Although the western world seems like it is only now waking up to the fungal healers of the forest, ancient traditional medicine has been exploring the applications of medicinal mushrooms for centuries. In this article, we will be going over the medicinal properties of turkey tail mushroom and all it can do for us. Well, maybe not all it can do for us, but we will go over a few of the benefits it can offer us!
About Turkey Tail Mushroom
This easily identifiable medicinal mushroom is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It has been given its name by its obvious resemblance to an actual turkey’s tail. Looking back in time, the turkey tail mushroom has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Native American herbalism. It has been known to help with an array of health complications and the role it plays in medicinal medicines remains today. This is one of the most researched medicinal mushroom of them all! Before we get into the health benefits, let’s go over some more turkey tail information.
You can find this mushroom growing in many types of forests and is primarily found growing on different types of hardwood. It grows in clusters on logs, branches, and throughout the forest floor. Just like all mushrooms, turkey tail goes through multiple stages of growth throughout its life. Although each stage/cycle of the mushroom offers special properties that support wellness and good health, it is the fruiting bodies that receive the most attention. This would be because we are the most familiar with its fruiting stage. This stage is when fruiting bodies emerge from the substrate they grow on (eg, fallen logs or trees) to become the part of the mushroom we are familiar with.
Although there is an abundant amount of turkey tail mushrooms and they are edible, it doesn’t host a particularly desirably taste and can be quite tough in texture. This is where extraction processes come in handy! We have been foraging this medicinal mushroom for a long time, consuming it as food, medicine, or a supplement. Growing up in Canada, I always spotted this mushroom during walks in the forest. It is super common to spot them without necessarily seeking them out if you live in Asia, Europe, or North America. It is also important to note that this is a non-psychoactive fungus, meaning it will not get you high, unlike other beneficial fungi.
Medicinal Properties of
Turkey Tail Mushroom
1. Turkey Tail Mushroom is packed with antioxidants and decreases inflammation.
Essentially, antioxidants are compounds that reduce damage caused by oxidative stress, which is a result of an imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules. The unstable molecules are known as free radicals and can result in cellular damage and chronic inflammation. Eating foods or extracts (such as turkey tail) with these antioxidants can greatly reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. It is important to stay on top of inflammation as is it is closely linked to deadly diseases, such as diabetes and some cancers. There are other natural anti-inflammatory aids such as ginger and CBD extracts. Another medicinal mushroom that has been shown to reduce inflammation is lions mane mushroom. That being said, there are many natural options when looking for an anti-inflammatory. Turkey tail is specifically super helpful when treating or preventing poor health in these areas.
2. Turkey Tail Mushroom hosts immune-boosting polysaccharopeptides.
To put it in simple terms, polysaccharopeptides are basically protein-bound polysaccharides (carbohydrates) that can be found in extracts of turkey tail mushroom. The two types of polysaccharopeptides found in this mushroom are Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP). Both of these polysaccharopeptides offer extremely powerful immune-boosting properties and encourage immune response by activating and inhibiting certain types of immune cells through suppressing inflammation. One test-tube study demonstrated that PSP increases monocytes. These are types of white blood cells that work hard in our bodies to fight infection and boost immunity! Thanks to their natural immune system strengthening abilities, PSP and PSK are commonly used as anti-cancer agents alongside surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation in countries such as Japan and China.
3. Turkey Tail Mushroom may improve overall gut health.
Whilst we seem to be going on the immune system theme, we may as well talk about gut health! Maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut is vital for keeping your immune system strong! The bacteria in your gut interacts with cells, directly impacting your immune response. Introducing prebiotics to your daily routine is a simple way to keep your gut healthy and happy! Turkey tail mushroom contains prebiotics, which will help in nourishing these helpful bacteria. One study found that turkey tail mushroom extracts modified gut bacteria composition. This was done by increasing the population of beneficial gut bacteria which include both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Not only that, but it also reduced the amount of potentially harmful bacteria called Clostridium and Staphylococcus!
All in all, the medicinal properties of turkey tail mushrooms are impressive. However, there are always some risks involved when introducing new supplements/treatment/aid into your life. Although the risk is low with this mushroom due to its good safety profile, always speak with your doctor before supplementing turkey tail mushroom. Everyone is unique and all medicines should be used with some sort of caution.