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17 Turkey Tail Mushroom Facts At A Glance

17 Turkey Tail Mushroom Facts At A Glance cover
Written by Real Mushrooms - Updated: June 13, 2024

The turkey tail mushroom is a fascinating fungus that can be found in just about any forest in the world. Traditional medicinal practitioners have made use of it for centuries and now the modern medicinal world has gotten in on the action.

Here are 17 interesting facts about turkey tail mushrooms, how they can be taken to support your health and that of your pet, and why it’s so special.

1. Where do turkey tail mushrooms grow?

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are polypore fungi. They grow on dead or decaying trees and logs, especially oak and maple trees. They are most common in deciduous woodlands. They grow in temperate woods all over the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia.

Turkey tail mushrooms on dead log
Trametes versicolor (a.k.a. turkey tail mushroom) grows on dead or dying trees, often in clusters.

2. What’s a polypore fungus anyways?

A polypore is a kind of fungus with pores on the underside of the cap, as opposed to gills. The spores that the mushroom generates are in these pores. Many of the species, which often grow on wood, are known to be non-toxic and to have medicinal benefits.

3. What does it mean that turkey tail mushrooms are saprophytic?

Saprophytic mushrooms are ones that get their nourishment from decomposing dead organic matter like fallen trees, logs, and other plant matter. That’s why you’ll typically find turkey tail mushrooms growing on dead or decaying objects like logs or tree stumps. They digest organic material which releases the nutrients that the forest needs for future growth. Therefore, saprophytic mushrooms are crucial for the healthy ecology of forests.

4. How can you identify turkey tail mushrooms?

There are 5 general traits that characterize turkey tail mushrooms:

a) It will have concentric bands of different shades of brown or grey.

b) It will be fan-shaped and between 1/2 inch to 5 inches in diameter.

c) It may be growing in a group.

d) Its surface will be soft and fuzzy to the touch.

e) It will be growing on dead or decaying logs or trees.

f) It will be free from algae or other green hues.

g) Its underside will be white and will have little pores.

The last trait is the most important one for identifying a true turkey tail mushroom from its lookalikes.

Want more details? We have a full guide for how to identify turkey tail mushrooms and how you can tell real turkey tail from false turkey tail and other polypores!

the texture of turkey tail mushrooms up close
Photo source.

5. Are turkey tail mushrooms edible?

Sure they are, so long as you don’t mind your mushrooms leathery and hardly chewable. While turkey tail mushrooms are not toxic, and in fact have many compelling health-supporting properties, they are not exactly a culinary delight.

6. How am I supposed to consume turkey tail mushrooms?

If you want to tap into the fantastic fungal compounds that make this mushroom so famous, you’ll have to extract them with lots of heat. You can do as the traditional medicine practitioners did and forage for turkey tail in your local forest, and then boil the heck out of the mushrooms to make tea.

However, if you want an easy and precise way to use turkey tail for its functional health benefits, you’re better off using a turkey tail supplement.

7. Are turkey tail mushrooms psychedelic?

Nope. Unlike amanita mushrooms or psilocybin mushrooms, turkey tail mushrooms have no psychotropic compounds.

The different colors of turkey tail mushrooms
While turkey tail mushrooms aren’t psychedelic, their concentric circles of various colors can be pretty trippy. They come in all shades of earth tones, including grey.

8. What is turkey tail mushroom commonly used for?

The turkey tail mushroom has become famous primarily for its positive impact on the immune system. Many of its naturally-occurring compounds are biomodulators. Biomodulators can regulate and modify the immune system and other biological functions in the body.

By fostering healthy cellular activity and balancing the immune system and inflammation responses, the compounds in turkey tail mushrooms can support the body's inherent capacity to heal and repair (1,2,3,4).

For a more complete list of the ways turkey tail mushrooms can support health and longevity, read this article.

9. What are some of the healthy compounds in turkey tail mushrooms?

a) Beta-glucans: Beta-glucans are polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates) that are found in the cell walls of fungi. They have immune-modulating properties.

b) Ergosterol: When exposed to UV radiation, the steroid ergosterol, which is present in turkey tail mushrooms, can be transformed into vitamin D2.

c) Trametenolic acid: This substance has been found to suppress the development of several types of malignant cells. It also helps the body maintain a healthy inflammatory response.

d) Phenols: The phenolic chemicals flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have antioxidant characteristics, are also present in turkey tail mushrooms and help the body maintain cellular health and a balanced inflammatory response.

