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Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes Versicolor)

Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes Versicolor)

The Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes Versicolor) is a common polypore mushroom found all over the globe. A polypore is a type of fungus that produces large fruiting bodies with tubes or pores on the underside.

Versicolor means “of several colors” and reliably describes the variety of colors that Turkey Tail mushrooms display. The mushroom has earned the name “Turkey Tail” because its shape and multiple colors resemble those of a wild turkey. There is also a similar-looking mushroom, False Turkey Tail, which belongs to a different order. A further lookalike is the multicolor gill polypore.

The top surface of the Turkey Tail cap shows typical concentric zones of different colors, with the margin always being the lightest. Older specimens can have zones with green alga growing on them, thus making them appear green. The cap is flat, up to 8 x 5 x 0.15-1 cm in area. It is often triangular or round, with zones of fine hairs. The pore surface is whitish to light brown.

The Turkey Tail mushroom commonly grows in tiled layers or rows on logs and stumps of deciduous trees. The mushrooms are common in North America.

T. versicolor is a white-rot fungus that degrades lignin in wood. Lignin is a complex organic polymer found in the cell walls of plants, making them rigid and woody.

Turkey Tail mushrooms contain polysaccharides, which can offer a number of health benefits. Because of these benefits, T. versicolor is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as well as by people more broadly in the form of supplements.

In this comprehensive guide on T. versicolor, we’ll be covering:

  • Turkey Tail mushroom benefits
  • Side effects of Turkey Tail mushrooms
  • How to grow Turkey Tail mushrooms
  • Recipes
  • Turkey Tail mushroom tea/coffee
  • Turkey Tail mushroom powder

Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits

The most impressive benefit of the Turkey Tail mushroom is its ability to improve the health of your immune system, which it does in a variety of ways.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that help to inhibit or reduce damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules known as free radicals. This can result in cellular damage and chronic inflammation.

Moreover, this imbalance is linked to an increased risk of developing health conditions, such as certain cancers and heart disease.

However, you can minimize these risks by eating foods rich in antioxidants or supplementing with these compounds, helping to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.

Turkey Tail mushrooms contain an array of antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids. In fact, researchers in one study detected over 35 different phenolic compounds in a sample of Turkey Tail mushroom extract, along with the flavonoid antioxidants quercetin and baicalein.

Phenol and flavonoid antioxidants boost the immune system by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds.

For instance, research has shown that quercetin promotes the release of immunoprotective proteins like interferon-gamma while inhibiting the release of the pro-inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX).

Immune-Boosting Polysaccharopeptides

Polysaccharopeptides are protein-bound polysaccharides (carbohydrates). They are found in Turkey Tail mushrooms.

Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) are two types of polysaccharopeptides found in Turkey Tail mushrooms. Both of these compounds possess powerful immune-boosting properties. They promote the immune response by activating and inhibiting specific types of immune cells and by suppressing inflammation.

For example, test-tube studies have revealed that PSP increases monocytes, which are types of white blood cells that fight infection and improve immunity.

Meanwhile, PSK stimulates dendritic cells that promote immunity to toxins and regulate the immune response. Furthermore, PSK activates specialized white blood cells called macrophages, which protect your body against harmful substances like certain bacteria.

In countries like Japan and China, many people use PSP and PSK as anticancer agents, alongside surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, owing to their ability to naturally strengthen the immune system.

The Potential To Improve Immune Function In People With Certain Cancers

Studies have demonstrated that Turkey Tail mushrooms may have antitumor properties, which are believed to be related to their immune-strengthening effects.

One test-tube study found that PSK inhibited the growth and spread of human colon cancer cells.

Also, a certain type of polysaccharide found in Turkey Tail mushrooms — called Coriolus versicolor glucan (CVG) — may suppress certain tumors. One study in tumor-bearing mice showed that daily treatment with 45.5 and 90.9 mg of extracted CVG per pound (100 and 200 mg per kg) of body weight significantly reduced tumor size. Researchers attributed this effect to improved immune response.

Another study demonstrated that daily treatment with 45.5 mg of Turkey Tail extract per pound (100 mg per kg) of body weight significantly slowed the spread of cancer cells and improved survival times in dogs with a highly aggressive cancer called hemangiosarcoma.

