As one of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms, Trametes versicolor, also known as Coriolus versicolor or "Turkey Tail," has been used for centuries to promote health and treat various ailments. Turkey tail is known for its rich polysaccharide content, which can strengthen the immune system, fight inflammation, balance your gut microbiome, and support overall health and well-being.
Let's delve into the science behind Turkey Tail mushroom and explore the ways in which it can help you lead a healthier life.
What is a Turkey Tail Mushroom?
Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are one of many medicinal mushrooms used as a complementary or adjunct treatment for various medical conditions. Its name stems from its composition of brown and tan rings that resemble the tail feathers of a turkey . The use of turkey tail mushrooms for medicinal purposes originated from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) where it is often used in the treatment of lung disease and for immune health . Currently, in Japan, turkey tail is prescribed by doctors to strengthen the immune system alongside standard cancer care treatment to improve the longevity of cancer patients .
Where Does Turkey Tail Mushroom Grow?
Turkey tail mushrooms are a widespread species of fungi that grow on dead logs all around the world, but they may also be found on living trees [1,2]. Most often, they are found in North American woods and can live on over 70 different genera of trees . Turkey tail fungus breaks down the dead wood of a tree for its own nutrient intake but also assists in the clearing of forests to allow for new growth . Fungi are commonly identified based on the length or presence of a stalk, the shape, size, and colour of their cup, and the characteristics of their gills or pores . Turkey tail mushrooms differ in that they have no stalk present, only a cup that attaches directly to the tree or log that it is living on .
Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Have Proven Medicinal Value?
Turkey tail mushroom benefits are extensive. Turkey tail has proven benefits in laboratory, human, and animal studies for conditions ranging from boosting immune health to fighting off certain cancers, and even improving gut and cardiovascular health. As mentioned previously, turkey tail mushrooms have been used safely in Japan for a very long time to assist in the treatment of various cancers as it is an approved mushroom product . Please, take a look at the proven research and benefits of Turkey Tail mushroom on our website.
What are the Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Turkey tail mushrooms contain polysaccharides that have been studied to help strengthen immune system health. The most studied and biologically active compounds found in Turkey Tail are Polysaccharide Peptide and Polysaccharide K (PSK) . In fact, the actions of PSK are why Japan has recognized this mushroom for strengthening the immune system and improving longevity in cancer patients . However, the fungus as a whole has been shown to enhance innate and adaptive immune responses , meaning its use allows us to reinforce our body’s first and second lines of defense against pathogens.
PSP is another polysaccharide-protein complex found in turkey tail mushrooms that contain large amounts of b-D-glucan. In research, these immune-stimulating agents have illustrated the ability to induce the production of nitric oxide (NO) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in macrophages treated with Turkey Tail, allowing them to efficiently phagocytize and kill bacteria . Macrophages are specialized cells that can detect and destroy pathogenic organisms in the body, and which carry specific receptors for b-D-glucans, such as dectin-1 and TLR-2 . Activation of these receptors by b-D-glucans may stimulate processes that lead to the death and elimination of pathogenic microorganisms .
Turkey tail mushroom have been studied to act in a way similar to prebiotics
Prebiotics do not contain live bacteria like probiotics, but they help beneficial bacteria in the gut to grow. Balance of our gut microbiome is important for many cellular processes, such as absorption of nutrients, lipid metabolism, fermentation, mucosal immunity, and even maturation of our immune systems. When we have an imbalance, it may cause nutritional deficiencies, diarrhea, constipation, digestive discomfort, bacterial overgrowth, the list goes on. One study isolated a polysaccharide from Turkey Tail and found that it acted as a prebiotic and exerted beneficial effects on the intestinal microbiome, which is essential to gut health .
Turkey tail may also enhance immune function to fight off certain cancers
For example, turkey tail mushrooms were found to downregulate TH2 cytokines, which suggests a benefit in treating cancer . One study explained that a TH2 response can be detrimental to cancer patients because it decreases IFN-g, which is a cytokine responsible for stimulating the cellular immune response to cancer . The cytokine pattern associated with a beneficial immune response to cancer is TH1 because the dominant cytokine in this pattern is IFN-g . Not only did turkey tail downregulate TH2, but it was shown to increase levels of IFN-g and drove a TH1 response, both of which are beneficial in the treatment of cancer . A meta-analysis of turkey tail demonstrated an increased rate of survival in cancer patients who took turkey tail, especially in breast, gastric, and colorectal cancers .
Turkey tail mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants to combat oxidative stress
One study found that turkey tail contains many different phenolic and flavonoid compounds . Phenols and flavonoids are antioxidants, substances that protect our cells from damage and inflammation that may occur due to oxidative stress. Increased oxidative stress is implicated in various medical conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, premature aging, etc. .
Because of their actions against oxidative stress and their anti-inflammatory abilities, turkey tail mushrooms may also enhance cardiovascular health. Oxidative stress is highly implicated as a contributing factor to myocardial infarctions, atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, or even heart failure . Recent trials have shown reduced mortality in those with cardiovascular disease who undertook antioxidant therapies (i.e., green tea, flavonoids, Mediterranean diet) . Turkey tail’s potent antioxidant constituents may play a role in reducing the burden of oxidative stress and improving or maintaining cardiovascular health.
How Much Turkey Tail Mushroom Should You Take?
Although there is no set dose for turkey tail mushrooms, one study found that up to 9 grams per day is considered safe and tolerable in women with breast cancer . Health Canada has published a maximum acceptable dose as 27g per day in their mushroom monograph. However, doses that provide benefits can be as little as 1 g per day if they are concentrated extracts with listed percentages of the beneficial compounds (beta-glucans and PSP).
It is important to keep in mind that mushroom extracts of the fruiting body only will provide greater benefits at smaller doses because they are super concentrated and these products do not contain any grain or growing substrates. When comparing labels, look for true EXTRACTS vs micronized or ground up mycelium on grain, and expect companies to share 3rd party lab testing results on their websites.
Eversio Wellness produces mushroom extracts from 100% organic fruiting bodies only. Per 2 capsules of their organic turkey tail 12:1 extract, you would be consuming 1000 mg of the fruiting body extract which has a quantity crude equivalent of 12,000 mg (or 12g).
How to Incorporate Turkey Tail Mushrooms into Your Routine
Turkey tail mushroom capsules can be incorporated into any part of your daily routine. 2 capsules a day can be taken each morning with breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you are interested in mushroom extract recipes, take a look at the “Recipes” page on Eversio Wellness’ website.
Where to Buy Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Although the market for medicinal mushrooms is wide, it is important to be mindful of what is inside the products you are buying. If a mushroom product contains grain products, this should be listed in their “other ingredients.” If you find the words “full spectrum”, “mycelial biomass”, or “extracellular compounds” on the label, this means the product is made from the grain substrate the mushrooms are grown on, and potentially the primordia and some fruiting body, all combined and often not in extract form. Full spectrum is often advertised as a beneficial aspect of the product by some companies, but, under the surface, this means that the product is watered down, and you’d need to consume much more of it to achieve the same benefits as you would from a product containing 100% fruiting body extract.
Eversio Wellness carries 100% fruiting body only mushroom extracts, and they consistently practice transparency with their consumers by sharing the COAs (Certificate of Analysis) of each product. The COAs reassure consumers that the percentage of compounds that are claimed to be in the products is scientifically confirmed through lab testing. Not only does the COA confirm the percentages of the beneficial constituents, but it also tests the heavy metal and microbial contents so you can be sure that your mushroom product is safe.
We hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below!
By Silvana Jakupovic — BSc and 4th Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM-Boucher)
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COAs can be seen on the product page HERE.