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046: The Truth About Mushrooms with Jeff Chilton

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Mushrooms have become a popular trend in the health food world: but what’s the truth about mushrooms? Jeff Chilton, our guest today, will tell us.

Jeff studied Ethnomycology at the University of Washington before embarking on a 10-year career as a large scale commercial mushroom grower. During that time he also co-authored “The Mushroom Cultivator”. Jeff went on to establish Nammex, the first company to supply medicinal mushroom extracts to the nutritional supplement industry, and to organize the first organic certification workshop for mushroom production in China.

Back when Jeff was learning about mushrooms, the medicinal mushroom marketplace was dominated by products that did not contain any mushrooms. These products are produced from mycelium (the root system of the mushroom) being grown on grain. Commonly marketed as “mushroom” yet they contain no mushrooms at all. The more he learned about the world of mushrooms and the demand for them, the more the idea of a “shelf stable” mushroom had appeal. No one in the North American natural foods market had a mushroom like this and he saw an opening. So he began growing mushrooms on his own, a process which he explains on today’s episode.

He also tells us about the different kinds of mushrooms available, and why he would suggest taking reishi if you could only have one mushroom to take for the rest of your life. Reishi is revered in China and referred to as the immortality mushroom. In fact, the Chinese love it so much it is in their art, their architecture and all other parts of their culture.

The mushroom he would recommend after reishi is Lion’s Mane. Lion’s Mane promotes better cognition and memory through better neurological functioning. Jeff goes on to tell us about what makes a high quality mushroom options and what to look out for in lesser products.

We continue our conversation today by talking about other uses for mushrooms, some of the dangers involved and how to stay safe and why microdosing is important. Join us to hear those insightful explorations on episode 46 of Awesome Health Podcast!

Episode Resources:

Read The Episode Transcript :

Wade Lightheart: Good morning, good afternoon and good evening wherever you are. It's Wade T Lightheart from the Awesome Health Podcast and oh boy - I'm excited today because we have Jeff Chilton here on the show and he is a mushroom expert. In fact, he 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. So we're talking about someone who has almost 50 years experience, actually more than that - you do have 50 years experience as a founder of MycoMedia, which sponsored 4 mushroom conferences from 79 to 85. Jeff is the co-author of The Mushroom Cultivator, published in 1983 and in 1989 Jeff establish established skews me next, 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.

Wade Lightheart: Now I'm going to give a little backstory, Jeff, before we bring it in. So a couple of years back, I'm going through all the boosts at the Bulletproof conference (Dave Asprey's Bulletproof conference). I recommend everybody goes, it's an awesome event and frankly, he curates and brings the really truly the best of the best. And my business partner, Matt, introduced me to Jeff and he's like, this guy is the original mushroom master. And I always loved that and I could instant tell. So personal story at the time, I had noticed as I'm getting older and I have a really good memory, but I noticed that certain parts of my memory wasn't as sharp as it used to be. And I talked to Jeff for five minutes and I said, well, you're supposed to take a lion's mane for this? He goes - well, that's true.

Wade Lightheart: He goes - the problem is, as most of the lion's mane mushrooms that you're buying out, there isn't really lion's mane. There's a little bit of lion's mane, and a bunch of fillers. So we're going to get into the quality control. Anyways, long story short, I took his mushroom blend, three grams a day one week. I instantly noticed that my memory was better. And I continued on with that and I gotta say I was really blown away about the power, real quality mushrooms and what they can do in our body. And so since everybody's talking about the immune system right now and what's going on, and they're all like running out the door to buy every other mushrooms and people are buying magic mushrooms, I've been buying medicine mushrooms, some people are buying all of it and some people are buying a lot of garbage. I thought hey, why not bring Jeff on the show so he can sort out what's happened in the last 50 60 years in this whole mushroom conversatioWade Lightheart: So Jeff, welcome to the show. It's great to be talking to you after a number of years. And of course we're in the middle of the home lockdown. And so for those who are used to my regular background, we've changed and I've got my hat on, I got my hoodie. We are in lockdown here. I'm in Sedona, Arizona. Jeff, where are you at today?

Jeff Chilton: I'm in Tofino, British Columbia, which is a small community of 2000 people on the West coast of Vancouver Island. And I'm pretty much free to roam, although the town has changed a little bit. A lot of clothes stores where tourist community - no tourists here right now. So it's all quiet on the Western front, so to speak.

Wade Lightheart: Tofino is one of the truly extraordinary spots, oh my goodness.

Jeff Chilton: You've been there?

Wade Lightheart: Yeah, it's pretty extraordinary.

Jeff Chilton: Wow, that's very cool. Very few people have been to Tofino.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. If you want a really nice escape with your loved one, Tofino is the place for sure - very romantic and very wilderness here.

Jeff Chilton: It really is. You can get the true wilderness from Tofino.

Wade Lightheart: So let's talk about mushrooms. I think in the last maybe five years with the biohacking community there's been an explosion of mushrooms, the use of mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms, commercial mushrooms, magic mushrooms in some communities. All these different things about mushrooms. So let's go to the beginning. Let's go way, way back. Because I'm so excited - few people have had as much experience as you with mushrooms on the planet. How did you get started in mushrooms? What led you to this and how did you kind of parlay that into a career that spanned five decades?

Jeff Chilton: Well, being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest forests where is lots water. And in the fall we get a lot of rainfall. We're very well known for rain up here and that's the perfect climate for wild mushrooms. So for me, they were there all while I was growing up and I was fortunate enough to get out and do some wild mushroom picking with families, friends and things like that. Mushroom hunting by the way, is like a treasure hunt, Wade, it is so cool. You're walking out in this beautiful environment, you find a patch of edible mushrooms, high quality, and you're just like, Oh my God. Treasure. Right? So when I went to university, university of Washington, and this is the late sixties, my study was anthropology and in that study I tied mushrooms into it and also studied my college grade in mycology department, which they don't have in a lot of universities.

