Tero Isokauppila, the founder of Four Sigmatic, is on a mission to make medicinal mushrooms, some of the world’s most researched superfoods, more accessible to everyone.
Born in Finland to an agronomist father and nursing teacher mother, Tero grew up on a farm his family has owned since 1619. There, he foraged for mushrooms and other wild foods while learning about the natural food space at an early age.
Following his early education on the farm, Tero later completed a Degree in Chemistry and a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University. In 2006, he won a Finnish innovation award for discovering that the sought-after Japanese culinary matsutake mushrooms also grow in Finland.
Tero has lived in eight countries on three continents. He has a strong personal interest in health and wellness, which includes activities like making raw chocolate and practicing yin yoga. He has also recently taken up a unique practice of napping on a nail mat, which is a modern form of acupressure and helps to energize his busy life.
Tero founded Four Sigmatic in 2012 and its products are now sold in over 25 countries. In 2015, the company launched in the U.S. and relocated its headquarters to Los Angeles, California. Four Sigmatic’s functional mushroom coffees, hot cacaos and elixirs are sold at retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods and other natural grocers, as well as online at FourSigmatic.com and through online health websites like Thrive Market.
Tero is a reputable source on superfoods, an expert on natural health and has been a featured speaker for example at Summit Series, Wanderlust, Further Future, Culinary Nutrition Conference, and WME-IMG.
Tero was also chosen as one of the world’s TOP 50 Food Activists by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
Tero and Four Sigmatic have been featured in prominent media outlets, including Vogue, Time, Forbes, W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, Bon AppÃ©tit, Goop, Well+Good, MindBodyGreen and many others.
Boost your body’s internal ability to defend, perform, and restore with this guide to the 21 most common adaptogens and their healing properties from the team behind Four Sigmatic.
Are you suffering from chronic fatigue, anxiety, digestive, or autoimmune issues? Or are you seeking a simple way to bring whole-body health into your life with a food that is easy to integrate into your everyday routine with no muss, no fuss?
Welcome to the world of adaptogens: nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse superfoods that have been clinically proven to help your body:
- defend your immunity and gut health,
- perform through your cardiovascular and respiratory systems,
- and restore balance through your neuroendocrine system.
By definition, adaptogens are nontoxic, nonspecific (meaning they build adaptive energy rather than exerting a specific effect), and normalizing (meaning there’s a balancing bidirectional effect on physiological function). Tero Isokauppila, founder of Four Sigmatic, and registered herbalist Danielle Ryan Broida guide you through the scientific mechanisms and health benefits of the 21 most powerful species of adaptogens, from ashwagandha to chaga to turmeric.
Complete with client case studies and a shopping guide, Healing Adaptogens will educate, inform, inspire, and delight, giving you the tools you need to elevate your daily routine with adaptogens.
Please enjoy my conversation with Tero Isokauppila.
Listen to more great episodes at Next Level Soul Podcast
Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 113
Tero Isokauppila 0:00
Mushrooms if you say like what broadly these functional mushrooms can do, number one gut health a hugely impacts positively gut health through that immunity. Most of the research for fungi and the their use in pharmaceuticals is either supporting immunity or suppressing immunity suppressing immunity is when you have let's say, an autoimmune disorder and the hyperactive immune response. So a lot of fungi uses on gut health and immunity.
Alex Ferrari 0:39
I've been able to partner with Mindvalley to present you guys FREE Masterclass is between 60 and 90 minutes, covering Mind Body Soul Relationships, and Conscious Entrepreneurship, taught by spiritual masters, yogi's spiritual thought leaders and best selling authors. Just head over to nextlevelsoul.com/free. I'd like to welcome to the show Tero Isokauppila. How are you doing Tero?
Tero Isokauppila 1:13
I'm great. Thanks for having me on.
Alex Ferrari 1:15
Thank you so much for coming on the show my friend. I been a fan of your products for a while. At Four Sigmatic. I think I remember I've seen it, and mushroom coffees and things like that. So I always been fascinated about mushrooms and fungi and what they could do for our health. And there's a lot of misinformation out there a lot of myths, you know, then of course, there's the psychedelic conversations and all sorts of stuff like that. So I really wanted to kind of get into the weeds, no pun intended. Mushrooms, and what they could do for us and help us out in the world. But my first question to you, man is where did this obsession for mushrooms come from?
Tero Isokauppila 1:55
Yeah, I often joke that mushrooms chose me and I didn't choose mushrooms. But my life story very briefly is that I'm from Finland, hence the really difficult name. Nordic surnames you need to buy a vowel, they're really long. And I grew up on a farm. So I'm a 13th generation family farmer. And our farm has had a long history of mushrooms, not the only thing we've grown or Forge. But the big part of it. My dad was an acronym chemist and my mom taught physiology and anatomy. So I learned from my mom about physical health and wellness, and my dad about agriculture and food. And then my mom actually taught me forage mushrooms when I was yea high with my, with my brother. And then but I was not like I want it like Oh, mushrooms are this thing I'm going to spend my life on. It's like they kept coming back about I always mix up the years, but about 15 years ago, discovered a rare mushroom and won an Innovation Award for it and, and but my passion was more around health and wellness. And mushrooms been kept coming back. And yeah, there's a lot of illiteracy, mushroom illiteracy and lack of understanding of them. And I think I think somehow I've been become a spokesperson for them. But it was never planned. It's kind of Sometimes life happens by doing what you love. And he goes in mysterious ways.
Alex Ferrari 3:26
You might have been a mushroom in a former life obviously.
Tero Isokauppila 3:30
Actually, not the not to spoil it. But humans and fungi do share a lot of DNA, which there is a lot of similarities. And some mushrooms, for example, breathe oxygen and expel co2 versus plants are the opposite. They just the mushrooms also need to eat something versus plants that can do photosynthesis so they can produce their own energy. So there's actually quite a lot of similarities with all animals, including humans and fungi. And that makes us really prone to fungal diseases, because the mushrooms are so similar to us. But then that also makes fungal medicine more bioavailable to us. So it's not far fetched that I'm half mushroom.
