Amazing Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom
Mushrooms have long been hailed as a healthful and nutritious part of the diet. When it comes to turkey tail mushroom though, this incredible fungi has some magnificent health benefits. You won’t find it in your produce section but this article will tell you where to find it and more importantly, while you’ll want to seek it out to help give your health a mighty boost!
What is Turkey Tail Mushroom?
The turkey tail mushroom is known scientifically as Trametes Versicolor or Coriolus Versicolor. Believe it or not, it’s one of the most commonly-located mushroom species in all of North America. Most people find this detail fascinating for you won’t see it at the supermarket.
That’s because turkey tail mushroom is more widely used for healing and medicinal purposes. It’s certainly not as well-known as a mushroom such as reishi, but turkey tail mushroom has been put to use since the Han Dynasty, around 200 BC. Since then, science has caught up with the rumors of what these fascinating mushrooms can do for health.
The reason they are called “turkey tail mushrooms” is because they have a very colorful presentation that looks similar to a real turkey’s tail in bands. Mostly, they tend to be grey or brown but are always quite striking on the cap of this particular mushroom. If you spot them in the wild, you’ll notice tiny velvety hairs covering them too.
Unless you like the great outdoors and roaming the forests of North America, you may never see a turkey tail mushroom out in the wild. Foragers have long used them for sustenance too, though you will have a better chance of finding them in powders or supplemental forms.
Where is it grown?
Turkey tail mushrooms grow in North America in the woods. If you want to spot them on your next hike, look at fallen logs or tree stumps. You can see them on living trees too sometimes as they will thrive on over 70 different types of hardwood trees as well as a few conifers.
Your best chance to see a turkey tail mushroom growing in the wild is from May through December though they have been seen year-round. They grow in what resembles shelves with caps that are 1 to 4 inches in width. There are no stems and they look like a fan, again, much like a turkey’s tail, and are adorned similarly with the multicolored bands.
How does it taste?
Turkey tail mushrooms are a bit tough and chewy, making them less appealing to add to meals as-is. You can add them in powdered form though to get the health benefits and the mushroom flavor or make it into a tea. Some say it’s a bit bitter while others call it earthy so it really is a matter of preference. When you compare it with other mushrooms like shiitake or reishi, it is very mild in flavor. If you don’t like mushrooms at all though, the good news is that you can take a supplement where you won’t have to taste it at all.
9 Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Why should you start taking turkey tail mushrooms? They offer a number of benefits for your health as you’ll soon discover!
1. Loads of antioxidants
It’s no secret that antioxidants are a crucial component in upholding your best health. These compounds help stop damages from oxidative stress that free radicals bring. When you have more free radicals attacking your cells, it results in damage which leads to chronic inflammation. That’s dangerous, considering that chronic inflammation paves the way for many diseases to take hold.
Things like certain cancers and heart health top that list which is why it’s more important than ever to eat more foods that have a bounty of antioxidants. Even when eating these things though, an extra measure of protection for your health can be found in supplements that contain antioxidants. Turkey tail mushrooms have phenols and flavonoids, among the most potent forms of antioxidants. One study revealed there are over 35 different phenolic compounds alone in turkey tail mushrooms.
Why the big deal over phenols and flavonoids? They promote immune strength since they reduce inflammation while releasing compounds that help keep you protected. Quercetin promotes the release of interferon-y while stopping pro-inflammatory enzymes from being released.
Basically, turkey tail mushroom gives you tons of antioxidants that can benefit your health. Even if you’re a healthy eater already, it can’t hurt to get more antioxidants into your daily diet through turkey tail mushrooms.
2. Boosted immunity
Let’s delve further into the immunity aspect of taking turkey tail mushrooms. These cool-looking fungi feature 2 types of polysaccharopeptides called krestin and polysaccharide peptide which have powerful immune-bolstering abilities. Respectively known as PSK and PSP, these activate certain immune cells while squashing inflammation. One truly remarkable thing is that they increase a type of white blood cell that fights infection while strengthening immunity. It’s for this reason that they are often encouraged to be used as anticancer agents alongside typical treatments in Asia.
3. Possible cancer fighter
Have you heard that turkey tail mushrooms can help fight cancer? Along with that boosted immunity, research has found these mushrooms may have antitumor properties. One study found that PSK that we just discussed above can stop the growth and spread of colon cancer cells. And then there’s another polysaccharide in the turkey tail that could suppress specific tumors.
While the study was done in mice, it has promising results for reducing tumor size when taken daily. The researchers in the study think it is because turkey tail mushrooms strengthened the immune response of the mice. In one with dogs, it slowed the spread of cancer cells and improved survival even with highly aggressive forms of cancer.
