The Health Enhancing Benefits Of Turkey Tail Mushrooms

benefits of turkey tail mushrooms

Almost 2000 years ago in China, a book called ‘The Divine Husbandman’s Classic of Materia Medica’ detailed the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms as a medicine for treating disease.

In Mandarin, it is known as  ‘Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing’, and it contains a collection of all the medicinal herbs and plants physicians used to heal people from various conditions

This means that humans have consumed turkey tail mushrooms for thousands of years!

Traditionally it’s been used for fatigue, blood sugar, athletic performance, pain, infections, and pulmonary diseases.

Today, this ancient mushroom has been through thorough testing that confirms some of the medicinal properties people praised over the ages. 

This guide will cover everything you need to know about the proven benefits of turkey tail mushrooms, the potential risks, and what to look for when picking a clean and reliable product. 

In This Article:

  1. What Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
  2. What Are the Benefits Of Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
  3. Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms Safe?
  4. What to Look For When Picking A Product?
  5. Conclusion

Turkey Tail Mushrooms? What’s that?

The Turkey Tail Mushroom is a flat fan-shaped fungus that has a pattern of multi-shaded colours forming circular rings from the centre. 

It gained its name due to its array of patterns resembling the feathered formations of a turkeys tail (so rest assured no turkeys were harmed in making this mushroom).

turkey tail mushroom vs a turkey's tail

There’s a variety of colours the mushrooms can take form in, such as red, orange, brown, green, and even blue. 

They grow together in clusters and are sometimes arranged like shelves along a tree. 

turkey tail mushroom brackets

They belong to the Polyporaceae family, which just means they have pores on their back rather than the gills found on something like a portobello mushroom. 

gills vs pores

It’s from these pores that the mushroom releases reproductive spores, which ultimately find their way onto dead trees, stumps, logs, and branches.

Anywhere theres decaying surfaces of wood, you’ll likely find these turkey tail mushrooms growing. Next time you go for a stroll or hike through your local forest, keep an eye out for this fantastic fungus as it grows in abundance. 

Its scientific name is Trametes Versicolour, which translates into ‘thin one’ and ‘many colours’. They called it ‘Kawaratake’ in Japan, which means ‘mushroom by the riverbank’. It also has its name in China, ‘Yun Zhi’- meaning ‘cloud fungus’. All of these names describe the appearance of this unique looking mushroom. 

While the mushroom has been popular in eastern countries around the world for thousands of years, it’s only recently it’s been put through rigorous scientific testing. Its remarkable results have rippled into the public domain, making it an incredibly popular mushroom. 

Due to these promising results and popularity, the mushroom has become a hot topic in science and one of the most studied medicinal mushrooms in the world.

Many other mushrooms have also been found to be medicinal. These groups of mushrooms are commonly referred to today as ‘functional mushrooms’. However, the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms have made it one of the most popular of these functional mushrooms alongside Reishi and Chaga

turkey tail, reishi, and chaga mushroom all side by side

So What Are These Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

The benefits of turkey tail mushrooms are vast and various. 

One of the distinct properties of the mushroom is that it is known as an adaptogen. This means that they help the body become resistant to stress and have a balancing effect on the body, so all vital functions operate normally.

This can include regulating the endocrine system (balancing hormones), aiding the immune system, and adjusting the nervous system.

Some of the biochemical benefits of turkey tail mushrooms include antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, antimicrobials, and immune-boosting polysaccharide fibres such as beta-glucans, PSP, and PSK. 

These properties work together holistically to provide a long-range of helpful benefits to different conditions, diseases, and bodily functions.

The top 5 of these benefits are protecting the cells from damage, enhancing the immune system, supporting gut health, protecting the liver, and promoting better energy and endurance.

  1. Protects You Against Cell Damage

Turkey Tail Mushrooms are great for protecting your very cells from being damaged because of their high content of antioxidants. 

To break it down for you, antioxidants remove a toxic chemical in the body called free radicals. These are the harmful byproducts produced by the body during natural processes of metabolism, digestion, and other bodily functions. 

If too much build-up of free radicals accumulates, this can result in cells becoming damaged and ultimately lead to much more severe health conditions, diseases, and accelerated aging. 

cells under attack

Taking turkey tail mushrooms allow an abundance of antioxidants to swarm into the body and remove free radicals to keep your cells healthy. This also reduces the chances of disease and delays the aging process (I guess you could say it’s not a friend of wrinkles or botox).

These antioxidants are typically found in compounds known as phenols, and more than 35 different phenols are currently identified in the mushroom. 

  1. Enhance Your Immune System 

Several studies have confirmed the benefits of turkey tail mushroom’s immune-boosting properties. 