Alex Ferrari 4:16
Now when you say they're more bioavailable to us, that means that they they get into our system faster and it can help us we can absorb that then that the healing properties much quicker.
Tero Isokauppila 4:27
Yeah, on very high level cliffnotes Yes, but the thing is on our skin, and in our gut, there's tons of fungi anyway. So if you want it or not, they're part of our body. So there is wherever you find bacteria, you also find fungi. So you might have heard of this microbiome. So basically like bacteria in your gut gut connects with your brain. Your gut is your second brain, but there's also microbiome. So wherever you find the bacteria, you find fungi so that already part of our body and by consuming high quality fungi, you actually like improve them. And then if you don't feed on those then you have bad fungi in your body.
Alex Ferrari 5:11
Not what what do they you saying that they eat just like us then unlike photosynthesis, what do they eat?
Tero Isokauppila 5:19
Wow, that's a that's a broad question. First of all, there's a lot of type of fungi people know like your portabella mushroom on the grocery store. But there's actually six times more fungi variety than their plant varieties. So if you go to the grocery store, and you look at, oh, we got 10 types of lettuces, and tomatoes, and cucumbers and peppers and this and that, multiply all of those by six. So there's a lot of different fungi and they eat different things. But orginally, they ate rocks. So they, they can break down things that are kind of crazy. More commonly, these healthy mushrooms, ie trees, or they have a symbiotic relationship with trees. So they help trees collect water and nutrients, but then they also get in exchange nutrients from the tree. And then there are there's a whole field that I'm very passionate about called Michael remediation. Michael referring to mushrooms and remediation means like the removal of contaminants, but that there are fungi that can eat things that are toxic, manmade, usually toxic things in our soil, including plastic, really, so they can learn to eat almost about anything is
Alex Ferrari 6:39
Their eating rocks. I mean, they could eat a lot of things. You're finding nutrition out of a rock.
Tero Isokauppila 6:46
Alex Ferrari 6:47
So fascinating. So, you know, a lot of people, you know, hear a lot of these claims with, you know, the nutritional values and healing properties, how many? How much scientific examinations or testing has been done over the years on mushrooms?
Tero Isokauppila 7:04
More than on almost anything else. So there's a roughly roughly 40% of pharmaceuticals 40 to 50% of pharmaceuticals utilize fungi in their formulations. The most famous one is penicillin. But there is fungi are used in many, many, many blockbuster, multibillion dollar drugs. So there's a lot of research because of that, that you wouldn't normally get for other things, including healthy things like blueberries. So like, pretty much everyone universally says blueberries are good for you. There's on the science, this and that. But there isn't that much funding for blueberry research there is just like, it's it's just not it's not out there. But for fungi, there's actually quite a bit of research. The other reason is there is cancer studies. Cancer obviously being one of the biggest challenges we face as humanity from a health point of view. When I was a kid, it was said that one in three one in four will get cancer now it's pretty universally set that one and two will get cancer during their lifetime. And those numbers trend worse, not better. So there's a lot of cancer research. And then the other thing is there is certain cultures have been very mushroom friendly, Latin cultures but Asian culture so there's a lot of studies out of Japan particularly Japan is kind of the leading places for mushroom research to the point that a lot of mushrooms are named Japanese so for example, she talkie might be a mushroom you see in a grocery store, that talkie or my talkie and LP talkie talkie means mushroom in Japanese so in the it's it's a mushy talk is the she mushroom and she refers to the tree grows on. So there's a there's a quite a bit of studies more than on other natural products that you would probably consume for a health
Alex Ferrari 9:05
Fair, it says very interesting. Now is there nutrients inside of mushrooms that you can't find and just your fruits and vegetables let's say.
Tero Isokauppila 9:16
Yes and no. Mushrooms can be divided into few groups. So let's start there. There's these culinary mushrooms that will eat because they're young. Now they have some nutrients, let's say a morel mushroom or chanterelle. They have nutrients they have some amounts of vitamins and minerals and fibers but nothing crazy. So that would be more like eating a vegetable.
Alex Ferrari 9:42
So it's like pork like a portabello or crimson.
Tero Isokauppila 9:44
Yes. So that so there are protein there are fibers there's vitamin minerals. So there there is stuff in them but it's not like mind blowing like we wouldn't be having a podcast because of portobello
Alex Ferrari 9:57
Portobello mushrooms right? They do taste quite tasty, especially when the grilled
Tero Isokauppila 10:01
Yeah, and some hate them. But there was, you know, they're not bad but they're not nothing to podcast about then there's obviously the psychedelic mushrooms that are now getting a lot of attention. They have compounds that you don't find elsewhere in many cultures, they're illegal and they obviously are very powerful they distort your visuals. So they have psychoactive properties those you wouldn't obviously find elsewhere either. But those also probably not mushrooms you are consuming so can't get at the supermarket. Yeah, no, no, I have a couple countries but they used to be time in Japan where you can just buy them off the street and I feel like Jamaica and few other countries you can still do that. But yeah, Amsterdam, you know, in the Netherlands, of course, of course. But then what we're really talking about is these functional mushrooms functional meaning that they are legal, they are not psychoactive and they have a health benefit of some sort. And some of those health benefits can be found in other foods, be it vitamin D be it you know things like melanin in a mushroom you could get them elsewhere certain antioxidants but they also have unique compounds particularly for immune system and gut health. And in some cases, things like brain power or fitted sports exercise that are unique to fungi only. So yeah, there are unique compounds and then they're compounds that you can also find in other foods.
Alex Ferrari 11:42
Now there's there's one mushroom that I've been seeing a lot of the people have been talking about for a lot in the in the supplement space, which is lion's mane or is that what is lion's mane and what makes it so that it's everywhere like anytime you go to the health food store or Whole Foods and you go into that vitamin area, if you go to the mushroom area at lion's mane is everywhere. So and I see it in coffees now in your products. So what is lion's mane? What does it do for you?
