Jason Vergara from World Mushroom Society recently got in touch with Skye Chilton, the founder of Real Mushrooms, He did a Q&A to profile Skye and the growth of his successful mushroom business.
Check out the interview below covering Skye’s journey with medicinal mushrooms, how to identify a top-quality medicinal mushroom product, and some insights into the North American medicinal mushroom supplement industry.
You can view the original blog post here: https://worldmushroomsociety.com/interview-with-skye-chilton-founder-of-real-mushrooms/
a. I’ve been around mushrooms for most of my life via my father, Jeff Chilton, founder of Nammex. I didn’t picture myself being involved with mushrooms but through many conversations with my father and reconnecting with my personal health, I came to realize that mushrooms are a unique food as well as have the potential for a host of other health benefits.
a. Real Mushrooms came into existence through long talks with my father, discussing the current landscape of the mushroom industry. I learned that it was primarily dominated by mycelium, the root system of the mushroom, that was being grown on sterilized grain and improperly labeled as mushrooms.
With this knowledge, I wanted to showcase the mushroom itself and educate consumers about the differences in products while being entirely transparent about where our mushrooms come from and why. The name Real Mushrooms came from the fact that we actually use mushrooms in our products.
“Most brands do not test for active compounds and solely rely on hype and marketing.” - Skye Chilton
We have a streamlined supply chain through our relationship with Nammex and very close relationships with our manufacturing partners in China. We do more testing than any other company out there. This testing demonstrates that the important fungal compounds that give these mushrooms their benefits are actually in our products. Most brands do not test for active compounds and solely rely on hype and marketing.
a. We’ve recently launched our line of mushroom supplements for pets in early 2022 headed up by our Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Rob Silver DMS, MS. He is a conventional veterinarian as well as a holistic veterinarian, cannabis, and mushroom expert. He has over 40 years of veterinary practice as well as 25 years of experience developing products for pets.
a. The biggest challenge has been differentiating ourselves from myceliated grain competitors and educating consumers on the differences between mushrooms and mycelium. The mushroom business industry is full of misleading labeling that can obscure what consumers are actually getting in their mushroom products.
a. Typically bolstering immunity whether it’s for general health or some sort of adjunct therapy protocol to support conventional cancer treatment. Using mushroom supplements to support mental health and restful sleep is also becoming very common.
a. I see the mushroom business opportunities continuing to expand as consumers learn more about the benefits of eating functional mushrooms. More and more products will start to contain mushrooms and hopefully there will be a more reasonably priced, broad selection of culinary mushrooms at your local grocery store.
a. Our goal has always been to produce a high-quality extract from organic mushrooms (fruiting bodies). As mushrooms are bio-accumulators, organically grown mushrooms are important because they are grown without the use of pesticides and agricultural chemicals.
Extraction method is another important factor as the active compounds in these mushrooms are locked up in the cell wall which is made up of chitin (yes, the same thing that crabs make their shells from). Extraction breaks down the cell wall allowing our bodies to absorb these compounds. Beta-glucans are the primary active compounds in these mushrooms so look for measurement of beta-glucans in the Supplement Facts panel to ensure that these compounds are guaranteed in any product you purchase.
“Beta-glucans are the primary active compounds in these mushrooms so look for measurement of beta-glucans in the Supplement Facts panel to ensure that these compounds are guaranteed in any product you purchase.”
a. Try to discern if the product is made from mushroom or mycelium. This is extremely important as the majority of mycelium-based products are grown on a grain substrate and this leftover grain ends up in the final product, diluting the mycelium and active compounds.
Polysaccharide measurements are usually a red flag as polysaccharides are a large group of compounds including fungal beta-glucans as well as starches found in grain. For example, a product could tout high polysaccharides numbers but the majority of it could be coming from grain starch or other starch-like fillers; not fungal beta-glucans.
a. I have no issues with the use of the mycelium but it is important that products are labeled properly and that any residual substrate the mycelium is grown on be properly disclosed on the label. Many mycelium-based products are improperly labeled to make consumers think the product contains mushrooms. FDA regulations prohibit implying that the product contains mushrooms when it does not.
b. There is a lot of research on mycelium but the important caveat is that it is primarily based on pure mycelium made through liquid fermentation or pure compounds isolated from the mycelium. While there are pure mycelium products like Cordyceps Cs-4, PSK, PSP, these products are out of Asia where they utilize a liquid fermentation process. By growing the mycelium in a liquid media, once you drain off the liquid, only pure mycelium remains.
