Tero Isokauppila believes in the magic of mushrooms. He’s been chosen as one of the world’s top 50 Food Activists by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, and is an expert on all things pertaining to mushrooms, superfoods, and natural health. His natural superfood company Four Sigmatic specializes in mushroom-based drink powders that benefit our immunity, energy, and longevity, and help us live healthier, more enhanced lives. Four Sigmatic boasts a wide variety of blends, including mushroom coffee, mushroom elixirs, hot cacaos, superfood blends, and more.
In this interview, Tero discusses how and why mushrooms grabbed his interest, the advantage of drinking mushrooms, his favorite Four Sigmatic recipe, and more.
What got you interested in mushrooms? What do you find the most fascinating about them?
Growing up on my family’s farm in Finland, I learned about the power of natural foods at an early age. Through foraging for mushrooms and other wild foods with my mother and brother, I gained an appreciation for the incredible gifts that nature provides – but it wasn’t until much later that the ‘shroom life chose me. After completing my Degree in Chemistry and earning a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell, I spent time living all over the world. While being exposed to such a wide variety of cultures, I came to the realization of how unique my experience was being raised with such an acute awareness of nutrition and functional foods. It was during this time I began creating my own formulations using adaptogens and functional mushrooms, and the seed that would eventually grow to be Four Sigmatic was planted.
When I talk about mushrooms, I’m not referring to portobellos or the white button mushrooms found on your pizza. Those mushrooms are delicious, but it’s the rest of the fungi kingdom that captivates me (fun fact: the fungi kingdom consists of over 2.9 million species… way more than the small selection of mushrooms at your local market). Mushrooms and fungi are literally everywhere – in fact, they make up at least 25% of Earth’s biomass. Mushrooms are even in our DNA (really!). Because they’re adaptogenic, meaning they work with your body as a regulator, functional mushrooms could contain a host of benefits, including reducing occasional stress, supporting immune functions, supporting cognitive and physical performance, and helping to maintain gut health.
What makes mushrooms unique from plants in regards to their health benefits?
Mushrooms are the original superfood. They’re already in ~40% of pharmaceuticals and have been studied and utilized as medicine for centuries. Considering that humans share as much as 85% of our RNA and 50% of our DNA with fungi, mushrooms could have a higher chance of providing functional benefits to humans than many other products because they’re more bioavailable. It’s also likely that the same defense mechanisms fungi use against pathogens can help our bodies when we consume mushrooms! If you need further proof, consider this: I travel over 40 times a year, and as a result, am constantly exposed to germs on airplanes, in hotels, etc. but I’ve not been sick once in over a decade (*knocking on wood*). I take ‘shrooms daily and swear by their efficacy.
Is there an advantage to taking the liquid extract of mushrooms over other ways of ingesting them?
Drinking mushrooms may sound crazy, but cultures from around the world have been drinking ‘shrooms in the form of teas and tinctures for thousands of years. While the concept may not be new, the delivery system is. Our dual-extraction method ensures the most important properties of the mushrooms are as bioavailable as possible, creating a pure mushroom powder that can then be dissolved in water or other liquids (like coffee, smoothies, and even mixed into ice cream if you want!).
How did you decide on the four main mushrooms that Four Sigmatic focuses on?
Our four core mushrooms – reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane, and chaga – are the most researched and differentiated functional mushrooms out there. Many top functional mushrooms are also adaptogenic, meaning they may help balance and restore a variety of bodily systems while boasting their own unique qualities as well. Paired with other adaptogens, such as schisandra and ashwagandha, our main core mushrooms are elevated and can be used to support a variety of needs for every part of your day.
Where do you source your mushrooms?
We source the ingredients for our products from all over the world, from the places where the mushrooms and fungi originated and/or where there’s an extensive history of using these mushrooms and herbs. For example, our Chaga is wildcrafted in rural Siberia. Asia in general is the gold mine for top functional tree mushrooms, but we’re constantly looking for new quality suppliers and visiting existing farmers and producers to ensure top quality. You can read more about our quality standards here.
What’s your favorite Four Sigmatic mushroom recipe?
It’s hard to play favorites! I’m a huge fan of chaga, so this Chaga Latte with Carob is a favorite, and this Adaptogen Blend Hot Toddy is great for the holidays and uses our newest product, the Adaptogen Blend.