Jeff Chilton: So it was sort of ethnomycology and use of mushrooms as food, as medicine and in shamanic purposes and look Wade, the 60s were just full of shamanic rituals, right? So there was a lot of mushrooms there. And of course, you know, I was able to sample those as well. But out of the university, how many jobs are out there for somebody with a degree in ethnomycology - not many? So I said, well, I really kind of liked to learn how to grow mushrooms. That sounds really cool and it turns out there's one mushroom farm in Washington state. I went to the mushroom farm, I applied for a job. And behold, I got a job there. I was there on that mushroom farm for the next 10 years. And literally I'm living with mushrooms there. I'm 2000 or 2 million pounds of mushrooms a year is what we were growing there at any given time. We had about 80 different rooms in different stages, so 80 different crops going on at the same time. So I just loved it completely, even though it was pretty hard work. But that was a great period for me and that sort of started my career at that point as a commercial mushroom grower.

Wade Lightheart: Well, that's amazing. Um, I wanna back up to that first initial experiences when you were kind of foraging from mushrooms. I know there seems to be a resurgence of kind of the use and application of mushrooms and I think a lot of it has to do with podcasting. And then of course again shamanic practices and that sort of stuff. But what are some of the big scary points about mushroom? Cause I think about forging a mushrooms and I'm like, if I eat this, this is going to kill me. Is that something that's going to feed me or is it something that's gonna make me high? How do you determine what's edible and what's not edible?

Jeff Chilton: Well, first of all, remember - plants, they're poisonous plants out there to animals. So it's not just mushrooms, but you know, there's really, you have to know something about mushrooms. There's no like "Oh yeah, I can do this and I know it's poisonous". Nothing like that. I tell people - look, don't ever eat a mushroom that hasn't been positively identified by someone. So go out with people that you know who are reasonably well versed and they know a few good animal mushrooms because normally that's what mushroom hunters do. They're looking for five or six different mushrooms that are edible or there are mycological societies in almost every large city and they love to take people out, mushroom hunting and they can teach you. And what you do is you go out with them and you learn.

Jeff Chilton: Maybe the first year you learn one mushroom really well and maybe the second year you learn a second one really well. And the other thing too is no matter when you first eat that mushroom, don't eat a lot of it, just eat it. You know enough to get a taste of flavor because who knows - 5% of people are going to be allergic to any new food. So don't eat a whole handful of these things. Just need enough to see whether it agrees with you, whether you like the flavor and whether everything's cool for your stomach. I mean a lot of mushrooms that are not deadly poisonous, will give you stomach upset and a lot of mushrooms just don't taste good. So you know, there's probably in the Northwest, let's just say 6 to 12 really choice edibles and that's what people are really looking for when they're going out there mushroom hunting.

Jeff Chilton: But never ever eat wild mushroom unless it has been properly identified.

Wade Lightheart: A question I had for you too that kind of comes to mind and probably our listeners are thinking about it as well - there a significant difference about the benefits of a mushroom consumption if it's been cooked or not cooked or does that vary between the different mushrooms?

Jeff Chilton: Well, you know what, the fact is that all mushrooms in their cell walls contain compounds called beta glucans. Those are the compounds that are medicinal and that's what will make certain species more medicinal than others. Just the actual architecture of that beta glucan cause it varies from mushroom to mushroom. The beta glucan is very resistant to high heat. Now, you know, like cooking any food, vitamins can get damaged and things like that.

Jeff Chilton: Enzymes can get destroyed, but so it would be no different from a mushroom, but basically the compounds in those mushrooms that we're looking for will there when you cook them up and if fry them up, absolutely. So you're really not gonna lose anything there.
Wade Lightheart: So when you went to the farm, 80 different crops, was that like 80 different types of mushrooms?

Jeff Chilton: No, no, no. It was basically the same type of mushrooms, but think of this for a second. We were putting eight new crops a week and eight old crops were being taken out. During the course of one year, I saw 200 different crops of mushrooms, and mushrooms in the United States are all grown indoors and very large warehouses. Have you ever been to a mushroom farm or seen a mushroom farm?

Wade Lightheart: I've never been to a mushroom farm.

Jeff Chilton: Yeah, I mean, the number of people that have ever said "sure, I have" is like almost zero. That's because they're grown indoors and whereas we can see a corn field or vegetables or stuff like that. Mushrooms - no. So really think about that - 200 crops a year times 10 years. I have seen 2000 separate crops of mushrooms when a normal farmer is going to be seeing maybe 50 crops of something in his lifetime. So it was really, and here's what was really cool. We had a Japanese scientist on this farm, Takashi Urayama, and he was our R+D director and he was growing Shiitaki, Enoki and Oyster mushrooms. So I was also able to see those mushrooms in the 70s and so I was eating fresh Shiitaki mushrooms in the 1970s. It was just fabulous.

Wade Lightheart: So you transited of that farm after 10 years. And then what happened next?

Jeff Chilton: Well, in 1983, I co-authored a book that was kind of based on my 10 years called The Mushroom cultivator, practical guide to growing mushrooms at home. 450 page book, it still sells 5,000 copies today.

Wade Lightheart: Wow, that's amazing. It's amazing.

Jeff Chilton: So in 1983 after publishing the book, I moved my family up to British Columbia. I opened a lab there, which is making the seed to grow mushrooms. And then by 1989, after reading a lot over the last 20 years, I was just like, okay, look, there are mushrooms out there that are used medicinally. And the thing about a mushroom farming is that you're like a babysitter because those crops, I think about it if you've got all of these crops going on at the same time, they do not sleep.

Jeff Chilton: It's not like one crop a year out harvested. Now we've got all this time till next year. These are going on 24/7. You've got to have harvesters in there every single day of the year. And I'm just like, you know, I think it would be nice to have a product that is a dry powder that could sit on the shelf and I wouldn't have to worry about getting it to market. So at that point in time I thought, wow, these medicinal mushrooms, I'm going to learn how to produce those and grow those and then I'll bring them to the North American market and the first time I went to Natural Foods Expo in 1989 - not a single company had mushrooms in their product line, noone. And I'm walking around the expo with a reishi mushroom in my hand, trying to convince some of these companies "Hey, what do you think about mushrooms? Have you heard about medicinal mushrooms?". They're like - NO. And I show them the ratio. They're like, "what is that in his hand? A piece of wood, is this for real?" And I'm like - no, it's a dried mushroom. And the other thing of course was why should we put that in our product line if nobody is asking it.

