You’re walking through the forest when suddenly you catch a glimpse of a turkey nearby. Upon closer inspection, you only find some similar-coloured mushrooms growing on a tree. Congrats, you’ve just found some Turkey Tail!
Read on to learn more about this faux Thanksgiving bird.
What is Turkey Tail?
Turkey Tail is a medicinal mushroom that is both a polypore mushroom (bracket fungus) and a white-rot fungus.
The main scientific name for this mushroom is Trametes Versicolour. Other names include:
- Coriolus Versicolor
- Polyporus Versicolor
- Yun Zhi (China)
- Kawaratake (Japan)
Appearance & Habitat
As the name implies, their cap has different colour arcs in a shape that resemble a turkey’s tail feathers. The colours are usually brown to tan, but the outer edge is always the lightest colour.
Despite their unique appearance, there are quite a few lookalikes in the Trametes genus. The main culprit is the aptly named false turkey tail. Another is called the multicolor polypore. Who knew identity theft would be a problem for a mushroom?
These mushrooms are found across North America, Europe, and Asia. They grow in groups of tiled layers on deciduous trees.
Can You Eat It?
These mushrooms are unfortunately considered inedible.
In other words, you should not include it in your next stir fry. However, it apparently makes a pleasant, mushroom-flavoured chewing gum. We can’t confirm this though.
Although it is inedible, the extract does have health benefits that you might be interested in.
Turkey Tail is not ranked among the top medicinal mushrooms in traditional Chinese medicine, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t used.
Chinese Materia Medica (a book of Chinese herbal medicine) has featured this mushroom consistently back to around 200 BC. In one called Ben Cao Gang Mu, Turkey Tail in tea form was said to be good for vital energy, spirit, and strengthening bones and tendons.
Outside of traditional medicine, a proprietary polysaccharide extracted from Turkey Tail, Polysaccharide Krestin (PSK), was approved for cancer treatment in Japan in the mid-1970s. Since then, it has been used as a supplemental cancer treatment for thousands of patients.
Meanwhile in Western countries, this mushroom has received little to no attention from the medical and scientific community.
Turkey Tail has become a hot topic when it comes to its immunomodulatory properties in relation to cancer.
In 2007, a meta-analysis was conducted of 8,009 patients from 8 previous randomised controlled trials. Specifically, they looked at studies that involved using Polysaccharide Krestin (PSK) to supplement immunochemotherapy for patients who have undergone surgery for gastric cancer. The combined results of all these trials showed that PSK improved the survival chance of patients.
A 2010 study further supported these results by comparing two groups of stage III gastric cancer patients. This study found that the group that received PSK had a 62.2% survival rate compared to 12.5% for the control group.
Besides cancer treatments, Turkey Tail research has also been conducted on the immunomodulatory properties of the mycelium versus the fermented substrate. This topic of interest came about because the mycelium and the fermented substrate are often mixed to make Turkey Tail mushroom powder.
In 2019, a study compared the aqueous extract of this mushroom versus the fermented substrate. The results concluded that the immune-activating bioactive compounds are from both the mycelium and the fermented substrate. In comparison, the initial rice flour used as a control contained none of these properties.
If you’re looking for immune support, then you’re the perfect candidate for Turkey Tail mushroom benefits! The main everyday benefit of it is that it helps your immune system fight off illnesses and protect itself from future invaders.
It is also a great source of antioxidants, which further promotes your immune system’s health.
Turkey Tail supplements mainly come in forms where the taste doesn’t matter due to their inedible nature. Such forms include capsules.
With capsules, you can just wash it down with a glass of water and you’re done.
Consuming Turkey Tail is generally considered safe with only a few potential side effects.
The main side effects may include digestive problems, like dark stools, gas, and bloating.
Our Products - Defend
Defend (only in the US) is our mushroom capsules packed full of 10 different adaptogenic mushrooms, including Turkey Tail. This super fungi combo provides you with daily immune support so you feel your best every day.
Although you can’t use Turkey Tail mushroom as a vegan Thanksgiving bird, these fungi still have great health benefits. If you’d like to try a Turkey Tail product, check out Defend and see if you like it!