c. Mycelium in the North American market is dominated by solid-state mycelium; using grain as the growth media. The final product is very different from pure mycelium as it still contains the grain substrate that dominates most of the finished product. This residual substrate dilutes the amount of mycelium present and hence dilutes any active compounds. This has been proven by many scientific studies.
a. There are many different reasons. Some of it is just the current anti-China sentiment used as a scare tactic. Certainly, I wouldn’t buy from a random mushroom business off of Alibaba which is why it is important to buy from a brand that does proper testing and qualification. All of our mushroom ingredients get screened upwards of 3 times for pesticides, heavy metals, and microbial contamination before they reach the customer.
b. While I totally support buying local, many of these brands are not selling mushrooms when they’re talking about locally grown and are really selling myceliated grain because it is much cheaper to produce than growing mushrooms for extract powders. Growing organic mushrooms in North America to create extract powders is not economical which is why myceliated grain is grown instead.
c. Many forget that China is the birthplace of mushroom cultivation over 800 years ago and they now grow over 90% of the world’s mushrooms. Mushrooms are one of their top agricultural crops and they promote mushroom growing as a way to help communities out of poverty. They have dedicated research institutes for mushrooms and the most mushroom scientists of any country. These mushrooms have been used in China as functional foods for thousands of years.
a. It really depends on the mushroom and your desired results. We use a variety of extraction techniques. For reishi, we use a concentrated dual extract to get higher levels of the bitter triterpenes which we guarantee on our label. For lion’s mane, we use a lossless hot water extract which is more consistent with the clinical data.
b. With any extraction method, you need to verify your results. We’ve seen reishi mushroom hot water extracts with more triterpenes than reishi mushroom dual extracts. If you’re not analyzing the important compounds then it’s basically marketing speak.
a. I think this is a great new area of research and am I glad that this is getting more exposure and people are seeing benefits. It is good to see it following behind the decriminalization of cannabis. While psilocybin could cross over into functional mushrooms at some point, it will most likely be its own category to start.
When consuming psilocybe mushrooms, it is important to remember the set and setting. Make sure you are around people who can help you if anything goes wrong. Psilocybin can produce negative experiences so if you are looking for specific outcomes, make sure to get in touch with a qualified practitioner.
a. In Asia, many large studies that investigated the diets of various populations discovered that those groups who consumed mushrooms regularly actually lived longer. Considering the benefits of mushroom beta-glucans for our immunity as well the presence of longevity compounds like ergothioneine, I consider these studies to be a validation of the use of mushrooms for food and as nutritional supplements.
a. Reishi mushroom would probably be my favorite as it is so multi-faceted.
Danielle Harley is a certified Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) based in Manhattan Beach, California. She graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Applied Psychology. She is passionate about helping others find their way back to health through the sciences of nutrition and psychology.
I work mostly with women to optimize fertility and address hormonal imbalances and autoimmunity which are all deeply connected.
Environmental toxins, leaky gut, inflammatory foods, genetics, and mindset.
I use Real Mushrooms to provide additional support to my whole foods protocols. Mushrooms are excellent for assisting in bringing the nervous system and the hormonal system back into balance. I work with my clients bio-individuality to recommend the best mushroom for them, but Reishi is the one I most commonly use in my practice.
It depends on the individual and their unique health needs, but I typically recommend 1 gram daily.
The best synergy I've found with mushrooms is a healing diet. When you remove additional stressors from the body (like processed foods), mushrooms can really get to work to support you in achieving optimal health faster.
I adjust my protocols based on what I need during different periods of my life. Currently I'm taking 2 Reishi capsules before bed to support my nervous system and my hormones, and I'm taking 2 capsules of Turkey Tail first thing in the morning to keep my immune system strong. On the weekends, I enjoy whipping up a delicious mushroom elixir with Chaga, Lion's Mane, hot water, coconut milk, a bit of local honey, and cinnamon.
*Check out Real Mushrooms' Vegan Mushroom Golden Milk recipe!
You can learn more about me and how to connect with me on my website: holisticharley.com
To say that Jeff Chilton knows a lot about the mushroom business is an understatement. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, an area known for its humid climate and lush forests, mushrooms were a part of his life from early on. Combine this with his passion for nature and love of travel, and it’s no wonder he’d go on to become one of the world’s foremost medicinal mushroom cultivation experts and a pioneer in this booming industry.
“Mushrooms were all around me when I was growing up. I was able to get out and do some mushroom hunting with parents of friends. I liked it enough that when I went to university, I actually studied mycology there,” he says.