10. Can turkey tail mushrooms have other uses other than for health?

There are a number of non-health-related uses for turkey tail mushrooms. Here are 5 examples:

a) Natural dye: Turkey tail mushrooms can be used to make dye for fabric or other materials. Depending on the extraction procedure and the mordant (fixative) employed, the resulting hues might range from light yellow to dark brown.

b) Arts and crafts: Turkey tail mushrooms have historically been used in papermaking, basket weaving, and woodblock printing.

c) Environmental remediation: It has been demonstrated that turkey tail mushrooms can break down hazardous substances in soil and water. This can therefore be helpful in cleaning up pollution (a process called mycoremediation).

d) Food and beverage flavoring: Turkey tail mushrooms are a common flavoring agent in soups, stews, and other foods in several cultural cuisines, such as Japanese (where they are called kawaratake), and Korean.

Dye from mushrooms
Turkey tail mushrooms have been used to make natural fabric dye because it is strongly pigmented.

11. Can the turkey tail mushroom affect estrogen levels?

The data is relatively limited and contradictory, but there is some evidence that turkey tail mushrooms may have an impact on estrogen levels.

Turkey tail mushrooms may have estrogen-like physiological actions, which may be advantageous for addressing menopausal symptoms. The production of estrogen in postmenopausal women was enhanced by an extract of turkey tail mushrooms in one clinical study. Therefore, it may be possible that turkey tail supplementation could reduce symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Some research, however, contends that turkey tail mushrooms may potentially have an anti-estrogenic impact that is advantageous for diseases that result from cell abnormalities.

Ultimately, more research is required to completely understand how turkey tail mushrooms affect the body's ability to balance hormones.

12. Can the turkey tail mushroom improve gut health?

Yes, there are several compounds in turkey tail mushrooms that can have a positive effect on gut health (5,6,7).

The polysaccharides in turkey tail mushrooms have been demonstrated in studies to have prebiotic effects on the gut. Prebiotics are substances that support the development and activity of good bacteria in the stomach, which can enhance gut health and digestion.

Moreover, the beta-glucans and triterpenoids in turkey tail mushrooms have antioxidant properties and can help balance inflammatory responses in the body. Antioxidants can assist in protecting the gut lining from damage brought on by free radicals. Persistent inflammation in the gut can contribute to a range of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

According to one study, taking a turkey tail mushroom extract supplement enhanced the composition of the gut microbiota and raised the number of helpful bacteria. In a different study, people with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel illness, discovered that turkey tail mushroom extract supplementation helped reduce symptoms and improved quality of life.

Although additional research is necessary to completely understand the effects of turkey tail mushrooms on gut health, the information that is now available points to the possibility that these mushrooms may be useful as a dietary supplement for enhancing digestion and balancing gut inflammation.

Using a turkey tail mushroom supplement can help support gut health because it a) has prebiotic effects on the gut, and b) helps balance inflammatory responses.

13. Are turkey tail mushrooms good for weight loss?

There is some indication that turkey tail mushrooms may help people lose weight, but further studies are required to substantiate these findings.

Turkey tail mushrooms may aid in weight loss and body fat reduction by enhancing insulin sensitivity, modulating gut microbiota, and increasing metabolism according to certain research (8,9).

To make a conclusion, more research on humans will be required as the studies that have been done thus far have primarily been done on animals and in vitro.

14. What are the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms for dogs and cats?

There is some evidence to support the idea that turkey tail mushroom supplementation may offer dogs and cats the same kinds of health advantages as those experienced by humans.

Here are 5 ways that turkey tail mushrooms can enhance pet health:

a) Support for the immune system: Polysaccharides and other substances found in turkey tail mushrooms have been demonstrated to help the immune system by promoting the generation of white blood cells. This can be especially helpful for animals with compromised immune systems due to disease or advanced age.

b) Promote Digestive health: Turkey tail mushrooms can help dogs and cats have better gut health by encouraging the growth of good bacteria in the stomach and lowering inflammation in the digestive system.

c) Support for Oncological Treatments: Turkey tail mushrooms have been used by some vets and pet owners as part of a holistic strategy for treating cancer in animals, though additional research is required.

d) Balancing inflammatory responses: Turkey tail mushrooms contain substances that can balance the body’s inflammatory response, which may be helpful for animals suffering from inflammatory diseases like arthritis.

You can learn more about how turkey tail mushroom supplementation can support pet health in this article.

Even pets can benefit from turkey tail mushrooms. This fungus is fantastic for helping protect dog and cat immune systems and for fighting off a variety of pet illnesses. Photo source: Andrea Were.

15. Are there side effects to taking turkey tail mushroom supplements?

Supplements containing turkey tail mushrooms may cause adverse effects, just like any dietary supplement or prescription drug. Supplements containing turkey tail mushrooms are, however, usually harmless for most individuals.

The following are a few of the possible adverse effects of turkey tail mushroom supplementation:

a) Digestion problems or upset stomach, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

b) Allergies, which can cause mild to severe symptoms.

c) Skin rash or discomfort.

d) Alterations in blood sugar levels, which can be harmful to diabetics.

e) Interactions with specific medicines, such as immunosuppressants.

It's crucial to remember that these negative effects are uncommon. However, it's wise to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements that contain turkey tail mushrooms.