Wade Lightheart: I have a quick question cause I don't know anything about growing mushrooms. So how, first off, what's the typical growing cycle like how long and it's, I'm sure it varies from mushroom mushroom. Does it take to make a mushroom? And second thing, when you mentioned seeds, how does a mushroom go to seed or how does it replicate? I'm curious.

Jeff Chilton: Well, you know what, that's right because it's like mushrooms do not have seeds. How do we plant these things? Well, mushrooms have spores. And let me just give you a brief overview of the life cycle here because the spores from a mature mushroom will float out into the air, they'll land on the ground, they land on a piece of wood. You know, mushrooms are decomposers. That spore, when the conditions are right, we'll germinate into a very fine filament. And when multiple filaments come together and form a network, that's what we call mycelium.

Jeff Chilton: This mycelium network is growing into its substrate, which is all of the organic matter that's out there without these fungi that are basically reducing and repurposing all the organic matter into humus. I mean, we need these out there. We'd be like, you know, covered in all this organic matter. You know, plants, the annual plants and branches and leaves and you name it. So this mycelium is in the wood. It's in the ground. It is decomposing. As it's decomposing all of this material through the summer, it will build up a lot of nutrients. And then in the fall when conditions change, temperature goes down, it starts to rain, humidity goes up, mushrooms have to have humidity. 80% plus up comes the mushroom in a way. Most of the time we look down and it's like "Oh man, look, mushroom." And we go, where'd that come from?

Jeff Chilton: You know, well, it's actually been there for probably at least a week, but it's in a smaller stage and it's slowly growing. It reaches a certain size and we're like, wow, look at that - overnight! Not quite. So the mushroom comes up at that time, it's a stem cap - cap opens, underneath the cap are the gills outcome, the spores. So what we're able to do, we can take a piece of tissue from that live mushroom, bring it into the lab, grow it out, and now we have an exact clone of that mushroom. And then what we'll do is we'll put it on a carrier material. That carrier material might be grain, it might be sawdust. We grow it out on that. And then we will take that, what we call spore, and we will break it up and we will mix it into what we call a substrate, which might be compost, it might be saunas, it might be a log like Shiitaki mushroom and grows on a logs, reishi mushroom.

Jeff Chilton: We grow on logs. And so we take that live mycelium on some kind of carrier and we inoculate these different substrates. So mycelium is actually the spawn that we use to grow mushrooms.

Wade Lightheart: So one of the things when you're talking about mycelium, and I think this is kind of like the avatar piece, where all the mycelium are actually going through the forest. And somebody had shared with me, and I don't know if this is true, like you confirm it, that actually mycelium are the largest organisms in the planet. They can spawn big areas. Is that true?

Jeff Chilton: Well, they consider a particular mycelium network, I think it's in Oregon. That is a very, very large, that has spread out over hundreds of hectares and you know, it's underground. We can't really see it, but they've been able to tap into it at different points in and figure out it's the same organisms.

Jeff Chilton: So yes, that's true. But remember too, with mycelium, if you have the mycelium of one species and it reaches and touches the mycelium of another mushroom species, they will not come together. So you've got all of the different mycelium out there that are growing into these different niches and getting the nutrients decomposing it, but they will not have to be the same species. They don't mate. Instead they just like boom, stop. One of them might be stronger than the other and the other one backs away and this one keeps going. But, but you know, the whole under our feet, not only is mycelium, but we've got bacteria, we've gotten bugs, we've got all sorts of organisms working in harmony that are decomposing all the organic matter out there. I like to see it to look at the whole thing as a major ecosystem out there. That' whole, you know, part of this beautiful design of the planet - we have all of these organisms working together to decompose, repurpose, all of this organic matter into something that can be used for the next generation of plants and trees. And you name it.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. And I understand that we actually, humans and mushrooms actually have a common ancestor for common from like 350 million years ago or something. Mushroom developed the digestive system outside the body, and we went inside. And that's why so many people have challenges with antifungal drugs that can be very, very disruptive because humans and mushrooms are in some ways kind of similar. What are some of the similarities and why it is, why do mushrooms seem to have such a potent impact in the human body?

Jeff Chilton: Well, you know, some of the similarities, for example - plants as their storage carbohydrate produce starches, so when we are getting a lot of starches, mushrooms do not have starches. They have colike engine. That's our storage carbohydrate glycogen. So we share that with mushrooms. Not only that - a plant will take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. We and mushrooms breathe in the oxygen and give out carbon, carbon dioxide. So we share these attributes. It's got a cool, right. And the other thing too is when we have some kind of invasive a microorganism comes in, we will look at it as non-self and then we will react to that. And that's how our immune system works. And you know, part of it with the mushroom is when we consume the mushroom, it has these beta glucans and we have these receptor sites for those beta glucans. That's really interesting. You know, here we have these actual beta glucan receptor sites down in our intestines and those receptor sites, when that beta glucan comes down there and hits those receptor sites, that will then basically potentiate the production of immune cells.

Wade Lightheart: Wow. Can you explain to people what a beta glucan actually is or if you can digest, cause it's not on the food group table, right? It's not my macros. It's not my protein, my carbs. My fats are now they're talking about ketones. So tell us about beta glucans.

Jeff Chilton: Are you familiar with a dr Sarah Ballantyne? She actually is really into the ketogenic diet, the paleo diet. She is called The Paleo Mom actually and been putting mushrooms into the food triangle. But, but a beta glucan essentially, you know, there are all these different individual sugars out there. All the beta glucan is a polysaccharide. So it is a number of sugars put together and sort of in a linear way. So we have these different, sugars in line and then they're branched. And it's interesting because a starch can be a Beta 1,3. There's certain things about a grange that we'll have a Beta 1,3 or a 1,3/1,4 is the branching.

Jeff Chilton: There's the 1,3 is the background in this line of sugars, but mushrooms are Beta-1,3/1,6 and that branching makes all the difference. I mean, you know, you've heard about oats and they've got beta glucans and those beta glucans are good for us in terms of fiber. Mushrooms have a lot of fiber, but that 1,6 branching makes them very, very different from a grain beta. Glucan grains for the most part because of all the starch are actually alpha glucans and alpha glucans are starches. Glycogen is an alpha glucan, but the amount of glycogen, this alpha glucan in a mushroom is very low. Whereas in grains, these alpha glucans are really high, which is why we eat grains for all of those calories that we get from the starch. But the beta glucan has this 1,3/1,6 branching and each mushroom is a little bit different, the way that's put together.

