar, but when I first started talking about lion’s mane, people would be like, “Is this vegan? Is this ok?” I’m like, it has nothing to do with the mane of a lion. That’s the common name. So, Latin name, Hericium erinaceus, and that’s because of these two compounds in lion’s mane that gives it this incredible ability to support brain function, thinking, productivity, memory.
Joe: [22:14] So then I’m wrong in saying that that’s where it came from and it looks like it?
Danielle: [22:18] Oh yeah, you’re right!
Joe: [22:20] Oh, ok! Cool. I was like, huh, now I’m really wrong.
Danielle: [22:23] No, you’re totally spot on! This white, fluffy fungi that kind of looks like the mane of a lion. But really what it’s doing is it’s activating nerve growth factor, which is incredible. Think about, literally, turning on a light switch for your body to be able to re-fire neurons within your brain.
Joe: [22:46] Wow.
Danielle: [22:47] Super cool. It’s being studied for all sorts of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s. I had a client when I had my private practice, and really incredible story of he got in a snowboarding accident and lost nerve function in half of his body and only did physical therapy and took high doses of lion’s mane, and was able to regenerate full neural function in his left side of his body, except for above his left eyebrow, which is due to some scar tissue, which we’ll work on.
Joe: [23:21] So, when we talk about using it for the mental clarity kind of cognition, that’s kind of like a… a secondary or tertiary kind of effect of it?
Danielle: [23:39] No, that’s right on. Yeah.
Joe: [23:42] Ok, so I guess I was trying to understand – like, so you’re saying that it’s like a… what did you say? You said neuro… I was going to say, not neuro-protectant – what did you say?
Danielle: [23:53] It’s activating nerve growth factor, or NGF. That’s what gives us this heightened sense of focus and productivity, so you are totally spot on.
Joe: [24:03] Ok, cool. I should trust myself more in my understanding of the mushrooms! I was supposed to be the CBD and the cannabinoid guy, but this world is really interesting. On top of that, cordyceps. We’ve combined cordyceps in our Rise product with the lion’s mane. What does cordyceps do?
Danielle: [24:22] Cordyceps is so cool. Cordyceps is the physical energy fungi. It’s amazing because there’s no stimulant in it. Typically, when we think about an increase of energy, we think about caffeine, or something that’s going to be this upper and kind of prop us, but that’s not the case with cordyceps. What cordyceps is doing, it’s actually a vasodilator, so it’s bringing increased oxygen into our bloodstream, which is what gives us this sense of energy. So, amazing, right? We think about cordyceps for athletes… pre-workout, it’s really cool; you can feel the effects of cordyceps.
Joe: [25:00] Yeah, 100%. Most pre-workouts contain like an L-arginine or a citrulline that is exactly that, it’s a vasodilator.
Danielle: [25:09] Exactly. I actually recommend cordyceps for athletes in recovery, just for like this long-term building. I’m all about like, avoid band-aids wherever possible, and that’s really like build and nourish the body.
Joe: [25:24] Get blood flow to the muscles after you workout. So, you tear down the muscles while you’re working out, and then getting into the recovery using cordyceps to increase the blood flow. That makes sense. That makes complete sense. Cool. So, those are some awesome mushrooms and there are how many that live outside of that? Lots, like you were just discussing.
Danielle: [25:42] Yes.
Joe: [25:44] But we’re talking about how Four Sigmatic has kind of like branded each of those. I wanted to transition to the rest of the value proposition behind Four Sigmatic and what consumers need to be understanding. You really came with like 3 important categories to me when you walked in the office today; and I just wanted to dive in to each of those to try and help clear up some misconceptions, and when people go to buy a product, understand exactly what they should be looking for. What’s like, the number one thing?
Danielle: [26:19] Yeah. In my opinion, as an herbalist, I’m all about keeping traditions alive. I love to say at Four Sigmatic, we’re not doing anything new. People laugh at me all the time; they’re like, “you’re making mushroom coffee a thing. Like, you’re for sure doing something new.” But these mushrooms have been used – I mentioned this in the beginning – but for 5,000 years. The way that they’ve always been used is something that I feel really passionate about keeping alive. It’s just about reviving this tradition. The first part about the way they’ve been used is what part of the mushroom has been used.
