Here at SuperFeast, we practise a dynamic philosophy for sourcing herbs called Di Tao. You can read all about Di Tao here. Another process we put a lot of energy into is the very particular extraction methods we use to create these beautiful extract powders.
We are thoroughly inspired by the Taoists who came before us; those who over thousands of years developed this system of tonic herbalism in order to support their profound intentions for life, health and spirituality. With this system they delved deep into their relationship and understanding of the herbs, thankfully documenting their findings more thoroughly than anyone else in the world so we can continue to honour and walk their path.
Unlike modern Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine which focus on isolating or increasing percentages of particular active ingredients in herbal products and drugs, these ancient herbalists focused on using only natural extraction mediums and menstruum’s (solvent’s) like water (tea or broth) and alcohol or fat (tinctures, wines etc) in order to extract each and every element possible from the herb. This intention comes from a desire to keep the herb completely unified where possible and this is the same philosophy and method we choose to apply to our SuperFeast products.
Each and every herb has hundreds, if not thousands, of bioactive compounds that contribute to the full scope of the herb’s medicinal benefits, and it takes a lot of care to ensure as many of these are present in the extraction as possible. It is through these full-spectrum extractions in ancient times that Taoists were able to identify that these herbs were in fact tonic, and could aid us in cultivating vibrancy within our body and mind. There are still so many of these bioactive compounds that are yet to be identified by modern science but that does not mean they are not paramount to the herbs’ benefits. We know that these compounds are all needed in their natural ratios to harness the full effect of the herb. That is why we never standardise our herbs, you can read about our view on that here. The symbiotic nature of many of these unknown or underrated compounds are what brings great efficacy to the known active ingredients. Each compound can modify and balance out the effects of the others, ensuring that the herb remains tonic and adaptogenic to the system. For us, if we were to focus on increasing the percentage of particular active ingredients, we’d be doing so at the expense of other compounds. From our perspective, when isolating compounds or standardising, you naturally no longer have the complete tonic herb that the ancients identified as a superior herb, and thus it is not the same herb that they spoke about in their texts.
In the early days of searching for the most comprehensively extracted herbs that honour the ‘old way’, it was difficult to find a team to process our herbs that placed this level of importance on the extraction process according to the Taoist tradition. However we’ve definitely got that sorted now.
The Taoists were never able to, nor interested in focusing on extraction methods or concentrations that would isolate or increase just one active ingredient (i.e. beta glucans, triterpenes etc). Although we are not against these practices for clinical applications or for specific intentions (there is of course a time and a place for them), we have found that with regards to our interest in using these herbs throughout our lifetime to maintain flourishing health, our current method and intention was by far the best to support us and the community we serve. Our philosophy around our tonic herb extracts will never change.
10:1 EXTRACTION METHOD
This standard ratio of ours means we use 10 kilograms of dry herb to create 1 kilogram of concentrated extract powder. This is a traditionally used extract ratio used in classical Chinese medicine. This allows us to create a product which contains the maximum possible array of naturally occurring medicinal components in their innate and natural ratios. Just to help you wrap your head around why this is our personal preference, there’s only a certain amount of surface area and physical medicine that you can extract from 10 kgs of raw herb. 10kgs, when fully extracted and the herb fully spent, will roughly give us 1kg of extract powder (slight variation between different herbs) without wasting any element of the herbal extraction (including all the elements that aren’t identified or are simply not marketable). If we were to increase this ratio, we’d find that there would be elements of the herb not able to make the final 1kg in place of other compounds that would take precedence.
Essentially, what you are receiving is a powdered form of the very intentionally created herbal tincture and / or tea. Some herbs are solely extracted in water as the medicinal compounds of the herb are completely water soluble, whereas other herbs require the additional use of alcohol in order to access those compounds that are fat soluble, such as particular adaptogenic compounds in chaga and reishi. It is important to note that we use an organic rice alcohol of which there is zero alcohol left in the final product after it is evaporated off.