Mycology is the scientific study of mushrooms, and Jeff added a unique anthropological element to his program, looking at how mushrooms are used across cultures for food, medicinal and religious purposes. He created his academic program in what’s been now termed ethno-mycology.
In 1973, Jeff got a job at the only mushroom farm in Washington state, and over the next ten years, he worked his way up to being a production manager. This mushroom business produced over two million pounds of button mushrooms every year, like those typically found at the supermarket.
At the farm, Jeff worked and learned alongside a scientist from Japan who headed their research and development program. During these years, he gained deep practical experience in mushroom growing. This included methods for cultivating other species like shiitake, enoki and oyster mushrooms.
In 1983, Jeff co-authored and published his now-famous book, The Mushroom Cultivator. It served as a culmination of all his research and experience as a mushroom producer. That same year, Jeff left the farm and moved his family to Canada where he started a mushroom spawn business.
Six years later Jeff decided to start a new mushroom business called Nammex, that focused on supplying mushroom extracts to the nutritional supplement industry. At that time, there was little known about medicinal mushrooms in North America, so Jeff committed himself to educate supplement producers and other industry stakeholders about their benefits.
During the 1990’s, Jeff attended industry trade shows, published books and articles and networked with other industry leaders. He also attended multiple mushroom conferences in China and developed many relationships with researchers as well as commercial mushroom growers and processors. One of his long time friends was Professor Yang Qing-yao, developer of PSP , a cancer therapy drug in China derived from turkey tail mycelium.
Jeff also initiated analytical projects with Dr. Neil Towers, a pharmacologist and head of the Botany Department at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Towers was able to create pure standards for reishi triterpenoids which allowed Nammex to measure the content in their reishi extracts. Using the triterpenoid test as well as a polysaccharides test, Nammex set the industry standard for reishi extracts.
China has a long and rich history of cultivating mushrooms for food and medicinal purposes that dates back over thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long used mushrooms as medicinal herbs to treat a wide variety of ailments, including insomnia, lack of energy, fatigue, compromised immunity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease*. Some of the most revered varieties of mushrooms in TCM include reishi, shiitake, turkey tail, and cordyceps.
The expertise in mushroom cultivation that the Chinese developed over time made sourcing mushroom products from the country a natural fit for Nammex. China grows a wide variety of medicinal mushrooms at a scale that couldn’t be replicated in North America.
Jeff worked closely with Chinese producers to ensure quality and developed rigorous testing measures to accurately show his customers what they were buying. In 1997, contracting with the OCIA, the largest US organic certifier, Jeff organized the first organic certification workshop in China for mushroom growers. He continues to work closely with growers to ensure that Nammex products are grown in proper conditions without the use of any agricultural chemicals.
Today, China produces approximately 90% of the world’s mushrooms and has an efficient, decentralized network of producers with a strong workforce. Mushroom cultivation activities are supported by active agricultural research institutes that continually invest in research and development of these products.
Recently there’s been concern over the quality of Chinese mushrooms, and issues related to pollution and toxic chemicals in mushroom products grown close to large urban areas. Nammex works only with mushroom farms deep in the mountains, far removed from industrial areas. Nammex also maintains rigorous quality control and product testing at all stages of the growth and production cycles, ensuring that customers are only buying the very best.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Jeff continues to be passionate about research and ongoing education for customers. With over 40 years of experience, his expertise has earned him international attention. In 2015, Jeff authored an industry-changing white paper called Redefining Medicinal Mushrooms: A New Scientific Screening Program for Active Compounds.
He says, “This is actually research we did ourselves, and this is something that’s been very important to me right from the beginning with my company [Nammex]. I wanted to analyze my products for the active compounds so that I could say to my customers, “The product I’m giving you has a defined amount of the active compounds which guarantees the benefits.”
The most important active compounds in real mushrooms include beta-d-glucans, triterpenoids, diverse polysaccharides, ergosterol, and ergothioneine. When used medicinally, each of these can have dynamic effects on the human body.
For example, beta-d-glucans are powerful immunomodulators that have been well studied for strengthening the immune system. They naturally increase the production of immune cells like macrophages, nk-cells and t-cells when we need them.
Ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant, is present in organs that can be subject to high levels of stress and helps to mitigate its effects*. Triterpenoids have proven to be helpful for liver functioning*.
The white paper clearly showed that myceliated grain products, commonly grown in the US, consisted mainly of residual grain that wasn’t removed from the final product, which limited the amount of actual mycelium present. These findings started important conversations within the industry about the common use in supplements of mycelium grown on grain as opposed to real mushrooms.