Joe: [26:59] I feel like there’s so much debate on that right now, so I’m really stoked to hear this.
Danielle: [27:03] Yeah, and there’s valid opinions on all sides of the table. For me, personally, I feel that using the actual mushroom – and maybe that sounds weird to people that aren’t as familiar with fungi – but there’s three parts; there’s three distinct parts to a fungi. One is the mycelium, which can be thought of as the root system. The second is the mushroom itself, or the fruiting body. And then the third is really the spores, so essentially the mushroom seeds. People are using all different combinations or one of the other of these different parts of the species. But in all these ancient materia medicas that I’ve studied and followed and are really my bibles as an herbalist, it’s always been using the mushroom – so, using the fruiting body. That’s something that we do at Four Sigmatic, and that’s really where so much of the research is; not only the tradition, but the research as well.
Joe: [28:13] That was one of the first things that you were educating us on when you were here a year and a half ago. We were also talking about the triterpenes. If I look at it from a… if we’re talking cannabis, right? So, when we say full spectrum hemp extract, what that includes is it includes the terpenes, which are the aromatic parts that give it the smell, but also have benefits in it themselves, and then all the different cannabinoids. There’s over 80 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and the one that everybody’s hyped on right now is obviously CBD. THC is also a cannabinoid and there’s a bunch of other ones that have benefits. So, when we look at mushrooms and you’re talking about the fruiting body versus mycelium, are the important pieces of the mushroom, including the terpenes, or triterpenes, found in the fruiting body more than in the mycelium, or is that even a piece of it?
Danielle: [29:14] Yeah, I’m so glad you’re bringing this up, and I wish we had a few more physical mushrooms to show all of the listeners; but, essentially if you look at the conch of – let’s take reishi, for example – there’s this really oily sheen on it, and those are actually the terpenes. You can think of them as the mushroom oils. Those develop primarily once the fungi has fruited and taken that last stage of its lifecycle, regenerating all of its life energy into that last stage of its lifecycle.
Joe: [29:48] That’s exactly like cannabis. As cannabis is getting towards the end of its lifecycle, the cannabinoid content, as it’s flowering, the trichromes and the cannabinoid content start to change. It knows that it’s dying and it’s, more or less, spreading its seed, I guess you could say.
Danielle: [30:05] Right. It’s like, ok, it’s time; we gotta get this together and be able to survive as a species. It’s evolution.
Joe: [30:12] So that doesn’t happen in the mycelium.
Danielle: [30:15] So if you really – and you can just look at this – but the terpenes are mostly developed once the mushroom has come to its fruiting stage. This is like a perfect segue into extraction.
Joe: [30:30] Right. That’s what I was going to ask you next. So, how do you… obviously, we’re talking about the entire fungi, and it’s in its natural form, or in nature, or in the cultivation. How do we get it to the product that we have in our hands? I think there’s a lot that we kind of dove into before the podcast in that area, so I’d like to spend some time on that.
Danielle: [30:51] For sure. I’ll just say right off the bat, I don’t believe in eating mushrooms raw. Ever, ever, ever. Like, I’ve mentioned that I had a background in raw food and totally believe in that world, but mushrooms are an exception where they need to be extracted to be able to become bioavailable to us as humans. The reason that is is there’s actually a compound in the fungi cell wall; it’s called chitin, and it’s the same compound found in crustacean shells. Think about a lobster shell or a shrimp shell-
Joe: [31:26] Tough.
Danielle: [31:37] Super tough. And the human body actually doesn’t have sufficient enzymes to be able to break open that chitin, and the chitin acts like this big brick wall. It’s this big wall that’s prohibiting our bodies from being able to get any of the beneficial compounds in the mushroom.
Joe: [31:46] So you’re eating the raw mushroom, you’re basically putting some extra fiber in your system? You’re not getting all the benefit.
