Immune Shrooms: Q & A with Rainbo Mushrooms CEO Tonya Papanikolov

Immune Shrooms: Q & A with Rainbo Mushrooms CEO Tonya Papanikolov

We chatted with Tonya Papanikolov, CEO of Rainbo Mushrooms, to get the scoop on medicinal mushrooms. Tonya shares with us why she is so passionate about mushrooms and the transformational effect they’ve had on her life. She also talks about their anti-aging and immune boosting benefits, as well as which mushrooms help to increase energy and libido, and which ones promote relaxation and improve mental health.

Tonya, can you tell us a bit about your background and why you are so passionate about medicinal mushrooms?

I’m a forest-loving Taurus and am the Founder & CEO of Rainbo. Aside from being on the journey of social entrepreneurship, I’m also a Holistic Nutritionist, educator, cook and a yogi. 

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 and upgrade through functional nutrition, mycotherapy and integrative lifestyle practices.

I studied Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences in my undergrad and then studied Holistic Nutrition at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I’ve also been practicing and studying yoga for 10+ years. Yoga changed my life in a big way and I’m now in a Kundalini Teacher Training program.

My first-hand healing experience with fungi began in 2011, which sparked my passion, reverence, and belief in the magic of mushrooms. In 2016 I had a profound healing with Reishi mushroom and this really solidified my passion and curiosity for the fungi queendom.

Since 2018, I’ve been building the Rainbo brand and product line of dietary supplements and functional foods. Our mushrooms are grown locally and sustainably in Canada.

What are some of the benefits of supplementing with medicinal mushrooms?

Immune support – mushrooms contain compounds that act as immunomodulators meaning they can upregulate or downregulate your immune system depending on what it needs

Antioxidant support

Longevity and healthy aging

DNA and cell protection from free radicals

Liver support

Brain and cognitive support


Stress support – adaptogenic 

Sleep support – calming and relaxing

Your line of medicinal mushrooms are in tincture form. What are the advantages of using a tincture rather than a powder extract?

At Rainbo our tinctures are made by using both hot water and alcohol in what’s called a dual extraction process. We love tinctures for the following reasons:

Bioavailability: Unless subjected to an extraction method, most of the medicinal compounds locked up in mushrooms will not be bioavailable for absorption in the body. A dual extraction is the best method to access the most complete range of compounds from the mushroom.

Absorption: Herbalists state that alcohol increases the absorption of an herb by approximately 30 per cent, so the doses can be much smaller.

Faster absorption rate: An extract in liquid form is absorbed faster by the body than a powder extract, with absorption starting in the mucous membranes of the mouth.

Stable quality: The alcohol in a tincture gives it a long shelf life and maintains its potency over time.

Easy to mix: As a liquid, tinctures are easy to add to other liquids and mix into food dishes without the clumping of powders.

Time: Tinctures are the quickest way to reap the benefits at full bioavailability. You can put the tincture right into the mouth or in a water bottle with no need to shake or mix in as you would a powder.

Do you have a favorite mushroom? One that you find to be the most transformational?

Reishi is my mushroom! It’s the mushroom that I experienced radical healing shifts with.

I feel incredibly connected to Reishi and revere this mushroom’s power, potency and spirit. I take Reishi every day for its relaxing, calming, adaptogenic effects and to help balance the stress and high efficiency, driving, doing parts of me (that are required to run a business!).

Which mushroom/mushrooms do you recommend for anti-aging and longevity?



Turkey Tail

Which mushrooms are best for strengthening the immune system?

All of them!

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.

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. 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.

Lion’s Mane is known as a brain support mushroom. Can you tell us how it improves mental health?

Yes! Lion’s Mane has become famous for its brain supportive qualities as it promotes cognitive function enhancement, including improved memory, clarity, and focus.

Lion’s Mane extract stimulates the production of nerve growth factor, “NGF”, which in turn stimulates the growth and protection of nerve cells ie. neurons, which are your brain cells. It may help prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. 

Cordyceps is a really powerful mushroom for energy. How does it work, and does it have any other benefits?

Cordyceps increases ATP levels in the body, which is the molecule that powers our cells. Extracts of Cordyceps support energy metabolism in the body, boosting athletic endurance and increasing oxygen uptake in cells.

Cordyceps has also been shown to support a healthy libido and may also enhance fertility by increasing sperm count, survival rate and quality. 

Cordyceps is also an adaptogen, and helps to balance the stress and adrenal response. Its extract supports cognitive function and protects the cardiovascular system, providing anti-aging support.

Is there a mushroom you recommend for alleviating stress?

Reishi is commonly known as the go-to mushroom for supporting stress, the stress response, calming the mind and spirit, nourishing the liver and supporting a healthy sleep cycle.

Reishi is a potent adaptogen which helps the body manage and adapt to stress. It’s an anti-inflammatory packed with antioxidants as well.

Your 11:11 tincture contains a blend of 11 different mushrooms. What are the benefits of combining these mushrooms together?  Are there certain mushrooms that work together synergistically?

Combining the power of these 11 mushrooms together in one tincture allows our immune system to be activated in a multifactorial way thereby enhancing the protective effect. The complementary constituents from each mushroom extract broaden the opportunity for therapeutic benefit, covering each individual’s unique body chemistry and physiology. In 11:11 our mushrooms act together to synergistically optimize health.

To learn more about Rainbo Mushrooms check out their website and Instagram below: