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Precision Health Club

Interview – Stefany Nieto from Gwella

Rachel: There we go. Sorry about that. Right. And do you prefer Stef or Stefany? 

Stefany: Either one works. 

Rachel: Okay, great. Well, thank you so much for joining us. We’re just gonna wait a few minutes for other folks to join. But I just wanted to confirm that we will be recording this. And it’s really just a live but super casual conversation. We record it so that we can distribute to kind of our wider audience later where we’ll be able to kind of transcribe it. We’ll send it to you prior to any kind of like content creation there, but also have the audio for a podcast that we’re working on, if that all sounds good to you. 

Stefany: Yep, that works perfectly. 

Rachel: Awesome. Great. I’ll just waiting a few more minutes for some other folks to join. How’s your day going so far? 

Stefany: So far, so good, busy this morning. But yeah. Actually, it’s just a busy day in general. 

Rachel: Well, I guess busy is better than not. But we were grateful that you have taken the time to join us. 

Stefany: Yeah, I’m really excited to be here. And I mean, this group was partially the reason I woke up super early this morning and went to a workout and made it there. So yeah, super happy to be contributing back. 

Rachel: That’s awesome to hear. That’s really the point of the community is to help each other succeed in our health goals. So I’m glad to hear that it pushed you into a workout you might not have done. 

Stefany: Yeah. 

Rachel: Perfect. All right. Well, it’s a couple minutes after, so why don’t we get started. So thank you, everyone, for joining here. As a quick intro, we have Stefany here with us. She has built multiple international ventures with long lasting social impact. Most recently, Stefany co-founded Gwella, a mushroom company building the most accessible and original over the counter portfolio of mushroom products that amplify individual and community wellness for today’s modern era. As CEO, she architects the execution of strategic goals, while fostering a collaborative team culture and building customer centric partnerships. Thank you so much for joining us Stef. 

Stefany: Thank you for having me. 

Rachel: We’d love to hear a little bit more about your journey, how you came to start Gwella and what you guys are really focused on today. 

Stefany: For sure, so my journey actually started in the not for profit charitable space back when I was still student in university. I started my first company called Green Igloo focusing on food sovereignty in the most remote parts of Canada. That’s a whole journey in itself, you know, working with indigenous communities in remote areas, figuring out infrastructure and logistics, and, you know, doing a lot of that work for about seven, eight-ish years. And then last year, I had, I guess, COVID fatigue, is the best way to explain it. I really, you know, had been working on Green Igloo for majority of my adult life. And I realized that something that I had started when I was, you know, 18 wasn’t necessarily something that I wanted to continue to do with my career. And so I started looking into the psychedelic space more out of curiosity, being you know, long time personal advocate and user of these types of medicines, and I met the Gwella team. So they had been up and running for about a year. And by when I say that, I mean, they had, you know, started raising some money, and they had been working on formulas, but nothing had really launched yet. And so I actually convinced them to, you know, join their team, and become a co-founder and CEO. And they were into it, thankfully, because I’ve found a really good home here. In terms of, you know, what we do, we all came together because we love mushrooms. And that extends from functional to psychedelic. And what we plan to do, and what we are doing is trying to make psychedelics and mushrooms in general just more accessible. Whether that’s, you know, through education and content that is more like easier to understand to actually producing our first product Mojo, which is, you know, mimicking a psilocybin microdose, or at least the effects that you’d feel to help you understand how you might feel on a normal psilocybin microdose. And we have a few other products coming out all mushroom based, whether it’s a product, content, or tools, that’s basically all we’re about.

Rachel: And how can mushrooms help people? Like for people that are new that might be listening to this, that have heard about it or think about psychedelic mushrooms as something you do at festivals, how does this work and impact our health and how can people get started? 