Danielle: [31:54] Yeah. A little bit of fiber. That’s exactly it. And so, just like you were talking about with cannabis, there’s all this incredible synergy of different compounds, and depending on what you’re looking for from the fungi, there’s different methods of extraction to pull out different compounds. To make it super simple, you can think of the two big groups of beneficial compounds in the fungi are basically the mushroom sugars and the mushroom oils. One step deeper, the sugars, they’re polysaccharides or beta glucans and these oils are the terpenes; but we’re going to keep it sugars and oils. When you want to pull sugars out of something, you can do it through water. It’s a water extraction. Think about making simple syrup; like sugar’s going to dissolve in water, and with the fungi, that’s called a decoction. It’s basically where you boil the fungi in hot water for a long period of time.
Joe: [32:56] I was just going to say – and that was what you were talking about before the podcast – some of the products out there that are being sold as just raw mushrooms are actually guiding people to say you need to do your at-home extraction basically to get the full benefit of this product and I’m sure so many people just read right over that and miss it.
Danielle: [33:14] Totally. Thanks for bringing that up. Fine labels, that’s all about how can we support each other and understanding what we’re buying and why we’re buying it. Reading, that’s the first thing I would teach people as an herbalist, a nutritionist, is like, we’re going to try to get you to steer away from x-ingredient; how many labels do you read? When you go down the aisle, do you actually look at the ingredients? It’s so important to do that.
Joe: [33:42] It’s the first thing you owe to yourself is to understand actually what you’re consuming.
Danielle: [33:45] Totally. Yeah. So, decoction, water, is one way to extract.
Joe: [33:54] So it’s basically a boiling, a hot water extraction? And these are just in like big, boiling water vessels? What does it look like?
Danielle: [34:03] Yeah. At home, you can do this in a crock pot. So, it’s basically whatever safe method you can use to keep heat on your water for a period of like at least 8 hours. When I make my decoction with mushrooms at home, I do it for a couple days.
Joe: [34:18] So then the carrier is the actual water.
Danielle: [34:21] Correct.
Joe: [34:22] Whereas… so getting to the oil component of it, I’ve had mushroom tinctures before and I think it was in alcohol that it was in. Is that the only way to get that component of the mushroom?
Danielle: [34:35] Yes, so right. So, we have the sugars and the oils, we’re using the water to get out all those sugars. The oil and water don’t really mix. Think about dropping olive oil in a pot of water; it’s just going to kind of sit there. So you don’t get very many oil-soluble compounds when you’re making a decoction, or making that water extract. So, the way that you get out those, or the primary way to get out those terpenes, the mushroom oils, is through alcohol or a tincture – which is also a really standard, ancient practice in a lot of herbal medicine. It’s not as traditional as the hot water. Think about old medicine men and women stirring a big pot, like that really witchy kind of style. But yeah, tincturing is the way to pull out those terpenes.
Joe: [35:24] So, then how do we get to the powder?
Danielle: [35:26] Yes!
Joe: [35:27] So, we’ve talked about the water, we’ve talked about the alcohol component of it, and then are those combined in a way back together once you get to the powder form? Like, how do we get to this final form that’s in the coffees and the teas for example?
Danielle: [35:42] Yeah. So, I’m just going to say that all powders are not created equal. So, right, you were talking about a lot of powders you’ll buy haven’t been extracted at all. So, you want to make sure no matter what, your mushroom has been extracted in at least one way, ideally multiple ways. At Four Sigmatic, we basically do a spray-dry process, it’s basically a big dehydrator that turns both of those extracts back into a powder, which, at that point we combine with organic spices and herbs and create these really tasty, easy to drink beverages, and it’s just so… I’m so passionate about it. I think it’s so brilliant. These mushrooms are so challenging to extract and I think that’s been one of the biggest things that’s prohibited us in the West from easily incorporating them into our lives. I would have these, you know, chronically ill clients that would show up at my door and I’m like, “alright, I need you to put this reishi in your crockpot for 2 days. Then we’re going to make this tincture and it’s going to have to sit for 3 months, and then we’re going to combine them,” and they’re like, “I can hardly make myself breakfast.” There’s no way.
