Spotlight On: Turkey Tail Mushroom

While we might officially favour mushrooms of the ‘magic’ variety, we are big fans of fungi in all its forms. Each mushroom has countless good qualities and health benefits worth writing home about! Our fascination with fungi shows no sign of abating as we learn more, and more, about these fabulous fellas! 

And, as there is so much to be said about each one, we have decided to put some of these superfood superstars under the spotlight, so you can really get to know them. We’ve already tackled Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Shiitake but now it’s time for another mushroom.

Big Fans

Another fungus named after the animal kingdom — like lion’s mane mushroom — and like lion’s mane, the turkey tail mushroom is known to have incredible health benefits. Yes! Today we are looking at that frilly, fan-shaped shroom that appropriately, has many fans itself! The turkey tail has recently stepped into the wider public attention (rather than being a mycology fan’s lil’ secret), and not only because of the current ‘shroom boom’ as awareness of the medicinal benefits of mushrooms grows. It was famously name-checked by mycology master Paul Stamets in the 2019 film Fantastic Fungi, as the key to his 84 year old mother’s recovery from breast cancer. Now everyone wants a piece of this shroom! So — spotlight on: turkey tail mushroom — for life, not just for Thanksgiving! 😉

Spotlight On: Turkey Tail Mushroom

So, let’s get to the nitty gritty technical details of this fungi, before starting on its superfood prowess. The turkey tail’s official scientific name is Trametes versicolor, which means ‘of many colours’. The reason is evident when you look at this bracket mushroom, growing up its tree trunk like little shelves. It comes in a fascinating array of colours that make it look almost like a precious stone, as well as its obvious resemblance to a turkey’s tail of course! It is native to Europe, Asia and North America and has been used in Chinese and Native American medicine for centuries. 

However, you can’t (or really wouldn’t enjoy) attempting to eat this mushroom in the normal fashion. Even if you boiled this fungi for hours you’d still be left with a supremely rubbery snack. And, although the flavour is known to be an interesting addition to broths and seasoning blends, most people choose to take turkey tail in supplement or powder form. 

But what are the benefits of turkey tail mushroom? Let’s find out!

It Boosts Your Immune System

The turkey tail mushroom contains Polysaccharides. Two of these Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) have powerful immune-boosting properties. They improve immune strength and response by activating types of immune cells while simultaneously suppressing others, and inhibiting inflammation.

PSK activates the cells that regulate the immune response and increase immunity to toxins. It also stimulates specialised white blood cells which are key in protecting your body against bacterias. Additionally, test tube studies have seen that PSP can also activate those white blood cells, this time a gang of them called monocytes . These fight infection and boost immunity. Therefore, PSP and PSK are often used as anticancer treatments alongside chemotherapy, radiation and surgery in China and Japan. Which leads us to…

It Can Help With Cancer Treatment 

Research has found that turkey tail can have cancer cell and tumour inhibiting properties. A test tube study found that the aforementioned PSK was successful in inhibiting the growth and spread of colon cancer cells in humans. 

There exist multiple studies where when used alongside traditional cancer treatments, turkey tail greatly improves the likelihood of patient recovery. For example, a study that gave 11 women with breast cancer between 6 and 9 grams of powdered turkey tail per day after radiation therapy, found that they had an increase in cells that fight cancer. These cells exist in the immune system and include natural killer cells and lymphocytes

Full Of Antioxidants 

Turkey tail mushroom is chock full of antioxidants! But what actually is an antioxidant? Well! They are compounds that work to stop oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can damage cells, cause chronic inflammation, and produce free radicals. All of which have been linked to the development of cancer and heart disease.  So antioxidants: big thumbs up. 

Turkey tail contains a smorgasbord of antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenols, along with many different health-boosting compounds. Flavonoid and phenol antioxidants improve immune system health by stimulating protective cells and compounds and reducing inflammation. 

Improves Gut Health

Turkey tail improves gut health as it contains prebiotics, which encourage healthy bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria supports your immune system and its ability to respond to attack. For example, In an 8-week study of 24 healthy people, it was found that consuming 3,600 mg of PSP extracted from turkey tail mushrooms per day led to beneficial changes in gut bacteria. It even inhibited growth of the E. coli and Shigella bacteria — which can cause illness. 

Promising Studies…

Improves Athletic Performance?

A study on mice found that turkey tail mushroom extract showed less fatigue and improved exercise performance. More research here please!

An Antibacterial?

A test tube study found that turkey tail extract reduced the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enterica. These can cause serious illness. 

Treats HPV?

A study of 61 people with HPV found that of the group treated with turkey tail 88% of them had reduced symptoms. some even being cleared. This was compared to 5% of the control group. 

Helps Treat Diabetes?

A study on rats with type 2 diabetes found that when administered turkey tail extract, blood sugar levels decreased and insulin resistance increased. 

So there you have it! Turkey tail mushroom! Gobble-gobble-gobble some up today! (though perhaps in supplement form!)

Note: Always consult your doctor if trying a new health regime or treatment.

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