However, anticancer effects are strongest when Turkey Tail mushrooms are used in combination with more traditional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Enhancing The Efficacy Of Certain Cancer Treatments

Due to the presence of many beneficial compounds, Turkey Tail mushroom extracts are commonly used alongside traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy as a natural way to fight certain cancers.

For example, a review of 13 studies found that patients given 1-3.6 g of Turkey Tail mushroom extract per day, along with conventional treatment, had a significant survival advantage.

This study demonstrated that people with breast cancer, gastric cancer, or colorectal cancer treated with Turkey Tail and chemotherapy experienced a 9 percent reduction in five-year mortality compared to chemotherapy alone.

The five-year mortality rate is a type of survival rate for estimating the prognosis of a particular disease. It is the percentage of people in a study or treatment group who are alive five years after they were diagnosed with — or started treatment for — a disease, such as cancer.

Another review of eight studies in over 8,000 people with stomach cancers showed that those who received chemotherapy along with PSK lived longer after surgery than those who underwent chemotherapy without PSK.

In addition, a study in 11 women with breast cancer found that patients who were given 6-9 g of Turkey Tail powder per day following radiotherapy experienced an increase in cancer-fighting cells in the immune system, such as natural killer cells and lymphocytes.

Improvements To Gut Health

It’s important to ensure you have a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This will help you maintain a robust immune system. Your gut bacteria interact with immune cells and directly impact your immune response. Turkey Tail mushrooms contain prebiotics, which help nourish beneficial bacteria.

One eight-week study in 24 healthy people found that daily consumption of 3,600 mg of PSP extracted from Turkey Tail mushrooms led to beneficial changes in gut bacteria. It also suppressed the growth of the potentially problematic E. coli and Shigella bacteria.

A test-tube study revealed that Turkey Tail mushroom extract modified gut bacteria composition by increasing populations of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus while reducing potentially harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium and Staphylococcus.

People who have healthy levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have improved intestinal health (and less likelihood of having diarrhea), enhanced immune system, reduced cholesterol levels, a lower chance of certain cancers developing, and improved digestion.

The Potential To Combat HPV

A study of 61 people with human papillomavirus (HPV) found that 88 percent of participants who took Turkey Tail experienced positive results, such as clearance of HPV, compared to just 5 percent of the control group.

Possible Improvements To Athletic Performance

A mouse study found that Turkey Tail extract improved exercise performance and reduced fatigue. Moreover, the mice treated with the extract experienced lower blood sugar levels at rest and post-exercise.

Turkey Tail Extract May Improve Insulin Resistance

A study in rats with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that Turkey Tail extract significantly reduced blood sugar levels and improved insulin resistance.

Studies on the Turkey Tail mushroom are ongoing and future research may reveal more benefits of this mushroom. However, since many of the studies so far have been conducted on rodents, it’s not clear if people consuming the mushroom (or its extracts) will experience the same benefits. This is why further research on humans is necessary.

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Turkey Tail Mushroom Side Effects

Turkey Tail mushrooms are considered safe to consume. Researchers report few side effects in studies.

Nonetheless, some individuals may experience digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, and dark stools when consuming Turkey Tail mushrooms. Another potential side effect of consuming these mushrooms is a darkening of the fingernails.

Also, if using Turkey Tail as a cancer treatment alongside chemotherapy, side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Even though Turkey Tail mushrooms have a good safety profile, you should still speak with your doctor before supplementing with them to treat a health condition.

How To Grow Turkey Tail Mushrooms

You can find Turkey Tail mushrooms in nature (and fortunately, they grow year-round). You can also buy them as a powder or in the form of supplements online.

Another option is to grow them yourself. This may turn out to be a more economical way of having a reliable supply of Turkey Tail mushrooms. After all, the mushrooms may not grow near where you live, and having a constant supply of Turkey Tail mushroom capsules can end up being quite expensive.