Stefany: Yeah, so I mean, that’s a really broad question. There’s, I think it’s over 6000 types of mushrooms around the world, like different types of species of mushrooms. So I mean, a lot of them can help you in a variety of ways. We like to say that there’s a mushroom for everyone. When it comes to, I guess, the ones that we’re working with right now, we’re looking at functional mushrooms that help with you know, your overall health, your immunity, your you know, cognition, so clarity, focus, your mood. I have definitely used Mojo a few times just to like, make my day a little bit better. As well as helping with your overall ability to I guess, deliver on whatever you’re doing that day. So a bit of like cognition. In terms of how people can start actually, sorry, before I get into that, we actually have found that a lot of people have started to use Mojo, which we did not plan for, but we’ve gotten a lot of reports of people using it as an alternative to their ADHD medication or to help with anxiety. And so now we’re kind of like, “oh, this is an unexpected result”. And so we’re planning to do a clinical trial to actually track that type of data and see if that’s something that we can, you know, claim moving forward. But I mean, the main ones that our people can start with that are generally good for you, and I guess most popular, so easy to access are probably Reishi, Chaga, or Lion’s Mane, or a combo of them. And they help for a variety of different reasons. If you look at Reishi, I looked at one of the questionnaires it’s like, how can it help with working out and staying fit and that type of stuff. It helps with overall immunity, and it can help with your sorry, it can help with a variety of different types of health benefits in general. So just your baseline. When it comes to working out, it seems that or different studies have shown that it can help in terms of regenerating your immune cells caused by different strenuous physical exercise. So there’s that one, there’s core two steps as well. This one’s really cool because it promotes the efficient oxygen production within your body. So it can help make you know that really tough workout, just less fatiguing while you’re going through it and improve your energy use. Then Lion’s Mane, I think is like one of the most popular ones in terms of finding it and using it. It’s, you know, the best one. I think there was another question around your, you know, the best brain food essentially. And Lion’s Mane is definitely known for that, in terms of neuro-productivity, as well as anti- inflammatory, you know, benefits. And then you have Chaga, which is also a really popular one. It’s an antioxidant, antiviral and immune enhancing properties as well. So, I mean, I could go on for days in terms of different types of mushrooms and how they can help you. But I guess it really depends on what you’re looking for. 

Rachel: That makes sense and true. And in all health, you really have specific goals. So getting started is going to mean different things to different people. Is that kind of concept around personalization or precision approaches to functional or psychedelic mushrooms, something you guys are thinking about it at Gwella? Or kind of anything around the education related to how do people pick what makes the most sense for them? 

Stefany: So that’s an interesting question. I think that with the amount of precision that can happen in terms of when you’re selecting what you want to utilize, it can be really confusing for somebody entering the space and overwhelming, right? So it’s like, should you use Chaga or Reishi or a combo of them if you’re trying to target you know, your overall health? Or is it you know, specifically for sleep? Like what should you use? And so part of the reason that we created Mojo and stacked so many different types of mushrooms and other you know, botanicals into it was because we wanted kind of an all-in-one, one stop shop, you don’t have to figure out which one is the right one for you. So I really don’t see us, you know, going away from that and starting to create specific or, I guess, specific ingredient types of versions of products. We mostly try to stay with, like specific use cases. So right now Mojo is definitely more energy, clarity, mood boost, we might come up with something in the future that is, you know, anti-anxiety specifically, maybe helps with sleep instead of energy just more like what are you trying to solve versus your specific body and what it needs I guess. I know it’s a very blurry line there. But that’s the balance that we’re trying to strike. 

Rachel: Makes sense. And as you think about kind of connecting with consumers and both around your products and kind of what people are looking for, what’s the problem that you’re having, and how can we help, is a conversation that I find…

Stefany: Yeah. 

Rachel: always works a bit better versus the like product first approach. 

Stefany: Yeah, that’s what we found. And don’t get me wrong, like, I’ve been that consumer, just trying to, like, put in my issue, and trying to find a product that fits that. But again, it can like, I guess I have a bit more patience for it just because of the space that I’m in. But I’ve definitely seen friends of mine being like, “No, I just want it to tell me exactly what it’s gonna do and you know, deal with it there”. 

