THIRD WAVE PODCAST
The Everyday Magic of Mushrooms: Functional, Psychedelic, and Everything In-Between
Tero Isokauppila is the founder of Four Sigmatic, a functional foods company that brings healthy upgrades into America’s daily routines through coffee, plant protein, and other superfood products. Tero grew up in Finland foraging for natural foods on his 13th generation family’s farm. He later earned a degree in Chemistry, Business, and a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell University. In 2012, Tero founded Four Sigmatic with the dream of bringing a little Everyday Magic to the lives of all. Tero is also the author of two best-selling books: Healing Mushrooms, an educational cookbook, and Santa Sold Shrooms, a children’s book for adults about the magical origins of Santa Claus. Tero was chosen twice as one of the world’s Top 50 Food Activists by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition and has appeared in Time, Forbes, BuzzFeed, Vogue, Playboy, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, and Bon Appétit. He is also a sought-after speaker, featured at Summit Series, Wanderlust, WME-IMG, Google, and the Fast Company Innovation Festival.
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- Three staples in Tero’s life since childhood.
- The origin of Four Sigmatic.
- The three most powerful mushrooms/adaptogens in Four Sigmatic blends.
- How Tero weaves mushrooms into his diet and lifestyle.
- From functional mushrooms to psychedelics.
- The differences between Amanita muscaria and psilocybin.
- Drinking reindeer pee.
- Tero’s thoughts on microdosing.
- The difference between meditation/journaling/talk therapy and psychedelics.
- Tero’s thoughts on the emerging psychedelics industry.
- Tero’s future with Four Sigmatic and the psychedelic space.
0:00:00.0 Tero Isokauppila: There’s some beer wine combination herbs that are used in Finland more in the folk medicine side that are psychedelic. There is, I don’t even know what their English name is, maybe we’ll Google afterwards if there is an English name, but there’s a couple of swamp plants that we would combine with beer. In my town, we would make this type of a beer, specific type of beer, and people put these psychedelic plants there, but it was more disguised under the use of beer, even though it was like psychedelic beer basically. But then people would not say they took psychedelics, they’d say they would take this homemade beer, but they were kind of tripping, ’cause it was culturally not okay to take drugs, but it was okay to take homemade beer.
0:00:46.4 Paul Austin: Welcome to The Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
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0:04:28.5 PA: So I’m sitting at Barton Springs with Tero from Four Sigmatic. I’m excited to dig in with you today. So just for our listeners, I’m sure almost all of our listeners at this point are familiar with Four Sigmatic, have heard about your products, if not tried them. Yeah. How were you inspired to start Four Sigmatic? When did that come in?
0:04:45.6 TI: So yeah, I had this trifecta of three things in my life since I was a kid that follows with me through today. So my mom taught physiology and anatomy, so health and wellness has been a big part through her understanding about human body and nutrition. My father was an agronomist, so agriculture and food was a big part of what I grew up with, and the farm is near the city of Nokia and technology was early on in our lives. We had basically early form of internet connection with our bank before there was the world wide web, so late ’80s, very beginning of the 1990s, and so those have carried through with me. I studied first chemistry, then nutrition, and then later business. And never felt like I should be called to do mushrooms, I feel like mushrooms called me. In my early 20s, I won an innovation prize with my friend for discovering a rare mushroom, not planned at all. And then I was very entrepreneurial, I knew I wanted to do my own thing. I started a couple businesses early on. We started a sports club for adults who don’t have a sport, so you could try different sports and all kinds of weird stuff. And they didn’t succeed, and then instead went to work in tech and traveled around the world and lived in multiple countries, so the US is technically the 10th country I’m living in, but was called to do something in this space.
0:06:16.0 TI: And then Four Sigmatic had a predecessor in Hong Kong called LUONTOlife that I started with two friends, Mikko and Mika, and that was the early parts of the mushroom stuff, but we also made blenders and we sold raw materials to other brands. And then in 2014, we brought the business to the US. The co-founders had left, but we had a little bit of a founding team from the previous company that rolled into what later became Funguys Incorporated, and in 2016, Four Sigmatic brand was launched. That’s kind of the high level, but there’s a lot of reasons why these things have happened, and psychedelics do play a part of that journey as well, but that’s the timeline.
0:07:03.1 PA: And we’ll get into that, but one throughline that I wanna weave together is, when you were talking about the farm, you mentioned that a lot of Western countries are mycophobic, afraid of mushrooms, whereas, in a place like Russia and Finland and some of these Slavic countries, they’re much more familiar with the mushrooms. So in building Four Sigmatic as a brand, a consumer-facing brand… Why did you build it in such a way to familiarize, let’s say, a Western culture or Western perspective with mushrooms? I assume it was intentional to a large degree, ’cause it would have to be. So I’d love for you to just sort of weave those two stories together, how has Four Sigmatic helped to familiarize a mycophobic culture with mushrooms to a large degree.
0:07:44.9 TI: First on, mycophobia, so mushrooms or fungi have been here much longer than we have. They’ve been here, estimates are at 2.4 billion years if we’ve been here maybe 200,000 years. Fungi and Animalia share ancestry, so they are part of us, they’re on our skin, they’re in our gut, but for various reasons, that there’s a lot of theories, certain cultures became in the last few hundred years, not thousands of years, but in the last few hundred years, scared of mushrooms. There is logical reasons like mold, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon British countries with moisture and a lot of that culture came to North America. North American culture became more dominant than some other cultures, so that’s one theory. And that makes a lot of sense. Not all mushrooms are good, fungi and comes in different forms, and some fungi kills you, some fungi heals you. Similar to plants, some plants will kill you.