If you want to go down the route of Turkey Tail mushroom cultivation, then you’ll need:

  • A stump or 3-8” log from a hardwood
  • Turkey Tail mushroom spawn plugs
  • A power drill with a 5/16” drill bit
  • Rubbing alcohol for sterilizing the drill bit
  • Cheese wax

Here are the steps you should follow for a successful grow:

  1. Stump or log cultivation is the easiest method. You’ll want to start your grow in the late winter or early spring. Start by looking in your yard for a tree stump from a hardwood tree like oak, maple, or pine. Choosing a stump for the growth will make the whole process a lot easier because the roots will provide water to the wood and reduce the need for watering. If you don’t have a stump in your yard, go out and get yourself a small 3-8” log of oak, maple, or pine. Growing mushrooms with logs will involve the same process as with stumps. When choosing a stump, make sure that it’s located in a somewhat shaded area, as this will help keep the mushrooms alive.
  2. Clean the area before beginning the grow, as this will reduce the possibility of other fungi inhabiting the stump later on.
  3. Once you have your stump (or log) in the ideal location, you’ll want to begin inoculating it with Turkey Tail mushroom spawn plugs (which you can purchase from a variety of reputable vendors). In order to do this, take a 5/16” drill bit, sterilize it with rubbing alcohol, and set it in the drill.
  4. Drill a hole about 2” from the edge of one side of the top of the stump while also making it about 1 ¼“ deep.
  5. Next, hammer the plug spawns into the holes.
  6. Continue to drill a line of holes into the stump at intervals of 4” apart while inserting and hammering in your plug spawns along the way.
  7. Now you’ll want to drill a new row of holes 3” from the last row while also inserting spawn plugs in the same manner as you did before.
  8. You are now going to take cheese wax and heat it to approximately 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, with a paintbrush, apply the wax as it melts to each hole. This will seal the spawn plug into the wood.
  9. Add 1-2” of water a week to ensure a healthy grow.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Recipes

Turkey Tail mushrooms have a mildly earthy and bitter taste. So they’re definitely an acquired taste. You can use Turkey Tail mushroom powder to easily add this healthy fungus to everyday recipes, creating a variety of flavors in the process.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Soup Recipe

One popular recipe is to use Turkey Tail mushrooms to make a savory soup. Simply add Turkey Tail mushrooms or mushroom powder to water with vegetables, herbs, and spices to enhance their natural earthy flavor. Let’s look at a soup recipe using whole Turkey Tail mushrooms.

Ingredients

  • 15 oz of Turkey Tail mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 ½ tbsp of oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut in half
  • 8 cups of vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a large pot at a medium-high temperature, cook the mushrooms in oil, stirring occasionally until they are tender and beginning to brown. This should take about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until it softens.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the celery, carrots, potato, thyme, and vegetable stock to the pot, and bring it to a boil.
  5. Reduce the temperature to medium, and cook this soup down for around 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  6. Remove the potato chunks from the soup and mix them in your blender. Blend until smooth.
  7. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Mushroom Broth

You could also try a blended mushroom broth mix (containing multiple functional mushrooms). All you have to do is mix the dry packet into hot water to sip alone or combine it with other recipes.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Tea/Coffee

Another popular way to consume Turkey Tail mushrooms is in the form of tea or coffee. Making Turkey Tail mushroom tea and coffee is actually pretty simple.

How To Make Turkey Tail Mushroom Tea

Ingredients

  • 7 cups of purified water
  • 1 ½ cup of chopped Turkey Tail mushrooms
  • ¾ tsp of maple syrup
  • 3.5 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 2 drops of lemon essential oil

Instructions

  1. Chop the Turkey Tail mushrooms into smaller pieces.
  2. Put the pieces of mushrooms in the large pot of water that is on the stove.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a low simmer for one hour.
  4. Pour the mixture into a strainer.
  5. Add a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground turmeric, as well as maple syrup, and mix.
  6. Add the lemon essential oil and mix again.
  7. If you’d like to enhance the flavor, you can add almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, or stevia.

You can keep your Turkey Tail mushroom tea in the fridge and reheat it later or serve it chilled.

How To Make Turkey Tail Mushroom Coffee

If you’re more of a coffee drinker, then there are basically four ways to make Turkey Tail mushroom coffee at home:

  1. Buy a commercial Turkey Tail mushroom coffee product
  2. Get Turkey Tail mushroom extract powder and add it to your coffee
  3. Buy Turkey Tail mushroom tincture and add it to your coffee
  4. Forage for mushrooms and make your own powder to add to your coffee

1. Commercial Turkey Tail Mushroom Coffee

This is the easiest way to make Turkey Tail mushroom coffee since much of the preparation is already done for you. Simply buy the coffee and brew it as your normally would.

However, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Firstly, not all products are created equal. There is very little regulation in the supplement industry. So many companies aren’t required to disclose their mushroom sourcing, growing methods, extraction process, or really any details about the supplement’s benefits or risks.

This is why it’s crucial to buy any coffee product from a trusted brand. To enjoy maximum health benefits, look for a company that uses only the fruiting body, is transparent about its sourcing and extraction methods, and shares COA or third-party lab test results.

2. Buy Turkey Tail Mushroom Extract Powder And Add It To Your Coffee

If you want more control over your dosage of Turkey Tail mushrooms, then this is the ideal choice for you. Moreover, using powder opens you up to significantly more brands and sourcing options, and may even allow you to shop locally for a product.

When buying Turkey Tail mushroom powder, make sure that the company you’re going with is using only the fruiting body and shares their extraction process. Mushroom extracts may offer more beneficial effects than powder alone.

Here’s how to make Turkey Tail mushroom coffee with mushroom powder:

  1. Brew your morning cup of coffee how you normally would
  2. Measure and add a serving of Turkey Tail mushroom powder to your mug following your package directions. If none are listed, ½ tsp is usually a safe dosage.
  3. While your coffee is still very hot, slowly pour your coffee over the mushroom powder
  4. Stir the powder in
  5. Allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes

3. Buy Turkey Tail Tincture And Add It To Your Coffee

Another option is to use Turkey Tail mushroom tincture instead of powder. This option is ideal if you want to hide the taste of tincture in your morning coffee. Tinctures are convenient, effective, and a trusted delivery method for consuming functional mushrooms. But not everyone likes taking a tincture directly.

Here’s how to make Turkey Tail mushroom coffee with tincture:

  • Brew your morning coffee like you’re used to doing
  • Measure out a full dropper of tincture
  • Add it to your mug while your coffee is still very hot
  • Stir and enjoy

4. Forage For Turkey Tail Mushrooms To Add To Your Coffee

This is a great option if you’re able to find wild Turkey Tail mushrooms in your backyard, nearby, or from your local farmer’s market.

Here’s how to dry and grind Turkey Tail mushrooms for coffee:

  1. Prepare your Turkey Tail mushrooms by gently brushing off any debris or dirt with a vegetable brush. An old toothbrush works, too. (There is no need to wash the mushrooms.)
  2. Cut the mushrooms into ¼“ pieces and add them to a food dehydrator until all the moisture is removed. Another option is to place the fresh Turkey Tail mushrooms in an oven heated to 175 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours, flipping them halfway through. Then transfer them to a colander to air-dry for another 3-5 days.
  3. Once completely dried, the mushrooms are ready to be ground into powder. Use a coffee grinder or food processor to grind your mushrooms into as fine a powder as possible. Your mushroom powder is likely to be chunkier than any commercial version. You can store your mushroom powder in an airtight glass container, like a mason jar, for up to a year. Once you have the powder, you can make your coffee as you normally would.
  4. Measure out 1 g of mushroom powder. Depending on how chunky the powder is, this is likely to be around a tsp.
  5. While your coffee is still very hot, add your mushroom powder and stir.
  6. Allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes.

If you don’t want any tiny mushroom chunks floating in your coffee, then you’ll want to strain them out.

You can use a French press for foraged Turkey Tail powder, as it means you don’t have to worry about any mushroom chinks floating in your coffee. If using a French press, combine your ground coffee and mushroom powder together, then brew your coffee as you normally would.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Powder

You can purchase Turkey Tail mushroom powder from a variety of vendors. If you decide to do so, just make sure the vendor is reputable and well-reviewed. The product should be organic and produced in a way so that it’s free from industrial pollutants.

Be aware that there are two different forms of Turkey Tail mushroom powder that you can buy online:

  • Powder derived from ground-up, dried, whole Turkey Tail mushrooms
  • Turkey Tail mushroom extract powder: This is a more concentrated form, in which the active constituents of the mushroom are extracted. By using an extract powder, you will consume a much lower dosage to get the same medicinal benefits. Extracts can vary widely in terms of strengths (and therefore dosages), so make sure you follow recommendations for dosing when buying an extract.

Many Turkey Tail extracts (which can come in the form of capsules or tinctures) may also have other mushroom extracts added to them, such as chaga, lion’s mane, maitake, cordyceps, shiitake, and reishi, as these offer health benefits, too.

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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