Mushrooms have been harvested and consumed for thousands of years, mainly for their potential health benefits. Despite this interest, researchers estimate that only 10% of mushrooms growing in the world have been officially identified.† Turkey tail mushrooms, also known as Trametes Versicolor, is one known variety. It is often categorized as a medicinal mushroom, as many believe it offers strong immunity benefits. Its growing popularity in wellness culture means that turkey tail mushrooms can be bought in various forms, including powders, capsules, and tinctures.†
But how trustworthy are these health claims? Letís take a closer look.†
How Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms Traditionally Used?
As the name suggests, Turkey tail mushrooms resemble a turkeyís tail with their broad, circular caps and brown color gradient. Itís a polypore mushroom; because of this, itís easily identified by its sizable fruiting body, and it often grows in groups.†
Turkey tail mushrooms are commonly found on wooden logs and trees. Not only do they grow in abundance in Northern America, but Europe and Asia too.†
In fact, they are a traditional ingredient in Chinese medicine and practices of herbalism around the world. Typically the mushroom is harvested and ground into a crumble before being steeped and drunk in a tea.†
In many countries, turkey tail mushrooms are just as popular now as they were a thousand years ago. For instance, in Japan, the mushroom is considered safe and beneficial when used in conjunction with cancer treatment.
The Health Benefits of Turkey Tail
Research into the health benefits of turkey tail is limited. Despite this, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests turkey tail mushrooms may be able to:
- Improve immune function
- Enhance medicine efficacies†
- Aid gut health
- Reduce inflammation
Many believe that turkey tailís effectiveness is largely attributed to its unique chemical makeup. The mushroom contains a myriad of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Aside from this, turkey tail is rich in antioxidants and prebiotics.†
Weíll take a closer look at how this impacts health below.†
Do Turkey Tails Contain Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are a group of compounds that protect the body against unstable atoms, known as free radicals. In extreme cases, cellular damage can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and even certain cancers.†
Thatís why eating and consuming antioxidant-rich foods helps maintain good health. Strawberries, dark chocolate, and kale are just a few examples of foods with antioxidant properties.†
Luckily, turkey tail mushrooms also contain a wide variety of antioxidant compounds, including quercetin and baicalein. One study investigating the mushroom found over 35 different phenolic and flavonoid antioxidants in one sample of turkey tail.†
This has led many to believe that turkey tails can reduce inflammation and support the immune system.†
How Do Turkey Tails Impact Immunity?
Everyone knows the importance of protecting and supporting the bodyís immune system. Not only does it protect the body from harmful bacteria, but it determines how fast it heals too.†
Turkey tail extracts have been found to contain protein-bound carbohydrates; Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP), and Krestin (PSK). Both of these compounds are believed to activate specific immune cells and suppress inflammation. How does it do this?
Well, PSP can stimulate specific white blood cells (macrophages). This, in turn, helps fight off infections and viruses. Interestingly, in some countries like Japan and China, PSP and PSK are used in conjunction with cancer treatments like chemotherapy.†
Of course, the extent to which turkey tails can be helpful for cancer treatments is still debatable. However, it shows a lot of promise.†
Is It Safe to Consume Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Turkey tail mushrooms are considered safe for most people to consume. However, thatís not to say that they are entirely risk-free.†
Some side effects can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Darkened fingernails
Many of these adverse effects are caused by the PSK in turkey tail mushrooms. Additionally, those with a sensitivity to fungus should steer clear of these mushrooms.†
For many people, the benefits of these mushrooms far outweigh the risks. But be cautious when buying turkey tail supplements; not all products are crafted to a high quality.†
Also, itís advised to speak to a medical professional before consuming turkey tail mushrooms for the first time.†