Identifying the best turkey tail mushroom supplement for your health (and wallet’s) sake is not so easy. There are a wide variety of brands offering this functional mushroom in powder or capsule form. But, how can you tell if what you’re looking at buying will give you the immune support you’re looking for? If you’re counting on turkey tail to give you (or your pet) a true boost for your immune system, then you will have to be mindful of what you’re buying. The fact is, not all turkey tail supplements will be able to deliver the results you’re hoping for.
This guide will outline what to look for when shopping. It will help you confidently select a quality, potent, and safe turkey tail product.The information in this article has been reviewed by Dr. Mason Bresett, Chief Science Advisor and Naturopathic Doctor.
There are three questions to ask about the turkey tail product before buying:
- Is the product made of the turkey tail mushroom or of mycelium?
- What is the beta-glucan content of the turkey tail supplement?
- How is the turkey tail mushroom extracted?
1. Is the Product Made of the Turkey Tail Mushroom or of Mycelium?
There are few quality control standards for functional mushroom products. This means that there is a critical need for systematic scientific verification of active compounds for these nutritional supplements and for greater accountability for ingredient integrity and clarity.
When a product does not list the SPECIFIC source of turkey tail in their product, you might be faced with a product that uses MYCELIUM (fungal root structure) instead of the turkey tail MUSHROOM.
Mycelium is the root structure of the mushroom and it is grown on grain. Unfortunately, both the mycelium AND the grain it is grown on end up in the final supplement being sold. The resulting product will be full of the grain itself and will dilute the amount of desirable medicinal properties from the turkey tail itself.
Functional mushroom products grown in North America are typically myceliated grain and not mushroom.
If you want to ensure you’re getting the best turkey tail mushroom supplement, look for one whose ingredients label shows that only organic mushroom was used and there is no mycelium or grain.
Learn more about this topic in our article Medicinal Mushroom Benefits: Mycelium vs Fruiting Body.
2. What is the Beta-Glucan Content of the Turkey Tail Supplement?
There has been a growing interest among the scientific community to validate the possible health benefits of this mushroom. Two key research studies utilizing turkey tail are set to be completed Dec 2022 in relation to COVID-19 (1,2). One is studying turkey tail and another mushroom’s impact on mild-to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The second study is looking at how this combo may increase vaccination response via antibody tires. These studies are just adding to the existing volume of research confirming the various health benefits of turkey tail mushrooms.
The primary compounds responsible for the unique immune system-supporting function of turkey tail mushrooms and its other health benefits are beta-glucans.
Many brands will add in a variety of starch, fillers, colorings, unnecessary additives, and other ingredients to their supplements. These additions provide no health benefits. Worse yet, they are an indication of a low percentage of the actual Turkey Tail extract found in the product. These additives result in a lower concentration of beta-glucans (medicinal compounds) in the supplement, which indicates a lower therapeutic potency.
The Beta-Glucan Count Should Be on the Label
Product labels can be misleading. Many popular supplement brands hide the use of myceliated grain and other fillers that will dilute the medicinal value of the product. To get the most potent and high-value functional fungi supplement, look to the product label for the specific beta-glucan content. If the beta-glucan content is not indicated on the label, it is unlikely that the product has sufficient levels.
Real Mushrooms always includes the percentage of beta-glucans on its product labels. The beta-glucan in Real Mushrooms’ Turkey Tail supplement is greater than 30% which is one of the highest concentrations on the market.
To ensure you’re getting the best turkey tail mushroom supplement, make sure the label indicates a beta-glucan concentration of at least 25%. That way, you’ll truly reap the health benefits of this mushroom.
Beta-Glucan Benefits Explained
Beta-glucans are the primary compound in mushrooms responsible for its immune-supporting functions and other health-supporting properties.
Beta-glucans are commonly regarded as being Biological Response Modifiers (BRMs) (3). BRMs work by supporting the immune system to turn up or turn down. For example, BRMs can stimulate an increased immune response that in turn enables a more effective reaction for fighting off infections. In contrast, they can also turn down an overactive immune response via anti-inflammatory cytokine modulation.
To learn more about the other health benefits of beta-glucans, read our article A Look at the Powerful Benefits of Beta-D-Glucan.
3. How is the Turkey Tail Mushroom Extracted?
Mushroom extraction makes the beneficial compounds of the fungi more readily available to our bodies. It might be tempting to try some of the raw turkey tail mushrooms you find on your walk through the woods. But our bodies lack the proper enzyme, called chitinase, to break down the mushroom’s tough cell wall. That means you would get few if any, benefits for your efforts. Besides, you’d be chewing for a loooong time on this leathery fungi.
That’s where extraction comes in.
In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, turkey tail was prepared as a tea. That option is still available for those who can find and identify wild turkey tail. For the rest of us, we can look for turkey tail extracts in powder or capsule form.
Taking an extract of turkey tail in powder or capsule format is an easy way to get a concentrated dose of the beneficial compounds found in this mushroom. Just make sure the supplement you take is a true mushroom powder, not a mycelium-based supplement.
The Ideal Extraction Method for Turkey Tail
There is a lot of debate in the functional mushroom community about the best method of extraction for maximum benefits — alcohol, hot water, or both (dual extraction). Of course, there is a place for each method. Protein-bound polysaccharides are water-soluble, and turkey tail has few primary non-water-soluble compounds of note. Therefore, Real Mushrooms uses the hot water extraction method, which keeps the beta-glucan levels high.
If you want to ensure you’re getting the best turkey tail mushroom supplement, find out if the product has used a hot water extraction method.
For more information on our extraction process, check out The Art of Mushroom Extraction: Methods for Maximum Extract Potency.
Final Takeaways About Selecting the Best Turkey Tail Mushroom Supplement
While the world of health supplements is regulated by the FDA, the rules are not well enforced and we end up with a staggering amount of misleading information on product labels and in marketing materials.
However, if you follow the three guidelines we’ve outlined, you will be able to select the best turkey tail mushroom supplement for your money. You can then rest easy that your product will actually be able to provide you with the unique health-supporting benefits turkey tail is known for.
3. Cui, J. & Chisti, Y. 2003, “Polysaccharopeptides of Coriolus versicolor: physiological activity, uses, and production,” Biotechnology Advances, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 109–122, <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0734975003000028>
Disclaimer: The information or products mentioned in this article are provided as information resources only, and are not to be used or relied on to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information does not create any patient-doctor relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The information is intended for health care professionals only. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.