When I started SuperFeast in 2011 I was a massive health nerd.
I was obsessed with optimising my health and spent my days practicing yoga, sun-gazing each morning, collecting all my water from a spring in the Blue Mountains (in a little Holden Barina), cleansing my organs and answering the ever-increasing number of health-related questions from my family, friends and colleagues.
In my infinite quest for ultimate health, I came across medicinal mushrooms and the practice of Taoist tonic herbalism thanks to the likes of Christopher Hobbs, Ron Teeguarden, and others. I was swept away by the notion and art of layering in these super-ancient herbs into a lifestyle driven by an intent for longevity and a life full of health-infused happiness and freedom.
During this time SuperFeast was born, and after a couple years of offering mainly superfoods and supplements through the business, I realised I needed to shift the focus to bringing the wonder of these tonic herbs to Australia. I was spending every Sunday at the Frenches Forest markets in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and I was honouring an ever-increasing drive to help to deeply fortify the health of those who felt the pull to my stall and the conversations I was offering there.
Folks would bring their heart-felt intent for health along with serious health issues that required dynamic action and herbalism, and I wanted to match the need they had and offer one of the things that truly helped to transform my health: tonic herbs.
So as a herbal health nerd, swept up in the romance of tonic herbalism, with minimal experience in small business, I set about with my intent to offer medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs in Australia despite the fact that there was no one really doing it, I had no one to learn from, and it was a time when people would either laugh, guffaw or throw-up a little in their mouths when you told them to put a mushroom in their coffee.
At this point, the decision was laid out before me: wild-crafted or lab-grown mushrooms? Do I source from China or the USA?
My intent was to provide access to the most amazing, high-quality, magical, potent upgrades in health for the mums, students, entrepreneurs, starving (and affluent) artists, families, friends and all types of customers that would come to my stall and land on my website.
These values and my intent made that decision a no-brainer: get the herbs from where they’re grown in the elements and imbued with the adaptogenic qualities that nature demands of them. This is known as Dì Dào (地道) and is a super important core value for the SuperFeast philosophy.
Lab Grown Vs. Wild Crafted Herbs
I should mention that another reason I started SuperFeast was that I wanted access to a never-ending supply of superfoods, and eventually, tonic herbs! Kind of like Willy Wonka's factory, but for healthy stuff!
The apothecary I wanted to develop would represent an abundance of health in my life, and I was going to offer the herbs that I wanted to be taking and giving my family to the SuperFeast customers.
So I set about testing as many herb sources I could find (powdered extracts mainly, as that is by far the most functional way to integrate herbs into a lifestyle, in my opinion, and there was no way raw mushrooms and herbs would be allowed into Australia without being irradiated, period). (And FYI, we DO NOT allow our herbs to be irradiated, ever.)
It was wonderful, this period of testing and self-experimentation.
I was taking so many herbs from so many different places. I tried US organic lab grown, Chinese organic lab grown, dubious “wild sourced” herbs from China, Dì Dào (地道) (Di Tao) grown herbs from progressive folks in China and more.
I’d been taking herbs for a while and knew what I wanted to feel from their chemical and nutrient matrix, and most were good, but I also knew the energetic signature I wanted to be feeling, and the more subtle experience of feeling the herbs enter passages of Qi when consumed.
I learnt a lot about my body at that time, as my intent for finding the best source gave me some unique (for me) fire. I verified what I suspected right away; lab grown herbs are dramatically inferior.
I’ve studied all the reasoning and explanations for why they’re ecologically more sustainable and “cleaner,” but you know what? From the level of effectiveness alone they were to me, crap. No way was I going to build a business around that kind of herb. It lacked romance, exposure to the elements and access to the lore of the land they come from (when grown in China), the Taoists.
China; The Home of Wood Grown Mushrooms
At this point, I also got to experience functional mushrooms that were grown on grain.
I was amused that people who were advocating grass-fed meat and dairy (because we know grain is a shitty food for livestock, and probably isn't an ideal human food either), were growing their mushrooms on grain.
When you’re tuned into the mushies and want the best possible experience and value for money (considering we’re not harvesting our own wild herbs but accessing a powdered form that can be taken while rocking life in everyday (#convenient), why would you accept this?
NOTE: I still see the nutritive value of lab-grown, grain- and/or wood-grown mushrooms and tonic herbs to provide for aspects of the market, especially when obtaining mycelium is the intent. I am simply talking about the process I went through in choosing the herbs I would offer to the folks who choose SuperFeast and in trusting myself with offering health advice to others.
Wildly harvesting herbs, to me, is the best of both worlds. We're not depleting the natural population of the herbs but we ARE allowing the herbs to grow in wild conditions and without human assistance.
There are arguments for Dì Dào (地道) farming being not sustainable, yet I find this attitude defeatist and pedestrian when used in a definitive way. Dì Dào (地道) farming has been around for thousands of years (most indigenous populations Dì Dào (地道) farmed and manipulated plant and animal populations for their benefit).
It is how the herbs have been made available for centuries in China (for example, shiitake only really took off as a herb once it was able to be cultivated).
