Resembling a plume of turkey feathers, turkey tail, also known as trametes versicolor, is a beautiful medicinal mushroom which grows in shelf-like formations. Turkey tail has the ability to thrive on dead stumps and branches in a range of locations and weather conditions, which is why it has become one of the most common mushrooms in the world today.
As with most species of mushroom, turkey tail plays an important role in the ecosystem by helping to decompose wood and clean contaminated soils. From a biological perspective, turkey tail contains a unique spectrum of bio-active nutrients that have helped to make it a widely-studied mushroom and a popular superfood supplement in its own right.
A Brief History of Turkey Tail
Turkey tail mushroom has a rich and long history; it was mentioned in the famous herbalist handbook, the Shen Nong Ben Ca Jing, along with other superstar polypores such as reishi and chaga. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), turkey tail is prescribed for over 15 ailments including respiratory issues, general weakness, poor appetite and digestive problems.
“Turkey tail mushrooms have been used to treat various maladies for thousands of years in Asia, Europe, and by indigenous peoples in North America. Records of turkey tail brewed as medicinal tea date from the early 15th century, during the Ming Dynasty in China”. - Paul Stamets
Turkey Tail Mushroom Nutritional Overview
Turkey tail contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals, 18 amino acids, beta-glucans, pantothenic acid, triterpenoids, glycoproteins, riboflavin, and monosaccharides, while the mycelium contains polysaccharide peptides. It also contains a rare natural compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK). PSK has been studied both vitro and in vitro for over 40 years, and it has displayed powerful anti-tumor properties.
Doctors at the top American cancer treatment and research facility, MD Anderson, believe that PSK is a “promising candidate for chemoprevention due to the multiple effects on the malignant process, limited side effects and safety of daily oral doses for extended periods of time".
Turkey Tail: Immune Strengthening Goodness
Turkey tail is the most studied out of all the medicinal mushrooms, and for good reason. It’s most famous for its immune-strengthening qualities that not only ward off infections such as the common cold but can also help to fight symptoms associated with conventional cancer treatments. In Japan, PSK extracted from turkey tail mushrooms are sold as anti-cancer supplements that are recommended by the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry.
A seven-year landmark study that was published in the ISRN Oncology Journal found that patients undergoing conventional cancer treatments had significantly improved immune function after taking a daily dose of turkey tail extract powder. Turkey tail is also the subject $5.4 million study in collaboration with Bastyr University and the University of Washington. Although research is still underway, the results are promising and the FDA have already approved several turkey tail trials for prostate and breast cancer patients.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Health Benefits
Digestion Aid: Prebiotics help to promote the growth of good bacteria
Fights Infections: May help to heal infections including human papillomavirus (HPV)
Replenish Qi: Turkey tail is believed to enhance the flow of life force energy in TCM
Appetite Enhancer: Can help to increase appetite
Anti-Inflammatory: Reduces inflammation and eases muscle aches
Antitumor: Studies suggest that turkey tail can reduce tumors
Antioxidant: Fights free radical damage and reduces oxidation
Cold buster: Modulates the immune system to fight colds and flu
Anti-Ageing: Slows down the aging process
Adaptogen: Helps the body to resist harmful stress factors
Immune-Supporting: Supports and strengthens the immune system
How to Choose the Best Turkey Tail
For maximum nutritional impact, you’ll need to carefully choose where you buy your turkey tail mushrooms from. The potency of turkey tail will vary depending on where they are grown, their age, and how they are picked, prepared and packaged. Sadly, some turkey tail powders and products are prepared using excess heat, or packed with fillers and preservatives that diminish the effectiveness of their precious nutrients.
When choosing a turkey tail product, always check that the mushroom is ethically sourced, and carefully prepared without the use of chemicals or excess heat. Ensure that the powder is 100% pure with no added fillers, and that it comes in an airtight packing.
How to Prepare Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Raw turkey tail mushroom requires extensive preparation to turn it into a palatable health supplement. To do this, the medicinal mushroom needs to be cleaned, cut, boiled, simmered and strained for the right amount of time. Overboiling will damage some of the bio-active nutrients, while under boiling can prevent some of the nutrients from being absorbed by the body.
Luckily, there is an easier way, as it’s now easy to get hold of turkey tail tinctures, capsules, tablets and sprays. However, one of the most popular and versatile ways to use turkey tail is to buy turkey tail powder which is finely-milled and ready to be used. For maximum potency, choose a concentrated extract where turkey tail mushroom is extracted to create a potent powder which can contain ten times the nutrients of the raw mushroom.
