Local resident’s company providing medicinal mushrooms to equine Olympic competitors
By Kelley Carlson
A mushroom production facility in San Marcos appears to be growing for the gold in this summer’s Olympic Games.
M2 Ingredients develops and processes 10 species of medicinal mushrooms, which are then distributed as nutritional supplements and food additives for humans and animals. Its sister company, Matrixhealthwerks, offers several lines of products, including Pet Matrix, Mi Matrix and Equine Matrix — the latter which is currently being given to some horses in the Summer Games, according to the companies’ CEO, Dr. Sandra Carter.
“Unlike synthesized products, our natural ingredients have a balanced and bioavailability that can only be found in a whole food product, complete with enzymes, antioxidants, chelated minerals and vitamins — particularly vitamin D and the B vitamins,” said Carter of her Matrixhealthwerks products.
The 57-year-old Del Mar resident is a strong advocate of medicinal mushrooms, citing benefits such as energy, inflammation, liver detox, cognitive function, cholesterol and blood sugar control.
Among the mushrooms grown at Carter’s M2 Ingredients facility is cordyceps, which has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. In 2009, TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz listed the species as one of the “Top Five Best Cures from Around the Globe,” as it has been known to fight different types of skin cancers and breast cancer. Olympic athletes have also used it as performance enhancers. Oz has also done segments on other species that are produced at M2, such as the king trumpet, one of the “Best Superfoods for Anti-Aging,” and on maitake, for its role in weight control. Health expert Dr. Andrew Weil also touts medicinal mushrooms, a key component of his “Anti-inflammatory Food Pyramid.”
Carter has been involved in preventive medicine for almost 35 years. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, she received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Manitoba and a master’s degree from McGill University in Montreal, both in the field of exercise physiology. In the United States, she earned another master’s degree — in public health —from UCLA and a doctorate in preventive medicine from USC.
Over the years, Carter participated in large population studies supported by the Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health. She gained corporate health program development and administration experience through her work with the American Heart Association and UCLA Center for Health Enhancement. And as the administrative director for Tahoe Forest Health System, Carter had oversight for multiple departments, including Physical Therapy, Community Health, Diabetic Health, Health Promotions, Occupational Health, Sports Performance and Oncology, and was instrumental in the development of a new women’s diagnostic service center.
It was when Carter attended the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine conference in 2009 that she was introduced to mycologist Steve Farrar, who had more than 30 years of experience in growing and processing mushrooms. Her interest in his field was piqued.
“I saw an incredible opportunity,” Carter said.
She began helping Farrar with the refinement of products for dietary supplements and eventually formed M2 Ingredients. Around the same time, Carter also established Matrixhealthwerks.
Both companies operate in San Marcos, next to the Hokto Kinoko Co. mushroom cultivation center. There are 10 people employed at M2, whose scientific advisory board includes author and editor Dr. Sheldon Hendler and immunologist Dr. Dennis J. Carlo; and eight are at Matrixhealthwerks.
M2 Ingredients produces and processes mushroom mycelial biomass and fruit body products through solid state fermentation methodologies at the “Certified 100 Percent Organic” facility under highly controlled, hygienic conditions. The products take 45 days to three months to grow, depending on the species.
Matrixhealthwerks incorporates the mushrooms into nutritional supplements through its Equine Matrix line for horses; Mi Matrix items, designed for people; and Pet Matrix products, which aid dogs and cats.
The Equine Matrix line seems to be gaining popularity among performance horses. The first notable success story was Street Sense, the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, who was given the product before it was rebranded. Although the horse has since been retired from racing, his jockey, Calvin Borel, continues to use Mi Matrix supplements, according to Carter.
She noted that performance horses’ diets are very controlled and regulated by trainers and grooms, so “when you add one variable, it’s easier to attribute the change in behavior and performance.”
It wasn’t long after Street Sense’s Derby victory before the product started receiving attention in other equine disciplines. One person who took notice was German dressage star Isabell Werth, an Olympic and World Championship medalist.
“I was skeptical at first, but now am absolutely convinced,” said Werth, who is not paid to endorse the company, Carter emphasized. “Our horses are more vital and concentrated. ECP Matrix (Equine Calm and Perform) has proven to be invaluable.”
Werth also uses Muscle Matrix and Farrier’s Matrix on her horses regularly.
Carter said that at Werth’s request, Equine Matrix products were tested at a Paris-based FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale)-accredited laboratory and received the FEI Anti-Doping Certification.
German dressage team veterinarian Dr. Cordula “Coco” Gather and Swedish team vet Dr. Jonas Tornell took note of Werth’s success and now recommend Equine Matrix for their riders. Olympians Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks, Andrew Hoy and Chris Burton of Australia (eventing) are all reportedly fans of Equine Matrix, as well as Patrik Kittel of Sweden (dressage) and Ireland’s Billy Twomey (show jumping).
Among the riders who use the products for themselves and their horses and have competed locally in recent months are the show jumping team of Helen McNaught and Duncan McFarlane.
“My horses finished six weeks in Thermal as fresh and sound as they started,” McNaught said. “Our clients all commented on the difference in the horses they were riding since they’ve been on the ‘Matrix’ program. We were feeding less grain week six than week one! Incredible. The feet were growing faster and stronger. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. Anyone who knows me, knows how ‘hands on’ I am. I noticed a huge difference. A great deal of the success myself, Duncan and our clients had, in my opinion, is because of the help of Equine Matrix.”
The latest product from Matrixhealthwerks is NRGmatrix, a gluten-free, citrus-flavored energy drink that comes in a powder form. It’s part of the Mi Matrix line for humans.
“My goal was to develop a product that would provide people with not only a source of natural energy, but many noticeable health and immune benefits, as well,” Carter said. “As someone who has made a career of health and wellness, I have been fascinated by the energy drink craze and the lack of truly healthy options. This is the perfect solution for those who are wary of energy drinks currently on the market.
“A lot of people today (rely on) caffeine and sugar,” she added. “This (NRGmatrix) works with the body. It’s a natural whole food; you’ll sleep great.”
Mi Matrix products are available online and will soon be available at local stores, fitness and yoga centers and through alternative health practitioners.
Local locations where the Equine Matrix line is carried are Mary’s Tack and Feed in Del Mar and Custom Saddlery in San Marcos.
The closest places to find Pet Matrix items are Dexter’s Deli in Carlsbad and Del Mar, Dirty Dogs in Cardiff and San Diego, and Pet Stop in La Jolla.
For more information about M2 Ingredients or Matrixhealthwerks, call (866) 740-6874 or go to equinematrix.com.