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No, we’re not talking about the turkey served at Thanksgiving dinner. These medicinal mushrooms get their name from their resemblance to a fanned-out turkey tail. People have been using medicinal mushrooms to support the immune system and promote good health for centuries. Plus, it’s delicious in your morning mushroom coffee.
What is a turkey tail mushroom?
turkey tail mushroom (also known as) Trametes versicolor) is a polypore bacterium. (It just means more pores). In older literature it is called Coriolus versicolor. Unlike shiitake and other mushrooms with gills, turkeys have a small hole under their tail. Spores are released from these pores and their multiplication is facilitated.
These impressive mushrooms grow in forests all over the world, from America to Japan. Its English name comes from its resemblance to the fanned tail feathers of a turkey. Students of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) know them as Yun Zhi.
These mushrooms are famous for their bright and diverse color patterns. Their top surfaces often feature rings of varying hues. Brown, tan, white, and blue are found, each contributing to its unique appearance. Turkey tail mushrooms usually grow in overlapping layers on dead or rotting wood.
Benefits of turkey tail mushrooms
In addition to its beautiful appearance, turkey tail mushrooms are also popular for their health benefits. Researchers believe that many of these compounds have immune-supporting and antioxidant properties.
As a result, they have been part of the traditional medicine of various cultures for centuries. The benefits of turkey tail mushrooms primarily stem from its immune-supporting properties.
How turkey tail mushrooms support your immune system
Turkey tail is thought to support immune responses through two bioactive compounds. One is polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and the other is polysaccharide. Here are some of the immune benefits associated with turkey tail mushrooms:
1. Regulation of immune response
Carbohydrates called polysaccharides found in turkey tails are involved in immune regulation. These compounds interact with immune cell receptors, modulating and enhancing immune function.
This means that it can promote inactive immune activity or reduce excessive immune activity. It’s all about restoring balance. An overactive immune system can lead to autoimmune conditions.
2. Stimulating the immune system
Certain compounds in turkey tail can stimulate immune cell activity. You may remember reading about these cells in your high school biology class. Two types of white blood cells, macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells, play important roles in the immune response.
Macrophages are responsible for ingesting and destroying foreign substances. Natural killer (NK) cells help recognize and eliminate infected or abnormal cells. (Think of cancer cells). Studies have shown that turkeys are more active if they have a tail.
Some studies suggest that turkey tail may increase the activity of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). These cells also play an important role in eliminating infected or abnormal cells, such as cancer cells.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved turkey tail in cancer clinical trials. Men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer received this therapy alongside conventional cancer treatment for immune support.
In Japan and China, turkey tail is used as a complementary therapy to traditional cancer treatments. It has been shown to be effective against several types of cancer, including:
- lung cancer
- breast cancer
- stomach cancer
- colorectal cancer
Cancer patients usually receive other treatments besides turkey tail. However, turkey tail can help enhance cancer treatment. A systematic review confirmed that the polysaccharide Krestin (PSK) found in turkey tail has antitumor activity. Researchers are unsure how it works, but it appears to be useful as an adjuvant in cancer treatment.
The National Cancer Institute agrees that turkey tail mushrooms have anti-cancer properties. They found that adding turkey tail to other treatments could significantly improve survival rates.
Six randomized clinical trials found that lung cancer patients who received PSK improved in many ways. They had fewer symptoms, improved health, better immune responses, and longer survival rates. If you are considering using turkey tail or other medicinal herbs to treat cancer, be sure to use them first with your health care provider.
3. Stimulation of cytokine production
Cytokines are signaling molecules that play important roles in communication between immune cells. Turkey tail mushrooms may stimulate the production of certain cytokines. The result could be a more tailored defense against pathogens.
A systematic review found that most medicinal mushroom supplements improve cytokine responses.
4. Increased production of immunoglobulins:
Some studies suggest that turkey tail mushrooms stimulate the production of immunoglobulins, such as immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA plays an important role in mucosal immune defense (aka improving the intestinal lining).
A healthy intestinal lining protects against infections in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. It also prevents food molecules from entering the bloodstream before they are fully digested. “Leaky gut” can lead to allergies, autoimmune diseases, and other health conditions.
Five. gut health
Research suggests that the gut microbiome plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system. In some studies, turkey tail mushrooms improved gut health by acting as a prebiotic. These fibers feed beneficial gut bacteria and can influence your immune response.
The phenolic compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms have antioxidant properties, as do flavonoids. These antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals that can damage cells and tissues. It can support immune health by reducing oxidative stress and DNA damage.
7. Reduce inflammation
Chronic inflammation can weaken your immune system over time, but there are ways to help. Some compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms may have anti-inflammatory properties. Reducing inflammation helps regulate the immune response.
Turkey tail risks and precautions
When looking for these mushrooms, keep in mind that there are other mushrooms that look very similar.fake turkey tail mushrooms (Stereomu Ostrea) resembles a turkey tail. It has some similar benefits, including antibacterial compounds, and is not dangerous. However, it is not as powerful as the real thing.
As with all natural remedies, use caution when considering turkey tail mushrooms. If you are taking medication, consult your health care professional before adding.
Some people have adverse reactions to turkey tail mushrooms. One potential side effect is blackened nails. If you experience any side effects while taking it, stop taking it and consult your health care professional for advice.
How to use turkey tail
Turkey tail mushrooms can be used in various forms for health benefits. Common uses for turkey tail mushrooms include:
- Tea and decoction: One common use of turkey tail mushrooms is to make a tea or infusion. Simply boiling dried turkey tail mushrooms in water will extract the beneficial compounds. The resulting liquid can be enjoyed as a hot drink.
- Culinary use: Some cultures use turkey tail mushrooms in cooking, but they are often tough and unpalatable. Cooks use it to flavor soups, soups, and stews. It is hard so please remove it before eating (such as bay leaves).
- Tincture: Tinctures are liquid extracts made by steeping mushrooms in alcohol or other solvents. It can be taken as is or added to drinks.Medicinal mushrooms are extracted a little differently than other plants, so most herbalists double extraction method.
- Powder supplements: Turkey tail mushrooms are available in powdered form as a dietary supplement. You can mix the powdered extract into smoothies, juices, or other liquids. You can also enjoy it sprinkled on yogurt or oatmeal.
- Capsules and tablets: Turkey tail mushroom pills are convenient for those who prefer pre-measured doses. Follow recommended dosage instructions on the product label.
If using turkey tail, please note that preparation and dosage may vary. For example, methanol extract contains the most antioxidants. Water extract contains the most polyphenols and flavonoids.
Some turkey tail supplements feature both fruiting bodies and mycelium (roots). Others only have one or the other.
Follow dosage guidelines on the package or from your health care professional.
What I do and try other mushrooms
I like to add turkey tail extract to my morning mushroom coffee. It’s great to start your day with a healthy immune response. I also try adding it to other herbal teas and drinks throughout the day. Although I don’t do the exact same thing every day, turkey tails are a great addition to my health regimen. It helps keep your immune response strong and promotes digestive balance.
Here are some other medicinal mushrooms you might want to try (you might even like them in your coffee!).
- Lion’s Mane – This funny looking mushroom is great for your brain.
- Reishi – Reishi mushrooms support immunity and sleep, and may even help you live longer.
- Cordyceps sinensis – This Cordyceps sinensis supports energy, metabolism, and physical endurance.
- Maitake – This “hen of the forest” supports the cardiovascular and immune systems and promotes fertility.
Have you ever tried turkey tail mushrooms? What form did you have it in? Did you notice any benefits? Share below!