0:08:44.5 TI: The other theory is around psychedelics and witches, particularly, and that this was a pathway to God, and there is some evidence of it. Brian Muraresku has a very interesting book, The Immortality Key, about this, but there’s other theories and some evidence around this. And this was more prominent in super Christian countries, so that’s another linkage, which Finland is Lutheran, but it was mostly pagan. There was the forest dwellers that got Christianity as a deal with its big brother or father, or father and mother… If Sweden is the father and the Russia is the mother, it was a package deal, but there’s a lot of pagan traditions and a lot of nature-oriented, so Finland never really had that mycophobia, so we never grew up in Finland with that. When I was yay high, my mom took me and my brother to forage for chanterelles and Boletes and more of the culinary mushrooms, and Amanita muscaria is everywhere, literally like everywhere. And it is something people talk about regularly, even as a kid, less so for psychedelic purposes, but definitely for mystical purposes, which I think are two slightly different things.
0:10:01.8 TI: And then as far as Four Sigmatic, I wanted to build a brand that is bigger than mushrooms, even though our parent company is called Funguys, the goal was not to do only mushrooms, but we wanted to heal people with the world’s most nutrient-dense foods. Four Sigmatic is like a very geeky way of saying that we wanna promote the use of the top 100 most nutrient-dense foods in the world. Out of these 100, many are commonplace like green tea, lemon, black pepper, coconut, coffee, hemp in many forms. And then some are like, you might know them like turmeric, ginseng, but then there’s a big part of them are foods that people are not familiar with. Reishi would be the most studied of the mushrooms, and very few people knew about it. Still today, they don’t know about it, definitely didn’t know about it 10 years ago because we didn’t have funding. Nobody wanted to fund this weird mission of ours, so we were completely bootstrapped. We were living in Hong Kong, so 10 years ago, there was a lot less venture funding, there was a lot less excitement for Health and Wellness, and we were based in Hong Kong, and we have no credibility, really. We had credibility of the product and integrity, but from a business point of view, like…
0:11:14.4 TI: Yeah, so we had to figure out like, okay, so what’s the sticky point and story, and the mushroom beverages, which we were super passionate about, but it was also new, weird, different. It was a way to start a conversation. And then there was a lot of big ‘Aha’ moments, like with our coffee, which is our first flagship product. It was that Finnish people drink more coffee than anyone else in the world. We originally didn’t do coffee, we did tea, but when we came to the US, there isn’t really a tea culture here, and tea culture that here is very low quality, so coming here and realizing that, hey, Finns drink more coffee than anyone else in the world, and we used this in Second World War. We used chaga mushroom as a coffee replacement, and there was this, it was… There’s tons of awesome studies on it, so those are some of the ‘Aha’ moments, but they didn’t start with like, “Hey, we’re gonna popularize mushrooms.” It started with popularizing nature’s most powerful foods. It was just that the mushrooms kinda kept pulling us back in. That’s why I mean that, it didn’t really come from us consciously saying we’re gonna be a mushroom brand. It came from us doing something we loved and felt that would help heal people, and it happened to be that this mushroom mission kept pulling us back in.
0:12:31.5 PA: Mushrooms are like that. They just have this energetic vortex that they pull you into, into the mycelial network, and it’s funny ’cause I’ve always seen the Four Sigmatic brand as being that way. I think in terms of the color, the style, the fun approach that you all have taken, and it feels like with the path that you’ve pioneered, the other core person in the mushroom space early on has been for many years, Paul Stamets. But Paul Stamets’ approach was very different and has been very different from Four Sigmatic. He’s focused a lot on the mycelium, whereas you all have focused more on the fruiting bodies. That’s been a core point of distinction, and your consumer facing brands are a lot more fun and hip and millennial than what Paul has built, and so to go deeper into what you were talking about with the different mushrooms and substances and adaptogens that you weaved in, what would you say are the three most powerful mushrooms or adaptogens that are currently in your blends, and what does the clinical research say about those adaptogens?
0:13:39.3 TI: Well, I mentioned the first one, which is the queen of mushrooms Reishi. That’s a Japanese name. A lot of mushrooms have a Japanese name. Very few of them are actually used by their Latin name ’cause they’re complicated, not easy, they make it even more scary. So common names, and a lot of the common names are Japanese, Reishi included. So Reishi, the queen of mushrooms is the most studied of the mushrooms. There’s multiple compounds that are studied in them, and there’s many health benefits. The core health benefit across the board with the top mushrooms is these complex carbohydrates called beta-D-glucans that are both good for immunity, they modulate your immune system up and down, and there’s a reason why that’s better than just stimulating the immune system or just suppressing the immune system, and they’re also good for the gut.
