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Nutraceutical mushrooms are having a moment right now, and they’re not going away any time soon. You’ve probably seen more and more mushroom capsules, teas, and extracts that claim they may improve focus, fight disease, and make you live longer.
Turkey tail mushroom is one fungus worth paying attention to. Unlike a lot of species of fungi that the scientific community largely ignores, turkey tail mushroom is being studied more and more for its effects on the immune system, infections, and even cancer. Here are the benefits of turkey tail mushroom and what you need to know.
What is Turkey Tail Mushroom?
Turkey tail mushroom goes by several names—trametes versicolor, coriolus versicolor, polyporus versicolor, Yun Zhi in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), or kawaratake in Japanese. It all refers to the same fungus, a mushroom that grows outward like a shelf and feeds on the fibers of dead wood.
In the wild, turkey tail mushrooms look like the fanned tail feathers of a male wild turkey that’s strutting his stuff for the ladies. You may see it growing on decaying wood in rainy areas or near creeks or streams. Foragers will look for them in high-moisture areas where there are lots of fallen trees.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits
Traditional healers have been using turkey tail mushrooms for thousands of years to stimulate the immune system.
More and more research confirms that ancient healers were onto something. Scientists found that there are two main carbohydrates that fuel your immune system: polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP) pack a powerful immune-boosting punch. They act as both immune activators and immune modulators (in other words, they tell an overactive immune system to chill out) so that your body responds the way it needs to when it’s under attack.
Another way turkey tail mushrooms indirectly strengthen your immune system is by providing food for your friendly gut bacteria. Turkey tail mushrooms are a great source of prebiotics. You may see improvements in digestion for this reason.
Turkey Tail Mushroom and Cancer
There’s emerging evidence that turkey tail mushrooms attack cancer from three different angles. First, the mushroom has antioxidant properties which protect healthy cells from free radicals that can harm healthy cells and cause tumors to develop or multiply. In one study, turkey tail mushroom extract showed protective effects against DNA damage.
Second, scientists have found that PSK has anti-tumor effects. In test tube studies, PSK caused lung, skin, cervical, pancreatic and other tumor cells to self-destruct. The Japanese government has approved PSK itself as a cancer treatment.
Third, a strong immune system. Researchers were able to use turkey tail mushroom and its active compounds to increase white blood cells in test tube studies. White blood cells, specifically macrophages, fight infections and clean up cellular waste that could cause damaged cells to replicate.
On top of that, turkey tail is slowly crossing into the mainstream as a way to support your body’s natural defenses during chemotherapy, which knocks out your immune system with each treatment. In 2012, the FDA allowed a trial in cancer patients alongside chemotherapy to help counter some of the negative effects of chemo on the immune system.
How to Use Turkey Tail Mushroom
How to make turkey tail mushroom tea supplement
It’s a bad idea to go foraging for any type of mushroom unless you have extensive training in identifying wild mushrooms. A lot of mushrooms look alike, and mistakes can be deadly or make you extremely sick. If you’re after the whole mushroom, it’s best to purchase them or tag along with a qualified mushroom foraging expert.
Once you get your hands on some turkey tail mushroom, you can follow these steps to make tea from it:
- Steep 2-3 tbsp chopped turkey tail mushroom in 8oz of hot water for 4 minutes, then strain
- Add lemon and sweeten to taste -- we recommend 2-3 drops of Lakanto Liquid Monkfruit Extract
- Sip and enjoy its fruity, earthy flavor
Turkey tail mushroom supplements: powder, extract or capsules
You can buy turkey tail mushroom in powder, extract, or capsule form.
- Powder. You can mix powdered turkey tail mushroom into smoothies, coffee, or sprinkle on food. Make sure the only ingredient in the powder is turkey tail mushroom.
- Capsules. Make sure the only ingredients are the turkey tail mushroom itself and the capsule, usually listed as vegetable cellulose or hypromellose. It doesn’t matter if something in a capsule clumps together, so any anti-caking ingredients are filler.
- Extract. Again, check the label. Turkey tail mushroom extracts should contain only turkey tail mushroom and alcohol.
Whichever option you choose, follow package directions and check with your doctor before starting any supplement.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Side Effects
Few side effects have been reported, mostly related to digestive discomfort, but most people do just fine with turkey tail mushrooms. There’s always a chance you could be allergic to a new food, so start slow.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to give your body a periodic break from herbal supplements. Ask your doctor for guidance.
*All statements made are intended for informational purposes only. The statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA, and our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. As with any dietary or herbal supplement, you should advise your health care practitioner of the use of this product.
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