For a yoga teacher raised in a Kombi van, the story of how Tahnee McCrossin met her now business partner and fiancée is very on-brand. That brand being SuperFeast, purveyors of tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms, based in the NSW Northern Rivers...
“I went to a weekend Ayahuasca ceremony”, Tahnee recalls, “and after coming home, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a guy who was presenting to a room full of people in Melbourne who looked rad. He turned out to be Mason, founder of SuperFeast, and my now-fiance and baby daddy.”
Despite being enrolled in a herbal studies course at the time, Tahnee was something of a skeptic – but starting on a regime of reishi and he shou wu sparked such a dramatic shift for her that she’s now been taking the herbs for six years, and is the General Manager of SuperFeast. Making health accessible is at the heart of what they do. “So much of what makes the foundation of health is free”, she tells us. “Air, water, earth, movement. We want to make health accessible and get away from this daft exclusivity that has pervaded the wellness scene for so long.”
Now mother to three year old Aiya, SuperFeast also played a role in Tahnee’s postpartum experience. “I had so much less capacity after my daughter was born”, she explains. “That was a big adjustment for me, as I’ve been able to push through my whole life. I realised I needed to nourish myself like I was nourishing this tiny child”. In response, she and Mason developed a special Postpartum blend for just this purpose.
But don’t worry. Unlike so many hawkers in the wellness industry, Tahnee isn’t evangelical about herbs. Although she lives and breathes SuperFeast, “I don’t try and sell them to people”, she says when we ask her about skeptics. “I believe we find what we need when we are ready to receive it.”
Curious? We certainly were…
Go to SuperFeast
Can you tell us a little bit about your own childhood?
My parents lived with me in a Kombi until I was three. We have lots of cute pics of me having a bath in the tiny sink and lounging in my baby chub in amazing landscapes across WA and the Outback. They worked on a movie (The Light Horseman) and spent some time around Adelaide and Melbourne until they settled in Cairns. I loved Cairns, we had a great childhood there until I was 10 – very free, wild and exciting. It got more free and wild when we moved to Bingil Bay, near Mission Beach, onto a property and my parents built their own home. It took them 10 years, or more, really. It was the four of us, plus chickens, ducks, three cats, guinea pigs, a St Bernard, a horse and the wild cassowaries in a 30-ft caravan in the bush for about four years. A lot of those pets did not handle the transition to living in a rainforest, sadly. I have some stories from that time!
But I am very grateful for my childhood. I was given a lot of freedom. I started working when I was 14 and 9 months. I would ride my bike and walk everywhere, and friends had boats, so we went to the islands and the reef and went snorkelling and wakeboarding. My Dad is a white water river guide, so that was a big part of my life growing up. Now I am stoked I was raised that way, though if I am honest I was a bit embarrassed about my crazy parents when I was a teenager.
How and when were you first exposed to tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms?
I owned a Yoga studio in Newcastle, NSW, and I decided it would be a good time to offer workshops and ways for people to deepen their knowledge of wellness and health. I had signed up for a herbal studies course, so that was an area I was super interested in. I went to a weekend Ayahuasca ceremony and after coming home, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a guy who was presenting to a room full of people in Melbourne who looked rad. He turned out to be Mason, founder of SuperFeast, and my now-fiancee and baby daddy. When he came to talk at my studio we became friends. I was really suspect of the things he was saying at the beginning, and I kept challenging him. He’d really graciously reply, I’d research what he said, it’d be right, and so on it went. I’d been raised with natural medicine, had been seeing naturopaths since I was 16, and was really accepting that herbs were allies, but the whole tonic thing seemed a bit wild. I was so used to the Western model of using herbs to treat illness, and the modern Traditional Chinese Medicine model of being prescribed a baggie of weird bits and pieces but having no real idea of what I was taking. I hadn’t come across this herbal path. I’d been interested in and studying TCM for a few years at that stage, through my Yoga studies, but tonic herbs were really the final piece of the puzzle for me. Once Mason went back to Sydney, I started taking reishi and he shou wu and literally my whole life changed. It’s been about 6 years now, and I feel like I’ve been studying since that first meeting, and I have learned so much.
Can you tell us about SuperFeast and the ethos behind the brand?