0:14:29.9 TI: So the gut, just like our skin, is full of not just bacteria, but also fungi, and that’s often a discounted part of our human body, this microbiome. Reishi’s beneficial for this. This can then help other secondary benefits through the gut health, like cognitive function, weight loss, things like that, inflammation, but Reishi specifically also has unique properties that others might not have. It’s mostly used as a more of a calming, grounding mushroom, its impact on our endocrine system, but there’s also very interesting anti-histaminic… Properties in it. So it’s weird if you’re not familiar with the science or if you’re not familiar with mushrooms or herbalism, where some of these herbs tend to do 50 things, and it’s like well, how is it even possible that they do 50 things? But they really do two, three systematic things. So for Reishi, it’s around the digestive system, the immune system, and the endocrine system, and through those, there’s all these other benefits around blood pressure, cholesterol, things like that. So that’s number one.
0:15:42.0 TI: The king of mushrooms is called Chaga, C-H-A-G-A, was lesser known in the Western world until the last 50 years. Came through Russia. That one is a Russian name, made popular by a Nobel winning author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Cancer Ward. And the first book ever written in the Finnish language ’cause we have to speak Swedish. We’re still bilingual, but the first Finnish language book is Seven Brothers by the founding of the Finnish language, or one of the founders of the Finnish language. And in that very first book, it was actually referred to as them, the boys, the seven brothers drinking Chaga for their immunity, to heal themselves. So close and dear to a Finnish heart. Because of the divide between West and East, it was slightly less prominent than the others, but the research now is pretty clear. There’s a lot from University of Helsinki with Dr. Christy Galas. Also, immune supporting, gut healing properties of Chaga, but also it has super high amounts, the highest amounts of melanin in the world, and superoxide dismutase, which particular types of anti-oxidants that have very anti-inflammatory properties. So that’s it.
0:17:00.0 TI: And then third, although I wouldn’t say that it’s the most studied yet, but because shiitake mushroom is probably higher and maybe even Agaricus family, Agaricus blazei, but Lion’s mane, partly with the work Four Sigmatic has done and partly with some other people, has become a very, very important mushroom, and the difference between Lion’s Mane and the others is the others are very focused on gut health and immunity, but Lion’s Mane has these other properties, both for a little bit like thyroid, but mostly for cognitive function and neuroprotective properties. And it was just not a focus for many people in the world until the last 10, 20 years, both with the rise of dementia and issues, but also the increased need to perform better cognitively. I mean, just like six years ago, I talked to one of the largest mushroom producers in the world, and they said we produce one set of Lion’s Mane a year, and I talked to them again maybe two years ago, and they said it’s the most popular mushroom that they produce right now. So anecdotally, so Reishi, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane is probably the top three, but if you look at the amount of clinical research for historic reasons, things like Shiitake, Turkey Tail are still probably higher, higher and quarter steps to a certain extent.
0:18:26.0 PA: How do you, on a personal level, weave in these mushrooms into your diet, into your lifestyle?
0:18:31.2 TI: I’m not sure am I the best example ’cause I’m constantly experimenting with new products and different things, but I would say often and variety, which is, it’s a pretty good rule for herbalism in general, is like instead of falling in love with one herb, having diversity of herbs similar to mushrooms both from a gut biome perspective and then having a regular use. So, I use them probably on average, three different occasions in a day, sometimes four. I’ve had my favorites at different seasons and still do. Right now, my son is sick for the first time. And in 10 months, he’s not had anything, and that’s amazing and beautiful ’cause that’s how they build their immunity, weirdly. Because he has a cough, we’ve been pounding Cordyceps at high amounts for lungs, ’cause me and my fiance were not sick ourselves, he is. But Cordyceps also helps with immunity. But more particularly, we’ve been doing high doses of Cordyceps for our lungs ourselves so.
0:19:34.2 PA: So, it’s somewhat situational now, instead of, “Hey, I’m just gonna take all these mushrooms as much as I can.” You have maybe specific times or weeks or months where you might do Lion’s mane or you might do more Cordyceps or Chaga or Reishi or it just is sort of it depends, right? It’s on the context.
0:19:49.2 TI: We have a plant protein blend with the top five mushrooms, the top couple of adaptogens. I take that on every day, pretty much right now. So that’s kind of the baseline. If I wouldn’t do that, I would probably take like a 10 Mushroom Blend, kind of like a baseline once a day. And then the others are situational. But that’s same with diet, like I grew up in Finland we’re speaking in November, it’s very different weather in Austin, Texas in Parsons Springs in November than it is in Finland. So people ignore these fact of seasonality a lot, so there’s seasonality and fundamentally. But there’s also in our life seasonality that modern life has brought to us. So we’re busy. I’m sure a lot of people listening can figure out it’s like some years you’re busy in April, some years you’re busy in June, and then finding ways… So right now, I’m trying to… I’m in a recovery phase, so I’m definitely like… Besides Cordyceps, now because of my son, I’m heavier on… I don’t really… I drink very little caffeine, I’m heavy on reishi. And then I bet when January, February comes, I’ll be like it will be slightly different ’cause my daily routine is so different at that point.
0:21:00.7 PA: So, we’ve talked a lot about the functional mushroom side of things. We’ve heard about your farm in Finland, which I think I read it started in 1619, which is basically around the same time that the Mayflower happened, which just for context of all these Americans who are listening. But we haven’t really talked about the psychedelic component. And over the last few years, you’ve become a lot more involved in the psychedelic component. You wrote a book about, I think, Santa on mushrooms. At some point in time, you’re also an advisor to Synthesis, the legal psilocybin retreat center that I co-founded in the Netherlands. And so, you’ve started to angle yourself more and more in that direction. And I’d love just to hear what’s the relationship been with psychedelics, when did those come into the picture, and how have they impacted you in your relationship to mushrooms in particular.
