Turkey Tail Mushroom Health Benefits
Turkey tail mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms that grow in colorful concentric formations. The pretty polypores thrive on dead logs and stumps in a range of climates, which makes them one of the most common species of mushroom in the world. Also known as trametes versicolor, turkey tail mushrooms are prepared and ingested for therapeutic purposes. The nutrient-dense fungi contain a rare spectrum of health compounds that display powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and immune-enhancing properties.
The History of Turkey Tail Mushroom
From the indigenous people of North America to Chinese royalty, turkey tail mushrooms have been used across countries and continents for thousands of years. They are one of the key substances in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as they are used to treat respiratory issues, poor appetite, digestive problems, as well as to replenish qi. They are mentioned in almost all of the classic herbalist books over the years, including the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing and the Compendium of Materia Medica.
Turkey tail mushrooms get their name from their colorful caps which are reminiscent of turkey plumes, while in Japan, they are nicknamed cloud mushrooms. In many Asian cultures, turkey tail mushrooms and their cloud-like shape is symbolic of spiritual development, longevity, and infinity.
Turkey Tail Nutritional Information
When you take turkey tail mushrooms, you will nourish your body with 18 amino acids, beta-glucans, triterpenoids, riboflavin, polysaccharide pectins, pantothenic acid, and a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Perhaps one of the most interesting nutrients found in the mushroom is a rare compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK). PSK has been studied for over 40 years, and findings indicate that it is a promising candidate for chemoprevention because it displays antitumor properties and it is safe to use over long periods of time.
Turkey Tail for Immune Health
Turkey tail is one of the most widely studied of all the medicinal mushrooms, and it has been the subject of a seven-year study published in the IRSN Oncology Journal. The study found that the mushroom has the ability to strengthen the immune systems of patients who were undergoing chemotherapy and other conventional cancer treatments. It’s also currently undergoing a $5.4 million study by the University of Washington and Bastyr University, and although the study is not complete, the results are looking incredibly promising. Turkey tail has been approved by the FDA for several breast and prostate cancer trials, while the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry recommend a turkey tail PSK extract as an approved cancer drug.
Turkey tail’s ability to boost immunity is thanks to a synergy of nutrients and the presence of polysaccharide-K which helps to trigger natural killer cells (NK cells) to protect the body from viruses and tumors. Paul Stamets, one of the most well-respected mycologists in the world, states that “when patients ingest turkey tail mycelium, the immune system’s increased populations of NK cells and their associated CD8 glycoproteins are better able to discover and bind to receptor sites on the stroma of tumors, thus allowing NK invasion”.
Findings suggest that turkey tail is not only beneficial in warding off infections like flu or the common cold, but it can also improve weak immune function in those suffering from more serious illnesses and disease.
Health Benefits Overview
Antioxidant: Fights free radical damage and limits oxidation
Cold buster: Wards off colds and flu
Anti-Aging: Slows down the aging process
Adaptogen: Enables the body to better deal with stress
Immune-Supporting: Strengthens the immune system
Digestion Aid: Prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria
Fights Infections: Helps to heal infections including human papillomavirus (HPV)
Replenish Qi: Believed to enhance the flow of life force energy (qi) in TCM
Appetite Enhancer: Increase appetite
Anti-Inflammatory: Reduces inflammation in the body
How to Buy the Best Turkey Tail
As with any type of medicinal mushroom, the quality and potency will vary depending on where and how it was grown, as well as the preparation, processing, and packing process. It’s recommended that you buy turkey tail mushrooms which are ethically sourced and traditionally prepared without the use of chemicals, fillers or excess heat. Turkey tail mushrooms and powders should be stored in airtight packaging and kept in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
Turkey Tail Dosage and Side Effects
The amount of turkey tail mushroom that you should take will depend on your body weight, the concentration of the mushroom, and your reasons behind taking it. It’s recommended to start with a 1/2 a teaspoon dose to see how you feel, and then up the dosage to a heaped teaspoon if required. It’s advised to take a turkey tail mushroom supplement up to three times a day, although some alternative medicine practitioners may recommend much higher doses under certain circumstances.