Tero Isokauppila 12:09
Yeah, I'm very proud of that because I can take some of the credit for its popularity. So I've been with fungi my whole life but more intensively last 20 years and about eight or nine years ago, my company for SIG Matic has been around for 10 years. We just turned 10 and a couple of years into existence. I came to the US and I interviewed the mushroom people in the US and I talked to the largest mushroom producer in the US they claimed in the world but I believe in the US at least. And I asked him about Lion's Mane because I was like hey, the science on Lion's Mane he's very compelling. And he has compounds that really nothing else in nature to us and we can talk about those in a bit why isn't more popular and they're like, people don't want it we produce one batch a year they have huge, huge mushroom facilities in the US and they there's like just one batch a year people don't want it. And for SIG Matic really took it upon itself and partly with our mushroom coffees to focus on the benefits of lion's mane and now it is one of the most popular mushrooms but what it is it is a tree mushroom. So it grows on trees. It is looks like a mane of a lion. But it is a fungi it's not it's not an animal product. Other nickname it has a pom pom mushroom that kind of looks like it looks more cheerleaders pom pom that they wave a white one. It is quite delicious, fresh. So if you ever go to a farmers market and certain areas like in the Northeast where it grows. So if you're in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, you could get lion's mane. If you have it, it could get fresh. It's quite delicious. But what is it super famous for is its cognitive supporting benefits. So he has its Latin name racing or naseous. It kind of tells the two compounds that it's famous for one of them is able to penetrate the blood brain barrier. So our body is kind of divided into sections. Most famously we have our brain. And then we have our body. And very few things can go to the brain. And it's good because we don't want toxins and poison going into our brain. Bad news, it's hard to get nutrients into the brain. Therefore things like dementia can start 30 years before we get signs because we just like don't get nutrients into the brain. Lion's Mane is one of those things that can penetrate the blood brain barrier and provide this other nutrient that helps protect and repair a nerve growth factor. So it kind of like it's kind of like a hug for your brain. And it is rare in nature to have things that help with myelin sheets in our brain and yatta yatta yatta there's a lot of foods that can give you energy you can have a cup of coffee you can take this pre workout this and that But there's very few things that are for the brain or mental wellness. In the natural world, there are a lot of drugs, including heroin that can test a great barrier.
Alex Ferrari 15:12
Tero Isokauppila 15:15
There's very few things that that nature offers us that can do that, and why isn't any one of them. So it created a lot of popularity.
Alex Ferrari 15:24
Wow, that's pretty powerful. I have to ask you, and I've always been fascinated about this, because I've seen these kind of like, grow your own mushrooms at home kind of kids. I have to believe that now we're just gonna jump to the business side of things. I kind of believe the profit margin on mushrooms is fairly good. Is that a fair statement?
Tero Isokauppila 15:44
Yeah, they can be very, very high. So fungi are extra fields, which means they can grow really well in certain conditions. And they have a very high yield. So you need very little space for a lot of output. They also grow most varieties. This is not a blanket statement. But most varieties grow pretty quickly. So you can do multiple harvests. So there's a lot of benefits to growing fungi that, you know, it's good for the planet and good for economically. Now, the challenge is twofold. One is fungi require very specific, especially if you create these fruiting bodies like the lion's mane. So it's like fruiting bodies like the apple and an apple tree. So if you want the fruit that we will eat requires certain temperature, moisture, light. And if you mess it up, you can none. And if you mess it up, you might have mold growing in your building, making the building now in jeopardy. So there is like, and then the other part that is a challenge is that in the United States, there's very little mushroom knowledge and mushroom grow cultivation knowledge, the United States is, is really, really, really behind. It's like a third world country when it comes to fungi. And the mushroom cultivation methods in the US are, like, years and years behind other countries. And people don't know. So there's a lot of inefficiencies in the US production. And, yeah, it's kind of just sad. A lot of people don't know what they're doing. And so you could have really good margins. But actually, in many cases you don't and that's why there's a recent study that showed 74% of the United States supplements selling reishi, which is the most popular mushroom doesn't contain any Reishi. So a lot of companies actually sell you. So according to external studies, 74% sell you not what they're saying they're selling you they're selling you but yes,
Alex Ferrari 17:47
So what are they so what when they're so when they're seeing on the bottle that the Trishy what are they actually putting in there like this?
Tero Isokauppila 17:54
Yeah, it's it's the routing system called mycelium, which is not mushroom and doesn't contain the nutrients of the mushroom. But it's, it's up to 90% grain that it grows. And so not only they're not healing your gut or your immunity, but actually if you're sensitive to grains, and you have digestive issues, you're actually feeding your body with the one thing you shouldn't be feeding.
Alex Ferrari 18:16
But I'm assuming your company sells Reishi
Tero Isokauppila 18:19
Yeah, of course. I don't want that to be the sole focus, like I've pretty openly promote other companies that I feel have integrity and authenticity and do good work.
Alex Ferrari 18:33
It's just, it's a small community. So yeah,
Tero Isokauppila 18:36
It is it is. And for the first 10 years, I was pretty Switzerland and kind of didn't want to talk bad about the companies doing kind of unethical things because I felt the hurt the category and knowledge around mushrooms but it's become so prevalent, that I feel like the main point of healing people's health is in jeopardy by consuming these these products but the point is, is you could have a really healthy business with fungi because they're very fast growers and they grow high yields in small spaces and I would love to see more mushroom cultivation knowledge brought to the US from overseas so that farmers could potentially have a better livelihood as a 13th generation family farmer I can say that pretty. Globally speaking farmers are in trouble. And it they've been in trouble for at least a generation if not to. And farming is really difficult no matter what you farm and our our whole supply chain for food is in major jeopardy because we're not valuing farmers and I think it already is an issue and it's growingly an issue.
Alex Ferrari 19:50
Now I also see in the stores Organic Mushrooms versus non organic mushrooms which always is interesting to me because I know that many of the mushrooms that are grown up grown inside of have inside of a facility are generally speaking. So what makes them organic? I mean, they do use pesticides and like, is that a thing? Yeah. What is that what it is?
