Boasting the ability to boost your immune system, protect you from inflammation, keep you young, and even combat cancer cells, Turkey Tail is one of the few mushrooms that carry tens of benefits. This unusual fungi, however, is relatively new, and very few people understand how it delivers all its benefits.
Also, most people do not know how to use Turkey Tail mushrooms. This article discusses the potential uses and benefits of turkey tail. It also covers potential side effects and what to look for when purchasing turkey tail supplements.
Dietary supplements are not regulated the way drugs are in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. Choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party.
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.
What Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Turkey tail mushroom, known by its scientific names such as Coriolus Versicolor or Trametes Versicolor, is a medicinal fungus that grows on stumps, tree trunks, and decomposing wood of a deciduous tree. It is a multicolored mushroom with a flat, fluted disc-like shape that can grow up to four inches wide. The texture is tough and leathery.
Turkey tail mushrooms get their name from the striking colorful rings in the cap. The shades of orange, brown, yellow, grey, and cream resemble a turkey’s feather.
The turkey tail mushroom grows all over the world. However, it is common in the temperate woods of the United States, Canada, and Europe, including the United Kingdom and Australia.
Coriolus Versicolor has been used in traditional Asian medicine and North American herbalism for hundreds of years. Turkey tail mushrooms have an array of health-supporting benefits.
The turkey tail mushroom benefits have earned the fungi a position as a symbol of longevity, good health, and spiritual attunement. Even in the modern world of functional mushrooms, turkey tail is held in high regard.
Uses of Turkey Tail
Supplement use should be suited to the individual and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.
Turkey tail has well-documented uses for supporting immune function, reducing inflammation, improving gut health, and enhancing the efficacy of cancer treatments.
Researchers are exploring how turkey tails may help balance blood sugar levels, boost athletic performance, fight viral and bacterial infections, and reduce fatigue. Some proponents of turkey tail believe it can prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
Many studies investigating the potential medicinal benefits of turkey tail have been conducted using animal models or in lab settings. More clinical research is needed to determine the specific uses of turkey tail for human health.
Promotes Immune Health
Turkey tail contains a high concentration of two polysaccharides with immune-boosting properties: polysaccharide-K (krestin, or PSK) and polysaccharide peptides (PSP). PSK and PSP are immunomodulators that stimulate and balance the immune system to help the body fight infection, cancer, and other diseases.
PSPs stimulate immune cell production to help fight and protect against infection. Research suggests that PSPs may promote the growth of monocytes—a type of white blood cell that fights infection and improves immunity.
Similarly, PSK helps support the immune system by activating the body’s natural killer cells to fight off infection and disease. It has also been shown to modulate the body’s immune response by suppressing inflammation, which may help protect against inflammatory diseases.
Adjuvant Therapy for Cancer
Turkey tail extracts have been used in Japan for decades as an adjuvant (additional) therapy for cancer treatments. These extracts are often combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to boost the efficacy of these treatments and improve outcomes.
A review of 13 clinical trials found that cancer patients given turkey tails in combination with standard treatments lived longer than those who received chemotherapy alone. The combination of turkey tail and chemotherapy was especially effective in improving outcomes for people with breast cancer, gastric cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Other studies have shown that turkey tail extracts not only inhibit the growth of some cancer cells but also improve immune function in people with certain cancers, which may reduce the risk of infection.
Supports Gut Health
Turkey tail may improve gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria that support healthy digestion. Turkey tail acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the development of “good” bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Having a healthy, balanced gut microbiome is linked to improved digestive health, a strong immune system, and a lower risk of gastrointestinal disorders and diseases,
In one small study, participants were given 3,600 milligrams (mg) of turkey tail PSP extract per day over eight weeks. Results showed that turkey tail extract increased the number of beneficial bacteria and suppressed the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.
An earlier test-tube study found that turkey tail extract significantly increased the number of helpful bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, while reducing populations of “bad” bacteria, such as Clostridium and Enterococcus.
May Boost Athletic Performance
Turkey tail may boost stamina and fight fatigue to enhance athletic performance. A study using animal models found that turkey tail extract increased endurance and strength in mice. Moreover, the extract reduced physical fatigue in the mice and lowered blood sugar levels at rest and after exercise.
Human trials are needed to determine what benefits turkey tail may offer athletes regarding endurance, strength, energy levels, and recovery.
Protects You From Neurodegenerative Disease
Turkey tail is rich in antioxidants, which may improve cognitive function (e.g., memory, problem-solving) and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.
Turkey tail mushrooms reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease. Turkey tail extracts (baicalein and quercetin) have significantly inhibited Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity.
AChE inhibitors prevent the breakdown of the AChE enzyme, leading to higher acetylcholine concentration in the brain. This leads to better cellular communication between the neurons.
The inhibition of AChE activity can treat neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. Turkey tail mushrooms can aid neuroprotection.
Neurodegenerative diseases can also be attributed to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), formed as a byproduct during cellular metabolism. These ROS are high in chemically active oxygen molecules that can provoke tissue damage and inflammation.
This uncontrolled production of free radicals leads to oxidative stress, a key mechanism in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the turkey tail fungi, a potent antioxidant, can remove the oxidative stress implicated in neurodegenerative disease.