Turkey tail is considered to be safe to use, and it has no major reported side effects. A six-month phase 1 trial of turkey tail for women with breast cancer found that none of the patients had reported any significant side effects. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or suffering from severe immune system issues before taking the medicinal mushroom.
How to Use Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Raw turkey tail mushrooms require some serious prep work to kill contaminants and help to extract the polysaccharides. Luckily, it’s easy to buy turkey tail concentrated extract powders which are all prepared and good to go. Turkey tail has a mild flavor profile, which means that it can be added to everything from sweet treats and smoothies to savory soups and dips.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Recipes
Turkey Tail Tea
If you have turkey tail extract powder, then you can create a tasty tonic tea in less than a minute. Simply fill your favorite mug with warm (not boiling) water, and then stir in your desired dose of turkey tail powder and you’re good to go. You can get creative with your turkey tail tea by adding nut or coconut milk for creaminess, coconut sugar, stevia or agave for sweetness, and spices such as cinnamon for an extra kick.
You can also add powerful supplements and superfoods to create nourishing health elixirs. Here are a few ingredient ideas to get you started:
Medicinal Mushrooms: chaga, reishi, tremella, maitake, shiitake, cordyceps, lion’s mane
Tonic Herbs: he shou wu, schizandra berry, ashwagandha, pine pollen, matcha
Superfood Powders: spirulina, chlorella, maca, baobab, pink pitaya,
Teas: Matcha, gynostemma, mint, chamomile, raspberry, lemon ginger
Banana Spice Smoothie
This smoothie uses some of the most potent immunity-boosting ingredients around, so the added power of turkey tail mushroom makes this one powerful smoothie that tastes great too. The fresh ginger helps to reduce inflammation and aid digestion, while the spinach is an excellent source of zinc, iron, folic acid, and vitamins.
Ingredients (2 servings)
2 cups of spinach
3 cups of coconut milk
1/2-an-inch chunk of fresh ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
2 tsp of turkey tail
To make, pop all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender such as a Nutribullet or Vitamix, and then blend until smooth. It’s best to enjoy this smoothie straight away, although you can pour it into ice lolly trays and put them in the freezer to make healthy creamy ice pops.
Raw Coconut Pralines
Sometimes you need something a little sweet, and while store-bought goodies can be filled with all sorts of nasties, these raw coconut pralines are made from natural ingredients. A bonus is that they require no baking, and they are vegan and gluten-free!
Ingredients (makes 25 pralines)
2 tbsp organic coconut oil
2 tbsp agave syrup
4tbsp of coconut milk
3 cups desiccated coconut
2 tsp of turkey tail powder
1/2 cup of raw cacao powder
1/2 cups organic coconut oil
3 tbsp of agave syrup
Mix all of the filling ingredients together in your blender until they still have a touch of texture. Line an 8” by 8” tray with baking paper, and then spread all of the mixture evenly over the tray. Pop the mixture in the fridge to set. Gently melt the coconut oil for the coating, then stir in the cacao powder and agave until the mixture is smooth. Remove the coconut filling from the fridge and cut it into small squares (or shapes if you’re feeling fancy). Drizzle over the chocolate coating, then turn each of the squares so that they are covered. Allow the bars to set in the freezer, and then enjoy. The bars will stay fresh for around a week when refrigerated.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Overview
Turkey tail mushrooms immune-enhancing properties make it a popular supplement for those undergoing conventional medical treatments that can wreck havoc on the immune system. However, the medicinal mushroom’s adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging benefits make it a powerful all-rounder that can be used to enhance longevity and increase overall levels of wellbeing.
Name: Turkey Tail Mushroom
Scientific Name: Trametes Versicolor
Common Names: Cloud Mushroom, Hen of the Woods. Kawaratake, Yun Zhi
Turkey Tail References and Sources
Turkey Tail Books
There are thousands of scientific studies and references on turkey tail mushroom. If you want to learn more about it, as well as other medicinal mushrooms, we highly recommend these books:
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The Cancer Ward
Nong, Shen: Shennong Bencao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine)
Wolfe, David: Eating for Beauty
Stamets, Paul: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World