Rachel: Of course. 

Stefany: Like, as stressful as it is. 

Rachel: Of course, and how can people find more of this research? Is it something you guys have on your blog? Is it kind of a newsletter that you give people access to? But if people are looking to learn more, where do they go and where do they start? 

Stefany: Yeah. So we do have a blog up, we do have a podcast that just released as well, where we do go over these type of topics. And the other thing we offer on our website, like if you look it up, and also anybody listening here is if anybody wants to chat with our chief science officer, you can. He is the one that came up with the formula and has studied this for over a decade now. So if it’s something that you’re kind of just passionate about, or looking to learn more about, we kind of open up our product team too. 

Rachel: Awesome. It’s definitely something that people should check out. And we’ll make sure to have all of those links in the chat and in the podcast and transcription when it comes out. In terms of what you do for your own health. Obviously, it sounds like mushrooms are an important part of keeping you physically and mentally healthy. But what else are you doing across your nutrition, exercise, sleep, anything that’s working really well for you? 

Stefany: Yeah, I mean, I guess what my personal stack looks like, one, I am a sleepy bear. Like I like to get between 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. So I’m definitely early to bed, which I think is the biggest aspect of my wellness routine. Due to this specific club, I started hitting the gym again. And by that I mean going to classes and getting up early and trying to you know, fit that in with the rest of my work. Of course, I do include some Mojo into my day to day. And like, it’s not a replacement for my daily coffee, but it’s a nice midday pick me up for me personally. And then when it comes to, I guess the overall like what really keeps me sane and healthy, it’s one of the psychedelic trips that I’ve taken. I try to, you know, do something around maybe once a quarter, maybe a little bit less, maybe once every, like six months or so. And it really helps with just my overall understanding of like, how am I feeling? Where am I in life? How am I connecting to those around me and to the planet around me? You know, all of those types of questions that I think really help with just self-care and making more time for that. So I think that’s my like biggest, I guess secret for wellness. But yeah, that’s kind of my personal stack. 

Rachel: And how does nutrition play a role? Do you practice any specific kind of dietary habits or have any specific focuses around what you eat or what you supplement with beyond Mojo? 

Stefany: I restarted the keto diet, but that’s more medical than anything else. For any listeners, you know, I deal with PCOS. I forgot what it stands for. It’s like polly something, ovaries or something around that Cystic Ovary Syndrome. There we go. And my doctor actually advised that just overall like carbs, and what I was eating was just making me sluggish, ruining my hair and nails and skin, making me sleep worse. And so I looked into the ketogenic diet, started it. The first time I did it was like, I want to say four years ago, three years ago or so, found that I had more energy, my nails, face, hair, everything kind of improved. And I just had, you know, just overall happier day to day life. So I restarted it about two weeks ago now so it’s going well. And that’s how I supplement my day to day. 

Rachel: Thanks for a lot of friends. And I don’t personally suffer from PCOS, but I have spoken to a lot of people where diet really matters, supplements really matter. There’s this just kind of more of a holistic and comprehensive approach to really making sure if you have it, that you’re feeling your best and performing at your best every day. So it’s good that the change in your diet, it sounds like it’s helping, which is a positive note, I would say. 

Stefany: Yeah, I’m definitely happy with it. It’s really hard though, right? Because, you know you go with friends and family and your community and like everybody, I feel like such a thing that you can like get together on and it feels weird when you’re not participating. One thing that’s really helped with that I actually tried, what is it called, when you’re hypnotized. I tried that too. I didn’t know if it would work or not. On the bright side, it did kind of work. It definitely works if I’m like, you know, I guess using more of my subconscious at the moment. But it definitely helps getting over that hump of like when I was really struggling to stick to the diet. 

