Interview with DIRTEA Co-founder Simon Salter: Health and Functional Mushrooms

People

We wouldn’t be DIRTEA without our founder brothers, Simon and Andrew Salter. This week we decided to interview our co-founder Simon, who is fervent about functional mushrooms and keeping your body in an optimum state of well-being through natural means and healthy eating. We are in awe of his passion for the brand and how he manages to keep a balance between taking care of his body and mind whilst working tirelessly. We wanted to delve deep into the journey of how he came to be and how he does what he does! We also asked for more information about DIRTEA functional mushrooms and any tips he could offer us.


We always hear about how mushrooms have changed your life. Could you tell us how and what led you to create DIRTEA?

It started many years ago when we founded a marketing agency that partnered with cutting-edge ideas, founders and early-stage companies with the sole purpose of scaling their vision.

However, as a result of investing so much time into building the business, we became the CEO of a company but disregarded becoming the CEO of our own body. Sleep became secondary, which presented symptoms of angst, fatigue, and lack of physical and mental energy,  with no solution apart from caffeine to keep us going. We rarely took over-the-counter medication unless it was essential, and we observed many of our friends struggling with the same issues. They were working tirelessly and burning out, therefore leading to many health issues.

Reluctant to take anything that would be a band-aid, we became curious about ancestral ways of living and how they used preventative and natural approaches to improve their well-being. We were introduced to a mushroom tea master that shifted everything. We sat with this older, ethereal and avuncular lady who carefully cracked open the door to a world where she explained how mushrooms have been the beacon of health for centuries and revered for their anti-inflammatory compounds by the Father of medicine, Hippocrates. Also, how they were used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for their immune-boosting properties and that they allowed Shaolin Tibetan monks to find a deeper state of meditation, heal wounds and improve overall well-being. 

Fascinated by functional mushrooms' history, well-being and adaptogen effects, we committed to using them over the next few weeks. We added dual-extract mushroom powders to our morning smoothies and coffee or drank them as teas to see the results. It wasn’t long before I started to feel considerably less stressed, well-rested, focused, and alert. 

Once we observed the research of the unbelievable active compounds found nowhere else in nature that surpassed anything else we had tried before, we wanted to share this with the world, hoping it would also help others, and DIRTEA was born.


What are functional mushrooms, and how do they differ from other fungi?

Only a few mushrooms have ever made it to the functional mushroom category, one of the Fungi Kingdom’s VIP clubs! These mushrooms contain active compounds that could offer functional properties for the human body and mind beyond their standard sustenance. They are some of the most researched and nutrient-dense foods on the planet, including Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Tremella and Turkey Tail.


Is it true that some people fear mushrooms?

Yes, it is called mycophobia, an irrational fear of fungi or mould. Fungi generally hold a lot of baggage from years of misconceptions. Mushrooms are only in our viewscape for a matter of days. They are ephemeral, and then they rot. With animals, trees and plants, you see them in your vision constantly, so you have a familiarity factor with them and with familiarity comes confidence. With the lack of knowledge and a proper understanding of mushrooms, we tend to dismiss them. In the vast kingdom of fungi, some mushrooms can feed you, some are poisonous or have psychedelic effects, and some can have many health-giving benefits.


Is there a specific time in the day to drink DIRTEA mushrooms?

You can consume them at any time of the day, they don’t contain caffeine or sedatives, but I prefer having them in the evenings to ease me out of a busy day! Reishi is famous for promoting calmness and supporting better sleep.(1) I always take Cordyceps before a workout to get me going for a good training session at the gym. Cordyceps has a bioactive compound called Cordycepin which may play a role in cellular energy metabolism. It may influence the production and utilisation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an organic compound that provides energy to drive and support many processes in our living cells, increasing strength and power and improving body composition.(2) 


I have an overactive mind. Can any of these mushrooms help me?

I love Reishi; it contains a compound called triterpenoid which may calm the nervous system. Studies, mostly in rodents, show that Reishi increases the sleep cycle, mostly deep sleep.


What other health hacks can you share alongside mushrooms?

First thing in the morning, as I wake up at 5 am, I walk to my balcony to get the first light. Eyes exposed to photons from the sun increase metabolic and mental well-being, promoting positive functions on hormones and releasing a healthy cortisol level. It restarts the 24-hour circadian clock and 16-hour melatonin clock.

Then I drink warm water with a slice of lemon for my digestive system before jumping into an ice bath or taking a cold shower to increase blood flow and amplify dopamine levels. During the winter when the water is between 0-5°C, I take a dip in the Serpentine Lake with our DIRTEA Tribe - a group of curious, like-minded people dedicated to being better than yesterday.

