The Ultimate Guide to Turkey Tail: Shake a Tail Feather

The Turkey Tail mushroom offers a full feast of benefits in one humble mushroom. Let us introduce you!

We like to think of our communitea as a fun place where we can gather together, provide information on our favorite ‘shrooms, discuss all things wellness, and make some bad mushroom-related puns (#sorrynotsorry).

Like any other gathering, it would be super awkward if we didn’t introduce you to our ‘shroommates before expecting you to mingle. Could you imagine mistaking a Chaga mushroom for a Reishi?

Yikes.

Never fear! These guides to each mushroom are to get that awkward small talk out of the way. We’re here to break the ice so that you know these ‘shrooms inside and out and can avoid a fungal faux pas.

All of our beverage mixes feature the same six mushrooms, which we have deemed the “6 Protectors Mushroom Immune Support Complex.” We believe that we have found the tastiest, ‘shroomiest, most immune-boosting mix of mushrooms that we could to give you a quality drink that is not only enjoyable to drink, but also gives you some awesome benefits.

Sure, we picked out these ‘shrooms specifically for their immune support, but each functional mushroom that we use has various other distinctions and benefits. We would be remiss if we didn’t give you a deep dive into each mushroom individually to let you know what makes them special.

So let’s dive in and learn all about the Turkey Tail mushroom...

 

Introduction

The Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is a beautiful and colorful mushroom that resembles – you guessed it – the tail of a wild turkey! Turkey Tail is considered to be a “bracket fungus” or a “shelf fungus” because it grows in a shelf-like formation on dead and living trees. The Turkey Tail fungus is widespread and has been found in most of the states in the United States of America as well as many other countries.

The first major usage of the Turkey Tail mushroom appears in around 200 BC, in the Chinese Materia Medica of the Han Dynasty. It is known in traditional Chinese medicine as YunZhi, and appears in the Shen Nong Ben Cao - a classic text written in 200 AD which discusses the use of mushrooms for their healing potential. A later 15th-century document, the Ben Cao Gang Mu, specifies that Coriolus versicolor should be drunk as a tea in order to benefit the Shen (spirit) and the Chi (vital energy).

A mushroom that supports your physical health and your spirit? Sign us up!

 

aerial view of colorful turkey tail mushroom growing on a tree trunk

Figure 1. Turkey Tail has been used for millennia. Legend says that it benefits both the spirit and vital energy. Photo by JerHetrick. (Shutterstock).

 

Immunitea Support

Before we go into the various other benefits that the Turkey Tail mushroom has to offer, let’s look at how the Turkey Tail mushroom supports immunity (or “immunitea” as we like to call it ;)).

The Turkey Tail mushroom has a reputation as an immune system soldier. Its antioxidant compounds and immune-boosting polysaccharopeptides provide incredible support to the immune system and improve the body’s ability to fight infections. This amazing mushroom is known to help both underactive and overactive immune functions. As an adaptogenic herb, they can help to ease the stress factors that can deplete our body’s natural immunities, as well as help to stimulate energy levels.

The Turkey Tail mushroom has two beta-glucans that have been shown to have very powerful anticancer properties: polysaccharide Krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP) which stimulate the immune system. PSK and PSP have been shown to have potent anticancer properties, boosting the immune system in the process. Turkey Tails more generally can help enhance immune systems in those receiving chemotherapy. This is vital as chemotherapy usually dampens immune functioning. PSP in particular has been shown to increase monocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the body, thereby boosting immunity.

 

turkey tail mushrooms growing on some wood

Figure 2. Turkey Tail mushrooms have 2 beta-glucans PSK and PSP that have immune-boosting and powerful anticancer properties. Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH. (Shutterstock).

 

Other Benefits

PSP not only boosts the immune system, but also supports gut health by helping to regulate gut bacteria, promoting the good stuff and helping weed out the bad. This is especially useful in people suffering from the effects of antibiotics, which can cause significant changes to the gut. Turkey Tail has also been shown to have anti-HIV activity, reduce the frequency of outbreaks in those with the HSV (herpes) virus, and help combat HPV. In traditional Chinese medicine, Turkey Tail is also used for various infections and inflammation including lung infections and hepatitis.

While Turkey Tail may have several different uses, it is primarily used for its anticancer properties. Since the 1960s, extracts have also been used in China and Japan alongside conventional medicine as an aid for treating a wide range of cancers. This is now leading to an increase in scientific research to validate these claims medically. Krestin, one of the world’s leading anticancer drugs is derived using PSK from the Turkey Tail mushroom. This drug was the best-selling anticancer drug in Japan in the 1980s. Krestin has only recently been approved by the FDA in the United States, and is meant to be used as a supplement to chemotherapy, not a replacement.

Not only does PSK boast powerful anticancer properties, but it is even far-reaching with regards to the types of cancer it affects. Studies have shown that PSK has extended survival in those suffering from stomach cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and breast cancer when taken in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment.

While PSK has been studied more extensively and has proven to be very powerful in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments, studies have shown that PSP could be even more powerful as a supplemental cancer treatment. As of now, it has been shown to minimize the effects of cancer treatments such a weakness, night sweats, anorexia, vomiting, and dry throat, but hopefully more studies will be done so that we can see what PSP can really do!

 

Conclusion

The Turkey Tail mushroom has several awesome benefits, but where this mushroom really shines is its anticancer properties. The overwhelming evidence that PSK can be used alongside conventional cancer treatment to help treat so many different kinds of cancer is astounding. And if that’s not enough to make you shake a tail feather, we don’t know what is!

If you’d like to continue your research, we encourage you to check out our blog to learn about the benefits of all of our functional mushrooms and how they compare to one another.

Have you incorporated the Turkey Tail mushroom into your diet? What benefits have you found to taking Turkey Tail?

 

Cover Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH from Shutterstock.

 

Sources:

HALPERN, G. M. (2007). HEALING MUSHROOMS. Garden City Park, NY: SQUARE ONE.

Hobbs, C. (2003). Medicinal mushrooms. Summertown, TN: Book Pub.

Isokauppila, T., & Hyman, M. H. (2017). Healing mushrooms: A practical and culinary guide to using mushrooms for whole body health. New York, NY: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Powell, M. (2014). Medicinal mushrooms - a clinical guide. Ferndown, Dorset: Mycology Press.