A Guide to Turkey Tail Mushroom
Among the standouts of the medicinal mushroom world: chaga, reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps-- turkey tail is the most researched, but less well known of the bunch. Despite its lack of mainstream familiarity, turkey tail has some of the most impressive benefits for our immune health. Let’s explore exactly what this mushroom is and how it can be of benefit to you.
Underside of Turkey Tail Mushroom
What is Turkey Tail Mushroom?
Turkey Tail (scientifically known as Trametes versicolor) is a polypore mushroom that can be found commonly throughout the world. It is easily identified by its fan shaped fruiting bodies marked by bands of varying color, much like the plumage of a turkey’s tail. Its underside is made up of a network of micro pores or tubules (pictured above), where it releases spores for reproduction. It thrives in moist conditions feeding on decaying stumps, fallen logs and dying trees in temperate forests.
Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom
There is a long list of health benefits attributed to incorporating turkey tail into your diet. To highlight a few:
Enhanced immune response 1
Anti-tumor and anti-cancer capabilities 2
High antioxidant levels 3
Abundant source of prebiotic fiber for gut health 4
Turkey Tail’s ability to act on our immune system comes from its high concentration of beta-glucans, particularly PSK and PSP. Beta-glucans are protein bound polysaccharides that work to activate immune cells in our bodies, mainly NK cells (natural killer cells) which travel the bloodstream and help break down foreign bodies and damaged cells.
Incorporating Turkey Tail into your Diet
There are a number of ways to start incorporating turkey tail into your diet. You can do a deep dive and forage your own mushrooms from your local woodlands. If you go this route make sure you do this safely and sustainably. This book is a great resource for mushroom identification, especially if you’re in the west coast U.S.. You wouldn’t want to eat turkey tail straight up because of its tough and fibrous texture. However, they can be made edible by slow cooking them in soups or teas. Don’t count on them for deep flavor, but rather use them for an added texture with great health benefits. You can also use powdered extracts in virtually any recipe. There are a number of high quality products, like ours, which have pure turkey tail extract mixed in with the final product!