Jeff Chilton: And that makes the difference between a mushroom that is highly active or one that's a little bit active or one where the beta glucans are going to be mostly fiber for you. So, you know, and the cool ones are the mushrooms that are edible and medicinal like Shiitaki, man. I mean, you know, aren't we all looking for food as medicine? Isn't that kind of, I mean, nutritionally we want that. But to me it's like if your diet can be not only nourishing you in that way, but also providing you something like this, immunological shield, let's just call it, that's amazing.

Wade Lightheart: It's fascinating. You know, I know there's been so much study in different amino acid genes and how it interacts with the body and you bring up something that's been on my mind for decades because I literally feel different when I have different carbohydrates, sugars. And I can tell the difference. Cause I've done extensive work with myself about how things process or how I feel and all that sort of stuff. And would you say that the way that those sugars are packaged with that mushroom feeds information into ourselves? Very much the same way as as amino acids feed informations? It's just a different methodology of communication. Cause that's been my theory. What do you think?

Jeff Chilton: Well that is really interesting. Yeah, that is, you know what I mean? You're really getting down into some fine areas there that I don't think I can really answered that, but certainly they're working at a different level than most, you know, let's just say common foods, but who's to say, I mean, you know, it's just like, you know how Wade certain foods resonate with us and it's like, what is that when I eat this food, I just feel like whole when I'm eating this food. And other foods, you're like "Oh man, I don't want to eat this". Something about this food. And you know, one of my foods that I really love is bread.

Wade Lightheart: Okay.

Jeff Chilton: What I eat, like a piece of toast with butter or something like that. I'm just like "Oh my God."

Wade Lightheart: That's great. So let's kind of move along into the medicine, the medicinal mushrooms and because that's where a lot of people are putting their attention these days. What would you say maybe top 5 or top 10 off your head of mushrooms that you think that have the most benefits for people? Like maybe overall and in specifics? I know that's kind of a broad question, but let's get into that.

Jeff Chilton: You know, a lot of times I get asked what mushroom that I take and I like reishi. And here's what's really interesting is that we test all of our products for beta glucans. And in those tests, it turns out that the two mushrooms that have the highest level of beta glucans are reishi and Turkey Tail. And those are two that are really highly considered for their immunological activity. So reishi has that immunological activity. It also has compounds called triterpenoids. And those triterpenoids have shown anti-cancer benefits. They've also shown a lot of strong benefits for the liver and for blood cleansing. And I don't know if you've ever tasted a reishi mushroom extract or anything, but it's very bitter. And that's from those triterpenoids.

Jeff Chilton: And so for me, if somebody said well, I just want to take one mushroom and it's just going to be a single mushroom, what would it be? I'm always like reishi for sure. It's been revered in China for thousands of years. They call it the mushroom of immortality. They look at this mushroom, you know, when I'm traveling in China, I see it in architecture. I see it in art. You know, that's a culture. That's a really interesting culture over there, man. It's been there so long and they've got sacred mountains, Wade, where I've climbed from top to bottom and in some cases their steps that they just carved out of the rock as you go up to this path all the way up to the top. I mean it's pretty incredible. So reishi for me got a number one and I like to just put it in my coffee in the morning because I drink black coffee.

Jeff Chilton: Reishi adds another bitter note to that coffee, so it just blends right in for me. I actually kind of like it. Some people would be like "no, I got to take it in the capsule or something". That's fine. The other one right now, the most popular mushroom right now, when you're talking about Lion's Mane. I mean, who doesn't want something that he or she can really use something for memory or cognition or something. I mean, especially when you get to be my age and I'm looking at all my peer group and you know, you're talking to people and then there's always this like what was that word again? Or what'd you say your name was again? You know, it's just kind of stuff. And Lion's Mane has these compounds in it that actually stimulate what's called nerve growth factor.

Jeff Chilton: And that's a protein that we produce. And that helps to organize and it helps to keep our neurons and our neurites functioning properly and any stimulation we can have of that. And as we get older, we produce less of it. And the interesting thing about it is they've actually done, and maybe you've heard this because you said you'd take 3 grams. And I'm like, wow, that's just exactly what this study in Japan was giving people. They had a group of 70 year olds, a control group, gave them a bunch of tests, took the 3 grams just Lion's Mane powder, 3 months tested again, Lion's Mane group did much better on the tests. Both groups again, 30 days later, Lion's Mane group dropped back down. They've also had the clinical trials where they've used it on people with dementia seeing positive results. There's a lot of work being done on the lion's mane right now. And you know what man, when you start slowly seeing your memory slip away a little bit, it's not fun at all. It's really kind of like "Oh no".

Wade Lightheart: It's a quite common, I got to say,

Wade Lightheart: the effects of me taking the Lion's Mane were profound. I had actually read that study and I had heard a number of different people, including Tim Ferriss, talk about what he noticed when he was taking Lion's mane and stuff. And I was like, you know, I'm going to give it a shot and see how it works. And I mean, it was really remarkable. It was remarkable. It was like a definite noticeable function. But I think there's a caveat here and we'll get back to some other mushrooms, but there's a caveat here that I want to dive into. We'll come back to different types of mushrooms or things. But there's a dark secret in the industry. Cause I remember when I went to your booth, you were showing me what a high quality mushroom powder look like and what a low quality mushroom product look like.

Wade Lightheart: And let's just reveal for people the deep, dark secret of what's going on in the mushroom industry, in how unscrupulous producers or maybe ignorant producers who are buying it from, you know, a source and not knowing that if you're taking 3 grams of lion's mane that you think from, you know, the ABC company, you might only be getting a half gram or a gram of actual Lions. Man, you might be getting a whole lot of filler. So you want to inform people. Cause this is one of the big aha moments. I had no idea about it. Of course, I know about nutritional quality just for the products that we produce, BiOptimizers. And this was one, as soon as I saw it and you had those products and showed what was going on, I was like, wow, this is crazy. So tell me more about that.