This is primarily due to the various immune-boosting polysaccharide fibres such as beta-glucans, PSP, and PSK. 

Think of the immune system as the security system of your body. Every day two states of your immune system are constantly in flux. The first is scanning the body for any invading pathogens or toxins that may be trespassing.

surveillance system

The second actively sends its security team to remove those invaders from your body. This security team include immune cells such as Natural Killer T cells and macrophages. 

Beta-glucan’s role in the body isn’t to join your security team in the fight against invaders but to train that security team to strengthen them. Think of beta-glucans as the personal trainer that gets your security team of immune cells muscled up and masters of martial arts to take down those invaders. 

exercise

PSP and PSK are also incredibly powerful polysaccharides that have their own unique immune-boosting properties. These compounds have undergone thorough testing that has demonstrated them to be effective in treating several types of cancer, which clinical trials have confirmed. 

PSK was the first to be discovered in Japan around the 1960s. The popular anecdote is that it was discovered by a chemical engineer who had observed his neighbour completely turn his health around from drinking turkey tail mushrooms. 

The engineer was deeply fascinated by this, and convinced people he knew to investigate why the mushroom was so medicinal. 

This led to PSK being discovered and ultimately isolated to be used in clinical trials around the 1970s, and became approved as a cancer therapy in 1977. That means it’s been used to treat cancer in Japan for over 40 years!

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a clinical study to test these immune-boosting benefits of turkey tail mushrooms on women with breast cancer. 

This group of women had recently finished chemotherapy which impaired the state of their immune system and had low levels of immune cells, including natural killer cells. 

The women were given 9 grams of turkey tail mushrooms a day for three weeks. The results showed an increase in the production of killer T cells and overall enhancement in the state of their immune system. This helped them recover from the adverse side effects of the chemo and significantly increased the rate of success in destroying their cancer.  

These benefits for breast cancer are further exemplified in the famous case of mycologist Paul Stamets and his sick mother, which he told during a popular TEDtalk.

His 83-year-old mother was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic inflammatory breast cancer, and it had spread to her liver. She was given three months to live and was too old to be put on radiotherapy. 

Her doctor recommended the experimental treatment of turkey tail mushrooms Bastyr University was trialling for cancer, and by luck, her son was a supplier of such mushrooms.    

She took 6 grams of turkey tail mushrooms a day alongside a light chemotherapy treatment. 

She soon saw an incredible enhancement in her immune system with increases in natural killer cells. Within a year, there was no detectable tumour present in her body.

Paul Stamets’s theory is that the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms allowed her immune system to spot the tumour more accurately while working in conjunction with the chemotherapy. 

She lived an active and disease-free life for almost another decade after being told she only had three months to live. 

  1. Supports Your Gut Health

Our gut contains an entire world of microorganisms, which research has increasingly shown are communicating to our whole body, including our hormones, immune system, and brain. 

This makes the state of our gut health critical for preventing disease, supporting our immune system, and even regulating our brain function- which is why it’s commonly referred to as our 2nd brain. 

Research on turkey tail mushrooms shows that it supports our gut health with the help of the same polysaccharide fibres mentioned above. 

Beta-glucans and PSP being indigestible fibres mean that our body doesn’t have the digestive enzymes needed to break them down when we ingest them. However, while they may not be digested as food for us personally, they can in fact function as food for our gut bacteria.

We call these foods that feed our bacteria prebiotics. These prebiotics play a significant role in developing the diversity of our gut bacteria. 

gut health

The prebiotic fibres in turkey tail mushrooms were put to the test in a randomised clinical trial. The study included 24 healthy volunteers split into three groups. 

One group got the prebiotic fibre known as PSP. The second group got an antibiotic known to kill gut bacteria and diminish the microbiome. However, the third group was the control and received no treatment as a comparison. 

The findings showed that the individuals given the antibiotic showed growth in pathogenic bacteria that contribute to illness, but those given PSP prebiotics saw an increase in their beneficial bacteria. 

  1. Boosts Energy And Endurance

Exercise, energy, and fitness are essential for everyone for both productivity and health. We all need energy to power us through our days, whether it be work, taking care of the kids, or socialising with friends. 

Although, many people find themselves depleted more than ever in our modern world. This can be due to burnout from stress and diseases that bring on symptoms of fatigue.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms may help with both of these problems.

In research published by the international journal of medical sciences, mice were given turkey tail mushrooms for four weeks. The results demonstrated ‘beneficial effects on performance improvement and anti-fatigue activity’. 

healthy endurance

This benefit of turkey tail mushrooms is possibly due to its impact on the immune system, as viral infections and stress can influence fatigue. 