0:21:50.4 TI: I was exposed to psychedelics through Amanita muscaria, very first time I guess, through pop culture TV. There were some references to weed or something, but it was like through the lens of Hollywood-ish and some rock bands. Finland has a lot of heavy metal and there’s some stuff there. But yeah, through Amanita muscaria, and seen also because growing up in somewhat of a hippie community, I’ve had a lot of exposure to people who’ve been early users of psychedelics. Besides Amanita, my personal exposure to psychedelics came in the 20s. I didn’t have a teens rite of passage, although that I think there’s two schools to that. And some say you shouldn’t take them until your brain, especially with men, your prefrontal cortex is fully developed. Some say that there’s benefits when you’re a teenager. It’s from a life perspective point of view, and everybody for their own… But I have Amanita experiences super early, and that’s not really a psychedelic of choice for many people. It’s really like in the 20s then personally starting to use them. But because of seeing other people use them and reading the literature, I’ve had pretty early exposure.
0:23:17.6 TI: Finland tends to be pretty negative towards psychedelics, weirdly. It’s not a super open culture unlike Netherlands. I remember going there in my early 20s and there were those, clearly a big difference, Denmark partially. It was not like when I was a teenager, it was not available, it was not talked about. It was labeled as a drug is a drug, but then pharmaceuticals are okay. But their lifestyle was so natural that in that community, there was people that were experimenting with various substances, including some that are lesser known psychedelic herbs that are not commonly used today. There are some beer-wine combination herbs that are used in Finland, more in the folk medicine side that are psychedelic. There is… I don’t even know what their English name is. Maybe we will Google afterwards if there is an English name. But there’s a couple swamp plants that we would combine with beer.
0:24:16.7 TI: In my town, we would make this type of a beer, a specific type of beer, and people would put these psychedelic plants there. But it was more disguised under the use of beer, even though it was like psychedelic beer basically. But then people would not say they took psychedelics. They say they would take this home-made beer, but they were kind of tripping, ’cause it was culturally not okay to take drugs, but it was okay to take home-made beer. That’s the kind of the origins. And then through 20s to today, active personal use. But my position has always been more like Switzerland, where it tends to be the psychedelic proponents are drinking the Kool-Aid very strongly and the opponents not at all. And I found that in nature, the answer is usually somewhere in the middle, and it’s very contextual from a substance point of view, purity point of view, as a farmer is like the quality matters a lot.
0:25:16.6 TI: Dosage obviously matters a lot, set and setting, which I’m happy people talk so much more about Synthesis, and being a great, great advocate for that as well. So, I’m not willing to say everybody should take them at any times, and I think there’s a lot of literacy, psychedelic literacy that the society lacks because they were banned for such a long time that we don’t know the basics. So most people don’t know the basics, and that can be harmful. It’s almost like learning how to drive a car without nobody ever teaching you, you can get really hurt. That’s why education is so important, and from a society and culture point of view, I think there’s a lot of myths and wrong information and things like that, that just people are not aware. And partially we haven’t studied them enough because they were not… You couldn’t really study them, so that’s another factor.
0:26:10.8 PA: So when you talk about the psychedelic beer in Finland, it reminds me of The Immortality Key, ’cause that’s a lot of what Brian wrote about, is beer and wine that had these different medicines fused into it. There’s also like Belladonna, there’s Mandrake, there’s so many other psychedelic plants like that that have been weaved in over the course of time and years. And I think to your other point about psychedelic literacy, it sort of goes back to, a lot of people would say that cannabis has been a gateway drug to familiarize more and more people with a substance that was maybe previously illicit and actually has maybe medical, therapeutic, but also spiritual value to some degree. And it just reminds me of what we were talking about earlier with Four Sigmatic and the approach that you’ve taken with functional mushrooms, in some ways, those have also been an opener to the psychedelic conversation because they’ve, in many ways, preceded the conversation on psychedelics by three to five years, it feels like.
0:27:11.0 PA: So there’s an opening there. And I’m curious from your perspective like, well, one, what was Amanita like? And how is it different than, let’s say, the classic psychedelic, like a psilocybin experience? And two, have psychedelics impacted you in any significant way, or was it more just like an interesting experience, you find it to be generally beneficial and you support sort of the research and some of the companies that are up and going now? I’m just curious about kinda that, because you grew up in a farm, you grew up in a hippie lifestyle, you grew up already with a lot of this baked in. My story is more so I grew up in a traditional environment, I had psychedelics, and it was like a 180 for me, in terms of how I approach life, I sense it’s different with you specifically.
0:27:56.1 TI: Definitely Four Sigmatic, although it was not designed that way, our slogan for years was like, “On Shrooms.” And we would be playful with it. Today we say it’s everyday magic, because it’s like, people are like, “Are these magical?” “They’re magical every day.” Four Sigmatic products are more like the CBD of the weed, in a way. It’s like the non-psychoactive legal version of it, but with still functional effects. So Amanita muscaria is definitely complete opposite experience of psilocybin. GABA 8 agonist versus a serotonin experience. Think of when you’ve been drunk on alcohol in a bad way and you’re just kinda rowdy, so there’s a big difference. It’s also in mushroom literature and understanding the knowledge of using it. I think Amanita particularly is misunderstood. And a lot of people who try to use it don’t know how to use it, because of the muscimol and then the ibotenic acid, and a lot of people get the toxic effect, but not really the psychedelic effect, so Amanita is tough with that. You have to eat quite a bit more of it.