Jeff Chilton: Well, yeah, and you know what's interesting is, you know, we talked a little bit earlier about mushroom spawn, right? Well, back in 1932 for the first time they put that mycelium onto cooked, sterilized grain. And the reason was because every one of those grains, once it's covered with mycelium becomes a point of an occupation when you put it into a substrate. So they called that grain spot. Well, that's a process that's been going on for close to a hundred years now. And the issue really is that I can grow my mushrooms here in North America, I can take them to the market, fresh mushrooms, and I can get, let's just say $5 pound for my fresh mushrooms. Supplements are dried powders. When I dry that pound of mushrooms out, instead of $5 I have to get $50 for that same pound of mushrooms.

Jeff Chilton: The economics don't work, so what companies in the US have done is they take that cooked, sterilized grain, inoculate it with mycelium and a process it was supposed to be just for mushroom growing seed. They grow it out for 30 to 60 days. They take it out, they dry it out, they grind it to a powder, grain it all, and then they call it mushroom and sell it out there in the supplement market and you go into any Whole foods or any of the other marketplaces and you look on the shelf and there's all these different products and you look at the label, it says reishi mushroom, a picture of a reishi mushroom, and it actually could very well be since probably 60 to 70% of the products in the market are these products, these grain-based products. You're not getting a mushroom even though you look at the label and you think, I'm getting a mushroom now.

Jeff Chilton: What I tell people is, wait, do you actually Wade, do you know what tempeh is? Uh, you know tempeh?

Wade Lightheart: Yeah, I've had tempeh, yes.

Jeff Chilton: And do you know how it's made?

Wade Lightheart: No, actually I don't know how it's made.

Jeff Chilton: Well, tempeh is cooked soybeans and then they actually inoculate it with a fungus and that white stuff in tempeh is mycelium. That's mycelium, that's it. That's fungal mycelium. Now that mycelium is a kind of fungus that will not produce a mushroom, but it will grow over these soybeans and produce this kind of cool food. That's what these companies are doing. They're growing tempeh, no mushroom involved drying it and grinding it to a powder and selling it as much as and most of what. And one of the things that happened is I did a study in 2015 called redefining medicinal motion.

Jeff Chilton: We have a test for beta glucans and alpha glucans, which are the starches. A mushroom has 25 to 50% beta glucans. It's got less than 5% of glycogen. These products had about 6% of beta glucan and 30 to 60% starch. Well, I mean, even before the test, I knew that because I mean I've been in the industry long enough to know when you're growing mycelium on grain, this tempeh like material, I know that it's still going to be mostly that and grain and look, a lot of times they say "Oh, well, you know, mycelium, a lot of good research. It's medicinal too." Absolutely. Sure. Mycelium, you know, you're not selling mycelium, you're selling starch for the most part and that's like the most expensive grain powder you will ever buy.

Wade Lightheart: It's unfortunate that goes on in the industry. And one of the goals here is to kind of on the Awesome Health show is to kind of reveal what people don't know. There is some people on a mission and some people are worried about the margin in the supplement company industry. So how does someone who is going out there into the store or going online, how do they determine a quality product? Obviously price is probably going to be an influential factor here. I would suspect that the better mushrooms are going to be more expensive. But how does someone determine this without knowing?

Jeff Chilton: Well, there's a couple of of pills so to speak. The first one is if it says made in the USA, you can almost be assured that it'll be this tempeh type product. The other thing is turn it over. Look at the supplements facts panel. Some of the companies will actually say mycelium. And if you look in the fine print where it says, it will say, myceliated grain. And there you go. You've got two tails right there. Find print myceliated grain. It's like "Oh, thank you very much." Right? On the front panel it says mushroom and you know, you turn it over. But here's the thing. Those companies are few, but a lot of companies are convinced because they don't know anything about mushrooms. The company's producing this in a quantity are selling to other companies and they're selling it to them as mushroom.

Jeff Chilton: That company thinks it's much know though. They don't know because there's so much misinformation about what's being sold because these companies literally when you talk to them they think and they will keep calling their product mushroom and you know, I just say look, you're not selling a mushroom. And when you go and you actually see the manufacturing plant, there is literally for the most part never a mushroom to be found. All you see is these bags of grain. Like I think we might've had that. You did show, you can see it. It's a bag of grain. It's got a lot of white mycelium growing on it. That is what they're selling. And let me tell you, when I have to tell somebody who's just come up to me and said, I love mushrooms and I ask them the brand and they tell me, and I have to tell them, I hate to say this, but you haven't been taking mushroom. You're eating a lot of grains. They're just like oh man, I thought I was on a paleo diet.

Wade Lightheart: You bring up a great point because I know mushrooms are very much advocated in the paleo diet is something that you can use. And here are all these people trying to avoid grains and they're buying grains inadvertently through their mushrooms, what they think is a medicinal mushroom and they're getting something that's absolutely against their whole dietary philosophy. And of course I know it's shocking and this is not uncommon, thank you for revealing that. Let's move onto the next. So let's talk about some of the mushrooms we talked about. Let's talk about Turkey Tail and maybe go down the list of some other ones.

Jeff Chilton: Sure. Well, you know, the interesting thing about Turkey Tail is they actually in China and Japan, they developed actual drugs from Turkey Tail in Japan. It was an approved drug. And the way they use that, you know, there's some people out there on the internet, believe it or not, that claim their product has cured cancer. And I'm like, please do not say that. That is not true. They use these things for people who are, let's just say, are taking chemotherapy or radiation therapy or something like that. They use it to help their immune system out while they go through this. It's an adjective. And that's how this drug in Japan is you just called PSK. It's from Turkey Tail. So Turkey Tail and, you know, interestingly enough, here it is Turkey Tail scores up as one of the highest in beta glucan.

Jeff Chilton: It's really interesting. So really in terms of immunological product, I really like Turkey Tail in that sense. It's a great immunological product. Shiitake - same thing. There is a drug that was developed in Japan from Shiitake used in the same way and approved drug. This particular drug from Shiitake actually was a pure beta 1,3/1,6 glucan. It was called lentinan. I just saw a paper that came out of Australia that used three mushrooms together - Shiitake, maitake and reishi. And interestingly enough, cause I haven't seen a lot of this, they demonstrated that the three together had some synergy and that had much higher levels in their tests and I thought wow, that's really cool.