The issue with wild-crafting is always scale and harvesting methods, and for now, we're a tiny company with a sustainable wild-crafting practice. (You can see our FAQ page on wild-crafting for more info.)
Mr Qi training other Reishi farmers to grow Dì Dào (地道). Helps to localise the industry. Helps us slowly increase the amount of mushrooms and herbs we can access. If someone decides to begin using modern farming practices, scaling up and abandoning the traditions and boundaries of Dì Dào (地道) growing, the herb’s quality drops and we don’t buy from them any more. Those farmers who continue to focus on exposing the herbs to the rugged elements and only wild water, keeping it as close as possible to the wild harvested herb, get our support and loyalty; so everyone wins.
Everyone Likes To Pick On China
I mean, at the moment, with this global virus situation unfolding, this point is even more relevant. Please be rest assured that from farmer, to the processing facility, to our Australian warehouse - we maintain meticulous standards, always.
I have been in business since 2011 and have never once had a contamination issue. Our partners in China carry out daily environmental disinfection and personnel health monitoring.
With regards to exact sourcing locations, all our farms are small-batch, rural, away from high-density populations. Our facilities were closed prior to the outbreak (due to Chinese New Year), and then they had a two-week extension to their holiday as a precaution. So prior to the real outbreak, all facilities were closed.
The other most important thing to note is that we work within a fully accredited GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility - the highest accreditation for factories of its kind. In order to maintain this accreditation, you have to be fully capable of keeping viruses and sickness out of the facility, at all times, not just during an outbreak, but it also means that there are means and processes ready to be launched when it happens.
Our tonic herbs undergo rigorous processing and extraction techniques to produce the potent 10:1 extract powder. This is a 3-stage high pressure heat extract. This is such a thorough measure to ensure purity that Australia will allow us to import mushrooms because of this process. The herbs don’t get handled by anyone until our team in Australia, after being processed. As always the herbs are also tested before shipping from China at our manufacturing facility for metals, pesticides, moulds, microbials and more this testing also occurs at a TGA lab in Australia and our herbs always pass with flying colours.
Please know we simply do not take risks with the quality and purity of our herbs and we will always err on the side of caution. We also test regularly in Australia to ensure our Chinese results match the Australian TGA facility lab results.
But rewind, to when I was starting out on my tonic herb journey - not being a business-minded person, I ignored the fact that people have a stigma about anything sourced from China (in a way, understandably) and went full-throttle with finding the best possible wild harvested (fully wild, where possible) source for the herbs and mushrooms.
I wanted to connect with those who were working proactively and progressively to bring the magic of tonic herbalism and medicinal mushrooms to the world (not easy to find, but I was stubborn once again).
This meant that the herbs had to be sourced from high-mountain regions, extracted in spring water (not municipal water), tested for metals, aflatoxins, microbes and pesticides (I now have independent testing for the herbs in both the US and Australia and the results are f#*king awesome) and Dì Dào (地道), meaning the herbs were grown where their spiritual home is, where the stories and lore of the herbs are strong.
Testing the water
That, my friends, is something that a lab-grown herb that grows without feeling the rain or the wind, will never experience.
At the time we were also tracking the path of radioactive fallout coming out of Japan and confirmed that the radioactive “cloud” was heading east towards Hawaii and the west coast of the US and Canada, not China.
Another factor to consider is just how stupidly huge China is compared to the zones dedicated to industrialisation.
The mountainous regions where the herbs are wildcrafted by the culture that has integrated with them for thousands of years are so rural that no protection is needed to keep them safe from industry… though the Chinese government does offer some protection to herb growing regions, in light of the interest that is growing in this ancient herbal tradition. (Imagine that, by taking tonic herbs we can PRESERVE these regions!)
But what if industrialisation expands to those areas unsuspectedly?
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been raised to the status of a national development strategy by the Chinese authorities. Because the Chinese are the culture that is connected to these herbs, they are the ones I’m going to trust to have the know-how, the intent and the land to grow the most potent Chinese tonic herbs.
I wish to support that effort, not switch to a lab grown mushroom from America because it works better for short-term branding. The thinking that all Chinese business is awful is based on individuals caught up in egoic business and industrialisation practices; you’ll have to accept that that’s the same as saying all Americans are a**holes because they elected Trump.
After I’d initially sourced and began to offer the herbs with great success (for the customers), I started to realise more and more the prejudice there was towards anything from China.
My bubble kind of burst a little as I realised how reasonable it was for folks to have that distaste/distrust towards Chinese products based on the types of agricultural, baby formula, livestock, “organic” produce etc scandals and swindles we’ve been exposed to in the past couple of decades.
At this time I was becoming more and more aware that I was running a business and staring down the gauntlet of years and years of being asked why we source from China, being turned down by stores who only chose organic (even though our products test completely free of pesticides and herbicides), being easy pickings for scrutiny from other herb sellers etc… and I didn’t flinch for a second. China was the place I was going to get my Chinese tonic herbs that helped craft my health (just as the Amazon is where we source our Amazonian herbs #didao), and Australia is where I want my macadamias grown!