0:29:11.0 TI: If you don’t prepare it correctly or you’re just a wild man or a woman, you will have a toxic effect, not lethal, toxic effect, nausea. So, think of your psilocybin nausea, but multiply it by quite a bit. You can get a little sweaty, so a little uncomfortable before the muscimol… Like before the conversion happens into the more psychedelic compound, disassociate-like type experience. This one is definitely the darker death journey, that’s my experience, but it’s a very difficult psychedelic to work with. Taken it many times, it’s hard to get the dosage right. I’ve never done synthetic muscimol. I wonder if that is an easier way to approach it, but dosing definitely is difficult. Partly finding the younger species that are more intense versus the more mature, larger pieces that are more commonly available. Yeah, so you can get it, but… And then I forage it myself in Finland and just trying it and trying to get less of the toxic effects to get enough high dose, but you do have to eat quite a few caps and then you’re uncomfortable and it’s harder to settle into the… You gotta kinda breathe through it, so there’s a…
0:30:31.8 TI: Part of lesson is almost like an uncomfortable moment that you go through Sananga. I wonder how much of it is like the psychedelic experience, how much of it is breathing through the uncomfort and then this disassociate effect that makes you wheezy. And it’s harder to pull knowledge and wisdom from it, but if you can do the darkness, I think there is, versus with I feel like psilocybin’s benefit to most other psychedelics is that it’s usually very tangible, people come out of the experience with like, “Hey, I gotta do this.” Like, “Hey, I gotta call my sister.” I find the same with microdosing Iboga, is kind of like, “clean your room” vibe. So definitely with psilocybin, it’s easier to dose, more pleasant experience, more loving experience, easier key takeaways in my experience, like you get something out of it, and yeah, happier journey, versus Amanita, harder to use, harder to dose, a potential toxic effects that create nausea, sweatiness. I don’t vomit easy, but I get the reflux, and then the disassociate kind of gap-y agonist, kind of woozy drunk, been drinking all day, kinda heady vibe. And it’s harder to find the universal wisdom from that.
0:32:10.3 TI: I have drunk Amanita piss, but not reindeer piss. Our farm is not in Lapland where the reindeer are. So the idea is, in brief, that the two most known compounds, and like with any substance, there might be other compounds that we’re not aware of, is a toxic compound called ibotenic acid and a psychedelic compound called muscimol, and then the ibotenic acid converts into muscimol. But you could pass through that process with the proper drying or cooking and like… But the other way is that if a person or a reindeer consumes a high amount of it and then urinates, the urine will have high amounts of muscimol but no ibotenic acid. So the human becomes… Or the reindeer becomes the filter, but it also concentrates the amount of muscimol, which makes the dosing easier. So in this case, you would have the weakest person in the tribe or the strongest person in the tribe, depending on the philosophy, consume large amounts of it, get quite sick, shaky, and then urinate. And then people drink the urine or…
0:33:13.8 TI: And the reindeer, there’s an interesting BBC YouTube clip, if you wanna look at it, Amanitas being consumed by the reindeer. And I’ve seen it. I don’t know if they trip on it. But the legend within the Sami people in Finland, Sweden, Norway and parts of Russia is that then you would drink the reindeer urine. I’ve never done it, drank the reindeer urine, with or without Amanita. I don’t even… It would be probably even hard to find that reindeer that ate enough Amanita. But I’m sure if I would go and hang out with the Sami people, I could find someone. But they don’t tend to talk that much about this, and I understand because they were prosecuted so heavily. So a lot of their traditions, they’re very protective of their culture and community, and I understand for a good reason.
0:33:58.4 PA: I feel like tha at some point, an adventurous sort of psychedelic retreat where you do it in Lapland or in Russia, and you bring in a bunch of reindeer and feed them all Amanita, and you get a group of… I could see it like a Ben Greenfield going in and drinking, having everyone drink the reindeer piss to then see what happens. So maybe at some point, it’s a future special Synthesis retreat that they’ll do at some point in time. So you mentioned microdose and Iboga. And microdose isn’t something that we’ve talked about yet, and I wanna get your take and perspective on it because again, as we look at Four Sigmatic and what you’ve built with Four Sigmatic, that has been that CBD of weed, as you called it.
0:34:37.3 PA: Now, obviously, from where I’m sitting, there seems to be a lot more clinical research on functional mushrooms in terms of their efficacy compared to something like CBD. And microdosing is often talked about as sort of the CBD of psychedelics as well, because it’s technically sub-perceptible. You’re not having this huge trip. It’s something you might take on a consistent basis. So, just gonna keep it pretty broad and open-ended, what’s your experience been with microdosing compared to the higher doses, and just what’s your perspective and take on microdosing as a tool for healing, as a tool for insight, as a tool for cognitive function?
