Tonya Papanikolov, Founder of Rainbo, Says Mushrooms Will Heal You
The brains behind the medicinal mushroom-based line of functional foods and supplements on the powers of mushrooms, the importance of having a spiritual practice, and the ideal wellness routine.
There are self-care gurus, and then there are health hackers. The latter seeks to unlock new solutions (sometime through old practices) to actually feel better. Tonya Papanikolov is the latter. Growing up in Ontario, she had access to forests. The nutritional scientist explored nature's healing properties at a young age and was particularly pulled to the power of mushrooms. Now, as the founder of Rainbo, the beloved line of mushroom supplements (which a lot of people swear by), Tonya is sharing her learnings with a wider community.
Tonya started Rainbo in 2018 after having first-hand healing experiences related to digestion and immunity. With a focus on self and collective actualization, she is providing natural solutions for focus, anxiety, energy and immunity with tinctures and more mushroom-based products. Through Rainbo, Tonya is sharing her the core beliefs around nature's healing powers: "Mushrooms hold the intelligence to heal but they can only spread their wisdom with us if the ecosystem we share is a healthy one," her site reads. "World saving solutions are underfoot, and we’re bringing them to light for the benefit of all beings."
Below, the founder shares how she came into the world of mushrooms, what she's learned about wellness along the way, and what her routine is like now.
What is the genesis story behind Rainbo? How did you get into the world of mushrooms?
My healing journey began as a teenager and those experiences really directed my focus from a young age. I’ve been studying nutritional sciences and holistic modalities ever since and have devoted my life’s work to helping people heal through functional nutrition, mycotherapy and lifestyle and mind-body medicine. My first-hand healing experience with fungi began in 2011 which sparked my passion, reverence and belief in the magic of mushrooms. I got into the world of mushrooms through a sense of discovery and play in the Ontario forests. I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way that inspired my passion. And nature itself invoked a perpetual state of awe in me that has simply never left.
What/when was the first time you experienced, first-hand, the benefits of mushrooms?
In 2016 after 8 weeks of therapeutic dosage of Reishi.
Was there a specific symptom or ailment you saw improve?
Improved digestion – bloating and IBS symptoms improved drastically through the liver support. Breakouts on my face disappeared. Emotional and spiritual resilience and a newfound sense of mental strength as I was going through a challenging period. Uplifted spirit and mood.
What are the little-known facts about the scientific benefits of mushrooms (and specifically, your products!)? What surprises people the most?
Medicinal mushrooms each have their own distinct health benefits, however one thing they all have in common is their ability to modulate the human immune system. They 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.
Beta glucans are carbohydrates found in the cell walls of fungi. They are acid resistant, allowing them to pass through the stomach following consumption, and reach the small intestine where they activate receptors located on intestinal immune cells. This activation leads to a wide array of immune responses targeting the white blood cells of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Studies have shown that following medicinal mushrooms intake, beta glucans stimulate the proliferation of these immune cells, while also stimulating the production of cytokines which further activates the immune response.
You have extensive knowledge in health and wellness. What are a few ways you’ve adjusted your lifestyle / adopted your learnings into your routine?
Life is full and I’m typically pretty maxed out in terms of work, doing my Masters and spending time with friends, family and community. I always come back to the absolute essentials: sleep, food, water, movement and space.
High quality sleep:
I used to be a night owl and I’ve been working on going to bed at an earlier time which has been revolutionary in terms of energy and output. Sleep hygiene is essential to me: 8+ hours of sleep, beeswax earplugs, cold room, wifi off, complete darkness, boundaries with work and devices in the nightime (this is a continual WIP). Even if you just work on a few of these at a time, it has such a major impact on your health and ability to feel your best.
Food & Water
I’ve been a big proponent of pure spring water for a while. Even when I barely had any money in my 20s, I invested everything I did have into organic food and spring water. Food and water fuels the body, mind, cells, repairs every organ, builds our brain and ultimately the sum of these parts puts our vision into the manifest 3D reality of this world. Giving myself the best building blocks possible has helped me heal and feel my best.
Movement & Space
Every morning is devoted to movement and space. Movement typically looks like stretching, Kundalini yoga, breath work, meditation, dancing or a walk. In the afternoons, I will do more strenuous exercise, pilates, lift weights, swim or run. I try for at least 30 minutes of activity per day, or more on days where I do a class or go to the gym. Other days it will look like a night of dancing with my besties. Anytime and every time, movement is medicine.
I use the term space to describe an experience of time that is vast and not hurried. Space refers to a distancing and a homecoming. It is space for reflection, journaling, digging into my subconscious, working through my triggers. It is time for myself. A time to hang up all the roles I play, to just sit and listen and ask questions. If I do not leave time for space, I find myself in the trap of time-stress. Never feeling like there is enough of this precious commodity we call time. Space gives me time to integrate, decide, prioritze and ensure that I am in integrity with my heart and spirit.
If you had to choose 3 tips for how people can live better (whether including or not including mushrooms/rainbo) what would they be?
1) Develop a spiritual practice. Put your devotion towards something greater than yourself and work towards it. Continue to break free of your fears and choose love, choose to amplify love.
2) Improve your health and immunity with medicinal mushrooms. Heal your traumas, open your mind and heart with a psilocybin journey. Magic mushrooms may not be for everyone but explore if it may be for you.
3) Eat a whole foods diet, eliminate processed foods and drink high quality water.
What gets you out of bed in the morning, or what excites you most about what you’re doing?
Morning is my favourite time of day, and I have fallen in love with my morning routine, how it feels and how lucky I am to do what I love every day. What keeps me excited is that I feel like the Master of my destiny. If i’m going through a tough time, i can only look to myself to make the necessary changes. Realizing that every day is a new chance to do better, get better, give bigger and unfold deeper into my fullest potential and to help steward Rainbo into its highest expression – keeps me motivated, challenged and constantly surpassing new levels.
What is your biggest aspiration with Rainbo?
Rainbo is a force of healing. My greatest hope is that our products, brand and ethos helps to foster healing and deepen one’s relationship with their body and nature at large.
What is your current Rainbo routine? Which products are you using?
I use Reishi and Lion’s Mane every morning in my matcha, 4ml each. This is the season for Chaga so I’m typically brewing chaga tea every few days, which doesn’t have caffeine and is a great afternoon or bedtime tea. My favourite way to use our products is to tune into how i’m feeling and choose my mushroom accordingly. If my energy is dipping, I opt for Cordyceps. If I feel under the weather, I go for Chaga and Turkey Tail. Reishi though is my forever staple. Helping to bring me into my favourite focused, calm but alert state.
What’s one thing you’d tell your younger self, given what you know now, what you are doing now, and where you’ve landed?
Stay weird! Stay wild, curious, playful, silly, imaginative and open. The world needs you exactly as you are. Don’t try to fit into a pre-determined mold of how it “should” look. You are here to redefine things, ask questions and create solutions. Keep trusting yourself, its a lifelong journey.