There are many functional mushrooms that are known for their healing properties. One of these mushrooms, in particular, that is touted for its many different health benefits is Turkey Tail.
What is Turkey Tail
Turkey Tail mushroom, scientifically named Trametes versicolor, is an adaptive and versatile fungus that grows primarily on stumps and decomposing hardwood trees.
It is most often found in woodland areas in North America, but also in mainland Europe, the UK, and all over Asia.
Turkey Tail earned its name due to its colorful, banded, semi-circular appearance that closely resembles a turkey’s tail. As such, it is relatively easy to identify, although there are a few look-alikes.
Out of the many functional mushrooms, Turkey Tail is likely the most practical and applicable since it has the most clinical research behind it.
In particular, Turkey Tail is best known for the compounds PSP and PSK, which stand for Polysaccharide Peptide and Polysaccharide Krestin, respectively.
Additionally, Turkey Tail is rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants and contains sterols, triterpenes, organic acids, and alkaloids. Similar to nutritive herbs like stinging nettle, turkey tail mushroom is also rich in vitamins, including vitamins A and D.
Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom
Research on the medicinal benefits of mushrooms continues to grow. Particularly, there continues to be growing evidence of the benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom.
The main potential benefits of Turkey Tail mushroom include:
- Anti-cancer effects
- Immunomodulating action
- Gut health support
- Cardiometabolic protection, and
- Antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects.
And detailed below are some of the specific research findings that illustrate the benefits of turkey tail mushroom.
1. May Support Immune Health
There are dozens of lab studies showing that compounds in Turkey Tail, particularly PSK and PSP, induce increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines, natural killer cells, T- and B-cells, and other immune-modulating cells.
Additionally, there are a few recent human studies showing its immune-boosting effects.
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, subjects who took capsules containing Turkey Tail and Danshen (Salvia milittorrhiza) had higher counts of T helper cells and an increased ratio of T helper to T suppressor/cytotoxic T cells, as well as increased cytokine production. All of which suggests that Turkey Tail can support immunity.
In another preliminary randomized study, patients who tested positive for human papillomavirus were given an extract of Turkey Tail that was blended with other mushrooms. The researchers found that nearly 90% of patients cleared the virus after two months of supplementation, compared to only 5% of patients in the control group.
Finally, due to chemotherapy's effects on the immune system, researchers have looked into the potential immunomodulating effects of Turkey Tail in individuals receiving treatments for various cancers.
While there are many possible studies to go over, one example is a clinical trial investigating the immunomodulatory effects of Turkey Tail in post-treatment breast cancer patients. Results showed that patients who received Turkey Tail and Danshen had higher levels of T-helper lymphocytes, a higher ratio of T-helper to T-suppressor, cytotoxic T-cells, and higher levels of B-lymphocytes.
2. May Improve Gut Health
Turkey Tail is also known for its benefits for gut health, largely due to its action as a prebiotic.
For example, one in vitro study found that PSP from Turkey Tail increased levels of bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp., while reducing certain pathogenic bacteria, such as Clostridium spp. and Staphylococcus spp. Moreover, it increases short-chain fatty acids and certain digestive enzymes, all suggesting powerful prebiotic and gut-health supporting effects.
In other research, a randomized human study found that PSP treatment from Turkey Tail modulated the gut microbiome in a positive manner, with similar effects to prebiotic treatment. Thus, Turkey Tail may enhance gut/mucosal immunity too.
Lastly, one study looked at the effects of protein-bound beta-glucan from Turkey tail and its effects on obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet. They found that the protein-bound beta-glucan favorably influenced gut microbiota, which was related to anti-obesity effects.
3. May Support Heart Health
There is also some research on Turkey Tail with regard to various cardiometabolic risk factors, such as blood lipids, insulin, glucose, and so forth.
In one study, rats were fed a high-fat diet and injected with a substance to induce type 2 diabetes. From there they were given varying doses of PSP extracts from Turkey Tail.
Researchers found a dose-dependent effect of Turkey Tail’s ability to reduce blood glucose and triglycerides, improve insulin resistance, and decrease lipid peroxidation, while also increasing certain antioxidants (e.g. glutathione).
Another study in mice showed that polysaccharide extracts from Turkey Tail helped to regulate inflammation and decrease hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).
Human studies are needed, but this still shows promise for a few cardiometabolic risk factors that are increasing in today’s world.
There is also a long history of Turkey Tail usage throughout various parts of the world.
It has been used for thousands of years as a medicine in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in Japan, as well as Native American medicine.
Since the 1960s, various extracts from Turkey Tail have been used in China and Japan to treat different types of cancer.
How to Add Turkey Tail to the Diet
Turkey Tail is found in many different places in the wild, but despite the fact that it’s so common, it is hardly ever found in supermarkets in its whole form. This is primarily because it has a leathery texture and is hard to chew.
So what is the best way to add this mushroom to your life?
The best way is by taking it in a daily supplement. This allows you to get all of the benefits of turkey tail without having to worry about cooking with it or adding a messy powder to your shake.
At TruWild, we include turkey tail extract in our Motion formula. This pre-workout formula contains the ingredients you need for high output days
- A Clean Energy Boost
- No Jitters or Crash
- Plant-Based & Gluten-Free
- Five Trademark Ingredients
Additionally, we use PeakO2, a clinically researched form of Turkey Tail that has been shown to support power output.
Turkey Tail mushroom has thousands of years of medicinal use, particularly in China and Japan.
It is by far one of the most well-researched mushrooms in the world, with particular clinical relevance for its anti-cancer properties.
Beyond this, research shows Turkey Tail mushroom may have benefits for general immune system function, gut health, and cardiometabolic risk factors, making it a potentially invaluable mushroom in the modern age.
Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He's the founder of The Botanical Institute, where he writes about adaptogens and other herbs.