Rachel: I think a lot of people feel like that when they’re kind of on specific diets for health reasons, because some people will do more of an 80-20 approach with any diets. But I’ve definitely found that as I’ve began to cut out alcohol more and more, I still do consume occasionally. But as you kind of go out to dinner with friends, and you’re choosing not to be one that’s drinking, having the confidence or just kind of the understanding of yes, I’m doing this for my health, and it’s okay, and people probably aren’t really thinking about it anyways, it’s helped me on the alcohol side. 

Stefany: Yeah. I feel like it’s also a thing with age too. As we get a little older, people are just less likely to, you know, pressure you into participating in their own habits. And so it’s definitely gotten easier. I think it was definitely more of a pain when I was a bit younger. 

Rachel: Yeah, definitely. And I’d love to kind of dig in a little bit further on the psychedelic side. So obviously, there’s a lot going on. And on the research side, really exciting developments on kind of overall use cases across kind of psychedelics and other options and interventions. What are your thoughts there? Where do you think the world’s gonna go? What impact do you think kind of decriminalizing or making psychedelics more widely used, will have? 

Stefany: I mean, on one end, I think that the resurgence of psychedelics and, you know, them being used from medicinal purposes, to wellness to even the recreational side, I think it’s a really awesome way that people and society in general are starting to look towards communities that have practiced these types of, or have used these types of plants for literally ever, in order to, you know, support their own communities. And I think there’s a kind of, like, more respect to being built in that space. So I think that’s one aspect of like legalization that is happening. We’re kind of looking towards more of the historical aspect and traditional use of these plants, which, as somebody who’s worked into indigenous communities, I can really appreciate. Otherwise, I think, on the other side of legalization is, you know, there’s those that of course somebody like myself that uses psychedelics despite the fact that it’s illegal and it does wonders for my mental health and for my day to day happiness overall. But that’s because I am willing to kind of cross that boundary. There are so many people that aren’t, right? They don’t want to try something that is scheduled, and that is illegal, and that they can get fined or worse with. And so by, you know, passing laws, decriminalization legalization, we’re kind of creating this bridge into this whole other area of wellness that previously was really guarded off, which then will allow people to not only explore it for whatever reason they want, but also make life changes to their overall day to day. I was actually just having this conversation this past weekend with a previous, you know, mentor, I guess. I think she’s in her early 60s or so. And one of the things that she really struggled with was, you know, depression, and she tried the pharmaceuticals, a lot of them, the side effects were terrible for her, she really was not happy with them. And so that she went through this period of like, well, I’m not going to try these other pharmaceuticals, I hate the side effects. But also, I don’t know how to access this other world of psychedelics that could potentially assist with you know, this type of situation. And so she’s just kind of in limbo. And so now recently the reason we were chatting I was telling her that you know, if she wants to go to that side, I can definitely see you know, where or I can help guide her in finding what works for her. But that opportunity, I guess, of look, you can almost fix the ailment that you were dealing with on a day to day basis that affected everything around you and within you with like, a few trips, you know, instead of taking a pill every single day, that’s just revolutionary. And it will be for a lot of people. And of course, that’s not to say that. I know that a lot of people use psychedelics for a variety of reasons. Again, it can be medical, it can be everyday wellness, and it can be recreational, but having the opportunity to actually access it in any way that benefits your life, I think is going to be a life changer for our overall mental health as well as a community and as a society. 

Rachel: How long, in your opinion, would you kind of expect it to be before that access is more widely available? 

Stefany: I get this question asked a lot. And it’s tricky, right? It’s just speculation. I like to say within the next 5 years. I say that because there has been such a movement, particularly I think, as a result of COVID, where people are like, look, I’m looking towards other ways to, you know, benefit my life and find ways to cope with my mental health and get through this, like, collective thing we’re all going through. And so there’s been such a push for legalization decriminalization, and as a result, you know, there’s I think there’s like, five cities, I want to say in the US that have now become decriminalized. And that’s pretty quick, over the past year, or two. And much quicker than I expected. So, personally, again, I like to say within the next 5 years. Some people say 10, some people say 2. So it’s moving quickly but none of us really know. 

