By Angeli Santos -- BA Psyc and 3rd Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine, CCNM
When you think of a medicinal mushroom with a name like Trametes versicolor, what image comes to mind? What about when you hear its common name: Turkey Tail? If you thought about a turkey’s tail that is full of radiant colors, then you are spot on! Turkey Tail can be easily identified by its beautiful concentric rings of colour ranging from brown or cream to orange and green and – you guessed it – shaped like the tail of a turkey. Not only is this mushroom beautiful to look at, but it’s also packed full of medicinal properties to support the whole-body system.
Turkey Tail has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine with it being referenced in the Chinese Materia Medica as far back as 200 BC (Han Dynasty). In Chinese known as yún zhī (cloud fungus), it was taken as a whole and boiled in water to make a soothing tea and was thought to boost and tonify the Shen (spirit) and Qi (energy). Today, the extracts of this mushroom have been extensively researched and have been found to have profound benefits to the immune system.
Turkey Tail contains immune-boosting polysaccharopeptides (PSK and PSP) which regulate immune cells and help with inflammation. These compounds also promote our natural killer cells to target virally-infected cells that can lead to a wide host of conditions ranging from hepatitis to cancer. Speaking of cancer, a lot of research has looked into Turkey Tail as an adjuvant to cancer therapies by preventing virus induced cancers and reducing tumor size. Along with its many nutritional contents, it also contains prebiotics which help to feed our friendly gut bacteria, which is important for having an optimal digestive system as well as maintaining a strong immune system and regulating mood. Turkey Tail is also an anti-oxidant which prevents cellular damage and chronic inflammation.
So, the next to time you go out for a forest bath (hiking through the forest) and you come across an old decaying log that has some strange and colourful things growing on it, see if you can recognize if it is Turkey Tail and think of all the wonderful benefits this gorgeous fungi has to offer to us!