 

After my cold shower / swim I sneak in a 10-minute breathwork to upregulate my sympathetic state, along with a cup of Lion’s Mane and get me focused for the day! Lion’s Mane may stimulate the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain. NGF is a protein that plays a vital role in the growth, maintenance, and repair of nerve cells (neurons) in the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with thinking, learning and emotions. (3) (4)


Can you mix DIRTEA mushrooms?

Yes, they don’t counter each other out. If anything, there is more goodness within the mixture!


What is an interesting fact about these mushrooms you think will surprise people?

Like us, they ‘breathe in’ oxygen and give out CO2. We also share more than 54% of DNA with Fungi!


How do you make sure and test that your mushrooms are pure and clean?

We have spent years mastering the DIRTEA extraction process in order to hand you the perfect DIRTEA brew from forest to cup. Our functional mushrooms require different temperatures and timings to ensure we can extract all the goodness from what lies within the fruiting body of our mushrooms. 

We use a dual extraction process. This is the process of hot water and alcohol extraction to draw out the compounds, which can be hard to target if the mushroom is eaten whole. We then spray dry the mushroom into powder and test for compounds. The mushrooms are then third-party tested to ensure that what lands in your cup is pure and potent. 


If you were stranded on an island, which DIRTEA mushroom would you want to be stranded with and why?

This is a tough one! But I am going to be cheeky and choose a blend, the DIRTEA Matcha! I love the combination of Lion’s Mane and Tremella in this blend. With Matcha, you get that wonderful amino acid, L-theanine, which offers a slow release of a kick with no crashes, and makes me laser-eye focused. With Tremella, I can feel and look my best… even if I am alone, I’d like to look good for me ;). Tremella, often called the “beauty mushroom”, behaves much like hyaluronic acid by pulling moisture to the skin, which may improve elasticity and give a more youthful appearance. Tremella mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, including a unique polysaccharide called "Tremella polysaccharide". The polysaccharide compounds in Tremella show remarkably high water-holding capacity.(5) (6)


What is it like working at DIRTEA?

I’m obviously biassed but it's the best company! I love it! My brother and I have always wanted to create a functional space beyond the office environment. We believe wellness is far too essential to neglect, and this is reflected in our company’s ethos - from ice baths for the team's morning dopamine kick before our a.m. meetings to infrared light for anyone who feels like the British sun is lacking presence. We also have stand-up desks and walking treadmills. At DIRTEA, we work hard and celebrate each milestone with memorable experiences! The team recently surprised me for my 40th with a Mad Hatter's themed party with as much sequins as possible!


REFERENCES

  1. Chu, Q.P., Wang, L.E., Cui, X.Y., Fu, H.Z., Lin, Z.B., Lin, S.Q., and Zhang, Y.H. (2007). ‘Extract of Ganoderma Lucidum Potentiates Pentobarbital-Induced Sleep via a GABAergic Mechanism’. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 86 (4), pp.693-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2007.02.015.
  2. Hirsch, K.R., Smith-Ryan, A.E., Roelofs, E.J., Trexler, E.T.,  and Mock, M.G. (2017). ‘Cordyceps Militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation’. J Diet Suppl. 14 (1), pp.42-53. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386. 
  3. Kawagishi, H., Shimada, A., Hosokawa, S., Mori, H., Sakamoto, H., Ishiguro, Y., Sakemi, S.,  Bordner, J., Kojima,N.,  and Furukawa, S. (1996).  “Erinacines E, F, and G, Stimulators of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)-Synthesis, from the Mycelia of Hericium Erinaceum” Tetrahedron Letters, 37 (41), pp. 7399-7402.
  4. Bing-Ji, M., Jin-Wen, S., Hai-You, Y., Yuan, R., Ting-Ting, W., and Xu, Z., (2010) ‘Hericenones and Erinacines: Stimulators of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) Biosynthesis in Hericium Erinaceus’Mycology, 1(2), pp.92-98, doi: 10.1080/21501201003735556
  5. Ma, X., Yang, M., He, Y., Zhai, C., and Li, C.(2021) ‘A Review on the Production, structure, Bioactivities and Applications of Tremella Polysaccharides’. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol.  (35),20587384211000541. doi: 10.1177/20587384211000541.
  6. Wu, Y., Choi, M-H., Li, J., Yang ,H., and Shin, H-J. (2016). ‘Mushroom Cosmetics: The Present and Future’. Cosmetics 3(3), pp.22 doi:10.3390/cosmetics3030022

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