Tero Isokauppila 20:10
They can so as a farmer, I'm 100% for organic. The reason why as a farmer I'm 100%. Organic is partly for topsoil and environmental reasons right now for health reasons. I if you're tight on money, there are foods that you should eat organic, but there's also foods that you probably can't afford to buy non organic. So it what organic means. And the definition is, it's a little loose, but means that you wouldn't have use pesticides. That being said, some organic produce have pesticides. But the problem with fungi specifically is that they're rolling nature is almost like a cleaner of nature. So what they do, I mentioned that they can even eat plastic, but what they can is accumulate or even known as hyper accumulate toxins. So with fungi, particularly, buying organic real mushrooms is quite critical. Because their ability to like things like heavy metals could be another thing besides pesticides that you really want to avoid with fungi.
Alex Ferrari 21:19
Now, I know this is gonna be a broad question, but I'll ask it anyway. And maybe we can go down the road for this. What can fungi do or mushrooms do for our health? What like if you were just going to tell somebody that you just met at a cocktail party? Hey, whatever mushrooms do for you? Can you give me some broad strokes that can kind of inform that the audience?
Tero Isokauppila 21:40
Of course, well, first of all, like what can vegetables do to for you is a broad question as well, or what can fruit and bedsheets do? And there's different fruits and veggies that help with different things. But if we could generally say what does fruits and vegetables do, we could say things like fiber, we could say things like vitamins, and we could say things like compounds for longevity. Similarly, with mushrooms, if you say like what broadly these functional mushrooms can do, number one, gut health a hugely impacts positively gut health through that immunity. Most of the research of fungi and the their use in pharmaceuticals is either supporting immunity or suppressing immunity suppressing immunities when you have let's say an autoimmune disorder having a hyperactive immune response. So a lot of fungi uses on gut health and immunity. Unfortunately, those are very unsexy. Those are really critical for longevity and well being but they get overlooked until you have a flu or cough. Or if you have an upset stomach, and you can eat, people often overlook them when they're feeling good. And then there, they would pay whatever it takes to fix thing when they're not good. But those are the things that mushrooms really help. There's other positive benefits that are around blood sugar, and managing that cholesterol. There's a lot of studies for cholesterol, things that are generally considered good for longevity. So they're got health, immunity and longevity are kind of umbrella terms. And then specific mushrooms like Lion's Mane for thinking quarter steps for energy Reishi prestress. But those are more like specific mushroom that does a specific thing.
Alex Ferrari 23:29
Gotcha. So because you could get kind of crazy with this. I mean, you can start you know, taking different supplements playing different supplements, have different mushrooms, and then you could be drinking coffee and the like. So what are I guess like any other supplement that you could treat some of them as supplements like lion's mane and Rishi and things like that? Should you not overwhelm the audience and not overwhelm everybody? What are the key things like should you focus on? Something like lions made should be part of your daily routine, purely because of the brain health and what it does for you, Rishi should be used when you're stressed out? Or is it something that you should be using all the time, for energy and like, maybe do it as a pre workout, something for your gut? You know, I'm assuming there's mushroom teas, or something like that, that can kind of help you with your guts. Yeah,
Tero Isokauppila 24:19
I find this very funny. But also very telling of our society and where we are as a world is, you take anything new or something you want to get deeper on, and then you get immediately overwhelmed by, like, if there's 1.6 million types of fungi, you somehow need the burden to know them. And the answer is nobody does. And even if you want to improve your health, you don't need to do mushroom number 52. You don't need to know mushroom number 22. You don't even need to know mushroom number 12. Like that is not required. So let's take something that like you're passionate about, like spirituality or personal growth and somebody's like Hey, I really want to learn about spirituality. There is 500 books, you could read 1000 books, you could read 10,000 books you could read, and they all probably help you to sort of extend but if somebody is first on their journey, you can tell to things like hey, you know, read ancient texts, read the Bible, read the Bhagavad Gita. And like, maybe that's not approachable because of how it's written. So like, Hey, here's a carto lay, who is telling what Bucko to Keita says but in a little bit of a mortar package. So like, hey, read Pollock oil hook because it's in a form of a story, right, so like you don't. So same with mushrooms, you don't need to learn 10 There are like we make a 10 Mushroom blend, which is for the person who just wants to take the 10 best mushrooms Great. Put that into a smoothie. But more importantly, than one mushroom that I recommend everybody knowing is the reishi mushroom, r e i s h i also known as the Queen of the mushrooms, he has the most scientific literature. And already 2000 years ago, in traditional Chinese medicine, he was noted as the number one herb in their language, Birdwood, equal mushroom, from all the things you could take, this is the best thing. And since then, the amount of literature is insane of proving how beneficial it is for so many things, including just stress level. So Rishi is something I would get familiar with, we can get kind of bitter, bitter compounds in it are the ones that make it healthy. I recommend in the beginning taking a hot chocolate with reishi mushroom in the evening. And to help you sleep better. The other one, I think, for most people is the lion's mane of the coffee if you drink coffee, again, some of these are not tasty by Western standards, because they're very bitter, very earthy, but coffee is also bitter. So when you drink mushroom coffee, you don't really taste the mushrooms at all.
Alex Ferrari 27:09
By the way, they're affected by heat?
Tero Isokauppila 27:13
Positively, so unlike plants, vegetables, fruits, actually that heat unlocks their power. So if you get a mushroom, you should not eat it raw. So funny enough to eat and lipids to be extracted. So never buy raw mushrooms. Or if you see a product on the market that says mushroom powder. If you don't know how to prepare it, don't buy it because it's not bioavailable.
Alex Ferrari 27:40
Interesting. So that's that's so counterintuitive, because we're always told that like, you know, you either eat a raw carrot, that's where all the nutrients is, when you boil it, it's where you start losing the nutrients. As opposed to the mushrooms, it's the opposite. So you heat it to release the good stuff in it correct.