Rachel: Do you think that kind of timeline or trend will be more from a consumer push and consumer demand like you were just talking about related to the after effects of COVID and beyond? Or do you think that the new research and the new focus within the medical community will have an impact there too? 

Stefany: I think it’s a little bit of both, but also keeping in mind that, you know, research dollars are being given to, you know, these different organizations and places, because there’s also such a consumer push, right? People are asking their doctors, how do I access these things? And as they’re talking about it with their friends and their family, they’re writing articles about it and they’re advocating for it via you know, not for profits and charities. There’s also, you know, the for profit sector that’s advocate for it, because they hear what consumers are wanting. I think that it’s just we’re living in kind of this golden period right now, where everybody for one reason or another is kind of pushing for decriminalization or and legalization. So I don’t think it’s just one space or one type of audience, I think it’s many of us that are there working together. And I think that’s one really amazing thing that I’ve noticed about the psychedelic space in general. There’s just this, I guess this like, collaborative nature. Maybe it’s because it’s the psychedelic space, but we all do tend to want to work together. And a lot of times when I meet other companies and ask about what they’re doing, one of the things we always end up talking about is like, “Okay, how do we work together to make this happen? Instead of being fragmented as the cannabis market is, like how can we kind of join forces so the same thing doesn’t happen to us and also, that we all succeed together?” So yeah, I don’t think it’s one specific audience. I think a lot of us are working together for the same goal at the moment. 

Rachel: Yes. And I think that that trend really follows from what we’re seeing across health and in people kind of coming together and creating a collaborative push towards making institutions that historically had very small amounts of people making decisions, towards the more kind of community-driven decisions around where research is going, where money is being spent, like what conditions and are people really kind of caring about. And I think it’s a really exciting time in overall health and medicine that that is happening. And it’s good to see in the psychedelic space that that’s happening on the wellness prevention side and many other areas as well. I’d love to jump into some of the community questions. In turn, we’ve got a bunch of Q&A here, starting with are there any particular mushrooms or varieties that have an impact on weight loss? 

Stefany: So I actually had to Google them because I’m like it’s never come up like in my work, but I don’t believe there’s a specific type of mushroom that helps with weight loss. A lot of what I read was, you know, it helps with just a healthier diet, like they are less calories. So you know, incorporating them into your meals is just a good idea when it comes to weight loss. But also, I read some study that well, I mean, psychedelics can really help with any type of therapeutical goal that you have, right? And so I read one study that was talking about how doing a guided therapeutic psychedelic trip with a focus on, you know, kind of convincing your mind and really sticking to whatever goals you have, whether it’s fitness or eating better, or just general ways to lose weight that they, you know, they worked on that during a session. So I don’t think there’s one specific mushroom that really helps with weight loss. 

Rachel: That makes sense. An interesting kind of approach to this guided trips, we’ve heard of other use cases, but thinking about, it almost sounds a little bit like hypnosis, and a similar kind of concept there. 

Stefany: Well, I mean, in hypnosis, like I, the guy was literally telling me like, this is what you should think of when you look at carbs, you know? Versus with psychedelics, it’s more so like, well, for anybody who hasn’t done a trip, it’s ego death. Right? So like, you are kind of almost like a third party to yourself at that moment. And so it’s more so kind of working on, like, why do you choose to, you know, skip the gym? Like, is it a fear that you have? Let’s work on that fear. Why do you choose to not, you know, eat healthier? Is it what you’re choosing to eat? Is it because you don’t know how to cook healthier meals? Is it because you don’t have time? Like, it’s kind of getting to the root versus more like being hypnotized is more so; this is what you should do quick fix one hour session, which again, does work to an extent. But I think a psychedelic trip is usually like, it can get to the root cause and really make some more life changing action afterward. 

Rachel: I will correct my last [unsure word 26:39], I definitely sounds like it’s a different approach. And a much more guided root cause one, which theoretically should work better based on research, at least that I’ve read. We have some other questions in here. We talked a little bit about this, but it sounds like there are you said there are 6000 different varieties. Lily was asking if some are uppers and some are downers. But it sounds like the answer to that is yes. Do you have any other context or anything to share on that side? 