No way would I compromise quality and potency for a pretty “organic” stamp and lab-grown mushies. Having strong values was going to set us apart from the nay-sayers in other herbal companies that like looking over the fence at competitors and telling fibs.
We continue to lead the way in bringing medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs to Australia and the world, and will continue to do so. I hope this has helped to reassure you that not only are our herbs of the highest quality but that we are committed to ensuring that every part of our business maintains the highest level of integrity and safety for our team, our customers, our families and friends - because at the end of the day - we all take these herbs too.
Restoring Taoism and True Chinese Medicine
In the 50s Mao Zedong took control of China’s political system through the communist party and began to “take China into the modern era.” This meant massive reform of the most ancient system of medicine in the world. It also translates to us a war on true Chinese medicine.
What we now know as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is the result of merging Western medical pathology and symptomology approaches with Chinese medical principals, however making the approach and intent completely different, especially in the fact that it does not use YinYang and Wu Xing (5 elements) as the driving force of healing. CCM (Classical Chinese Medicine) is the system that has been used for thousands of years, stays true to the YinYang Wu Xing foundations, and the one that actually works. At the ancient roots of CCM is Taoism.
Taoism considers the cosmic nature of the human system, aims for harmony through lifestyle, connecting to the elements and various practices that are hugely effective and time tested. It looks at the human as being connected to nature, and instructs us how to use herbs and practices to cultivate energy and prevent illness. This system came under even more severe attack from the Mao government. It is only because of brave and wise individuals who either fled China or secretly kept these teachings alive in secret in China (risking their lives to do so) that we still have this ancient philosophy and system that is needed so much during this time.
This is the system that we support the emergence of.
Thanks to all those brave souls, the spirit of Taoist practice and true CCM survived, and we can exonerate those who made this possible by continuing its restoration and preservation. This is what we have always intended to do by practicing Taoist tonic herbalism. We’re proud to be working with those farmers who have picked up the torch of growing Dì Dào (地道) herbs. This style of growing herbs is not acknowledged in the TCM system, but thanks to the growing awareness of how these herbs can support us in cultivating life within ourselves, many farmers are able to come back to this growing tradition.
TCM is linear, it sees the body much in the same way as a western doctor does (because it was developed in the 50s and 60s by western trained doctors), and so it only sees cause and effect.
The Taoist approach opens up into the magical, multidimensional reality of what the body and the organs are. It teaches that the body has Three Treasures: Jing, Qi and Shen, that we can cultivate through herbs, energy practices and living in flow with nature. The magic of these teachings needs preservation. This is why we talk about the philosophy behind our herbs so much, because without honouring the ancient Chinese roots of this herbal system, then we’d be out of integrity. To just get Chinese herbs and then market them as adaptogens without respecting the tradition feels shallow for us. It certainly makes it easier to sell herbs as you can focus on the linear benefits that Western minds love, but it lacks substance, and ultimately folks miss long term use of the herbs, which for us is a tragedy as the possibilities for health can blossom when you bring the herbs into your permanent diet, just as the Taoists did.
Since this is the most powerful preventative herbal system ever created, and since these herbs are most potent when grown in China, then it is the only logical place to source them, meanwhile contributing to the restoration of a beautiful system that is still being attempted to be stomped out and swallowed by the western model.
My Vision Was Confirmed
A couple of years ago I had the chance to learn from and meet Ron Teeguarden, founder of legendary herb company Dragon Herbs and one of the men who inspired my interest in herbalism. Ron led the way in bringing tonic herbs from China to the West; he is a true pioneer.
I spoke to him about SuperFeast and the direction I’d chosen to take.
His response set my vision in concrete.
He said that he spent many many years in China at the herb farms, and that nobody in the world loved and respected these Taoist tonic herbs like those that had had them ensconced in their culture for thousands of years. The level of intention and dedication that went into cultivating the best possible herbs (when you found the right growers) and innovating the next levels of sustainable growing (to preserve the land that offers these gifts) was next-level and simply couldn’t be matched.
And so, I met a mentor, and he instilled in me a resolve to further dedicate myself and the biz to supporting those who were preserving this aspect of Taoism that I felt the world needed more than ever, and to educate the market about why Dì Dào (地道) herbs (grown where they naturally emerge) that are exposed to the elements, nurtured by an ancient tradition and grown in pristine environments.
Also, you’ll be happy to know China has many initiatives, laws and policies in place to bring back traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism after it was attempted to be wiped out last century, such as:
- Law of the People's Republic of China on Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Chinese Medicinal Herbs Protection and Development Plan
- Beautiful China Plans
You can email or call us any time if you want any more info on this matter and speak to us directly firstname.lastname@example.org or 1300 769 500.
We’re super proud about where we source our herbs from and the fact that we are supporting the restoration of a tradition, that frankly the West needs right now. I mean, herbs that nourish the immune system and help the body adapt to stress? Sounds pretty good for a population that’s always sick and strung out.