Mason (founder of SuperFeast) at the SuperFeast Lion’s Mane farm - it takes 10kg of this fresh Lion’s Mane to make 1kg of our potent extract powder
EXTRACTION PROCESS BY TRAINED HERBALISTS
In order to achieve a true full-spectrum extract that meets our personal standards you need folks working with the extracts who are highly trained in both the equipment we use and the herbs themselves. The herbs are processed in a fully GMP accredited facility, operated by a team including tonic herbalists who are classically trained in herbalism, and thus they share the intent of SuperFeast. Rather than following industry standards and automation procedures for extracting the herbs, we sought a team who understood the unique characteristics of each herb and were able to extract upon these as the Taoists did.
The name for this practice used by herbalists in antiquity is Hou Hou (火候). This is the art of decocting / extracting a herb specifically through adjusted heat, pressure, menstruum and length of time required to extract each herb fully and without denaturing it. This term roughly translates to heat control; crucial moment; maturity.
Each herb or mushroom goes through a 2-3 stage high pressure extraction process. This is where we ensure that every ounce of medicine within the herb is carefully transferred into the extraction medium to eventually become the extract powder we all love. The temperature and timing are unique to each herb and are strictly controlled in order to ensure it is not heated too much, nor for too long. This Hou Hou practice is a never-ending, dynamic process that means you will have the intention that is poured into every SuperFeast herb.
One very important process that is often overlooked, involves the collection of the aromatic oils from the herbs which are important bioactive components. Our team uses a unique, patented process in an essential oil retrieval system, which uses an oil trap connected to the extraction system to capture and preserve the volatile oils. They are blended back into the powder at the end of the process.These essential oils increase the efficacy and ensure the herbs maintain their natural aroma and palette.
Each of the herbs are grown in environments where they are only exposed to wild water. Once in the facility purified water is used in every stage of the process. This water is prepared from a drinking source through a combination of filters; nanofiltration, reverse osmosis (RO), electro-deionisation and vapour compression to remove all contaminants, including microorganisms, organic matter, heavy metals, and free residual chlorine.
This is where the herb is turned from a liquid to a powder.. A vacuum cryogenic concentration system is used to concentrate the liquid down. Once complete, the liquid extractions flow through a sealed pipeline from the extraction tank and is then gradually condensed through low temperature evaporation. The precise concentration temperature and timing is strictly controlled as per each herb's characteristics. The low temperature we are able to use preserves the potency of the herbal extract that would otherwise be damaged under extended exposure to high temperatures.
The concentrated liquid extracts are then dried by using an ultra high speed spray drying system. During this process, the liquid herbal concentration is atomised into fine droplets, which are thrown radially into a moving stream of hot air. The temperature of the droplets is immediately increased and the liquid is dried instantaneously, leaving the extract powder. The whole drying process completes in a few seconds. Spray drying timing, temperature and spraying velocity is adjusted in accordance with Hou Hou principles.
SPENT HERBAL MARC
After extraction we are left with the original herb that has now been thoroughly extracted of its medicine. Rather than just throw this out, using a high-temperature fermentation process, the herbal residue is made into an organic fertiliser. The whole fermentation process is carried out in a closed reactor and allows us to continue to contribute to the closed circle economy.
The final product is then gently sifted and is ready to go forth and be weaved into our lifestyles, supporting our intentions for health. We are very grateful to all those who in the past have made contributions to this industry so that these kinds of processes are available to us. This allows us as a community to access these beautiful products when we may not have the time or expertise to do so ourselves.
We are also so incredibly grateful to the legends we work with in China who are so dedicated to the ‘old way’ and literally inspire us everyday with their love of these tonic herbs. You can read all about why we source our herbs from China and always will, here. Although this is all done to ensure that all bioavailable constituents are present in the final product, we do believe that there are energetic components too that are incredibly important to the efficacy of these herbs. These components are that “special something” when you are taking the herb, the literal feeling of the Three Treasures (Jing, Qi and Shen) being present in the herb. Although it is always best to get this from the herbs you harvest wild yourself, we have done everything possible to ensure that the energetic “Treasure” is still present within your SuperFeast product and we think we’ve done an awesome job of it. If you treat the herbs with respect and reverence through the cycle of growth, harvest and extraction then we feel you’ve got a great chance of keeping the spirit of the herb in the product.
Mason checking out the SuperFeast Schizandra berry orchard, in Changbai Mountain