And yes, there are studies about turkey tail and cancer-fighting properties that have been conducted on humans. These are perhaps the most impressive of all since it aids those traditional cancer treatments of radiation and chemotherapy to help recovery. To that end, it was a 13-study review that took people with breast cancer, gastric cancer, and colorectal cancer, treated them with turkey tail mushroom and chemotherapy. In this review, the participants experienced a 9% reduction in mortality in a 5-year period compared to simply using chemotherapy on its own.
So, taking turkey tail mushrooms can be useful in reducing your chances for cancer and other diseases brought on by chronic inflammation. But it can also help you if you are undergoing cancer treatments.
4. Helps with gut health
Ever since scientists made the gut connection to immunity and found it serves as a second brain, everyone has been scurrying to get that gut health in good shape. The beneficial bacteria in your gut is what keeps your immunity strong. That gut bacteria interact with your immune cells, triggering a direct impact on this system.
With turkey tail mushrooms, you’re getting prebiotics. This is essential to help feed that good bacteria and help it thrive so it can keep your immunity up. Studies have found that when you take turkey tail mushrooms each day, the gut bacteria benefits while problematic bacteria are suppressed.
Who doesn’t want good digestion anyway? When your body is digesting food optimally, you will be less likely to experience diarrhea and other stomach troubles. Your immune system will also run stronger and you will enjoy lower cholesterol on top of reduced risk for cancer, all thanks to turkey tail mushrooms.
5. Possible HPV stopper
HPV or human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection that most people don’t have any symptoms to reveal. Despite this, it’s the most common STI and it can infect others whether you have any symptoms such as warts on the genital area. The virus has no cure and while there is a vaccine, it’s not always effective.
However, a study that took 61 people that had HPV showed that most of the participants that were treated with turkey tail mushrooms (88% of them to be exact) had positive results that included the clearing of HPV.
6. Inflammation reduction
Since turkey tail mushroom has all those powerful antioxidants, it is ideal for adding to your daily intake to control inflammation. Diabetes and certain cancers, in particular, are known to be brought about by too much inflammation in the body. It makes sense to take something that has been shown to lower inflammation on a regular to keep your chances of getting one of these diseases on the low side.
7. It’s antibacterial
Studies done in test tubes found that turkey tail mushroom can combat bacteria. In one study, it stopped the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enterica, bacteria that lead to illnesses and infection. As such, it’s a great way to supplement your best immune health.
8. Great for athletes
A study conducted on mice may have some good news for athletes of all kinds. Turkey tail extract helped improved exercise performance while keeping fatigue minimized. Additionally, these mice had lower blood sugar levels both while they were at rest and after exercising. While more research needs to be done on humans, that’s a promising revelation for keeping good health and fitness intact.
9. Possible insulin resistance improvement
Rats have helped scientists find more to study with turkey tail mushrooms. They took rats with type 2 diabetes and found that turkey tail extract dramatically reduced their blood sugar levels as well as insulin resistance. Again, more research certainly needs to be conducted here, but the good news is that turkey tail mushroom seems to show far more benefits than any disadvantages. This makes it worth trying to get your own health in good standing.
Whether you find turkey tail mushroom out in the woods or use it in powdered or supplemental form, it is considered a safe substance to consume. As such though, there are a few side effects you should note before taking it.
You may be among the few that have digestive symptoms when taking turkey tail mushrooms. Things like gas and bloating tend to be common. Dark stools are another one to watch for.
Those taking turkey tail mushrooms to help battle cancer along with chemotherapy may experience nausea and vomiting. Loss of appetite is another trouble you may endure as you fight the good fight, though researchers could not determine whether these side effects were because of the turkey tail mushrooms themselves or because of those cancer treatments which have widely been known to cause these exact symptoms. For those with lung cancer, it has the potential side effect of causing the fingernails to darken, though again, this is another lung cancer side effect itself and it has not been officially revealed whether or not turkey tail mushroom led to the darkening of the nails.
Usage of Turkey Tail Mushrooms
For those that like to forage through the woods, turkey tail mushrooms in the wild can provide great sustenance. However, experts caution that you shouldn’t eat these healing mushrooms in the wild. Novice foragers may accidentally mistake it for similar mushrooms that aren’t safe.
Plus, even if you’re certain you’ve found a turkey tail mushroom growing in the wild, the soil and surrounding area of the mushroom may be contaminated with bacteria or pollutants. It’s a far better idea to clean it up properly to avoid any troubles.
Since turkey tail is chewy in texture, it may not be something you want to eat as-is anyway. Many people take them in dried form and chop them up. They then steep them to create a healthful tea. Others put them in soups, stews, and sauces.
