Behind Closed Doors: Tonya Papanikolov

Meet Tonya, the magical being behind 11:11, a powerful mushroom multivitamin that relies on 11 different shrooms to heal and support the body and spirit. With a deep interest in the transformational power of shrooms and a background in nutritional science, her life’s work is to spread the gospel of these forest friends. Come along as she shares what turns her on, and tunes her up, and let the power of shrooms take over your day. Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of fungi.

You just launched your company, Rainbo, that shares the power of mushrooms, where does your interest in fungi come from?

My interest in medicinal mushrooms began with earnest in 2011 when I attended a live talk by David Avocado Wolfe in Toronto. He spoke about Chaga and adaptogens, which was the first time I'd ever heard those words, and I'll never forget that moment because my ears perked up, I still remember exactly what he said. A couple years later, I was up north foraging with him in the Canadian forests and was incredibly inspired by his knowledge and learned how to make chaga tea; there was a massive cauldron of chaga constantly brewing and we sipped for days on end with friends. That was my starting point, and from there, I started using medicinal mushrooms, reishi specifically, in high doses to heal my body. It was transformational. With that first hand experience, coupled with my schooling in nutritional science and my holistic nutrition practice, I started recommending mushrooms to more of my clients and diving deeper into the scientific literature, folk traditions, mushroom books, experts, mushroom culture, cultivation and slowly... Rainbo was born :)

Your first product, 11:11 is a lovesong to the power of mushrooms, can you please tell us how you created it? And why?

11:11 is my version of a multi-vitamin but rather, a multi super-mushroom! I knew I wanted to combine the effects of certain mushrooms together to potentiate the power through synergy.

Mushrooms have a synergistic effect when they come together and this is a concept that I love. It's teamwork and the power of a collective.

Synergy occurs when the interaction of biological substances produces a greater combined effect than the sum of the individual parts. They work better together than they would on their own.

I was constantly having to add all these separate mushrooms together and so out of necessity, I wanted to create a blend with the mushrooms I'd been researching and testing out. On top of that, I wanted to go right to the source, grow our own mushrooms, source from Canada, know the farmers, know how they were growing the mushrooms, control the substrates and truly collaborate in the process. 

What was your childhood in food like? Were you raised on healthy food? 

My childhood in food was very memorable. I grew up eating a lot of my grandparents delicious Eastern European Macedonian foods. My grandmas always baked fresh bread and spanakopita which were my absolute favorites, and they had beautiful robust gardens with tons of veggies and greens. But I do remember a chunk of time between 6-12 where I only wanted to eat sugary boxed cereals! My mom never bought us white bread, we only ever ate brown bread and I would always find a way to trade my brown sandwiches at school for my friend's lunch! So there was definitely a chunk of time in there where we still were raised on some processed foods but there came a point where my mum became a lot more health-conscious and changed our family's diet. As soon as I became a teenager though, I developed a ton of allergies and poor lifestyle habits that would slowly create a ton of health issues for me, and I would later dedicate my life to healing naturally, and helping others do so too.

What are your favorite flavors?


What is your first meal that you remember?

Both my grandmother's spinach and feta spanakopita. To this day, they would gladly be my last meal on earth :) 

What is the last best meal you had?

Was in a small town in Tuscany, where I stayed with a charming family while I was traveling through Italy. We were in a gorgeous old house in an olive grove, the kids played Ludovico Einaudi on the piano, we picked walnuts and fruit off the trees, made fresh pasta and tarts for dessert. It's funny because this question instantly prompted me to think and describe the environment rather than the food itself. The experience of food for me reaches so far beyond the act of simply ingesting, and has so much to do with environment: where, with who, what was the mood, where did the food come from, what was the conversation? All of this contributes to a deep sensation of nourishment.

How are you handling cooking in quarantine?

Fabulously! I've been cooking lots and feeling really creative in the kitchen again. It's a breath of fresh air. For a little while before the pandemic, food was getting a little too systematic with my "busy" schedule so this has been a refreshing reminder for me.

What’s always in your fridge? 

Arugula, salad greens, mushrooms, coconut yogurt, homemade nut milk, veggies, hummus, sauerkraut 

What’s always in your pantry?

11:11 and Forest Juice, tons of loose powders that I'm testing, ashwagandha, matcha, vanilla extract, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, oats, psyllium husk powder, nuts and seeds

What do you turn to to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

Meditation. Everyday, no matter what, sometimes twice a day




A big hearty salad

Green smoothie

Green juice

Every full moon I get a delicious deep massage from my partner and every new moon I do the same for him, it's such a nice way to keep track of the moons together and get/give massages to one another

Please share a favorite recipe. 

I quit coffee and caffeine, so here's a caffeine-free alternative I've been making every morning:

Dandelion Mushroom Tonic

  • 1 cup boiling spring water
  • 1/2 cup nut milk
  • 4 ml 11:11 Rainbo tincture
  • 2 T Dandy Blend
  • 1 T cacao powder
  • 1 T coconut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender, blend on high, pour and sip in your favorite vessel. 



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