Jeff Chilton: I can send you the paper because it's kind of a breakthrough in a way that truly demonstrates the fact that you can put some together. Now having said that, do not think that the more things you can add, the more species you can add? It's going to be better. Usually it's just the opposite. I tell people if you see a mushroom product out there and it's got more than let's say five, just forget about it because as you keep adding more species to it, the powerful species, you just keep taking away and putting in less of those.

Wade Lightheart: Kinda like how they meet in the forest? They just not going to cross. You know that it's not going to work together.

Jeff Chilton: Well part of it is like, you know, these kitchen sink products out there, Wade. I'm like shaking your head. Is there anything you haven't got in there? And that's all I'm supposed to take. It's just like, this is not workable. So the other one that is very interesting is cordyceps, you know, there's a lot of people that are using cordyceps in athletics and you've probably seen that out there. And the reason is that cordyceps has shown a positive activity for fatigue. Actually they used to use it or still do in China. They were using cordyceps for people that were sick, they couldn't quite kick the illness. They were tired, energy lust, they'd give them cordyceps. And so that's one of the main uses for it. It also seems to have had some beneficial effects on the production of oxygen.

Jeff Chilton: And that too is something that athletes take as going well - this is great. I've seen a study that basically they used cordyceps with high performance athletes and it didn't really seem to help them at all, but I mean, what does help up high performance athlete other than just more work? I don't know. But people who are not in that level, I think cordyceps is a great thing to take for that. Or have an energy problem or fatigue or something like cordyceps would be one.

Wade Lightheart: Oh yeah, I was thinking, is there any other mushrooms that you think are very interesting or fascinating or kind of coming to light here as more and more people get exposed to the power of mushrooms?

Jeff Chilton: Well, I mean, the other one that's that's popular right now and one we're in a period right now with this Corona virus where people are looking for anything that helps with immunity, right? I mean, it's been nuts. The number, you know, we're primarily a business to business where we're selling raw materials, but we also have a retail line. A few influencers out there about two or three weeks ago talked up chaga, all our chaga that we had out on our website and Amazon and stuff - boom, it was gone. Just like that. I mean, in one week we sold 20 times more chaga than the previous week.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. It's a power of the internet. In fact, chaga is one of the first mushrooms that I started to use way back in the day because I grew up in a rural area of new Brunswick, Canada, and it's one of the best places for chaga grows on the Birch trees. It's kind of black charcoaly piece. And my aunt actually goes and still harvest it today. We get the chunks and you got to boil it for a long period time. It's fabulous product. It's really cool. And when I drink it, it always reminds me a little bit of home.

Jeff Chilton: I bet. Well, and one of the things, let's just talk about chaga for a second. You know, a lot of people, and you know what the internet is like, a lot of people on the internet right now are going - chaga, king of mushrooms, a panacea, nothing. It won't cure or do. And you know, for me, I'm always telling people, calm down in my career, I've seen chaga is the fourth king of mushrooms that I've seen. And maybe that's the way royalty works. I don't know. There's always a new king coming down the street and I'm like, look, it's not a panacea. It's been used certainly traditionally for immunological issues and also for stomach issues. I've actually got a good research paper on chaga actually that does talk about its antiviral properties, which is kinda cool. But you know, I'm just like, look- panacea is my god. Stop it. You know, the internet can just magnify things, right. And you know, sensationalism runs. People love a great story.

Wade Lightheart: I'm going to deviate a little bit because I think, I hope you're okay with this because I know there's a kind of like an explosion of people going out and using quote unquote medicinal mushrooms for mushroom journeys and having different effects. And I'll take a quick, before we dive into that, I'll share a quick story. I was in evolved places, the Gili islands of Bali, Indonesia, just outside these islands of Bali. And then there's these little cafes that you go to, there's no cars on this Island and there's a wagon trails and you know, horse and wagons drive around and it's a desert and have to bring in all the food and all the water and half the Island is kind of populated in half the agonist of it. It takes about maybe an hour and a half to walk around. So beautiful place, highly recommend it. Now along the place is they had these little kind

Wade Lightheart: almost like a juice bar restaurants. And there was this one place, I think it was called the Legends cafe. And they had this mushroom poster and they were playing dance music and they had these VIP mushroom drinks. So me and the lady that are over there we thought we'd go over and have one of these mushroom drinks that they're having. And so I got a big drink and it was a little bitter. I would say it was a little kind of a funny taste. And I mixed it up with fruits stuff and I'm like, Oh, I'm going to knock one of these things back. And she did maybe a third of her cup. She goes, I don't know if this is too much. And I said, well, I'll drink that too. Right? So I drank, you know, one and two thirds of these mushroom drinks and we were sitting there enjoying the sunset and all of a sudden, I mean the clouds started turning into nice shapes and everything gets amplified.

Wade Lightheart: And then like, you know, all of a sudden she's getting a little anxious and I'm like, are you okay? And it turns out we had ingested quote unquote some magic mushrooms that they make over there. Next thing you know, like we're walking, it's starts getting dark and we're walking through this kind of jungle thing. And we had a whole adventure and it was awesome. I got to say it was awesome, but I don't know if this is the right way to go for it. And they see all these young people kind of getting involved in all this sort of stuff. And there's people talking about heroic dosage. And I had a friend who took this heroic quote on dope dose of mushrooms and almost killed himself. He ended up jumping out of a window because he thought it was a video game and fell down a couple of stories. And fortunately he landed on a bush and didn't kill himself. But there's some kind of an explosion of this adventurous kind of mushroom thing, which is probably a throwback to what was going on in the 60s can you talk a little bit about it, cause we're not advocating, but I'd like to get a little bit of information about that stuff. What people are doing, what some of the dangers and if they're going to do that. What are some of the guidelines?

Jeff Chilton: Well, you know, the part of it is that if you're going to take anywhere close to a heroic dose, you have to follow two guidelines and that is set and setting is what's in your mind at the current time. If you're like stressing out over something, don't do it. If you're in a place where you know you're on the street in some big city or in a bar or whatever and you'd do it, don't do it a heroic dose, you need to be in an environment that is safe. You need somebody there that's going to open the door. If somebody in the door or answer the phone, you'd have to get rid of all those distractions. You've got to be in a safe place that is kind of comfortable and you feel good in it. Now what you did there is kind of interesting because in the sense that you had no expectations, so you only had kind of a good trip because it was like it came on, you felt good. It was like, wow, isn't this interesting? Those trips are really exceptional. And very special. So you should feel very good about that trip, you know, I mean that's wonderful. And that was kind of fun, but unexpected.

