Our frequently asked questions come from you, our SuperFeasters! We love how super-curious our customers are about our herbs, and we take our mission of sourcing the best herbs available very seriously. We are always transparent about our herbs and supplements, about their efficacy and their origins, about our process and about how we use and enjoy them. If your question is not answered below, please feel free to email us via our Contact Us page, and we'll get back to you ASAP.
Tonic herbs were first mentioned in the Emperor Shen Nong's Classic Herbal around 2,000 years ago. This text was a culmination of thousands of years of traditional herbal wisdom from the many healers in ancient China. The text classifies herbs according to three distinct categories.
First, “superior herbs”, which can be consumed daily with cumulative health benefits. Then, “regular herbs”, which are used to treat the sick, but should not be used for an extended period of time due to the potential long-term negative side effects. Finally, “inferior herbs”, which are mostly toxic herbs, which should be used for a short time, to get a powerful and fast result when treating a serious illness. "Superior herbs" were also known as "imperial herbs" and were used daily by only the wisest and wealthiest people, including Emperors.
What we know today as tonic herbs are those herbs that are classified as “superior herbs,” that is, herbs to be consumed daily to promote longevity, prevent illness, and improve quality of life. These superior herbs are further categorised as Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood tonics. The effects of these herbs are well understood and documented, as they have been used by thousands of years by master herbalists. They are collectively known to be safe, well-tolerated and effective.
Tonics are very gentle and slow acting in the body, and they provide nutrients that the body can use, such as vitamins, minerals, and many other constituents like plant pigments, including anthocyanins or flavonoids. Large quantities can be given without harm of overstressing cells, tissues, organs or body systems. Most importantly, the therapeutic and toxic doses are very far apart, which allows for a large margin of safety. For this reason, these herbs are called "superior" herbs in TCM.
The tonics are remedies that are well-tolerated, do not force the body to change, but rather work with it to adapt and have a slow, nourishing and normalising effect on body systems, imparting strength and tone (which means an ability to respond, from tonus). In Western herbal medicine, these medicines were called "alternatives," "roborants" or even "tonics." The most famous example in this category is ginseng. Ayurveda contains its own tonics too, and we'll be adding some of our favourite Ayurvedic tonics to the store soon.
Tonic herbs are not a trend. They are grounded in thousands of years of empirical evidence. Their safety has been verified in modern times with scientific research, confirming the effects these ancient herbal scientists monitored over thousands of years.
We include tonic herbs in our diet to create an immune and hormonal system that cannot be messed with, to help us remain adaptive to our environments and because we love being SuperHuman!
Medicinal mushrooms are NOT magic mushrooms (though there is some evidence they can be medicinal too)! Medicinal mushrooms are some of the most prized tonic herbs (see above) in the world, and are unmatched in their ability to build immunity and adaptability. In the wild, medicinal mushrooms favour particular trees to grow on, and unlike nearly all other companies who grow their mushrooms on rice or wood chips, we ensure that ours are consciously wild-harvested from the trees they love to grow on so you receive the maximum benefits.
The main benefits to working with a herbal extract are convenience and potency. Working with a powder or a tincture is generally much easier for most of us, and allows us to consume these incredible herbs without having to spend hours in the kitchen or the apothecary ourselves (though we highly recommend exploring that if you're keen!). Most herbs need to be processed in some way in order for their medicinal properties to be made bio-available to humans, whether it's steeping in boiling water for 20 mins - 2+ hrs or leaving to extract in alcohol for weeks, months or years. You can learn more about how we extract our herbs below. Other benefits include:
Extracts allow for optimal absorption
Extracts bring about changes in the body much quicker than other methods of taking herbs
Extracts have a long-shelf life (approx. 2 years)
Extracts allow you to get to know the taste of the herbs/mushrooms
Extracts are more concentrated
Many different herbs/mushroom extracts can be combined to make a customised blend (e.g Mason's Mushrooms, our Beauty Blend)
Extracts can easily be taken in hot water, smoothies or juices, tonic elixirs or tea
Extracts are convenient and easy to take
Extracts are safe to travel with - ever tried to carry around a jar of ground chaga mushroom, in order to make teas? We have! Customs don't like it!!