I am really proud of SuperFeast. Mason wants to end degenerative health; I want to help people remember that their body holds all the wisdom they will ever need. I feel like we are both on a mission, even though sometimes running a business feels really daunting and horrible and overwhelming – even when it’s a rad business! I am the General Manager of SuperFeast, and one of the things I am most proud of is the culture we have created. It’s been a lot of trial and error, for sure, but it’s amazing to feel like we are creating something that is meaningful, supportive to the community and the people involved – from our herb farmers to our warehouse staff to our customers – that is taking it seriously that we have to reduce our impact on our planet. We ask ourselves a lot of hard questions and we seek to find the answers, and we have a sustainability officer who is a wild inspiration, and that might one day be a model for other businesses in our industry. I am really inspired by companies like Patagonia and I want to see our business lead and excel in everything we do. Our team seem to really, genuinely love working with us, and our customers write us love letters. Both those things make me so happy.
What impact did you see the herbs have when you first started taking them?
I’d had hormonal issues (no period for two years) and had acne for the first time, in my late twenties, after coming off the Pill. I was a bit of an emotional mess if I am honest. I was exhausted and struggling. I honestly can’t describe how powerful reishi and he shou wu were for me at that time. I had spent thousands of dollars on supplements and practitioners and was so over it all. I’ve been taking tonic herbs for about 6 years now – Mason has been taking them for about 11 – and we both notice ourselves growing, adapting and shifting constantly. I consider them the piece that was missing for me – I had Yoga, meditation, therapy, writing, nature, and then the herbs. It all started to come together for me.
There are a lot of preconceptions about adaptogens. What do you hear most from people?
Adaptogen has become such a buzz-word. We honestly don’t love it, but people know the term and get really confused when we say tonic herbs, so we try to walk the middle path and explain what both are and help people find what they need based on their current state of health. Adaptogens were first identified in military research and were used to help soldiers ‘push through’ – think pilots on crazy overnight flying missions and that kind of thing. Situations where you cannot afford to tap out or you will literally die. Tonics have a totally different intention. They were used by the Taoist shamans to enhance their spiritual practices and strengthen the body. With tonic herbs, we are tonifying organ systems and aspects of the body, physically and energetically, and we really try and emphasise that one’s lifestyle has to shift – you can’t just take the herbs and keep pushing through. Eventually, you’ll pay the price.
One of the misconceptions people have is that by taking adaptogens you can keep living a crazy Yang lifestyle and be healthy. No! I think of these herbs as having different personalities and intentions, and we work with them that way. Adaptogens can help us adapt to crazy stress when we need to, they can help mitigate the negative effects of stress, but we need to still take the time to rest, to restore, to allow our bodies and minds space to breathe. This is where the spiritual aspect of the herbs comes in, as they tonify our ‘treasures’: Jing, Qi and Shen, which loosely correlate to our foundational energy (think your inherited constitution, from your genetic line), your life force, and your spirit/higher mind. In Taoist theory, to become a whole person, we need strong and balanced Jing, Qi and Shen. The term adaptogen doesn’t address this aspect of herbalism, so for me it’s too reductionist and mechanistic to have much meaning, though I appreciate its clinical use.
What would you tell the non-believers?
That maybe these herbs are not for them. I don’t try and sell them to people, I believe we find what we need when we are ready to receive it.
We are existing in a very strange, stressful world. How can tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms help?
For me, I work with herbs that ground me, that tonify Shen and the Liver (I get stressy and rigid when overwhelmed) and the Kidneys (to help with fear). I love to take them in the morning in a warm tonic, and that ritual alone is very nourishing and gentle and grounding. At night I work with herbs that assist the body to transition to sleep.
My number one in these weird and wonderful times is reishi mushroom. She’s the Queen of the tradition, the master Shen tonic, the mushroom of immortality in the lore and also helps the body handle stress.
Did your experience with tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms change at all when you became a mother?
Yes, totally. I actually found myself a lot more sensitive to the herbs (we call mushrooms herbs, just to confuse everyone, as in Taoist tradition lots of weird things like minerals and animals were considered herbs). I also required different types of nourishment, and that took me a while to adjust to. I work with an acupuncturist to track where I am at and to make sure I am taking what is required to maintain health, and I also work a lot with my intuition. I needed a lot more Spleen herbs postpartum. Spleen is about the Earth element and mothering, isn’t that interesting? And I needed blood-building herbs after years of being a vegetarian. We actually came up with a postpartum blend after I had Aiya, as we didn’t really have anything in the range that was perfect for postpartum mamas. I also had so much less capacity after my daughter was born – that was a big adjustment for me, as I’ve been able to push through my whole life. I realised I needed to nourish myself like I was nourishing this tiny child and that really shifted me into a more receptive space. I feel like the capacity to have these insights is from the herbs – reishi! – and my meditation practice. The two have been so powerful for me.