Jeff Chilton: And you know, I do not tell people"Oh no, don't use them recreationally or anything like that". I'm not the kind that says no, it's only got to be religious, spiritual, all that. Right? If you're in Sedona, it's a beautiful day. You want to take a trip, take you know, a half a heroic dose, go for a walk, enjoy the beauty of it all, because that really is one of the things that you can do. Now, if you're doing a heroic dose, look much better to be in a comfortable room somewhere. You've got all your facilities there, you kick back, you close your eyes, a dark room, and that's where you want to go inside. And that's kind of like the true spiritual journey. And always remember, you know, there's a very famous man out there called Aldous Huxley, and he wrote about this stuff.

Jeff Chilton: He had a book, it was called "Heaven and Hell", I read that book. You couldn't go down the wrong path. And that too is, if you're anxious at all about doing this, do it with somebody who knows the ropes. I can help you out. Or if you have a group of friends and you feel very good about that. You know, there are settings. I don't recommend anybody go off to South America to one of these Ayahuasca centers or something like that. I do not, there's very few that I would consider to be safe and you know, positive. I really totally stay home, stay close to home, especially in the first couple of times and do it that way. I don't go off to a rave necessarily and do it and, you know, it's the first, second time or whatever.

Jeff Chilton: It's not really a social kind of thing anyway. It's not. And you never know when you're in large groups of people like that, even if you're off at one of these places where they do these sessions and there's 12 or 15 people, you never know who's going to freak right out and all of a sudden changes your consciousness. You know, because that's what will happen. It's like I'll never forget at times being very high and then everybody's having a good time and all of a sudden there's a knock on the door and everyone changes the vibe immediately, right? Because you're like, what is going on? And remember when in the 60s, in the 70s, it's all illegal. People are going to jail. So for taking mushrooms crazy, well, for smoking a joint, I mean, going to jail. I mean, I have friends that have been in prison, Wade, so you know, just for growing pot and you're just like oh my Lord.

Jeff Chilton: So set and setting, you know, maybe there's some great books out there. I mean, I recommend to people, they read a book by Aldous Huxley called "Island". It was, you know, he wrote a brave new world, which is kind of like what we don't want to happen. "Island" was what he thought would be, it was kind of his utopian vision creating book or they could read a "Heaven and Hell", that's another really good book. So there are books that can kind of help you understand a little bit, but you know, like any of these things, you don't want to necessarily go into them with expectations. You just want to go in, be comfortable, and feel safe. That's the key thing. If things start to get a little bit funny, just all the thing to always remember is - I'll be okay. This is gonna end at some time and I'll be just fine. I'm not going to come out of it and not know who I am or any of that. It'll be good. It'll be fine. People have been taking these things for thousands of years.

Wade Lightheart: And it brings up another point. I was actually visiting a naturopathic doctor recently and he was using

Wade Lightheart: these mushrooms on what he called micro dosing. So this is kind of a thing, just a tiny amount of these mushrooms and he found it was good for focus and creativity. He was saying that the devil was in the dose. I think he was doing 200 milligrams. I think that's what it was about the dose. He said if I went more than that, it was too much. I started to get too much of the wu, but for him he and I found that fascinating and so I tried just 200 milligrams and I did notice a level of creativity. We came out, we filmed some things and stuff and I wasn't high or anything like that. I just noticed a little bit extra focus, not unlike what I was getting from when I was taking your Lions.

Wade Lightheart: When I started doing that, within a few days I started to think, it seems like my brain is sharper and by the end of the week, I can't remember what I was noticing is my recollection of how you're copying down a number and you've got to look back at it a few times you punch in your phone. Well, I could remember that seven digit number very easily. I would just go, Oh yeah, that's it. And then I would notice it'd be an hour later and I could still recall the number. And that was something that would had been slipping from me in the past. So can you talk about the importance of dosage with different mushrooms? I think that would be very cool. And then we're gonna wrap it up and find out where people can find, get your book and find out more about your company and all that sort of stuff.

Jeff Chilton: Microdosing is fascinating actually. And you know, I'm sure that's been going on for thousands of years. I mean, think about it as a hunter or something like that and all of a sudden your senses you can hear better. I mean, one of the things about mushrooms or even about smoking pot, I mean listening to music, all of a sudden it just sort of opens up things and the same with the visual acuity. It sharpens all that. Now, once you get beyond a certain threshold, then it's time to close your eyes and lay down. But in terms of a microdose yeah, I think you know, it's kind of an interesting area to be able to experiment in. And especially if you have a good scale and you weigh it out and you know, the key thing to have, actually buying some mushroom or something, knowing how old they are becauce mushrooms, if they've been around a long time and if they haven't been properly stored, they will slowly lose their, psilocybin in there.

Jeff Chilton: So, you know, just for everybody out there, if you're not going to use them right away, you can put them in the freezer. That'll protect psilocybin and better than just leaving it out. But I think, you know, and I've kind of thought about that lately too, because I think I should try some microdosing cause I haven't really done much. Microdosing has mostly been just more real trips and looking at it from that angle and so the experimentation here and anybody wants to start experimenting and just seeing does that help their creativity? Does it help their cognition? What kind of benefits are they getting from it? I know I was just listening to one of the proponents of it who's a scientist and he was talking about one day on, two days off as his protocol.

Jeff Chilton: People could, should and could try different methods for it, but you might want to start off even doing it like daily just to see whether, because you know, sometimes you might take it and you know how it is. We're all different levels of sensitivity and 200 milligrams for you. And again, people need to remember 200 milligrams for a 200 pound man is going to be quite different than 200 milligrams for 120 pound woman. And that's the thing that I've got with supplements too. It's like, Oh yeah, just take two capsules of this. And it's like, well wait a second. You know, we've got this big guy over here and this woman over here and you're saying both take two capsules. So I know it doesn't make sense. So that's the other thing. You have to look at. Some people like if your weigh 120 pounds, you might want to start with a hundred milligrams.