0:35:11.5 TI: The summary is that with psilocybin, I’m not a believer in microdosing, I’m a believer in macro dosing. But the details matter, and the answer might be different with other substances. So the problems I find with microdosing is that a lot of people who do it, either don’t do it correctly or their language is not consistent. So, how I understand microdosing is sub-perception, like you said. And a lot of people who I find who microdose and claim benefits of microdosing, when you actually ask them and interview them, they’ve had some effects. [chuckle] So, I think low dose is a different thing than microdose. And then macrodoses… So let’s use grams of psilocybin in dried format if heroic dose is five, and macro is let’s say over three or maybe five with some cases, and normal dose is one, low dose is half, that’s still probably a noticeable dose. And then the microdose is 0.1, 0.2 grams or something like that, depending on the person and the mushroom and amount of actives. So, I think that’s a problem.
0:36:20.9 TI: The other one is that serotonin receptor and the tolerance that we build for it, and the correct cycling, I know you’ve educated a lot of people on this. But most people take it like five days a week, and I don’t believe in that. But this can be very different with LSD, Iboga. These can be very, very different. Microdosing with other substances might be a lot more beneficial than with psilocybin or with psilocybin you have to rotate it correctly. And maybe, the low dose is better than the microdose. So that’s kind of my point. It doesn’t mean that microdosing couldn’t work for someone, and that there isn’t other substances where it work. But how I currently see psychedelic culture approaching psilocybin microdosing is I’m not a huge believer. And I instead encourage people to take well-prepared macrodoses. And that’s where I think most people will get much more benefit out of that.
0:37:22.0 TI: And then partly maybe for you, the other question that when I knew replies, yeah, I haven’t had any 180 experience. I’ve had… Some of my more meaningful life experiences have been on psychedelics and they’ve shifted my life, including the decision to have a family. Me and my partner, it’s a big part of our story and journey. But to build on to that, it’s hard to separate, ’cause it was not like this 180 experience. It was like confirming beliefs, having new thoughts, but how I grew up and the work led up to especially macro doses of psychedelics was years of journaling.
0:38:08.4 TI: Talk therapy, meditation, long distance running in nature by myself without headphones. Yoga, traveling by myself into countries where I didn’t speak the language. A lot of life experiences of reflection. Attending hundreds of days of different philosophy seminars, reading books. So it’s like… It might also timing matter is like… What was your first exposure? We like to think often the first bigger exposure to any kind of transformative tool or book or experience is probably credit higher because it’s the one that changed the course. With me that was not psychedelics.
0:38:54.3 TI: But Yeah, Psychedelics has been critical and in my life, and I credit a lot of positives to it. But that’s why the integration is so important. And that’s why I also think that most people would probably benefit from a macro dose better because of the integration offers so much as well, and you probably can’t have one without the other. You need the high exposure, high stimulative, visual, personal feeling experience that you have. But then in order to actually benefit from it, you probably have to do a lot of integration and prep work. But yeah, in my experience it’s been more gradual. Same with health and wellness. I don’t have this story that a lot of health and wellness influencers in America have, where they were 150 pounds overweight or they got sick with cancer. I don’t really get sick, before COVID hit and I was going to Japan at like very beginning of 2020, and I was like, “Oh, I’m definitely getting COVID.” I still believe I will get COVID, haven’t.
0:40:01.2 TI: So, I don’t really have a transformative story. It would be so much easier to say, “I got cancer and that’s made me realize that fast food is not good for you.” Or that like, “Oh, I was morbidly obese, and then I started fasting and I realized that giving your digestive track as break would be helpful.” I don’t have that. It’s up and downs. I’d been better or not, but generally, it’s pretty consistent long track how I got here. And I think that also mirrors the experience with psychedelics that it’s hard to separate wall is for what reason? I would give the difference between psychedelics and talk therapy, journaling, meditation is that meditation and talk therapy and journaling is like surfing. You paddle out. You think there’s a wave, you wait for it. Maybe you catch it, maybe you don’t. Sometimes you catch it, but it’s not as good as you thought. But when you get it, once you get that really good wave, it’s unbeatable feeling. But a lot of days you get social waves, a little buddy wave. And then psychedelics are more like snowboarding. The lift takes you up the mountain, you’re gonna come down one way or the other. You will come down rolling or you come down.
0:41:16.7 TI: So it’s a more guaranteed experience and there’s a lot of benefits to the guaranteed experience but there’s a lot of risks with it. Not to say that surfing couldn’t be dangerous as well, but that the idea is just that with psychedelics, you’re more likely to have an impact a lot… Significantly more likely to have an impactful experience. Which with some of the other modalities of transformation and self-growth you… It’s more of like a long grind and then every 10th day, you’ll have a really good session.
0:41:50.1 PA: It may work, it may not work. Right. Sam Harris talked about this. I think the very first podcast he published was this essay that he had written called The Meaning of Drugs or something like that. And he talked about how with meditation, with breath work with some of these things, you might have an experience you might not. If you take 5 grams of mushrooms, you’re certainly going to have an experience. Hunter S. Thompson said, “You buy the ticket, you take the ride.”
0:42:18.2 PA: Presently, and we’re recording this in November 2021. And this third wave of psychedelics is really starting to blossom and bloom. And that’s a huge sort of topic of concern is, how does psychedelic use scale? Or, does psychedelic use scale? So to say, because of some of the inherent risks that exist within it. And that’s something that I wanna get your perspective on. You know, having run a very successful CPG company, you’ve impacted the lives of millions of people through functional mushrooms in particular, but also adaptogens and the PE proteins. And think you’ve done lotions and skin stuff as well. You’ve built an incredible consumer facing brand. Again, non-psychedelic with functional mushrooms. What’s your perspective on sort of the emerging space in psychedelics as it relates to business and as it relates to a consumer-facing product and brand? Do you feel like psychedelics will ever be that way? Or do you think that they’re better off in, let’s say, very regulated environments? Even a synthesis, I would consider to be a regulated environment to a large degree. How do you see the sort of the business of psychedelics developing?