Tero Isokauppila 27:56
And that's why historical uses on teas and broads. And if you talk to a chef that is familiar with mushroom preparation, they do things like soup that has lipids, and he they sauteed in butter, butter being the fat, the pan being the heat. And if you go through the whole preparation of most of fungi, and even if it's somehow raw, there's an acid that can help extract some of those nutrients in it. But generally, you see them in things with that fats, alcohol and or heat as a way to unlock their healing powers.
Alex Ferrari 28:36
So okay, so Reishi would be the one what else is we should do for you besides stress release?
Tero Isokauppila 28:41
Oh, so many things. And that's, that's crazy. It's so versatile. There's even some recent studies on like, rodents, how helps you lose weight. So I wouldn't say that. I don't recommend that clean weight loss. Right. Right. And, but there's like, it's funny what happens when the body finds balance. There's a there's a lot of like Reshi for the endocrine system, which is kind of our, our hormonal system, that particularly the HPA axis, which is kind of like our stress and recovery response with adrenals hypothalamus. So, yeah, I would say Reshi great for stress, great for immunity, great for gut health, quote, great for longevity, great for mood. So I think mood is an underrated part of nutrition and people don't realize how how food can help with mood. Although we all maybe subconsciously eat when we're stressed. We eat certain foods that make us feel less stressed or some that are designed to make us feel good, but they're actually bad for our body some that are naturally making us feel good, and that we can leverage going forward.
Alex Ferrari 29:59
No do Do you recommend that people use supplements like in the pill form? Or something like that of these? Or should they be using them in like coffees or teas? Or in their smoothies or things like that? Is there if they're bitter or hard to take?
Tero Isokauppila 30:14
Yeah, well, first of all of herbalism is that compliance, if you don't take, it doesn't help you. That being said, if you can delete capsules, you're gonna then also eat these capsules. And on top of that, a lot of the benefits in nutrition come from chewing and tasting the food and it will then secrete certain enzymes and get your body to prepare to consume it. So I recommend if possible, consuming it in a smoothie, and a food or coffee or tea or something where you actually enjoying the flavor and, and preparing the body to consume it and teaching your palate and your gut to to be healthier. But if that's the way to do it, getting capsules, then that's the way to do it.
Alex Ferrari 31:03
Now, how did you start your company Four Sigmatic?
Tero Isokauppila 31:07
Yeah, it's it's a long story I started 10 years ago. And there's a whole founding story of but obviously, like my background, from my mom and dad, and as a farmer, I had a deep passion for it. So it was definitely a passion company, I didn't think it would be here now or VSB. Because he has become or is getting, it was more of like a lifestyle business, if you may. And it was just out of a deep passion for helping others live healthier, but also creating products I wanted to consume, and nobody was making them on the market. So so it was a combination of passion that then grew into a bigger business. And I started it overseas, and then move to the US after a couple of years. And because I noticed that there was a huge demand for it. But also us needed help the most. And I felt like I needed to be here. In order to bring bring mushroom knowledge, the US
Alex Ferrari 32:07
I was fascinated, I remember when you I remember years ago when you started and I originally was introduced to your company by the little packets, like there's a 10 or 20 packets in it was like a coffee was or a coffee drink. It was I'm not sure if it was a little bit, there's something in it. And I was fast. I was always fascinated by it, because it just didn't know. You know, people looked at me weird when I used to pour it out in the in the, in the office or on set when I was working or something and they're like, What do you drink? And I'm like, oh, it's mushroom coffee. And like, that sounds disgusting. What is that? And I'm like, it's quite tasty. You know? And I would I would let them taste it. But it was pretty fascinating how you were able to infiltrate the marketplace with that, that I think that was your core product for a little bit. It was on Amazon, if I remember correctly, I think I found it on Amazon. It was your core product for a little bit. Now you have like, I don't even know how many in a ski excuse you have. But you have at the beginning was just that, you know, handful of those. And he was I could see from the ground level like I saw you growing little by little. And then over the years, you know, I've just kind of glance at the supermarket. I'm like, oh, geez, these guys have gotten much bigger. And now you've gotten you're in so many different products. I have to ask you as a as an entrepreneur, starting this business, what I mean, what were the trials and tribulations man that you had to go through to break into basically start a new category. Because there wasn't anything like what you were doing here in the US that I knew of at least you were the first one to kind of come out and really just educate. Because if you watch Shark Tank, they're the first thing they always say here is like, Oh, you've got to educate people. It's gonna take too long to educate people. No one's gonna want it. How did you kind of break through that barrier?
Tero Isokauppila 34:02
We did everything wrong. And by doing everything wrong, there's something right. Yeah, I mean, I could go down the list of trials and tribulations. Well, first of all, I'm not an American. I didn't grew up with American culture and American grocery stores. I moved here as an immigrant, although like, Finland is, you know, a more Western Nordic country, but it's still a huge cultural jump, coming here as an immigrant, and then all the challenges of being an immigrant from like, you don't have a FICO score. You're like scum of the earth. Absolutely. Like I didn't even have bad one. It's not like I don't know that credit score. I have none.
Alex Ferrari 34:41
That's worse. That's almost as the worst it's worse than having a bad FICO score is worse than having no FICO score is worse than having a bad FICO score.
Tero Isokauppila 34:51
Correct because even if I would have bad one, but you got a deposit. So many places I was on like hey can rent you anything because you're not in the system. And to the fact of like, I didn't know how to start a company, build a company, I'd never build like a startup. I never, besides there's cultural and legal boundaries. But there's also like, I didn't know, we didn't have funding, so we didn't raise money. So we're like trying to self fund, me and a team. And then, like, that's a challenge. And then obviously, like, the fact is like, well, you kind of said, it is like, nobody's selling mushrooms. If you tell mushrooms, they're like, gross. And we have to figure out how to enter a market that doesn't really exist. And do it without capital, do it profitably. Do it in a country, we don't understand. Do it in a like with all these, like things that American entrepreneurs have granted for them and like, and we have like an uphill battle, but and then our first products, like, didn't have any names. Like they didn't tell what it does.
Alex Ferrari 36:02
Really, really, you just so it was like, What did you do with I'm just curious, what were the first products that come off the line?
