Wellness Rx Featured Product:
Made by John Michelotti
An interview with John Michelotti of Catskill Fungi
How did you become excited about mushrooms?
By going on a mushroom walk! I loved eating them but didn't know anything about them. I found a mushroom club and the person who led the walks was one of the world's most famous mycologists who over the years became my mentor. The more I learned the more interested and excited I became and that still continues today.
Where are you from and how did you become an expert in mushrooms?
I was living in Rye, a suburb north of NYC near where I grew up when I went on that first mushroom walk. Spending as much time as I could with people I considered experts was the best way to learn. An extended internship in Ecuador studying mycoremediation (how fungi can clean up toxins from soil) was a springboard into the world of cultivation and medicinal mushrooms. Once I returned I was very excited and started sharing and teaching classes.
Why did you set-up your practice in Big Indian?
Since I was a child my family and I have been renovating an old family farm that my great, great grandfather owned. It is where I feel most at peace and connected to nature. About 7 years ago I moved into what used to be an ice house that we restored into a cabin. Shortly after I started exploring options at how I could follow my mentors sage advice "Quit your job and devote your life to mushrooms." By a stroke of luck the passion that I wanted to pursue was also a need for the community. 6 years ago I went on an herbal walk with the Catskill Forest Association and was helping people identify mushrooms when I was asked to lead a mushroom walk. I have been leading mushroom walks with CFA and other organizations ever since. At the same time, I noticed health stores had local plant tinctures but mushroom tinctures coming from the other side of the country. I had been making mushroom tinctures for a few years and asked the store owners if they would be interested in purchasing local mushroom tinctures. Ed Ullmann was the first person to buy a box and Wellness Rx, then in High Falls, was the first store that began to sell them.
Explain to us the differences between your mushrooms ?
My favorites are Reishi, Lion's Mane, and Chaga.
Reishi mushroom is the best over-all and is referred to as the "Mushroom of Immortality" in China. It is an adaptogen that helps your body regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It has also been known to support a healthy immune system and can be anti-inflammatory. My sister says it helps with her autoimmune disease and yet I can take it to boost my immune system.
Lion's mane mushroom promotes healthy brain function and neurological support. Compounds in lion's mane mushrooms have been shown to regenerate the myelin sheaths of the nerves.
Chaga fungi are excellent for cold and flu season. Customers tell us that despite being around other sick family or friends, they stay well. It has been used for hundreds of years for aiding stomach ailments, digestion, the liver, skin issues and detoxification.
Maitake mushroom has been utilized by customers to help regulate blood sugar and Turkey tail (aka coriolus) is being studied for its ability to boost NK cells and T cells which help your body find and fight precancerous and cancerous cells. Maitake and Turkey Tail have are also being studied in conjunction with radiation and chemotherapy. Patients report less side effects and stronger immune systems.
For more information on this and other mushrooms go to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website on Integrative Medicine about Herbs.
The mushrooms we use for our extracts at Catskill Fungi are made from fruit-bodies (actual mushrooms) grown on wood in and around our family farm. Other products use "mycelium", which is the underground part of the fungi. This is because it is easier and faster to grow mycelium than it is to use actual mushrooms. Mushrooms have been proven in published papers to be more nutrient dense and medicinal than the mycelium.
We are what we eat and it is the same with mushrooms. Many supplement companies are using mycelium or mushrooms grown on grain or rice where the wood grown mushrooms have been shown to have higher nutrient density.
Your triple extraction process is unique. Tell us about it?
The 3 parts of the extract take the mushroom through a variety of steps and each of them extract different medicinal properties.
1. Alcohol (Non-GMO, Organic Sugar Cane base) captures the triterpenes and sterols which are the important for the antiviral compounds.
2. The cold water extract removes certain enzymes.
3. The decoction, or hot water reduction, concentrates the many polysaccharides that exist in each mushroom that are responsible for the immune system & neurological benefits.
Are mushroom extracts safe to take together ?
Yes! They can be mixed together in your favorite drink. In hot tea to dissipate the alcohol (30% in finished product). They can be mixed in with food as well. Most importantly they are most effective when taken regularly. 2 dropperfuls (~1/4tsp or 2ml) each day. Each 2 oz bottle has at least 30 daily doses.
What other services do you provide to help educate us about the power of therapeutic mushrooms?
I host many types of workshops throughout the year and most of them are in the Catskills, Hudson Valley, and NYC. Some workshops focus on cultivation of mushrooms indoors and outdoors. There are medicinal mushroom workshops where we focus on how fungi are beneficial to people and the planet. From May through October I lead Mushroom walks in the woods to talk about the role fungi play in our forests as well as the edibility and health benefits of the fungi we find. My favorite events are the weekend-long retreats where we get to explore all of these hands-on workshops and more in the beautiful Catskill Mountains.
How do you see the future of mushrooms tinctures in helping our community to stay healthy?
As we face many environmental stresses throughout our lives mushroom extracts can help to fortify our circulatory, digestive, immune and nervous systems naturally. Sourced and produced in the pristine Catskill Mountains assures the purity of what you take into your body. People in NY can feel good knowing the sustainable impact to the environment of this product. Herbal extracts like this are one way which people can take their health into their own hands and do something positive for themselves and their environment.