Our dual-extracted herbs are extracted in quality spring water and organic standard non-GMO edible rice alcohol. If you've ever had a herbal tincture from the naturopath, you're taking an alcohol extract; if you've ever boiled herbs in hot water for a long time you've had a water extract. There are benefits to both ways of extracting herbs - the alcohol extracts the fat-soluble components of the herbs (e.g. in the medicinal mushrooms it will extract the triterpenoids) while the water extracts the immune-enhancing polysaccharides. See above why we prefer to take extracted herbs, for convenience and potency.
After extracting our herbs in water or water and ethanol (for a dual-extraction), the concentrated liquid extracts are dried using an ultra high-speed spray dryer. During this process, the liquid herbal concentration is atomised into fine droplets, which are thrown radially into a moving stream of hot gas. The temperature of the droplets is immediately increased and fine droplets get dried instantaneously. The whole drying process completes in a few seconds for maximally retained herbal potency.
In the spray drying process, heat and mass transfer during drying occurs in the air, protecting the vapour films surrounding the extract, preventing it from being damaged by the heat. This protective envelope of vapour keeps the particle at the saturation temperature. As long as the particle does not become “bone-dry”, evaporation is still taking place and the temperature of the solids will not approach the dryer temperature. This is why many heat-sensitive products can be spray dried easily at relatively high temperatures. The herbal extracts are then sieved through a fine mesh, to achieve a uniform consistency to the final product.
We have all our herbs routinely tested for heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury), contaminants such as yeast and mould, aflatoxins, pesticides, radiation, ethylene oxide (ETO) residue, E. Coli & Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. We have Certificates of Analysis available for all batches of our herbs and MSM; please feel free to contact us to request these documents, delivered straight to your inbox.
We generally recommend you start taking the herbs in small doses, daily, if possible. Start with 1/4-1/2 tsp and build up from there to doses as high as tablespoons a day; your body will let you know if you need more or less as you experiment. Usually a morning dose is best, though you can generally take them any time of day (reishi is great in the evening before bed for a restful night's sleep). Slowly build your dose up over a couple of weeks; tonic herbs are friendly but you want to introduce them to your body mindfully so it can find its sweet spot. Dosage is really personal - some people need quite a large dose (larger bodies, stronger constitutions), others need smaller doses (smaller bodies, more sensitive constitutions), so we ask that you experiment with the dose that's best for you.
Everyone is different, and depending on your level of interoception (internal awareness), your sensitivity and your health, you may feel benefits immediately or it may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month for you to feel the shifts. Tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms work best when we allow the cumulative effects to develop over time. For great results we recommend consuming one or more of our products regularly for at least 30-100 days.
If you have our extract powders, just mix, blend or stir them into your beverage or meal of choice (we like to just mix our herbs with hot water and honey when we're in a rush, for a quick medicinal tea or coffee alternative). For liquid extracts and tinctures, just pinch the dropper top to fill the dropper and add to your beverage of choice. You can see our Recipes pagefor some inspiration.
The only tonic herbs we recommend while pregnant are reishi and eucommia bark, provided the mother feels it is safe for her to add these herbs in. There is very little peer-reviewed research available on the use of tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms during pregnancy. Since pregnancy involves changes in the immune function, it’s best to proceed with care. We advise consulting with your doctor or caregiver before using medicinal mushroom or tonic herb extracts during pregnancy, just to be on the safe side.
Anecdotally, Master Herbalist Ron Teeguarden reports of pregnant women in Asia seeking out the herb reishi as an immune builder for themselves and their foetus. From the book, Healing Thresholds, "Master Teeguarden spoke of "reishi babies," as he called them, babies whose mothers took reishi throughout pregnancy. I saw some of these children, older and newborn, and they appeared uniformly calm and focused. The infants had little or no inflammations on their face or hands, cried little, and appeared to take in their surroundings with incredible acuity." (Healing Thresholds: A Modern Journey into Taoist Health Philosophy, by Rehmannia Dean Thomas. pp. 180–189)
There is also anecdotal evidence of chaga mushroom, astragalus and eucommia bark being used throughout pregnancy to support the developing foetus and the mother. Again, be sure to check with your doctor or caregiver before introducing these herbs to your pregnancy diet.