Tero Isokauppila 36:08
It was like, it was like mushroom elixirs, but it was like, zest. And then the other one is like, just says cortisol. It didn't even say brand name. In the very first packaging. There's no name of the brand is just so Oh, wow. So there's like something when you do so wrong and so different. It has a gravitational pool of weirdness and opportunities that came through it. I can recommend it to anyone. But there is a way when you just do your own thing. And let's take movies, for example. And like, there's a lot of indie movies that broke all the boundaries of what a movie is. And some of those movies. I'm not saying they're bad, but they're not great. But they became called classic, bigger than what the movie prints by completely reshaping of what cinema is to the viewer. And through that they and then later, maybe that director could polish that style and get better and actually then make epic movies, they would have access to better director, DPS and better actors and actresses. But the first orginal like, I don't know what. Oh, clerks.
Alex Ferrari 37:32
Yeah, I mean, yeah, you look at you look at something like clerks. He made it for $27,000. And you look at it now you're just like, wow, I can't believe that made it but he it was with Kevin Smith. It actually launched his career and, and El Mariachi and Robert Rodriguez. So 7000 Peter Jackson. Oh, my God, Peter Jackson's first movie.
Tero Isokauppila 37:51
Poor movie movie. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 37:54
Forgot that. It's horrible. It looks horrible. It is horrible. And I remember the story where the the the CEO of new line who just signed a deal with him to do the three lords of the Rings, hadn't seen that movie, but he already signed the deal with them. Then he watched the movies like, what have I done? I've given this guy like 300 million.
Tero Isokauppila 38:15
Yeah, exactly. So I would say like a lot of our success was by being very unconventional and different and weird. And it's not something I can recommend. Because it's a it's a slow path. It's like walking some decorative Camino and just grinding it out. But there's something quite fulfilling and unique when you do that journey. And we faced a lot of adversity and, and I would say, someone who asked how it is to build a company or be an entrepreneur, I think the most underrated and powerful things is not the company you build, but the man or woman who you become as a process of going through that path and who you find yourself at the end. And that is beyond money, success, fame, whatever is one of the greatest things besides serving customers and bringing joy to customers life is just the personal transformation that must happen in order for you to combat the trials and tribulations that you will face.
Alex Ferrari 39:21
Yeah. Wow. That's, that's amazing. I'm fast. I'm just fascinated by your story of like, you didn't have the brand name. You did everything wrong. How did you even get on the shelves? How did you talk to, to, to retail about it? Like I mean, it's just like you're talking about like, You're like an alien, literally an alien from out of this country. And you're like, hey, mushroom elixir, and they're like, What? Like, how did you have this conversation?
Tero Isokauppila 39:46
There was so many hacks we had to do. I'll just share quickly couple sort of and these are not replicable. But hopefully as a listener, you can kind of find a way of like, Hey, this is it, especially if you're self funded or have limited capital, you have to find these like, some people call them drilling for oil, but opportunities that others don't see. So for example, on Amazon, we get on Amazon, we don't have any ads, like no ads, and Amazon has like literally every product on on the planet there. So it's like, you're not gonna, you're not going to stick out. So we have this coffee product on Amazon. And then we find out through Google Trends and just observing consumer behavior, that cold brew, this is like, not quite 10 years ago, let's say eight years ago, roughly cold brew was blowing up like now suddenly, everybody's doing Colbert and people, consumers are like drawn to Colbert's like, it's familiar enough, but unique enough. So people search volumes online for cold brew blow up. But cold brew was served as bottles or jugs in the beginning and cafes. So it was hard to sell online because it's expensive to ship corporate bottles. So Amazon started getting this huge spike in culpers search volume, but there was no products. At that time. Amazon didn't own Whole Foods yet. So there was no, you know, fresh product sales. So we're like, hey, that's an opportunity. And our packets were basically instant coffee, but it was like condensed, and there was a category on Amazon called brew and coffee concentrates because some of the culpers were concentrates. And we're like, Hey, we're a concentrate. So we convinced Amazon to work concentrate. And therefore, because there was no culprit products out there, we became the number one selling cold brew on Amazon, even though we were not a cold brew. So we would get all this free traffic and people are like mushroom coffee, what's this, and then they will click on it. Many of people would not buy but some people are like, well, this is interesting. I'll buy this for 15 bucks. That's how we got and then first retailer, was one of the first one was Whole Foods in Southern California, there's a region called so PAX, south and Pacific, Hawaii, Arizona and southern California. And there was this buyer who was going to kind of old school natural products legend. And she had worked there for a long time at Whole Foods. I don't think she anymore does. But she had like been in the industry for a long time. And if somebody has been in the industry for a long time, you somehow know about mushrooms. And and there was this like, she just knew that mushrooms are good for you because she's spending decades with natural products. And through a friend of a friend who used to be her boss at Whole Foods I got in a meeting and she was like kind of straight other gates is like, I don't see this working. I don't think this is going to work. But as a favor to you my old boss, I will grant this guy a meeting. And I flew in I was not even living in the US or LA and I flew in for that meeting. And she was like all meet you in between these two things if you come and I come in, and we didn't have a distributor that's required. And I just get in and I probably looked like like, nobody else. She's mad and like a weird way and I see this. I think she just had sympathies. Like I'll give you a shot with one rule. move to Los Angeles and you personally go store by store selling this to consumers. And I'm like okay, so I moved to the United States, I moved to LA as a promise to that whole foods buyer for her to bring us in and by the way not every store she was like all put it in the system and the stores will want to buy it and buy it.
Alex Ferrari 43:31
It's just like yeah,
Tero Isokauppila 43:33
And then I just getting a car living in a horrible Platt and Venice driving around Southern California. And just every like having a table with samples. And just selling it in person is
Alex Ferrari 43:47
That's just hustling straight up sampling and hustling and you would just go to a different Whole Foods every week. It was every weekend. And I look I had a I had a retail business in the food in the food space selling olive oil and balsamic vinegar back in the day.