The difference between a real mushroom and mycelium grown on grain is important to understand. Mycelium grown on grain still contains its grain-based growth media when it's harvested. If you can visualize the food product tempeh, that is what is being produced, but sold as a dried powder. The actual mushrooms that Nammex grows are not only harvested by hand but they also don’t have residue from the sawdust logs they grow on.
This means that a high percentage of mycelium grown on grain contains between 35-60% starch instead of beneficial fungal matter. In contrast, a real mushroom contains no starch at all. The starch serves as nothing more than a filler and has no benefit from a medicinal perspective.
When used as a health supplement, real mushrooms can:
While Jeff was busy growing the business, his son Skye watched Nammex become the top supplier of real mushroom products to the nutritional supplement industry.
But Skye didn’t have a lot of interest in joining the family business. His background is in computers and when he finished school he wanted to be a video game designer. However, things changed as he started to take an interest in his own health and wellbeing.
Through his experience, Skye discovered a lack of quality mushroom supplements available to consumers in North America. Most products marketed as mushrooms were really myceliated grain and contained a lot of grain fillers. Consumers were being sold a fake product packaged with big claims of health improvement.
Fuelled by this frustration, Skye and Jeff began to talk about the potential to start an new business. They envisioned a family-owned and operated company that supplies a top-quality real mushroom product line for consumers. It was out of these conversations that Real Mushrooms was born.
Skye is driven by the same passion for quality as his Dad. When he started formulating the Real Mushrooms product line, his commitment to using science-based evidence to create products was paramount.
He says, “I saw an opportunity to develop a product line based on the mushroom itself. My goal was to educate the public on how medicinal mushrooms are grown, what to look for in a medicinal mushroom product, and ensure that our products were consistent with the scientific research.”
The result is a line of real mushroom products that are known for their quality, potency, and efficacy. All mushrooms undergo rigorous scientific testing and must pass strict quality control standards. Real Mushrooms only sources its mushrooms from Nammex, so there is little question as to whether consumers are getting the real deal in their supplements.
The use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes is quickly gaining traction in North America, with more consumers looking to take advantage of their health benefits. While there are many mushroom products available on the market, few can make true claims as to their purity as Real Mushrooms can.
Consumers are becoming increasingly interested and well-educated about the science behind medicinal mushrooms. Many share the same frustration as Skye did when he first started Real Mushrooms - a lack of quality and transparency in the products available.
Joanne, a verified reviewer on Amazon says, “I've been taking medicinal mushrooms for years and it's one of the best supplements to boost your immune system among many other benefits. This [Real Mushrooms] is one of the purest and best medicinal mushroom products I've found. This company really cares about the quality and it shows.”
The reviews and stories that are shared by Real Mushrooms’ customers about the positive effects of their products speak for themselves. Philippe writes, “This extract has been truly life-changing for me. Every morning I mix 3 grams of [Real Mushrooms] Lion’s Mane extract in a power smoothie with chaga tea as the liquid base and 250mg of alpha gdp (choline supplement). My memory, focus, and vocal articulation is better than it ever has been before.”
Boris shares, “I read about Lion’s Mane a long time ago and finally decided to give these a try a few months ago. It has been a complete game-changer for me! I noticed the effects from day one. Complete mental clarity, without any sort of speediness or negative side effects.”
By helping consumers address their immediate health concerns, Real Mushrooms is quickly establishing itself as the top mushroom supplement on the market.
Real Mushrooms is a merging of a family passion for mushroom business, health, and history. The company prides itself on its commitment to provide the highest quality medicinal mushroom product line.
Jeff and Skye are driven to provide only the best products to consumers, backed by scientific evidence and data. It’s only with real mushrooms that consumers can reap all the benefits of these potent fungi.
Skye says, “We strive to make sure our products are analyzed for the important medicinal compounds and are consistent with the existing body of medicinal mushroom research. This ultimately means that when you try our mushroom products, you will have the best possibility to experience the unique benefits that medicinal mushrooms have to offer.”
Backed by science and illustrated by glowing customer reviews, Real Mushrooms is building trust and establishing itself as the “go-to” for quality mushroom in the nutritional supplement industry.
Try Real Mushrooms products for yourself and see the difference a quality mushroom supplement can make. Our line of powder and capsule mushroom supplements includes:
Visit our product page to buy the highest quality medicinal mushrooms available on the market.