Tonya Papanikolov’s fascination with mushrooms grew from her own healing journey, her holistic nutrition studies and spending time in nature. From this came a tremendous respect for the potential power that these strange yet magical organisms harbor…
Curious about everything mushroom? I am. Read on to learn more about Tonya and her sustainable mushroom company, Rainbo:
I’m the epitome of an earthy, forest-loving Taurus. Of course I started a mushroom company!
What were you doing before Rainbo that led you down this path?
I have been studying nutritional sciences for 12 years and, about four years ago, I became a Holistic Nutritionist and plant-based chef. I began practicing, educating, consulting and teaching about the power of food as medicine and lifestyle to heal. I create a brand called The Well Woman, which is the platform and alias I use to educate, inspire and host wellness retreats — it’s really become an extension of me.
What was it — and what is it — about mushrooms that really resonated with you?
Mushrooms have long evoked a sense of awe and curiosity in me. Their brilliant colors, strangeness and power are rather enchanting. They are magical beacons of the forest. My interest in mushrooms began 8 years ago while in the Canadian forests (north of the city) and continued as I experienced their healing first-hand.
What resonates so deeply about fungi is that they’re a living, sentient species that we have so much to learn from, with such great potential for our future. I feel the rise of fungi in our current culture has come at an important time for us, collectively.
The fungi kingdom revolutionized modern medicine in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, and mushrooms themselves have been revered by ancient cultures for millennia. We have yet to tap into the full potential of their healing and that’s why I’m on a mission to inspire and educate on the power of medicinal mushrooms through Rainbo!
Fungi support not only the human immune system but the immune system of our planet. They are imbued with the intelligence of nature. Fungi are the ultimate longevity experts, managing to pave their way through a billion years of life. Mycelium weave the webs and networks that hold the fabric of our planet together, all of life relies on fungi to break down and build healthy soils and ecosystems.
From a wellness perspective, some mushrooms may increase the body’s immunity, resilience to stress and enhance certain brain functions, too. Not to mention some mushroom’s ability to expand our mind and allow for profound healing and spiritual experiences.
“Mushrooms have the incredible ability to heal
and balance the body and mind, and they help heal
our environments and ecosystems at the same time.”
Can you give us a quick synopsis of how they heal both the environment and its inhabitants (meaning us)?
All ecosystems rely on fungi! Fungi are the recyclers of our planet. They are constantly building and breaking down organic molecules in our soils: decomposing plant debris, filtering microbes and creating nutritive soil. Fungi cycle nutrients through the food chain and relay messages throughout the forest. So incredible!
Fungi have evolved to create their own resilience and resistance to bacteria and virus’ and confer the same adaptive advantages in the body.
Fungi could help save our planet in many ways. Some mushrooms hyper-accumulate toxins and clean up soil and oil spills. Oyster mushrooms produce enzymes that can digest the hydrocarbons in petroleum. 50 new plastic-eating mushrooms have now been discovered, with the capability to digest different plastics and turn them into organic material. Heavy metals in polluted waste can be sequestered into fungi, and out of harm’s way. Mycoremediation is the use of fungi-based technology to decontaminate the environment, and it holds a lot of promise.
Medicinal mushrooms each have their own distinct health benefits; however, one thing they share is their ability to modulate the human immune system. Medicinal mushrooms have been shown to enhance both innate and adaptive immunity, thereby sharpening the surveillance done by these immune cells as they roam throughout our body constantly in search of any unwanted cells. Of the many medicinally-relevant compounds, beta glucans are the main players that impact immunity.
Do you have a favorite mushroom — if so, why?
This is like asking me to choose a favourite family member! Tough question because there are a few that come to mind.
My favourite, however, is reishi. This is a mushroom that I always seem to find in the forest, or perhaps it finds me. It’s the mushroom that I first used in my healing journey and it had profound effects on my body. It has a regal quality and looks absolutely brilliant when you find it in the forest. Reishi helps the body and endocrine system adapt to stress. Stress management is something I am always working on.
Tell us about creating your 11:11 tincture. What was your goal going into it?
11:11 is my version of a multi-vitamin, but it’s a multi-mushroom blend.
Mushrooms have a synergistic effect when they come together and this is a concept that I love. Synergy occurs when the interaction of biological substances produces a greater combined effect than the sum of the individual parts. They work better together than they would on their own.
Your #1 advice for anyone interested in foraging for their own mushrooms:
Foray with experts or amateur mycologists that know a lot and that can help you identify! It’s the best way to learn. And never risk eating a mushroom unless it’s been properly identified by an expert. Also use a forager’s knife to cut the mushrooms, don’t yank them from the ground as this can injure the mycelium.
Your top 3 wellness go-to’s:
I like to approach this as pillars to health and there are more than 3 for me. Here they are:
1. Nurturing my body: an organic plant-based diet, hydration, medicinal mushrooms, and superfoods.
2. Meditating: a practice that allows me to access mystical states.
3. Sleep: non-negotiable!
4. Movement practice: yoga, dance, rebounding, pilates, HIT.
5. Purpose: connecting to the guiding force, prayer and trust.
Do you know any mushroom jokes that don’t end with “Cuz he’s a fun gi?”
Cuz she’s a fun GAL! 😉
+ Visit us for more from Tonya, including a special recipe video!