Joe: [36:52] It’s so… I mean, since starting Cured, and then as you have gone through your practice and now working with Four Sigmatic, it is – the amount of production, work, effort, time that goes into creating these final products is so absurd, and never really understood from the consumer standpoint, and the potential to have a less than high-quality product is very high – because people can take shortcuts, people can be not testing for certain components. In our world, it’s pesticides, residual solvents in the extraction process. Then, in your world, you’re really talking about, even on the cultivation end, talking about the organic practices and what it is to be an actual, organic mushroom.
Danielle: [37:48] Right.
Joe: [37:49] What all does that entail?
Danielle: [37:51] Yeah, the organic piece. Fungi really can absorb a lot of the environment, so we should do another podcast on mycoremediation, which is-
Joe: [38:05] It’s exactly like hemp. Hemp can be used to, I think that it was actually, that’s one of the remedial crops at Chernobyl. And that’s really scary, so it’s pulling up a bunch of radiation, it can be pulling up a bunch of terrible stuff from the soil, so the medium, the growing platform, and whatever that entails in the mushroom world, which I would love to understand a little bit more about. That’s so important, is just where you are starting.
Danielle: [38:31] It’s so important. It’s so crucial. Yeah, absolutely. Fungi, other plants too, really can pull up certain toxins from the environment or whatever medium they’re growing from. So, really important to have mushrooms that are, especially when you are using them to really support your health in this vital way, make sure they’re organic, and make sure they’re third-party tested is another really big thing. That’s third-party tested for pesticides, mycotoxins, molds, yeasts, radiation, like all of that is critical, and that’s something we do at Four Sigmatic I stand behind so passionately.
Joe: [39:14] Is that stuff available to the customer? How do they get their hands on that type of stuff? That was one thing that we put a lot of effort into too is, bottom section of our website, it just says ‘Cured Quality Control’. You can click on every single batch. You can understand what the actual terpene profile is, what the cannabinoid profile is, how we tested for residual solvents, the absence of pesticides, heavy metals, microbial, all that type of stuff. I’m sure if somebody reached out or if it’s not already available, you guys have that all at the consumer’s hands.
Danielle: [39:48] Yeah, we have a quality page on our website. You can go to foursigmatic.com and then at the bottom, it says ‘Quality’, and you can totally geek out and read all about it, but every single single ingredient and then every final batch is third-party tested, and then we have a hold a release policy, so really strict standards that we’ll never release any product to our customers until it’s passed all of our tests.
Joe: [40:14] So, this is, I think there’s a misconception around where the mushrooms are actually coming from; and when people say, “Oh, they’re coming from China,” or people are talking about hemp and it’s coming from outside of the United States, there are sometimes when that could be a good thing and then sometimes where it might be a bad thing, but I think it’s actually understanding like what’s our idea in our head when we think those things. From a remedial crop standpoint, that’s probably the big, red flag in the hemp industry is like, where is it actually coming from, what’s that land looking like. But, from what I understand, a lot of the education that I’ve been doing for myself in the mushroom world, China – and correct me if I’m wrong – other places in Asia is where some of the best mushrooms are coming from. Is there a misconception there? Is that even true? What’s going on there?
Danielle: [41:11] I think it’s a big… there’s just a lot of red flags when anyone hears China, which is fair. But, a lot of the mushrooms that we’re using where their tradition is, they’re Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s actually super cool talking about – most people, where do you think of when you think of this type of mushroom. “Oh, the East?” But, again, talking about being on the brink of this unknown, we’re discovering so much about where these mushrooms are truly from. The oldest written evidence, the oldest materia medica we call it – it’s like an encyclopedia of herbal medicine – comes from China, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and that’s like the first text of using these mushrooms. But, it’s really cool; like, is that really the origin of where they’re coming from? We now have – so that’s physical text evidence – but then we have an image, which is the oldest pictograph relic, and it’s actually from an Algerian cave.
Joe: [42:16] Really?
Danielle: [42:17] And it’s the shaman depicted with these mushrooms, all these dancing shaman with these mushrooms all over him. So, that’s even older – it’s about 5,000 years old – and then even before that, and now this is the oldest evidence of humans using these functional mushrooms, is the guy Otzi. Have you heard of Otzi?
Joe: [42:37] No. No, I haven’t.
Danielle: [42:39] Super rad. He’s also known as the Ice Man, and he was a human found frozen in the Alps.