Helps With Heart Diseases And Cholesterol
Turkey tails mushrooms reduce the risk of heart disease. The beta-glucans in the mushroom lower the risk of heart disease by preventing cholesterol absorption.
Heart diseases result from high fat in your blood. Our bodies need cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high harmful cholesterol levels can deposit in the wall of blood vessels.
As the accumulation of fat in the blood vessels increases, it leads to narrowing. This will reduce blood flow through the vessels. A reduced blood supply increases the risk of several heart diseases, including heart attacks.
Turkey tail mushroom reduces cholesterol, which, in turn, opens up the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow freely. This reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Additionally, there is a direct relationship between obesity and heart health. The risk of heart disease and heart attacks increases if you are obese or your body weight is above the normal range. One of the turkey tail health benefits is helping you avoid gaining weight.
Ternatin is a natural protein in many medicinal mushrooms, including Turkey tail. This protein inhibits fat accumulation in the body. The consumption of ternatin-rich mushrooms also suppresses the synthesis of another bad fat, triglycerides. The absence of bad cholesterol puts you at a reduced risk of suffering from stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.
Powerful Antioxidant Against Aging
No one wants to grow old. And while we all grow old with time, no one wants unattractive aging signs on themselves. Luckily for us, one of the turkey tail mushroom benefits helps fight aging symptoms.
The antioxidants and immune-boosting properties of turkey tail may help support health and protect against inflammation and age-related diseases.
The turkey tail mushroom is power-packed with antioxidants, including phenol and flavonoids. These antioxidants combat oxidative stress that can be a leading cause of tissue damage, premature aging, and chronic illness.
Several studies have reported the antioxidant potential of Turkey tail mushrooms. There are over 35 different types of phenolic compounds in the mushroom. These protect our genes from mutation, remove toxins from our body and strengthen our immune system.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to the health benefits listed above, some people use turkey tail to support:
- Bone health: Animal model research found that turkey tail extract resulted in thicker, less porous bones and may protect against bone loss related to certain cancer treatments.
- Balanced blood sugar levels: Studies using animal models show that turkey tail extracts may reduce blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, and prevent diabetes-related complications in people with type 2 diabetes.
What Are the Side Effects of Turkey Tail?
Turkey tail is safe to consume and generally well-tolerated, but some people may experience mild side effects, including:
- Dark stools
- Darkening of the fingernails
Although turkey tail is safe for most people, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before taking a turkey tail mushroom supplement.
Avoid taking turkey tail supplements if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding: No research has been conducted on the safety of turkey tail for pregnant or breastfeeding people.
- Have diabetes: Turkey tail may lower blood sugar levels and cause levels to drop too low when taken with diabetes medications.
- Are allergic to mushrooms: Turkey tail is a fungus and should be avoided by anyone with mushroom or mold allergies.
Children should also avoid turkey tails, as its safety has not been studied in minors.
Sources of Turkey Tail & What to Look For
Turkey tail mushrooms grow on dead logs, stumps, and branches in deciduous forests in Asia, Europe, and North America.1 Semicircular and fan-shaped with distinctive striped layers of brown, gray, tan, and white, the mushroom resembles the feathers of a turkey’s tail.
If you forage for wild-grown turkey tail, it’s important to be aware of other fungi species that look similar to turkey tail. Before harvesting, be sure you have correctly identified that the mushroom is turkey tail and not a look-alike.
Though turkey tail is edible, the texture can be described as tough and leathery. For this reason, wild-harvested turkey tail is usually dried, ground into a powder, and consumed as tea. It can also be added to soups or blended into smoothies. Dried whole turkey tail mushrooms can be used to make extracts and tinctures.
How To Consume Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Turkey tail mushroom has a mild woody flavor. However, the thick and leathery texture of the mushroom makes it unpalatable in its fresh, uncooked form. Therefore, Turkey tails mushrooms are typically consumed as powders and tea.
You can consume the turkey tail mushroom powder in soups, broths, and your choice of snacks, main courses, and desserts. You can also whisk it into your favorite salad dressing or smoothies.
Turkey tail mushroom is also available in various dietary supplements, such as capsules and tinctures. You can incorporate the turkey tail mushroom capsules’ benefits into your daily wellness routine.
In traditional medicine, the turkey tail was often brewed in tea. A soothing cup of Turkey tail mushroom tea benefits the stomach, lungs, and spleen.
Before using this mushroom, you should talk to a health professional. As noted earlier, the mushroom has some side effects, which often result from overuse. A health professional should help you figure out the ideal turkey tail dosage.
Turkey tail is a medicinal mushroom with a long history of use in traditional medicine. This fungus is found on dead tree stumps and logs around the world and has a tremendous range of potential health benefits.
Turkey tail is packed with antioxidants and other health-promoting compounds that may help boost immunity, support gut health, reduce inflammation, and enhance the efficacy of standard cancer treatments.
Proponents of turkey tail suggest that the mushroom may enhance cognitive functioning, reduce fatigue, improve athletic performance, and protect against age-related diseases.
Turkey tail is generally safe to consume with few side effects. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if turkey tail supplements are right for you.