Stefany: I don’t think mushrooms are really seen as like alcohol versus, you know, other. Like, there’s no like uppers versus downers when it comes to mushrooms. There are different strains that might be a little bit stronger and might elicit and this is I’m thinking about psychedelics here, but might elicit a different, not a different but like a varied response, whether they how quickly the onset is for your trip, or, you know, maybe some how strong your visuals may be, but it’s not really like upper or downer type of situation. 

Rachel: Okay, got it. That makes sense. And then so we have a question from Ty. He says most ingredients in Mojo are studied at 10 to 40x the dose delivered in your product. How do you typically respond to people arguing that your delivered microdose dose is simply a significant underdose according to published research? 

Stefany: Yeah. So I mean, after, like I mentioned before, our Chief Science, he’s been working on that formula for about 10 years. He dialed in very precisely, what kind of how much of each ingredient is the benefit, like will provide the most amount of benefit, while working together to ensure that the overall result is the best that it can be? The amount of each active ingredient has been carefully considered for both their effectiveness and also to support safe and effective use. And so when we get that question, a lot of the time, I’m like, let me just send you a sample. Like you can try it for yourself. We are very open to you know, making people believe us in trying the product. We’ve taken also time to actually survey respondents of the product to get their opinion on the psycho activity, and have used that information to dial in our concentrations. I don’t know if everybody knows this. But our first launch was in June, and then it was more of a soft launch. We tried to figure out like, how is this working, are people liking it, should we reformulate in any way, shape, or form and that’s what we did do. We re-launched about four weeks ago. Part of that was dialing in a little bit more of what people wanted a bit more of so a little bit more clarity, was the biggest, I guess, feedback. And then also we became vegan and we made it well, Mojo a little bit more strawberry forward. But anyway, the published literature looks primarily at mono active dosages as opposed to a poly active dosing. This is one of the big reasons it’s so hard to study active substances that are co-administered. But I mean, again, one of the things that we are planning to do is that clinical trial to study it a little bit further. So, in terms of Ty’s question, happy to send you some samples and the product sheets so you can look at some of the, I guess, the studies that back up our claims. 

Rachel: Love it. Samples are always a great way to dive in and learn more. So thank you for that offer. And then in terms of that clinical study, how are you guys thinking about the timing? I know, there’s a lot around clinical studies. But do you guys have a timeline for that? Or any kind of expected time around that research? I’m sure folks would be interested in. 

Stefany: Yeah. So the trial is set to start. Well, it’s already kind of underway right now where for participants and figuring out all of the, like consenting forums and where it’s going to tell details. The clinical trial itself is actually going to be run by one or two has way more in clinical trials, kind of better. So we are providing product and working together with them to figure out which questions are answered. But yeah, we should have a clinical trial in probably like one or two, that we’ll probably publish on our website, and, you know, have it up and running for anybody to do. 

Rachel: Great. And it’s so great that you guys are investing in that as well, because I’m sure kind of consumers are really gonna care about that. But awesome, that’s a great place to end here. I’d love to just finish with where people can find you and how they can connect with you and find Mojo and Gwella

Stefany: Yeah, well with me, my name is Stefany Nieto with an F and Y. Feel free to add me on, well, that’s my LinkedIn name. If you want to connect on social [inaudible 31:41], I’m probably more active on is just Stef.Psych. Easy to find. In terms of Gwella, you can check out our website well on mushrooms.com or @GwellaMushrooms on social platforms, or Mojo, I believe @Mojomicrodose on platforms. But thank you so much for having me. It was a good [inaudible 32:59]. And for any questions that we didn’t get to, make sure we chat. 

Rachel: Perfect. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll make sure to get all of that information and links accessible to everyone after this. Thank you so much. 

Stefany: Thanks. 

Rachel: Have a good one.

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