Joe: [42:47] Oh! Yes, I’ve heard of the Ice Man, but I didn’t know Otzi.
Danielle: [42:50] Yes, Otzi: O-T-Z-I. He’s 5,300 years old, and he was found with 2 mushrooms on him and, super cool, he basically had all these tattoos on his body. And anthropologists, when they first found him, dismissed, like “Oh, weird, He was tatted.” It wasn’t until years later that – so he was found in 1991 – and years later, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners started studying his body; and they’re like, “Whoa, those lines, those tattoos are the exact same lines that we use today in acupuncture. They’re meridian lines.” And we know that Otzi died of intestinal parasites from studying his body, and the lines – the tattoos on him – are the exact meridian lines that we would use today in this kind of like Chi energy-based acupuncture medicine to treat intestinal parasites.
Joe: [43:51] Wow.
Danielle: [43:52] So, it’s like, kind of wraps this whole idea up, twists everything on its head of if the idea of life force, of Chi, actually came from Europe, and then was brought over to the East, as opposed to the other way around. Like, perhaps so too was the functional knowledge of mushrooms.
Joe: [44:14] Interesting.
Danielle: [44:15] It’s just kind of a mystery and I love busting open these doors ‘cause we have these ideas of like, “Oh, I know this is where this comes from,” and kind of just shut the door when we think we know something.
Joe: [44:24] A very dogmatic approach, and I think we all fall victim to that just because we have preconceived misconceptions of that’s what happens in China, or that’s what happens in the U.S., that’s what happens in Europe. So, where are Four Sigmatic mushrooms coming from?
Danielle: [44:42] So, all of our mushrooms are sourced from… and all of our ingredients are sourced from their native lands. Again, we have a sourcing map that people can look at too.
Joe: [44:53] That’s really cool.
Danielle: [44:54] And even more than the actual lands, what I also want to touch on – and we’re just jumping all over the place today – but it’s what the mushrooms are growing on. Super important. It’s like the idea you are what you eat; the mushrooms are what they eat. We’ll talk about our chaga; we wild harvest our chaga in Siberia because they’re parasitic to birch trees. They need to grow on birch trees to become the true chaga. Like the betulinic acid, one of these amazing compounds found in the chaga, literally comes from the betulin in the bark of the birch tree. Many fungi are growing. Again, they’re resilient and will grow on pretty much anything, so a lot you’ll find on different grains. So different rice, rye berries, wheatberries, and what I want to emphasize is make sure that, if you can – again, this is totally my perspective – but to get this true fungi, to get this species that’s been used for all this time that you’re getting fungi from the woods that they’re found on in nature. We have about 6 organic family farms that we partner with that grow most of our mushrooms that are log-grown.
Joe: [46:13] That’s so cool.
Danielle: [46:14] Yeah, and then wild harvest a couple others that are really important to get from their natural lands.
Joe: [46:19] Can we talk about cordyceps real quick? Where those are coming from because that’s one that always blows my mind.
Danielle: [46:25] Totally.
Joe: [46:26] So where are they coming from?
Danielle: [46:27] Yeah, so our Four Sigmatic cordyceps is vegan, and I think yours is too probably, over at Cured.
Joe: [46:34] It is.
Danielle: [46:36] But cordyceps is just a wild fungi, as they all are in their own way. But kind of the story of cordyceps, where they originally come from and were discovered, they grow up in the Himalayas. It’s super high altitudes, they’re found in Tibet, Nepal, China, India; and they’re parasites – as are the chaga on the birch tree – but in its wild form, cordyceps are parasitic to, it’s called the Himalayan Bath Moth. It’s this little insect and the cordyceps fungi envelops this insect while it’s still alive.
Joe: [47:17] That’s so interesting.
Danielle: [47:18] It kills it, paralyzes it, and then grows this fungal fruiting body out of its head.
Joe: [47:25] Wow.
Danielle: [47:27] There’s a super cool BBC little clip. Have you seen that?