Tero Isokauppila 44:03
Which was very healthy for you people don't know vinegars. Oh and olive oil are some of the best things you can have. And everybody can afford. Even though it sounds expensive quality oil and vinegar, but it's like you can afford it and it'll be amazing for your health.
Alex Ferrari 44:19
Vinegar is one of the most amazing things that you can have for you. If you have like an 18 year aged balsalmic from Modena, Italy. Oh, it's like you put it on ice cream and people want ice cream. I'm like, put it on ice cream, trust me. So I went through a lot of those same kind of exam. I sampled all the time I was in farmers markets. I understand all that. So I completely understand where you're coming from and I get man congrats on the hustle man. I mean that is remarkable. In a lot of people don't see that they don't see the story. They just see the oh look at all the success or oh look at the big brand that they've built up and it took a lot of work and I wanted to kind of spotlight this journey a little it so people realize what it actually takes, and what kind of obstacles you were against. I mean, if I would have built this up from the ground up, let's say I started this mushroom company 10 years ago, I would have had less issues than you did because I was here. I have an American I had a FICO score. You had so many other obstacles that many entrepreneurs here don't have. So it's even more impressive what you've been able to create with for SIG Matic. And by the way for SIG Matic, also not like the catchiest name that just rings off the know.
Tero Isokauppila 45:38
Every wrong decision, it's like the key key is name. And it's all about science and mathematics. Even today, when I explained that it's like hey, for SIG Matic means the top 100 most nutrient dense foods because it's like it's a bell curve, a normal distribution, every standard deviation is called the sigma four segments. And people are like, what the f or what, it's just no clue what you're talking about. But that's amazing. I can recommend it because how hard it is. But I have to say that the other mindset I have starting to companies like even if the company fails, I will have the best two years of my life. This was my mental model going into the beginning. And, and I think there's something to be said about the creative powers and the energy that gets brought when you can create what you want to create, let's assume it's a movie. And instead of trying to please everyone, you have a vision and you're creating the vision, and you're going to make it work. And there's something that comes out of that energetically that then the viewers or the customers buying the mushrooms can feel the authenticity and the passion and that carries pretty far.
Alex Ferrari 46:58
It's really interesting that you say that because I've been saying that for years in regards to the authenticity people are drawn attracted to authenticity in every aspect of life, whether it be an artist, you know, writing a book, an actor, being on a on a stay on a stage, even an entrepreneur with a product, people really are drawn to authenticity. And here in the States, you know, we're known for a lot of the sizzle, but not as much the steak, you know, we're really good at the sizzle. Like we were like, look at this, look at this rhythm. And we've invented it honestly. I mean, we're really good at all, I look how cool we are in the packaging and the branding and the name. But people really, I think now more than ever, are not really drawn to that anymore. They want authenticity, not only in the, in the things that they watch or the content they consume. But in the products that consume and the and the and these kinds of products that you create are there is an authenticity to it. And you can even when I was as a customer, when I was starting out, I was like, oh, mushroom coffee. I know mushrooms are good for you. I didn't know I know much more about mushrooms now because of our conversation and about your new book, which we'll talk about in a second. But there was an authenticity to what you would do. And you could see in the packaging that there was that there's these are just some crazy guys who love mushrooms who are trying to help people like you could just sense it in the packaging, the way you guys did it. It was all very, very beautifully done. But again, very difficult.
Tero Isokauppila 48:33
Yeah, very difficult. And I think there's a happy medium, like always, like, ideally, you want to be somewhere in between and you can learn from other people's mistakes. And then as the company's grown we've like every year try to learn something from people better than us and get a little more clear and concise and easy to understand people who are not familiar with mushrooms and kind of try to meet the consumer halfway. But yeah, I absolutely think whatever area you're in, if you're listening to this is and I honestly think money is a big factor in it, the more you're obsessed with the outcome, or the more you control by financial interest, and more, the harder it is to be authentic. So I would say something about financial independence or Buffer financial buffer that creates a lot of that. And obviously minimalism is something you know, you're you're you're passionate about as well, but like finding ways to have that. creative freedom comes from a lot of non attachment and financial buffer
Alex Ferrari 49:49
Without question now. I wanted to talk about your new book. Healing at a at pleased to add that options.
Tero Isokauppila 49:57
Alex Ferrari 49:59
Adaptogens and Again, a very rolls off the tongue just rolls.
Tero Isokauppila 50:02
Oh, yeah, easy easy. As you can tell, I didn't invent that word, though that has been around for 70 years. But yeah,
Alex Ferrari 50:11
What are adaptogens are so so what are adaptogens?
Tero Isokauppila 50:15
Great, there are natural substances that help your body to adapt to stress. And, yeah, it's about seven year old word. But the compounds that are defined as adaptogens is that is a very, very, very, very small group of the best of the best natural products that are safe, non toxic, they're non addictive. They're not stimulants, they're not sedated, or they're, you know, again, they restore balance to against stress. And that could help with cognitive functions, sports, exercise, sleep, beauty, immunity. But the main point is that they help your body to adapt to stressors. And it's a word that is getting quite popular, and a lot of brands are calling adaptogens. But I noticed a lot of people don't know what they are. So I wanted to write a book that is hopefully going to be the seminal book on adaptogens for many years to come. And the book that I wish existed when, you know, well, over a decade ago, I started studying about them and the research, the modern research on their effects.
Alex Ferrari 51:23
Now, can you talk a little bit about I'm going to just kind of go over a handful of things that adaptogens are good for. So can you give me some adaptogens are good for immunity?
Tero Isokauppila 51:33
Yeah. And we talked about some of the mushrooms but there's also other herbs. util a thorough also known as Siberian Ginseng is one of the original adaptogens some of the original adaptogen research comes from the Soviet Army and military and they would study well could they give to soldiers that they would perform better and that one is, is one of them, besides immunity also helps with sports endurance and cognitive function, but you let her out would be an amazing route adaptogen that you can take.
Alex Ferrari 52:07
How about for energy?