0:43:24.4 TI: I think both will absolutely happen and if global GDP is, I don’t know what it was now, like 80 trillion or something like that. I think it’s a over a trillion dollar opportunity globally. And the challenge there is, when you talk about it, a lot of people love to have a very binary black and white. Like, it’s a big market, it’s not a big market. I don’t believe in psychedelics, I do believe in psychedelics. And again, nature teaches a lot about harmony. And so the details do matter a lot. For example, geography. I think geography… Within the US, different states will evolve at completely different timelines, so there’ll be a lot of waves. There will be a forth wave and a fifth wave.
0:44:09.7 TI: But the third wave is critical, obviously. Yeah, critical. And then there will be substances that will evolve faster than others. There will be applications that will evolve faster than others. There might be a scapegoat. There might be one substance that just gets unfairly demonized, and then there’ll be, might be substances that they get popularized faster. There’ll be applications that will just be addressed faster. And that’s why the B2B side, the more regulated, structured, seems like the low-hanging fruit, if you may, like the short-term opportunity. Also, infrastructure growing around that. So like, who are the growers in a legal regulated setting? Who are the practitioners? Who gets to train them? Like that seems to be closer. But I think in the long term, the B2C play, the consumer, and maybe the more fragmented market, is where the real opportunity is. And I think also from an innovation point of view, there’s so many applications that could be used. And I find that probably the innovation… Although biotech companies can be providing some of this, but I think probably a lot of the innovation, and use case, and knowledge comes through the more unregulated way. And maybe, eventually gets regulated, but the innovation comes from unregulated.
0:45:40.9 TI: The challenge being is that we as a society, by and large, are very illiterate with this whole area. And even the experts. If you really compare our true expertise on this topic, we look nothing, nothing like the expert, 30 years from now. We will look like a joke. Somebody will listen to this podcast, and he’s like, “These guys don’t know have a clue what they’re talking about.” And probably now, there are certain people who’ve deeply worked with some medicine, and that would already know about specifically. But more collectively, our knowledge, just because it was so banned culturally and legally, our knowledge is very surface level. And again, on the detail side. Not that like, “Is psilocybin good?” But more like the strains, the dosage, the set, and the setting, the integration, the combinations, what to combine it with, there’s so much there that to be discovered and tested. And that just hasn’t able to happen. So massive market, massive potential.
0:46:47.7 TI: But will probably happen in phases. Geographically, in phases, substance in phases, but also applications. Like same way as functional mushrooms, for years, were sold in, purely in supplements, and pills, in capsules, and that had a limited audience. And then for Sigmatic, and some others, like applying it in coffee. And that coffee application was a big driver to get more people into mushrooms, and then through that, into also psychedelics. The few dominoes will fall a lot faster than even psychedelic believers think, but the broad market will probably take longer to evolve, and there’s a lot of questions to be answered.
0:47:29.9 PA: Like you said, there will be a fourth wave, and a fifth wave, and maybe a tenth wave. Like it’s still early stages in this space. Rick Doblin, who I’m sure you’re familiar with, had a feature published in GQ a couple of weeks ago, which we’ll link to in the show notes. And he mentions something along the lines of, he doesn’t think there will be legal widespread psychedelic use till 2035 maybe, and that global literacy might take another 20 years after that. It feels like, you know, what happened in the ’50s and ’60s is there was all the clinical research, and then Leary, sort of, tried to rush it out of the gate, and things went sideways in terms of all the evangelical energy behind it. And what I’m sensing now with people like Tim Ferriss, and the researchers at Johns Hopkins, and the non-profits like MAPS and Usona and even with Synthesis and Third Wave, what we’ve done is seems to be a slower burn, right? We realize that, “Hey, we’re taking a much longer term trajectory for this, right?” How does this play out in the next generation, or two, or three, while still recognizing that there’s an immediate need for these substances for mental health, and for climate awareness, and for just general physiological well-being? So it’s a both, and, you know, what can we do immediately, and how do we build the foundation to support this for the next 30, to 40, to 50 years.
0:48:50.7 TI: The anecdote I’ve been giving, it’s like psychedelics now are like internet in 1995, 1996. And that probably means there’s gonna be another boom, bust cycle kind of thing coming around the corner. But I think the biggest benefit that has happened in this wave is that I think that Timothy Leary… And, well, nobody ever gives Ram Dass, or Richard Alpert, any blame in this thing. By the way, that’s always funny. Like he gets totally separated from the history. He gets a pass, huh? I wonder why. But anyway, point being is, I don’t think that can happen. Even if the worse scandal would now happen, I don’t think the door can be closed anymore. I think that is the biggest win of the last two years. And that slow burn, academic, more clinical approach… Like when you co-founded Synthesis, there was a time when, if that would have happened again, door could have been shut for another 20, 30 years, right? I don’t think that can happen anymore, that’s the biggest win.