Research in the Journal of Biotech Research & Biochemistry supports this possibility by exploring the possible causes of chronic fatigue syndrome. 

They conclude that the “crossroad of immunity and neuroendocrine system might be the underlying cause of this illness”, which means that stress can impact the immune system and influence hormones that regulate energy. 

So given that turkey tail mushrooms have potent effects to boost immunity and regulate hormones, it could explain why it has the potential to improve energy in some individuals.

Another possibility supported in the same mice study is that the mushroom can help regulate blood sugar. The results state that “CVM may promote glucose utilisation to peripheral tissues and has a glucose-lowering action”. 

This is likely impacting energy as studies show that high blood sugar can lead to inflammation in the body and harm athletic performance. Lower blood sugar also means a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream, meaning a more stable supply of energy.

The benefit of turkey’s tail mushrooms reducing blood sugar in the body could be why other studies have demonstrated it improved insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic mice. 

  1. Protects Your Liver

The Liver promotes over 500 optimal functions in the body, making it an absolutely essential organ to maintaining balance in the body. 

With exposure to more toxins than ever before, our liver is under immense strain in our modern-day world.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms may benefit the liver by protecting it from harmful free radicals and environmental toxins

A study from the Journal of Functional Foods investigated the effect of the PSP compound found in Turkey Tail mushrooms and tested it on mice with alcoholic liver disease(ALD). The results showed that PSP could reduce the severity of alcoholic liver disease, making it a promising prescription for treatment. 

protecting the liver

This could be due to PSP’s ability to help maintain levels of an antioxidant known as glutathione. 

This antioxidant is so powerful it’s been referred to as a master antioxidant as it’s critical for protecting the body from toxic substances and promoting a long healthy life. 

Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms Safe?

Turkey tail mushrooms are generally considered safe, and there is no data to suggest they are dangerous. 

Although, as with everything, there are some minor side effects to look out for, especially if you’re taking too high of a dosage. Some of these side effects with turkey tail mushrooms can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Gas/Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Darkening of fingernails

If you have an underlying health condition, it’s best to consult your doctor before trying turkey tail mushroom. 

For those looking to pick wild the mushrooms in the wild, it’s important to consider that they tend to attract a variety of organisms that form their own ecosystem around the mushroom. 

This means that boiling wild mushrooms can often be contaminated with these very organisms. 

Another factor to consider is that turkey tail mushrooms can accumulate heavy metals in areas with high pollution levels from the air and soil.

For example, some mushrooms in Asia have high levels of cadmium and other metals that weaken the immune system. 

For these reasons listed above, it’s essential to choose high-quality products that ensure purity. 

What To Look For When Picking A Product

If you’re wondering where to buy turkey tail mushrooms, there are a few things to consider.

Given that the mushrooms can be exposed to heavy metals and microorganisms, it’s important to grow them in areas free from pollution and use clean water.

You also want to make sure your product has certified organic on it. Simply having the word organic on the product doesn’t necessarily mean it’s grown under the tight regulations required to be organic.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says that ‘Organic products intended for the Australian market are not required to be certified in order to be labelled ‘organic’.’

At Forest Superfoods, our turkey tail mushrooms are certified organic and grown in the pristinely clean outback of Victoria, Australia. 

We also freeze-dry our mushrooms to ensure the most nutrient-dense product possible, so you get the maximum benefit from this medicinal mushroom. This method has been found to be almost nutritionally equivalent to consuming the mushrooms fresh from the forest. 

Other companies spray dry their product as it’s cheaper, but since we prioritise giving our customers a high-quality product, we don’t mind spending the additional expense. 

The final benefit is that our mushrooms come with the mycelium included. Most other companies will strictly use the fruiting body, but this leaves out the unique benefits found exclusively in the mycelium. 

Mycelium has unique medicinal properties such as strong anti-viral agents, can aid digestion, and promote beneficial bacteria

The world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets recommends growing mushrooms with mycelium and says, “In my scientific opinion, mushroom products not incorporating mycelium are at a decided disadvantage, given the results of recent research”. 

Conclusion

Turkey tail mushrooms really are phenomenal. 

They’ve been used for thousands of years by various cultures, and today our comprehensive testing shows these long praised benefits of turkey tail mushroom to be true.

From being able to protect our cells, fight off pathogens, support our organs, and not to mention its polysaccharide superheroes that turn our immune system into a bodybuilding beast- the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms are incredible

For fungi that grow on dead decaying wood to somehow turn into these life-enhancing powerhouses really goes to show just how magical and marvellous nature is. 

Just remember when you’re trying these products to always opt for clean growing environments, organic certification, and including the mycellium. 

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