What is a Medicinal Mushroom Complex Powder?
A mushroom complex is a product which features a blend of medicinal mushrooms. If you can’t decide whether to take turkey tail or tremella, or if you already consume several different mushroom powders, then a complex blend will provide a simple and economical way to get the goodness from a range of medicinal mushrooms.
Turkey Tail Dose and Side Effects
Turkey tail is non-toxic and safe to use, however, the exact dose that you should be taking will depend on a variety of factors including your metabolism and BMI as well as your reasons for taking the mushroom. It is recommended that first-time users take half a teaspoon of the powder mixed in warm water. A teaspoon of turkey tail powder can be taken up to three times a day. Sometimes, higher doses are prescribed to help limit the side effects associated with some conventional medical treatments.
Contact your doctor before taking turkey tail if you are pregnant or are suffering from a severe immune-related illness.
How to Use Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Turkey tail has a very mild and slightly sweet flavour profile, which makes it highly versatile ingredient. From sprucing up salads and soups to adding a kick to juices and smoothies, turkey tails uses are plentiful. You can blend it into liquids, dissolve it into hot water to make teas, or if you’re feeling creative in the kitchen, you can even add it to your favourite nutritious recipes such as raw chocolate bars, protein balls and cakes.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Recipes
Turkey Tail Tea
This easy peasy turkey tail tea forms the foundation for many other recipes and elixirs. Just fill a mug with warm but not boiling water, then stir in your desired dose of turkey tail powder. You can add nut, seed, or coconut milk for a dash of creaminess, and agave, date syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten it up a little.
You can also experiment with adding different ingredients to create your own potent health-enhancing elixirs. Here are a few ingredient ideas:
Medicinal Mushrooms: chaga, reishi, tremella, maitake, shiitake, cordyceps
Tonic Herbs: he shou wu, schizandra berry, ashwagandha
Superfood Powders: Spirulina, chlorella, maca
Tropikale Turkey Tail Smoothie
Rise and shine with this deliciously fruity smoothie that will have you dreaming of beaches and tropical weather. This is a perfect morning smoothie, as pineapple is packed full of enzymes which help to aid digestion, coconut water contains hydrating electrolytes, while kale’s broad spectrum of nutrients will help to nourish your body.
Take half a pineapple, cut it into smaller chunks, and then pop it into your blender. Add in a handful of kale along with 1 teaspoon of turkey tail powder as well as a cup of coconut water. Blend until the ingredients have been thoroughly pulverized. Add a little more coconut water if your smoothie is too thick, and then enjoy immediately. You can also turn this smoothie into some nutritious ice lollies or ice cubes that will add some flavour to plain water. Just pour the mixture into ice lolly molds or ice cube trays, and then put them in the freezer to set.
Coconut Stuffed Dates
When you need a little something, but don’t have the time to prep and make that fancy raw food recipe you’ve been meaning to, this deliciously sweet treat will do the trick. They contain just three ingredients and require no bake time, so you can put them together in under a minute. For the tastiest results, use a raw, virgin organic coconut oil, as well as a sticky type of date such as medjool.
To make the stuffed dates, simply cut a slit lengthways down the date (remove the stone if it’s still there). Scoop up a teaspoon of refrigerated coconut oil and stuff it in the slit in the date. Sprinkle the date with a dash of the turkey tail concentrated extract powder and enjoy. Coconut oil stuffed dates will keep for up to a week in the fridge, although they taste so good we doubt a batch will be around for that long.
Turkey Tail Overview
With its powerful immune-strengthening properties and nourishing nutrients, it's easy to see why turkey tail mushrooms are causing quite a stir in the health scene. Hailed as an ancient medicine for modern humans, turkey tail will make an excellent supplement for any diet.
“If cloud mushroom is taken for a long time, it will make one vigorous and will contribute to a long life."
Compendium of Materia Medica - Li Shizhen
Name: Turkey Tail
Scientific Name: Trametes Versicolor
Common Names: Cloud Mushroom, Hen of the Woods. Kawaratake, Yun Zhi
Turkey Tail References and Sources
Turkey Tail Books
There are thousands of scientific studies and books on turkey tail mushroom. If you want to learn more about it as well as other medicinal mushrooms then we highly recommend these references:
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The Cancer Ward
Nong, Shen: Shennong Bencao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine)
Wolfe, David: Eating for Beauty
Stamets, Paul: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World