The Turkey Tail mushroom’s scientific name is Trametes versicolor, but it has also been known by the name Coriolus versicolor and, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yun Zhi.
This mushroom’s interesting name offers us a clue about its appearance. With a little imagination, it does indeed look a bit like the colorful fan of a turkey’s tail feathers.
Growing up to four inches wide, these mushrooms can be found on dead logs and stumps as well as live trees, mostly showing up in mixed hardwood deciduous forests. And they’re not limited to one part of the world.
They “grow in wet, shady areas in temperate forests in Asia, North America, and Europe and are quite common across all three continents.”1 They are thin and hard, and their texture can be described as tough and leathery.2
Since Turkey Tail mushrooms are easy to find, you may stumble upon them while strolling in the woods. Something important to note is that there are other species that look quite similar to this mushroom. So, use caution if you’re trying to forage your own Turkey Tail mushrooms.
If you’re wondering if Turkey Tail mushrooms are good for eating, the truth is that they are chewy and tough, meaning they’re not the most delicious or palatable mushroom out there.
Even so, there are plenty of ways to consume this mushroom and reap the benefits. We’ll cover that at the end of this article.
Another thing that makes the Turkey Tail mushroom unique is that it has pores instead of gills. It belongs to the Polyporaceae family, which all share this characteristic. Found on the underside of the mushroom top, these pores contain the spores that allow the mushrooms to reproduce.1
The Turkey Tail mushroom is famous for its role in supporting immune health and has been used for many years in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as Native American herbalism.*
However, it offers more than just immune support if current research has something to say about how the Turkey Tail mushroom benefits your body.* Let’s take a look.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits
All kinds of mushrooms—such as Reishi, Cordyceps, and Shiitake, just to name a few—provide astounding health benefits.* But each one has its own specialty when it comes to supporting your body.
The Turkey Tail mushroom is widely researched, and this antioxidant-rich mushroom is known for supporting immune health, gut health, and liver health.
Turkey Tail Mushrooms Are Rich in Antioxidants*
There’s a lot of talk about antioxidants, but it’s not always clear exactly what they do.
Antioxidants minimize cell damage from free radicals, thus also minimizing oxidative stress. This makes antioxidants important for overall health. And one thing that we love about Turkey Tail mushrooms is that they are rich in antioxidants.
One study notes that their “findings have demonstrated the considerable potential of T. versicolor water extract as a natural source of antioxidants.”*3
Another study attempted to assess the DNA protective activity of Turkey Tail (among two other species). While further research is needed to understand exactly how DNA is protected from oxidative damage, the preliminary results suggest that Turkey Tail extracts may be an agent that helps support genetic material.*4
Turkey Tail Mushrooms Provide Immune Support*
In general, mushrooms are known for a carbohydrate called polysaccharides, specifically a type called beta glucans. Beta glucans are shown to support immune health and overall wellness, as well as normal, healthy cell growth and turnover.*
With Turkey Tail mushrooms, this goes a step further. They are famous for containing two polysaccharides in particular. One is called PSP, which stands for polysaccharide peptide or polysaccharopeptide. The other is PSK, which stands for polysaccharide K, Polysaccharide Kurcha, or Krestin.5,6 Both of these polysaccharides provide immune support.*
In the “Handbook of Biologically Active Peptides,” the author notes that both PSP and PSK “have been discovered with very strong immunological values and are commercially available as biologic response modifiers.”*7
When we said that this mushroom can support your well-being, we meant it!*
Turkey Tail Mushrooms Support Digestion and Gut Health*
The Turkey Tail mushroom helps support digestion and gut health, too.* How does this fungus support your digestive tract? Turkey Tail mushrooms contain something called prebiotics.3
One study says that PSP, which we mentioned in the last point, “acts as a prebiotic to modulate human intestinal microbiome composition.”8
Prebiotics are, essentially, “food” for your gut microbiome. They provide the nourishment that probiotics (the good bacteria in your gut) need to flourish and grow.
It’s also worth mentioning that your immune system is directly impacted by your gut. So, in supporting your gut health, Turkey Tail mushrooms also support your immune health.*
Turkey Tail Mushrooms Support Liver Health*
Turkey Tail has been used in China for centuries as a traditional agent to help treat a variety of health concerns and to provide support for a healthy liver.*
Because Turkey Tail mushrooms help protect the liver, many herbalists believe that taking a supplement containing Turkey Tail can be more effective for liver support than any pre-packaged cleanse or detox kit on the market.*
How to Experience Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits
With the Turkey Tail mushroom benefits we mentioned above, we really just scratched the surface of what this fungus can do for your health and well-being.* But the real question is how to experience these benefits for yourself.
We mentioned earlier that Turkey Tail mushrooms are a bit chewy and tough and not the best for consumption on their own or cooking in recipes. That’s why this mushroom is typically made into a tea or consumed via a supplement, such as a capsule.
If you get your hands on fresh Turkey Tail mushrooms, you can make your own tea by simply boiling the mushrooms and then straining them out. You can find recipes for homemade Turkey Tail tea that includes other healthy ingredients, such as Turmeric.
While drinking tea is relaxing and beneficial, your best option for getting a potent and effective dose of Turkey Tail mushrooms is by taking a capsule supplement.