0:49:52.7 TI: That being said, I wouldn’t trust academia to solve a lot of these problems. And although, right now it’s been healthy and helpful, I would not discount culture. Like this is what these experts, time after time, I feel like get wrong in every area, or most of them regularly get wrong, is underestimating these very tacit cultural impacts, and viral behavior that humans and culture express in so many unpredictable ways through music, movies… Like I don’t know, Squid Game, or something. It’s like things go viral in weird ways that you cannot predict. And some people say they can predict, but I don’t think. Nobody can really predict. There’s a randomness to it. Right now, the world is becoming very futile to some of these viral activities from a cultural point of view, not from academia, and that could really accelerate certain specific type of applications, or specific geographies, or specific sub-sections.
0:51:00.4 TI: And it’s very hard to predict when and how… But if I would say academia will do this is very slow, ’cause they have a very methodical kind of clinical approach to it and it’s a slow burn. But I think there will be these pulses that will happen and it’s gonna be driven outside of academia through culture. And it’s gonna be unpredictable and beautiful and wild when it happens. And again, similar to internet, 1995 or something.
0:51:29.7 PA: So last question before we sort of wrap up is just a little bit back to you and your professional track you’ve been building Four Sigmatic for what, nine years now? You started it in 2012. You’re doing phenomenally well in terms of the approach that you’ve taken in the business side of things. In the next, let’s say, 10 years for you, what is it that you wanna continue to build, what do you wanna sink your teeth into? Will it still be a pretty explicit focus on functional mushrooms and Four Sigmatic or do you see your sort of career path expanding and growing in different ways? I just love to hear your personal vision for yourself.
0:52:07.5 TI: I’m a lifer, so I’m not in this to do something for a couple of years because it’s trendy. I was involved with mushrooms and things where before it was health and wellness was this way trendier, mushrooms are trendy. So I imagine I’ll be involved in Four Sigmatic 20, 30 years from now. It doesn’t mean I’ll be no longer the CEO or something like that, that I think there’s a lot of roles as the company grows and evolves where I actually hinder its progress, and our mission is to serve every day magic to, in high as possible quality, as many people as we can. So elevating people’s wellness with these world’s most new trends and ingredients. And I have to figure out the right amount of my pirate energy that needs to be involved as the mission gets bigger, and I actually can hinder a lot of that. But, yeah, I imagine I’ll be involved in Four Sigmatic in 10, 20, 30 years. But at the same time, I’ve always had this like a polymath or multiple interest focus, and I imagine that themes that will emerge in the next 10 years through another company or a partnership with another company is definitely psychedelics is a big foundation. I think, particularly with psilocybin, I’m just kind of waiting to see what are the right opportunities and the right things to do there, I’m not rushed to do that.
0:53:31.3 TI: And I also think the entrepreneur community will evolve, and it might be that the people who start company A or community B will not succeed, but the next one they will start will be the one that really has a big impact. I think education is another interesting area that could be tied with Four Sigmatic psychedelics or something else that I’m deeply passionate about, especially with youth education and then environmental matters, particularly micro-remediation is a deep interest of mine, but not through a grassroots effort. And all these themes, I try to look at from a systematic approach more than from we in the space and industry love to drink our own Kool-Aid and love to tinker and do stuff myself included, but if you put yourself out of the picture and you look at the mission of trying to do something net positive, you have to have some sort of a systemic approach, the same with micro-remediation is like, what is meaningful enough, impactful enough to have an impact. For example, on black plastic, and how do we actually have less plastic next year than this year, and right now, the trend is overwhelmingly the negative. Every year we have more plastic and we don’t know how long it takes to dissolve it. It could be 300 years, 500 years, maybe some plastic hundred, another plastic 600, but every year we’re accumulating more of it waste.
0:55:01.7 TI: So figuring out the right ways to engage there, so I think launching a new brand myself or two, or partnering with someone else to help them in their journey, to be determined. So we’ll see. It’ll be fun.
0:55:17.6 PA: Well, thanks for coming out to Barton Springs and making this happen. It’s fun to sit down with you. We’ve had a couple of longer conversations, and this is another phenomenal one. So just for our listeners, if they wanna find out more about you, you have a website, I know you wrote a book as well, where should people go?
0:55:34.9 TI: Yeah, right now, I’m taking a six-month strict hiatus from social media, so I deleted it. Yeah. I clearly see the negatives of social media, but there’s also a lot of positives that I’ve lingered between this wrestle between should I use it, not use it? And then I use it, but then there’s resentment of using it, so now I just decided I’ll just do six months no social media and six months active social media and just audit my feelings. So doing a little 12-month personal experiment. So I’m not on social media, hard to reach me. If in six months from now, so whatever, May 2022 onwards, I’ll be on Instagram @iamtero. I have a couple books out, you can find them on Amazon or Barnes & Noble near you, and then I am writing a new book that will come out in fall of ’22 around healing powers of nature. So still working on the final manuscript. So to be announced later. So working on it.
0:56:55.3 PA: This conversation is bigger than you or me. So please leave a review or comment so others can find the podcast. This small action matters more than you know. You can find show notes and transcripts to this podcast on our blog at thethirdwave.co/blog. To get weekly updates from the leading edge of the psychedelic renaissance, you can sign up for our newsletter frequency at thethirdwave.co/newsletter, and you can also find us on Instagram @thirdwaveishere, or subscribe to our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/thethirdwave.
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