We source our herbs from a variety of regions around the globe, currently mostly from China and Inner Mongolia. We honour the traditional homes of our herbs by sourcing from regions these herbs have been cultivated for centuries. This is an important philosophy of tonic herbalism, see the article on Di Tao below. Each of our herbs has its source listed on its info page in our shop.
We source our MSM from OptiMSM in the USA. We believe this is the best available MSM on the market.
Our Deer Antler is extracted from Cervus nippon deer bred in Heilongjiang province in China. It is made from the tips of deer antler that have not been ossified.
Deer antler velvet is harvested from stags when their antlers are soft and rich with nutritional components like minerals, amino acids, vitamins and enzymes. In the Spring, antlers naturally grow at an astounding rate of almost 2 cm a day. At approximately day 60 of the growing cycle, the free range deer are gathered together and the antlers are harvested under the supervision of licensed and trained veterinarians. Tourniquets and anaesthetics are used to make sure the deer are not hurt in the process of removing . After a few days, when it has been determined that the animals are all in good health, they are returned the free range for the remainder of the year. The deer are NOT raised for meat; they are too valuable as a source of deer antler velvet and are revered in China.
Once they are harvested from the deer, the antlers are freeze dried and then sliced into thin wafers. These thin slices are processed into our potent and full spectrum extract. We only do full spectrum extractions because we believe nature constructs the products to a state of perfection in relation to active ingredients. When you take a natural product like deer antler, and try to boost the levels of one or two of the ‘active ingredients’, you may be getting the intelligence of the product, but you may be leaving behind the wisdom. We source herbs and process herbs as close to nature as possible, in its potent, nutrient rich, non-toxic, full-spectrum glory.
Di Tao is the ancient Daoist practice of only sourcing herbs from within their spiritual homeland to ensure they are of the absolute greatest quality possible. Our tonic herbs are wildcrafted, which means they are gathered from their natural environment and taken to a separate facility for processing. For a more in-depth rundown have a look at the What Is Di Tao article in our SuperBlog.
No. We are not against the label 'organic,' but we think it's more important for our herbs to come from their natural home on the land, than from a farm or lab. Unfortunately, most forests are not certified organic! The “organic” system has not been implemented extensively in China or other Asian countries.
That does not mean that the herbs are not grown in line with organic principles, however. In fact, all of our herbs are grown by methods that would make them certifiable. All of our herbs are grown in pristine regions without the use of chemicals, chemical fertilisers, or any form of genetic engineering, where water sources are natural and clean mountain sources.
Also, most of our herbs are wildcrafted, and this is a type of growing that cannot be easily classified as “organic.” These herbs are grown from seed introduced into a natural environment (a mountain forest or a desert, for example) or onto a natural medium, like a duan-wood log, and allowed to grow naturally without human interference.
Wildcrafted herbs cannot be termed “organic” because they are not cultivated. But they are often better quality than the cultivated varieties. Organically cultivated medicinal herbs are pampered. They are raised under the 'ideal' growing conditions and soils (determined by man!). Watered when needed, fertilised, weeded and treated with organic pesticides. Healthy? Sure, but without the stressors provided by the elements which allow them to develop the qualities we want in our herbs.
We believe that we all assume something of the essence of a food when we ingest it. Wild food gives us its resilience, its strength to endure, the unique energy of the environment in which it grew. We prefer to use wild or semi-wild herbs so we retain our own wildness! The exception to this is our cordyceps, which is cultivated in a liquid growing medium.
Semi-wild herbs are cultivated by humans, then placed into a natural environment and allowed to grow naturally without human interference. The "semi-wild" cultivation process simulates the natural growing conditions where the herb can accumulate food and energy like it would if it had been born there. This method produces herbs with a chemical profile closely similar to the wild material and is often more sustainable for the herb (less chance of overharvesting etc).
“Generations of herbalists have emphasised the quality of wild versus cultivated plants... There is a spirit, and energy inherent in wild things, both fauna and flora, that is apparent to anybody who has visited the last remaining wilderness areas... That essence is hard, if not impossible to capture.”
– Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs – ed. Rosemary Gladstar