Turkey Tail mushroom

by Hannah de Gruchy April 09, 2022

Turkey Tail mushroom

Medicinal mushrooms are fast becoming a popular way to supplement a healthy diet, one such fungus is the Turkey Tail mushroom. Turkey Tail mushroom, also known as Coriolus versicolor, grows on fallen, dead trees, rotting logs and tree stumps around the world, including in the UK. They tend to prefer to grow on hardwoods, such as conifer, beech, and oak.

Bird Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail mushrooms are a bracket fungus and get their name from their appearance. They grow in thin, semi-circular caps around tree trunks or logs, each cap is sturdy, with well-defined rings of colour, often ranging from yellow, brown, grey, black, green, and purple.

The outer edge of each cap is always white, or a creamy off-white and each fungus has several caps arranged on top of one another, forming a fan shape. For this reason, it’s said to resemble the resplendent tail feathers of a turkey.

Despite their relatively recent rise in popularity in the West, they’ve been used medicinally for centuries in traditional Eastern cultures.

Turkey Tail mushrooms have been linked with numerous health benefits, and are now found in capsule form as a food supplement.

Turkey Tail mushrooms: fast facts

  • Turkey Tail mushrooms get their name from the fact they resemble the plumage of a turkey’s tail.
  • They grow on dead and rotting wood, in many parts of the world.
  • Turkey Tail mushrooms contain polysaccharopeptides that support good immune health and may be beneficial for cancer patients when given alongside conventional cancer treatments.
  • They also support a healthy gut as they contain prebiotic fibre that feeds the gut microbiota.

What are the health benefits of Turkey Tail mushrooms?

Turkey Tail mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and folk medicines for centuries due to their range of health benefits, most notably, for the health of the immune system.

Immune system support

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey Tail mushrooms contain a type of carbohydrate compound called polysaccaropeptides, specifically two polysaccharopeptides called polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP).

PSK and PSP both support the health of the immune system by switching on and off certain immune cells and reducing inflammation.

Studies show that PSK switches on, or stimulates, immune cells called dendritic cells that help us build immunity to certain toxins as well as stimulating white blood cells called macrophages that protect us against harmful bacteria.

PSP switches on the production of white blood cells called monocytes that help to support the immune system and fight infection.

Turkey Tail mushrooms are also rich in antioxidants called polyphenols and flavonoids that help to protect the cells of the immune system from free radical damage and oxidative stress.

Support during treatment

Due to the presence of PSP and PSK, some medicinal practices, such as in Japanese and Chinese cultures, include the use of Turkey Tail mushrooms in cancer treatments, alongside conventional, modern medicines and treatments.

Studies show that PSP and PSK support the immune system so well, that they help to naturally strengthen the immune system of some cancer patients.

Healthy couple exercise

Not only can Turkey Tail mushroom extracts help cancer patients by supporting healthy immunity, but they can also potentially help in the treatment of certain cancers too. PSK in particular has shown the ability to inhibit the growth and further spread of cancer cells in the colon.

Studies continue, and some have found links between Turkey Tail extract and positive outcomes for different types of cancer.

This suggests that Turkey Tail could be an affective adjunct to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For example, in one study, those given Turkey Tail supplements alongside conventional cancer treatments for breast, gastric or colorectal cancers had a better outcome after five years.

Gut health support

Turkey Tail supplements are a good source of fibre, in particular, prebiotic fibre. Prebiotic fibre cannot be digested by humans, but consuming it allows the friendly bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms (collectively known as the gut microbiota) to thrive.

A thriving gut microbiota helps to support good digestion. Studies are also finding new evidence that a heathy gut is also linked to better immune health and mental wellbeing.

What are the side effects of Turkey Tail mushrooms?

Turkey Tail mushroom supplements are generally considered safe for most people as there are no known adverse reactions. However, if you have an allergy to mushrooms, moulds or fungi, then you should avoid consuming them.

Some people do report mild side effects after taking Turkey Tail supplements, including cold and flu like symptoms, nausea, constipation, bloating, darker stools and heartburn. If you experience any of these, either stop taking them or reduce your daily amount.

It is important to note that their safety hasn’t yet been confirmed in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

How can I consume Turkey Tail mushrooms?

Although it may be tempting to pick Turkey Tail mushrooms in the wild as they grow fairly abundantly, it’s not recommended. Unless you’re an expert, you may unwittingly pick the wrong (inedible or dangerous) mushroom or pick a Turkey Tail mushroom that’s contaminated with toxins or bacteria.

Turkey Tail mushroom capsules

It’s far safer to buy ready-picked Turkey Tail mushrooms, they’re available in specialist health food shops, often dried. Dried versions can be steeped to make a tea or sliced and added to savoury dishes.

Turkey Tail mushrooms have a mild, earthy flavour, but their texture is quite chewy and almost leathery. For this reason, many people take Turkey Tail supplements, produced by drying the mushrooms, purifying them and making concentrated capsules.

The organic Turkey Tail mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life contain a concentrated Turkey Tail powder and are free from fillers, pesticides, and heavy metals. Consuming Turkey Tail in this way means that you’ll be sure to achieve the benefits in a convenient way, without having to prepare them or endure their chewiness.

Taking Turkey Tail mushroom capsules on a regular basis can help to support your immune system and your gut. If you’re going through any kind of cancer treatment at the moment, speak to your specialist before taking Turkey Tail, or any other supplement.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy


Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.

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