How do you use them in your everyday life?
I take them daily in tonic elixirs or in my Earl Grey tea (such an old lady!) and put them in our food so our daughter gets some of the medicine. She mostly takes Mason’s Mushrooms. I will also sneak them into treats for friends or homemade chocolate.
How do you suggest we start implementing them into our lives, if we never have before? And what would you start with?
I would suggest feeling into what you need or what you are most intuitively drawn to when you flick through a book, or a website, or pick up the jars in a store. I find, for most people, any medicinal mushroom is a great place to start as they are generally OK-tasting (some herbs are not!) and generally benefit the immunity, which is a pretty great idea in times like these. We don’t add anything to our herbs. They are simply extracted, dried and packaged, so we used them in food or drinks, but other companies have capsules if you can’t deal with the idea of loose powder. Look for mushrooms that are grown on wood and are tested for heavy metals and pesticides and that kind of thing. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of crap out there, as mushrooms are trending, so do your research.
The other option is a blend like JING, which is full of herbs to help nourish the adrenals and support the body against stress, which again, is a super common complaint. So many people, especially mums, have so much going on – work, kids, partners that travel a lot, or they’re doing it alone, it’s more than a person can bear. Those situations are where tonic herbs/adaptogens really shine because you can’t avoid the stress of tiny kids and mum-life, but you can manage it, and the herbs will help you adapt while you need to.
How long does it take to notice a difference?
It does depend on the person – I felt shifts almost immediately, within a day or two. Better sleep, more stable energy, and later, healthy periods, finally! But from talking to SuperFeast customers over the last five years, it’s more likely anywhere from a week to three weeks. Our Operations Manager talks about how she didn’t even notice anything until she realised she’d made it through her first-ever flu season without getting sick, despite flying and travelling. Some people are so sensitive they notice within a few minutes of ingesting the herbs.
What benefits can we expect to see?
It really varies. If you’re already pretty well, it might be more stable energy and mindset, more consistent moods, better overall vitality. If you’re unwell, it might be a massive transformation, though we recommend people who are unwell to work with a practitioner as it’s important to make sure you have support while you heal. We find lots of acupuncturists, naturopaths and herbalists are using tonic herbs clinically now, which is awesome.
Are there any side effects?
There can be! We only work with tonics because they are so safe, but everything is bad for somebody. Typically the worst that people feel is nausea or a GI tract upset; we either adjust the dose or work with that person to find a more suitable herb for their constitution. Sometimes a healing reaction occurs – especially if a person has candida or bacterial overgrowth, that can lead to die-off and unpleasant symptoms like brain fog, but that generally passes. For generally healthy people it’s incredibly rare. I recommend really small doses to start, 1/4 teaspoon, as for many people this dose is enough.
Are they safe to combine?
Generally, yes. Again, one of the benefits of working with tonics is they play well together. That said, we have created blends at SuperFeast, so people don’t have to buy and mix heaps of herbs without any knowledge as to how to do this. But if you’re a curious little alchemist, of course, you can experiment. I recommend starting with one or two herbs at first, just so you get a sense of what your body is responding to, and how. If you take too much too soon it’s hard to know what’s going on.
What else are you doing at the moment to support your physical and mental health?
I wake at 5 am, practice 20-45 mins of asana, 20-30 mins of pranayama and 20-30 mins of meditation, and I am trying to be really strict with when I do and don’t work. We are home with our three year old and I want to enjoy as much time as I can with her. We are really lucky to have a huge backyard, and live 800m from the beach, so I try and get there daily and let mama nature bring me back to myself. Also, voice messages with my buddies, Zoom calls with my family, and lots of reading, tea, baths, crosswords, and gardening. And sleep. I try and be in bed by 9 or 10.
What’s next for you?
We are desperate to one day bring forth the indigenous herbs from this continent because I know that there would be some serious healing and integration if that were to happen. There are a lot of hoops to jump through and red tape in the way, but we are holding that vision and we trust that if it’s meant to, it will happen.
Personally, I am a yoga teacher first and foremost. Yoga is my deepest passion, and I am going to be bringing more of the yogic lifestyle and practices into SuperFeast. We both believe in embodied health, and health sovereignty, and Mason has created a course around that that will launch soon. It’s pay-what-you-can because we know many people are suffering right now, and we hope that people will be delighted by these offerings. So much of what makes the foundation of health is free – air, water, earth, movement. We want to make health accessible and get away from this daft exclusivity that has pervaded the wellness scene for so long.