Joe: [47:29] I don’t, no I haven’t seen it, but I can’t remember the story of… I can’t remember whose story it was; it was about the… I think it was about an ant, and it was the ant climbing to the top of a tree or something before it died and then it got taken over by the mushroom and it – I don’t remember. That’s the only story I know, but I haven’t actually seen that video. Is that what you’re talking about?
Danielle: [47:52] Yeah. Basically, it’s like mind control. It’s so cool. The cordyceps gets into this insect and forces it to crawl, basically get up this tree, and only when it’s at certain height does the cordycep be like, cool, it’s my time to basically put you out and fruit off your head.
Joe: [48:14] It has a consciousness of its own.
Danielle: [48:16] Absolutely.
Joe: [48:17] And I think that that’s when we talk about the psychedelic world, and I’m super excited about those types of mushrooms as well. If you have ever experienced a psilocybin mushroom experience, you feel what you ingested has its own piece of consciousness, and you’re like actually learning from it. I don’t even know how to explain that but it’s really cool and it kind of shows that same type of thing is going on even with those cordycep mushrooms.
Danielle: [48:45] Yeah. This is where mycelium is also becoming such a popular and fascinating world is just the structure of it itself, and so again, like depending on what you’re looking for from the fungi, there’s different parts of the fungi that you want to use. Just taking an image of mycelium, I mean, it’s fascinating the structure of it is almost identical to the human brain, to the universe, and to the internet. So, talk about like a life force connection consciousness. Those are some of the most complex natural systems that exist.
Joe: [49:28] Yeah, I’m thinking about how, I just got the image in my head of how messages travel through those, so like think about neurons in the brain and messages traveling through the human brain, how those messages can travel through those systems of fungi, of mycelium. Wow.
Danielle: [49:43] Exactly. I think, so when you think of mycelium, it’s basically like a cardiovascular system, right? So there’s this little, basically they’re like tubes or tunnels that information can travel through. Incredibly quickly.
Joe: [50:00] Wow.
Danielle: [50:01] So, yeah. I mean, we need a whole other podcast on mushroom consciousness.
Joe: [50:05] We do. We definitely do. What else is going on in the industry right now? What are you seeing, what are other things people should educate themselves on, should be aware of? Anything that we haven’t really touched on so far, because here, as a brand at Cured, and just like you guys are doing at Four Sigmatic, the quality control, the traceability, and then just the education and saying hey, even if you don’t buy a mushroom product from Four Sigmatic or from Cured, you need to be equipped with the correct information to ask the right questions and provide yourself with the knowledge to know when to not take something. What else is going on, if anything, or anything that you want to touch on.
Danielle: [50:46] Yeah. I guess I want to say read your labels, know what you’re getting, and be able to have these conversations. There’s so much more than drinking mushroom coffee or just taking or popping a pill in the morning. It’s like, there is so much incredible potential with this entire kingdom that, as a global society right now, we need the messages from the fungi. And that sounds super heady; I know we’re in Colorado, but for real, for me what fungi teach us is they’re like the teachers of connection. So, how beautiful that we get to sit down and have a conversation together. That’s what it’s about. Then have these other sparks about consciousness and connection and what they can do to clean up oil spills, and just the vast potential for what they offer us on this planet I think we’ve never been more ready to invite fungi to the table.
Joe: [51:53] How connected we are to them and just to nature in itself. When we talk about cannabis and we talk about the endocannabinoid system, that’s regulated by cannabinoids. It’s always been there and now we’re just starting to see everything that it helps function and how exogenous phytocannabinoids are serving this lock and key system, and well, we haven’t even talked about it for so long because there’s been this massive stigma around cannabis; everything got wrapped up and people didn’t ask questions and there wasn’t the right education around it. That’s what’s the most important thing here is to ask questions, have education as brands, be the people that are asking questions ourselves too.
Danielle: [52:38] Big time.
Joe: [52:39] Let’s figure it out. Let’s provide our consumer base, our customer base with the right knowledge and understanding that we’ve taken our time to get this product into your hands, and we’re so confident in it, that we have been able to give guarantees on how it’s going to work for you; and if it doesn’t work for you, send it back. That’s what’s extremely important, and give us the feedback as well. I think that that’s really important as well as brands is to understand what consumers need and what they don’t understand and just opening that dialogue; and I see that that’s what you guys are doing massively is you’re out there being the educator. You know, Four Sigmatic sells a product and so does Cured, but the collective consciousness of human beings is growing, and more people are asking questions, rightfully so. As brands, it’s not – we don’t just sell products with labels on them. We are the resource.