16. Can turkey tail mushroom supplementation cause liver toxicity?

As of yet, there is no proof that supplementing with turkey tail mushrooms harms the liver. In fact, certain research studies indicate that turkey tail mushrooms may have advantages for the health of the liver.

However, some supplements, especially those containing turkey tail mushroom, could be tainted with dangerous elements that might affect the liver. For instance, there have been instances of lower-quality supplements containing heavy metals or other harmful contaminants.

Therefore, it's important to select a turkey tail supplement from a high-quality, reputable brand that uses organic farming methods and rigorous product testing protocols. to reduce the risk of liver toxicity. Also, any supplement should be used in accordance with the stated dosage guidelines.

To avoid weak or tainted mushroom supplements, be sure to buy from a reputable, organic, supplier who uses the whole mushroom and tests its product for heavy metals and other toxins. This photo is taken from Real Mushrooms’ organic farm.

17. Where can I buy turkey tail mushroom supplements?

In general, it is easy to find turkey tail mushroom supplements online, in a health food store, or from a supplement merchant.

However, like other products in the supplement industry, quality varies widely from brand to brand. Some mushroom supplement companies have been known to produce misleading labels or adulterate the ingredients in their products.

There are 6 qualities you should look for when buying a turkey tail supplement product that will be safe and provide high levels of the beneficial compounds that will support your health:

a) Is the product organic?

b) Does the product contain only mushrooms (sometimes labelled as “fruiting body”) instead of mycelium (the fungal “root system”)?

c) Is the beta-glucan content listed? Is the concentration more than 25%?

d) Is the turkey tail supplement hot water extracted?

e) Has the supplement undergone third-party testing?

f) Does the product come from a recognized, trusted company?

To understand more about each of these qualities and why they matter, read our article “Finding the Best Turkey Tail Mushroom Supplement: A Buying Guide.”

Take advantage of the mighty turkey tail mushrooms’ health-supporting compounds by using a quality supplement daily.
shop turkey tail

Want to learn more about turkey tail mushroom benefits and qualities?

Here are some related articles for a deeper dive:

References

1. Urushima, H., Kubota, Y., & Sumi, Y. (2008). Effect of Yunzhi (Coriolus versicolor) polysaccharide on the modulation of immune functions by murine splenocytes. Journal of medicinal food, 11(4), 643-648.

2. Wong, C. K., Bao, Y. X., Wong, E. L., Leung, P. C., & Fung, K. P. (2011). Immunomodulatory activities of Yunzhi and Danshen in post-treatment breast cancer patients. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 39(03), 259-267.

3. Zaidman, B. Z., Yassin, M., Mahajna, J., & Wasser, S. P. (2005). Medicinal mushroom modulators of molecular targets as cancer therapeutics. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 67(4), 453-468.

4. Choi, Y. H., Kim, G., Han, S. H., & Jeong, J. W. (2017). Immunomodulatory effects of Trametes versicolor mushroom and its fermented mycelia on LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages and the safety evaluation in BALB/c mice. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 208, 49-56.

5. Lee, S. Y., Lee, D. H., Chung, W. C., Han, S. Y., Jeong, Y. M., Moon, K. M., ... & Kim, K. M. (2017). Trametes versicolor extract modulates the gut microbiota composition in C57BL/6J mice. Biomedical Reports, 6(6), 633-638.

6. Ming, L. J., Yin, S., Zhang, J., & Zhou, J. F. (2019). Effects of Trametes versicolor polysaccharides on gut microbiota in mice with dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis. Journal of food biochemistry, 43(8), e12991.

7. Dai, Z., Coker, O. O., Nakatsu, G., Wu, W. K. K., Zhao, L., Chen, Z., & Chan, F. K. L. (2020). Effect of a polysaccharide from Trametes versicolor on the gut microbiome of mice with colitis and its therapeutic effect on dysbiosis. Food & function, 11(6), 5069-5078.

8. Li, X., Chen, P., Zhang, P., Chang, Y., Cui, M., & Duan, J. (2019). Protein‐Bound β‐glucan from Coriolus Versicolor has Potential for Use Against Obesity. Molecular nutrition & food research, 63(7), 1801231.

9. Lo, H. C., Hsu, T. H., & Lee, C. H. (2020). Extracellular polysaccharopeptides from fermented Turkey Tail medicinal mushroom, Trametes versicolor (Agaricomycetes), mitigate oxidative stress, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia in rats with type 2 diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 22(5).

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Real Mushrooms is the premier provider of organic mushroom extracts, verified for the beneficial medicinal compounds like beta-glucans and free from starchy fillers like grains. With over 40 years of mushroom growing experience, Real Mushrooms prides itself on providing a transparent source of functional mushrooms that you can trust. All the information provided on our blog has been reviewed by our science and medical team.

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.

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