Wade Lightheart: Yes. And that's a big thing. And of course there's the variance between how well people uptake things. I myself, I notice things very quickly. My body process and metabolize things and I usually get a lot of benefits at dosages and I seem to have high tolerance, but I'm always conscientious about it.

Wade Lightheart: Let's just dose ups things gradually and see how I feel. There any other things just on the other mushrooms that you talked about? Some rules on, you know, how much isn't typically an effective dose that we can talk about? We talked about Lion's mane.

Jeff Chilton: You know what, I use basic recommendation that was created by a physician who was raised in Hong Kong and grew up learning about traditional Chinese medicine. He went on to medical school. He's currently practicing in New York and has been there for the last 30 years. And he did a very deep look at traditional Chinese medicine use of reishi mushroom and came up with two to five grams of dried mushroom or equivalent amount of extract. So let's say you have five grams of dried mushroom, 10 to one extract of that would mean 500 milligrams of that. So I like to use that for just about all of the mushrooms. And I think the thing that people should really understand is don't underdose yourself because too often, you know, you know how it is. It's like, here's a bottle, there's 60 capsules in here, whatever, maybe 500 milligrams.

Jeff Chilton: Well what is that? Because they tell you take two a day. Well that's just a month supply. You know, it's kinda throw that away and look at it more from a matter of, okay, what really is going to be ineffective dose for me? You might start off with two capsules a day, but maybe you go, well, you know, let me try 3 or let me try 4. Or maybe I really think I need a little more. So there's too many herbal products. You end up taking them, they're diluted, you know, oftentimes I find like these liquid extracts, man. Then my most diluted things out there, I think, you know, unless they're really made by a company that I knew a guy who was a manufacturer of liquid extracts, I want people to feel something.

Jeff Chilton: And I'm like yes, that's right. I and a traditional Chinese doctors do when they're brewing up a brew, they want to see results. So they're probably giving you a lot more when you're taking it than what we've got out there in the supplement market. I mean, my God, it's just like so much of that besides the fact that it's not going to do you any good because most of it is just kinda like low quality. The other thing is they're all telling you probably, you know - two capsules, it's just like why is it only two capsules and why is it always 500 milligrams? And you know, it's kinda like so there's a lot to learn there for most people. And again, the fact that people have different sensitivities, different weights, look at your weight and figure it out. Things from that too. Because definitely if it says two capsules a day, you're like, well man, I weigh 220 pounds, I'm going to take 4.

Wade Lightheart: You know, we have a philosophy at BiOptimizers we call the minimum effective dosage, the maximal effect of dosage in the dosage. But typically you need to go up, you need to titrate, you kind of increase until you can kind of get to that maximal dosage that you can handle. And then we'll often continue that and then we'll kind of bring down to see what is the amount that I can get the effect that I want without going below. You know, something where I don't feel it. And so how I go about doing that is I take a single product and I start increasing the dosage incrementally and then I'll go oh, I feel it, okay, one and a half grams. Well, what happens if I take 2 or 2.5 or 3 and then I go up until I go, I'm not seeing any particular more benefit here.

Wade Lightheart: And then from that point I'll kind of range, you know, just by keeping track of what's going on and my own experiment with my own body, I kind of come up with what's the optimal dosage for me. And I've been doing that for 20 years with a variety of supplements. And, you know, the one thing that I think about is because I'd read that Lion's Mane and I met you down there. I just went right to 3 grams and never varied a bit and it worked perfectly. So maybe I ought to buy, I did more, I'd be really smart.

Jeff Chilton: Well, I think what you just said was great. I really do. I think that's a great way to approach it all. Absolutely.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. And you mentioned one other thing too. I do a single product first at a time, so I know that I'm getting that from that I'm getting whatever that effect is. Because sometimes you may have a particular type of physiology or you might have a deficiency or an opportunity where certain products really going to advance your wellbeing or your health or your performance. And so by testing an individual compounds, I find it's a slower process, but I really get to learn that product immediately. You can cover that on the low side within a week on the high almost always within two.

Jeff Chilton: It sounds great. Sounds really good.

Wade Lightheart: Jeff, this is what a great conversation. You know, you're so fascinating. You know so much about mushrooms. Tell people where they can get ahold of your book, where they can find out about your company and your incredible products. Because I've used them. I think they're fantastic. I don't get people on here unless I've tried and tested their products and say you know what? This is something that is really, really wonderful. Can you tell me all about where people can get ahold of you and find out about these amazing mushrooms that you're producing for the world?

Jeff Chilton: Well, our company name is, and I've got a ton of great educational material there. I mean that's really what I like to do. I like people to know more about it because I want people to make educated choices out there. So is primarily business to business, so you won't be able to buy our products there unless you're a business, but got a lot of information there. So please come to and if you're looking for the products, you can get them at It has a lot of great info too. So again, a lot of educational materials come and learn more about mushrooms in general and what the different questions can do for you. And, you know, be aware too that we can't make claims or you know, that kind of stuff. But we will, we do have a lot of information there that can tell you why you should be using particular mushrooms and just to get a better understanding about mushrooms in general.

Wade Lightheart: And your book, where do they find your book?

Jeff Chilton: Well, the book, you can find it on Amazon. And there's a few other companies out there that sell. I don't actually have a lot of copies to myself that I sell, so we don't sell it off the website or anything like that, but it's out there. So just Google it up, "The mushroom cultivator". It's out there. I've actually seen some copies on Amazon selling for like a hundred dollars or something. I'm like, oh my God, I wish I had more copies.

Wade Lightheart: Jeff, this has just been a delightful conversation. Thank you so much and I really appreciate the education you provided today as well as the quality of the products that you produce. I use them. I think it's great and I encourage people who want to experiment with mushrooms. Go check out your site, go check out the information and read your book. I wasn't even aware that you had that book. And so we'll put all the links here in the show notes for all our listeners to get it. So folks, you heard it right here from a mushroom master of more than five decades, giving you the real inside scoop. Make sure you buy quality, make sure that you dose specific. And of course, if you go down the fun lane, be safe and make sure you have the right set and setting. Thanks so much today, Jeff. We'll see you again on the Awesome Health show. I'm Wade T Lightheart for Awesome Health and thank you so much for joining.
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