However, for many, especially those that aren’t wild about the flavor of any type of mushroom, the powder or supplements may be the best way to take advantage of this mushroom’s extensive health benefits. Plus, the added benefit is that you’ll always know the right dosage when you follow the label instructions.
If you do find turkey tail mushrooms whole, you can cut them up fresh or dry them first. Then you can slice them into thin strips and boil on your stove. Once they boil, you should lower the heat and allow them to simmer for an hour. You’ll want to strain the liquid to remove the mushroom bits. You can squeeze in some lemon or add some raw organic honey to make the flavor more palatable.
If you choose to cook with turkey tail mushrooms, you will want to get your measurements right. This is why most people choose the powdered form so it is precise. When done this way, you can sneak it into curries and sauces without overpowering the flavors. It may take a little experimenting on your part as that what recipes taste the best with it as well as how much of the powder you should add up to the dosage limit for creating healthier meals.
What to know about turkey tail mushroom supplements
You can check with your local pharmacy or drug store to see if it carries turkey tail mushrooms. Not every location will have them readily available. Finding them online as capsules or powders is far easier. You may have luck finding the mushrooms themselves dried and ready to use, but that is rarer.
If you want to try turkey tail mushrooms, supplements are the best way. The reason is they are easier to take and work into your daily routine. A supplement also makes it easy to swallow and is ideal if you dislike the flavor of mushrooms.
It’s important to first check the source of where you’re buying the turkey tail mushroom supplement. Just because it is turkey tail doesn’t mean the quality is right. The highest quality turkey tail mushroom supplements will contain only the turkey tail mushroom fruit bodies. Read the labels to be sure of this as lower-quality products will contain other things. These other things like spores, primordia, and mycelium have little to no medicinal value and won’t bring you those benefits listed above.
FAQs about turkey tail mushrooms
Have more questions about turkey tail mushrooms? These should help shed more light on this mysterious mushroom!
Can turkey tail mushrooms help with weight loss?
Turkey tail mushrooms can help with weight loss in the sense that they boost digestive health. They contain just what your gut microbiome needs to thrive. By feeding these good bacteria in your gut, it helps your digestive system to better remove toxins. This leads to an increase in energy and efficiency. So, as your digestive system thrives, so too can your weight loss goals if you are doing other things like eating healthfully and exercising.
Can you eat turkey tail mushrooms raw?
Yes, you can certainly taste turkey tail mushrooms while they are raw. A better question is, should you? To that end, we say no, for these mushrooms are very tough and chewy. They can also be hard on your stomach in their raw format. It’s best to make teas from them, use them in cooking, or find a proper supplement instead.
How to tell if a turkey tail mushroom is good?
Did you find a turkey tail mushroom in the wild? That’s good fortune, but you’ll want to be sure it is the real deal. Underneath, you’ll find pores that are very small and barely visible to the naked eye. On the surface, there will be a slight fuzziness that’s also barely visible. The cap of the turkey tail mushroom contrasts in color tones along with textural ridges. The colors of the cap will vary but they usually contain brown, reddish-brown, white, and grey. When turkey tail mushrooms are fresh, they have a thin and flexible feel to them.
How long does it take for turkey tail mushroom to have an effect?
With turkey tail mushrooms and any new vitamin or supplement you start taking for your health, you will want to be patient. It can take your body as long as 3 weeks to start feeling the health benefits that come from this particular mushroom. You may want to keep a journal to see if you note any side effects or improvements during this time.
Is turkey tail mushroom psychedelic?
No, turkey tail mushrooms will not get you high. They don’t have psilocybin in them though they sure do have a trippy look to them. All the magic they possess is in their health benefits listed above.
Turkey tail mushrooms are full of wonderful benefits for your health. Most of these benefits are backed by scientific research though some still need to be figured out. Nonetheless, if you want to boost your health and immunity, it may be a great idea to take turkey tail mushrooms.
If you’re taking anything else, you may want to speak with your doctor first to make sure taking turkey tail supplements is a good option for you. For most people, these benefits will reveal themselves in just a few weeks. Since they’re an easy way to get even more antioxidants into your day, you may start feeling better and more energetic quickly.
Prevent health problems by taking turkey tail mushrooms regularly. You can cook with them too if you like though the best way is to keep things simple in the form of supplements. This way, you know you’re getting the right dosage. Choose a quality brand with pure ingredients over finding the cheapest option and you’ll be doing good things for your health!
About the Author
Twigs cafe staff is comprised of editors, writers, food & drink experts, nutritionists, and researchers to create informative and helpful content for health-conscious people.