Tero Isokauppila 52:10
There's many kinds of energy. And energy can be created in many ways, but it's something I feel like everyone wants more. One of the more noticeable one is called Cordyceps Cordyceps. The other one that my ancestors took Vikings took before going to battle is called Rhodiola. That before attacking the Brits, they would eat Rhodiola root that would give them energy. It's an it's, yeah, there's many kinds of energy, but those would be more physical energy like in your body working out increasing oxygen intake type of energy.
Alex Ferrari 52:45
Is that as Jensen, something like that?
Tero Isokauppila 52:48
Yeah, ginseng is along with Rishi, one of the most studied of these adaptogens. And again, there's a lot of products that are called ginseng that are not actually ginseng, but in its true form. Ginseng is very powerful for sports, cognitive function and liketo, especially towards men over 40. Ginseng is very powerful.
Alex Ferrari 53:10
Is there any? Is there any supplements out there that or any adaptogens that help with testosterone as men get older?
Tero Isokauppila 53:18
Yes, is the short answer. Although testosterone and libido are complex systems, why adaptogens are great. So our body has 11 systems, we have digestive system, circulatory system, reproductive system, skeletal system, the list goes on. And one of these is the endocrine system that we talked about, which is a kind of a hormonal system. And there's different hormones that get created in glands such as like thyroid, adrenals. And testosterone obviously being like a power hormone or the male hormone is something that gets a lot of attention. And I was generally say that if I need men or women that have issues in their health, especially in energy, it tends to be either their vitamin D levels, their thyroid T pretty levels, or it's there testosterone levels that end up being out of whack. And mushrooms can and adaptogens can help there although how they help it's slightly different. There's some studies on herbs such as Tongkat Ali for like straight up testosterone, and there's a lot of libido boosting strong herbs like your Cambay that do it but more commonly honestly what helps with testosterone is sleep and lack of stress. And that's how things like Rishi and ashwagandha so would be things like if you have issues with testosterone and want to naturally support there are minerals like zinc and then like vitamin D that I would absolutely supplement but all of the herbs, mushrooms and adaptogens awesome. Wakanda and Reishi out there looking, but what they actually do is they lower stressors help you sleep deeper and through increased sleep. Your tea levels go up, but I think ashwagandha which is one of maybe the most ancient and powerful Indian herbs, which is a powerful adaptogen would be one of the most interesting things for testosterone levels.
Alex Ferrari 55:23
How about for brain focus?
Tero Isokauppila 55:26
We talked about lion's mane. There's another really interesting that I liked with lion's mane and cacao combination is Mucuna. It's also an Indian herb use partly for libido. But I think the most interesting benefit is for grain and for and kind of happiness and mood. It contains precursor to dopamine, l dopa. It's a being like a velvet bean, but it it really impacts your brain in a beautiful way, giving you really concentrated energy, but Lion's Mane would be the one that most people drafted first, for good reason.
Alex Ferrari 56:08
And how about longevity?
Tero Isokauppila 56:12
There's there's a lot actually, a lot of these adaptogens do help with longevity. I'd say the most research group for longevity is actually raw cacao. And if you look at people who've lived 100 years, you often notice that they eat a lot of dark chocolate or hat. There's a lot of poly phenols a lot of things that impact the brain and mood in cacao, and it's often one of the most underrated herbs that one can take for help. And the the fun thing is that it can be the most fun thing here. Dark chocolate. Yeah, yeah, but there's definitely like with the ginseng, like with the rishi, but particularly with cacao quality, and like sourcing is everything. And you really want the raw cacao, you don't want the sugar and the milk powder that gets pushed with it. So like dark chocolate, ethically sourced, non minimally processed. So if you ever see cacao and says Dutch processed, don't buy that.
Alex Ferrari 57:20
Tero Isokauppila 57:22
Yeah, there's a history a whole nother lecture on the history of cacao and how it came from the Amazon to the west and how the founder of Nestle invented milk chocolate. But there was a process where von Oton, which was a Dutch guy invented the hydraulic press on how to press the kickout beam, which is actually a nut, not a bean, but it's like the most common knot in the world that nobody knows is enough. And it gets pressed into basically cacao powder and cacao butter. And you might have seen these one Oulton cacao powders, but it is like it's a processing method that that deprives a lot of the minerals and nutrients out of cow. And you don't want that. So if you're in an actual product store, or if you're in a grocery store, trying to find raw cacao, try to find it organic, try to find something that has sustainable processing and avoid sugars and additives. And instead, if you want to make it creamy, use things like coconut milk, use things like if you want to make it sweet, either use honey or monk fruit or something that is a much more healthier and more natural way to sweeten it that process sugar
Alex Ferrari 58:34
And where can people find out more about you and what you're doing and your book? Where can people get all that information?
Tero Isokauppila 58:43
Clearly, I've done a bad job, as we said on making it easier, but I'm on Instagram @imtero and then more commonly Four Sigmatic my company's pretty much everywhere. It's much easier to find but it's Four Sigmatic. And, and my new book Healing Adaptogens. And my previous books are out where books are sold anywhere from bookstores through Amazon.
Alex Ferrari 59:10
It has been an absolute pleasure geeking out with you about mushrooms and adaptogens and all sorts of things that could help us you know, with longevity and health and focus and guts and all sorts of fun stuff. So I truly appreciate not only you being on the show, not only for writing this book for the great work that you've been doing over the last decade helping people live healthier lives, through your products and through your education. So, my friend, thank you again so much for everything you do.
Tero Isokauppila 59:36
Thanks for having me on. And I think this is the first and probably the only conversation where I've geeked out about mushrooms and New Zealand zombie movies and Bhagavad Gita. I love the breadth. You brought this conversation but all your podcasts like your real polymath.
Alex Ferrari 59:53
Thank you my friend. I appreciate you.
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Links and Resources
- Tero Isokauppila – Official Site
- Four Sigmatic – 10 Years of Everyday Magic’
- Healing Adaptogens: The Definitive Guide to Using Super Herbs and Mushrooms for Your Body’s Restoration, Defense, and Performance
- Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health
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