Danielle: [53:38] Totally. In so much of what you were just saying, I just kept thinking of this word, allies.
Joe: [53:43] Yeah!
Danielle: [53:44] Like, how can we, the two of us – like Four Sigmatic – how can we be allies and really, the plants, the fungi, they’ve been allies for us. Whether it’s cannabis, whether it’s reishi, we as humans have always relied on the fungi and plant kingdoms to be able to support us in whatever we’re going through. It’s a crazy time in the world, and to remember we’re not alone, you don’t have to turn to scary whatever-solutions; we have so much here that the earth is providing to be able to be like, “Oh, you’re stressed? Cool. Let me help you out.” It’s really this idea that allies, and now it’s how can we really be the ones to put the energy and effort into incredible products to make it as easy as possible to incorporate these things into peoples’ busy, wild daily routines.
Joe: [54:44] Yeah. What else is going on at Four Sigmatic? You guys have got the awesome ‘shroom-mobile – what did you call it? What’s his name?
Danielle: [54:50] Maury.
Joe: [54:51] Maury.
Danielle: [54:52] Maury the Mushroom-mobile.
Joe: [54:53] Maury the Mushroom-mobile going across the nation is seems like. I know it was here at one point in Colorado. You’ve also got the Nook on Abbot Kinney, the ‘Shroom Room. I love to stop by every time I’m in Venice; but what else is exciting going on there that people should look forward to?
Danielle: [55:09] Yeah, thanks. Yes, we have the ‘Shroom Room in Venice, and then we’re actually opening our 2nd brick and mortar shop, and it’s our 2nd ‘Shroom Room. It’s going to be in Manhattan, a spot called Essex Market in New York City, and it’s going to be opening really soon – next month, September 2019. We’re super pumped about that. The whole idea there is people hear mushrooms and they’re like, “Whoa, that’s going to taste weird.”
Joe: [55:37] Which I’ve seen evolve over the course of me taking Four Sigmatic and you guys, their products are – not only do they work, but they taste amazing. We’re sipping on some matcha and some cacao right now, and you have just a massive array of different things.
Danielle: [55:52] Totally.
Joe: [55:53] When it comes to taste, you guys have definitely nailed it on the head.
Danielle: [55:56] Thank you. And that’s important! That’s basically the whole idea with the mushroom-mobile, with the ‘Shroom Rooms; it’s having these platforms for people to be able to drink mushroom beverages for free.
Joe: [56:06] Yeah! I was going to say all of that. You can go and you get a free sample. You just go and drink and chat with the mushroom people, the ‘shroom people.
Danielle: [56:14] Totally. The fungis.
Joe: [56:17] Yeah! There ya go. I was looking for that. You gotta always have that in your arsenal. Where else should people go to find out more about Four Sigmatic. I know Tero’s out there educating a bunch as well and on podcasts as well, but following up with you, getting anymore information that people want around this awesome mushroom world.
Danielle: [56:37] Absolutely. foursigmatic.com. We have a really great social following, so instagram: foursigmatic. We have a private Facebook group called The ‘Shroom Club. It has about 20,000 members and is this awesome way for people to talk about mushrooms. There’s people from all over the world in there. My instagram, I’m always posting on different ingredients, DanielleRyanBroida on social.
Joe: [57:01] And you have a Facebook Live today. How often do you do those live education?
Daneille: [57:06] A couple times a month. Always within our own social and then our own Facebook, just trying to talk about ‘shrooms as much as I can.
Joe: [57:16] Nice, nice. Well, thanks so much, Danielle. This has been super informative for me and I know will be for our listener base. We look forward to see what this Cured-Four Sigmatic, even if it’s just seeing what being friends turns into. You know, I’ve just been communicating with multiple people there, and I love what you guys are doing and we’re really trying to say hey, you guys are great people and we want to emulate the exact same.
Danielle: [57:39] Right on. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been an honor.