Getting its name from its striking colors, the turkey tail mushroom is also known as Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor. This mushroom often grows and flourishes on decomposing, dead hardwood trees, and underneath forest stumps.

The Japanese call these "Cloud mushrooms" or "Kawaritake," as their gray, tan, white, and earthy-toned stripes sometimes look like swirly clouds.

The Turkey tail represents health, infinity, longevity, and spiritual attunement in most Asian countries. It effectively supports and boosts your health thanks to its polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK) components. These agents are often isolated and used as medicines in Japan, etc.

What are the Key Benefits of a Turkey Tail Mushroom?

Given that the Turkey tail has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, there are definitely some big benefits of making it a regular part of your diet.

Here are some key Turkey tail mushroom benefits.

#1. Turkey Tail Mushrooms Can Help fight Cancer

Almost all medicinal mushrooms are big cancer fighters, but Turkey tail takes the battle further because it has higher than average antioxidant properties. This mushroom also has polysaccharide-K (PSK) that helps in stimulating your immune system. [1]

PSK is an approved anticancer prescription medicine in Japan. According to the National Library of Medicine, Turkey tail mushrooms have improved the survival rate of people with gastric cancer. [2] It also fights leukemia and helps sustain the immune system of patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Note that the Turkey tail, as a whole mushroom, is not used anywhere as an approved cancer medication. Even the PSK isolate is not used as a standalone treatment. Instead, it is used in tandem as a supplement to your existing cancer management plan.

#2. This Mushroom is Antioxidant-rich

Antioxidants help reduce potential cell damage and prolonged inflammations, which could be caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. All good reasons why you’d want as many antioxidants as possible in your body.

The Turkey tail mushroom has a generous supply of antioxidants, with more than 35 compounds in a single mushroom. And based on many studies, antioxidants are the jack of all trades in keeping you healthy. [3] Their functions include being cheating agents (which carry unwanted toxins out of the body), hydrogen and electron donors, free radical foragers, synergists, and enzyme inhibitors.

Benefits of Turkey Tail infographic superimposed on an image of wild Turkey Tail

#3. They are Effective Immune System Boosters

Another benefit of Turkey tail mushrooms is that it is a great source of polysaccharopeptide, a protein-bound carbohydrate proven to build and boost your immune system. Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP) are the two main types of polysaccharopeptide found in Turkey tail mushrooms.

These two carbohydrates activate and inhibit specific immune cells and do a great job subduing inflammation. By increasing the production of your white blood cells, your immune systems can mount a better fight against infection.

A healthy immune system means a stronger system capable of withstanding everyday infections and any other health challenges.

Note that Turkey tail mushrooms are not just good for people, i.e., you, but for your pets also. Give a regular dose of Turkey tails to strengthen your furry friend’s immune system.

#4. Turkey Tail Mushrooms are Great for Gut Health

Not all bacteria is bad for you. In fact, good bacteria is essential for your gut.

Good gut health positively impacts most of your organs. It has been linked to improved intestinal symptoms like diarrhea, and helps support immune response, mood, brain and heart health, healthy cholesterol levels, and sound digestion.

Turkey tail mushrooms are a great source of prebiotics that nourish helpful bacteria to support a healthy gut. A test-tube study found that turkey tail extract not only promoted good gut bacteria but also reduced potentially harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium and Staphylococcus.

Where and How is Turkey Tail Used?

In traditional Asian medicine, the Turkey tail mushroom is brewed in tea. This concoction is used to increase energy and support the lungs, spleen, and stomach. It is also popular in smoothies, soups, and breakfast bowls.

The great thing is that you no longer have to scavenge for wild-growing Turkey tail in the woods. They are readily available as Turkey tail mushroom capsules and in powder form that you can consume daily.

The recommended daily Turkey tail mushroom intake is 2.4 grams. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you want to include this mushroom in your daily supplements or make changes to the dosage.

Turkey Tail mushrooms

What are the Side Effects of Using Turkey Tail?

When consumed by mouth, the Turkey tail mushroom is generally safe and is well-tolerated by healthy adults. Those currently taking chemotherapy along with Turkey tail may experience some side effects, including nausea and vomiting. Of course, these are also common side effects of chemotherapy by itself.

A small number of first-time users of Turkey tail mushrooms may experience some mild side effects. These include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Dark-colored stool
  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite

Is the Turkey Tail Mushroom Safe?

Yes, the Turkey tail mushroom is considered safe, and the side effects – should there be any – are minimal. This mushroom is quickly becoming a giant in the nutraceutical industry.

Still, for your peace of mind, discussing its use with your doctor is helpful. If they are nutritionally minded, they may be able to help you learn more about the expectations and impact of incorporating Turkey tail mushrooms into your diet. If not, you might actually teach them!

After Thoughts

Turkey tail is one powerhouse of a mushroom. It has been a valuable tonic in the past and will continue to remain an essential supplement well into the future.

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Sources

[1] Sun, C et al. β€œPolysaccharide-K (PSK) in cancer--old story, new possibilities?.” Current medicinal chemistry vol. 19,5 (2012): 757-62. doi:10.2174/092986712798992020

[2] Nakazato, H et al. β€œEfficacy of immunochemotherapy as adjuvant treatment after curative resection of gastric cancer. Study Group of Immunochemotherapy with PSK for Gastric Cancer.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 343,8906 (1994): 1122-6. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(94)90233-x

[3] Lobo, V et al. β€œFree radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.” Pharmacognosy reviews vol. 4,8 (2010): 118-26. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.70902

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