What are Turkey Tail Mushrooms? (Everything you need to know)

Turkey tail mushrooms are a type of mushroom that has been in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries. They are also known as Trametes versicolor and are typically found in forests around the world. In recent years, turkey tail mushrooms have gained popularity as a dietary supplement due to their potential health benefits, including immune system support, antioxidant properties, and anti-cancer properties.

In this blog, we will explore what turkey tail mushrooms are, their potential benefits, and how to consume them.

What are Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

Turkey's tail, known scientifically as Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor, or Polyporus versicolor, gets its name from its appearance: flat, fan-shaped, colorful mushroom rings that resemble a turkey's tail.

T. versicolor is a widespread basidiomycete fungus species found in North America, Asia, and Europe on logs, stumps, or dead trunks of deciduous trees (e.g., oak or birch) and some conifers (e.g., fir and pine trees). Like many others in its class, Turkey's tail is a white-rot fungus. These fungi are vital in the breakdown of lignin in decaying wood, leaving behind white, soft, spongy cellulose. This operation returns nutrients to the earth, where other plants can grow.

The term " versicolor " indicates how the turkey tail mushroom typically exhibits several hues. This mushroom's cap can have rings of various colors, including white, various degrees of red and orange, and dark brown.

The name stems from how groups of turkey tail mushrooms develop together in a cluster and their hue. In both shape and color, the mushrooms resemble a wild turkey's tail.

Turkey tail mushrooms have been used for generations. Like other therapeutic mushrooms, the first references to it came from traditional Chinese medicine. Traditionally, it was used to treat respiratory difficulties and liver and spleen ailments.

How Do You Identify Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

As stated above, the scientific names Trametes versicolor and Coriolus versicolor relate to the mushroom's cap's remarkable multi-colored bands.

The bands can be any color, although they are usually grey or brown and always coated with fine, silky hairs. But, the key to recognizing this mushroom is underneath it. When flipped over, the mushroom's underside should be white-ish in color, with tiny, consistent pores.

Turkey tail mushroom tops range in size from 0.7 to 3 inches (2 to 8 cm). They are quite tiny, measuring approximately 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 to 2 mm). The top of the mushroom can be convex or flat, depending on its maturity.

Turkey tail caps come in a range of forms and sizes. They include kidney, circular, semi-circular, bracket, and fan shapes. The caps are flexible while they are new and fresh, but they rapidly dry up and become brittle. The texture might be silky or even hairy.

The turkey tail mushroom's colors develop in concentric rings, akin to the rings of a tree trunk.

Here's a quick checklist that you may use to identify turkey tail mushrooms:

Pores on the underside

Turkey tail mushrooms are polypores, which means they have holes on the underside like other therapeutic mushrooms such as reishi and tinder polypore.

Barely visible surface

The turkey tail mushroom can be difficult to spot with the naked eye. The "fuzz" on a turkey tail mushroom glistens in the light, giving it a subtle silver shine when the light catches it just so.

Contrasting color zones on the cap

The hues of Turkey Tail mushrooms vary greatly from person to person. The most prevalent hues are various degrees of gray, brown, and orange, although red, blue, and/or green mushrooms can also be found. Around the rim, T. Versicolor is distinguished by a faint band that is the same color as the surface underneath.

Pores' size is very tiny

The mushroom's underside is pure white to yellowish, providing a pleasant contrast to the multicolored upper surface. If you look attentively, you will notice that the bottom is covered with numerous small pores (3-8 pores per millimeter). As we age, our pores get yellower and more angular. This surface generates white spores, however, examining the spore print does not assist in distinguishing between comparable polypores.

Fresh mushrooms are flexible and slim

Turkey tail mushrooms dry out as they mature, especially after being plucked. They are, however, quite thin and should be relatively flexible even when dried. Trametes ochracea is identified by stiff and hard mushrooms.

Where Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Grow?

Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are a type of bracket fungus that grows on decaying wood. They are found in forests throughout North America, Europe, and Asia and are particularly common in temperate regions with moderate to high rainfall. Turkey tail mushrooms are saprotrophic, meaning they obtain their nutrients by breaking down dead wood and other organic matter.

Here are some more in-depth details about where you can find turkey tail mushrooms:

Habitat: Turkey tail mushrooms typically grow on dead or dying hardwood trees, particularly oak, maple, and elm. This mushroom species prefers trees that are in a state of decay, as this provides them with the ideal conditions for growth. Turkey tail mushrooms can also grow on logs, stumps, and branches, as well as on other types of woody debris, such as fallen twigs and bark.

Season: Turkey tail mushrooms are available year-round, although they are most commonly found in the fall and winter months when temperatures are cooler and there is more moisture in the air.

Geographic distribution: Turkey tail mushrooms are found in temperate regions throughout the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. They are particularly abundant in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada.

Growing conditions: Turkey tail mushrooms require cool, moist conditions to grow. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from just above freezing to around 90°F (32°C). They also require a constant supply of moisture to keep their tough, leathery caps from drying out.

Human cultivation: Turkey tail mushrooms are also grown commercially for medicinal purposes. They can be cultivated on logs or sawdust using a process called "spawn run," in which the spores are introduced to the growing medium and allowed to colonize it over several months.

Can You Grow Turkey Tail Mushrooms Indoors?

Yes, it is possible to grow turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) indoors. Turkey tail mushrooms are saprotrophic fungi, meaning they obtain their nutrients by breaking down dead wood and other organic matter. In indoor settings, turkey tail mushrooms can be cultivated on sawdust or straw-based substrate, and they require a warm, humid environment to grow.

Turkey tail mushrooms are simple to cultivate at home. Buying them as a kit is the most convenient method to experiment with growing them. All you have to do now is rip open the bag and keep it moist, and the turkey tail mushrooms will begin to develop. Instead, you may purchase sawdust or plug spawn and use it to inoculate logs.

How to Harvest Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

The first thing you should look for in turkey tail mushrooms is whether or not they are ready for harvest. The vivid hue of its rings and its white underbelly give it away. If the underside is not white, but rather reddish, tan, or brownish, the mushroom is old and no longer edible. Young mushrooms, those between one and two months old, are glossy with white undersides. You want to pluck these mushrooms.

Just make sure no bugs are hiding within the mushroom.

Apart from their characteristic colored rings, edible mushrooms are slender and flexible. When a mushroom ages, it expands in size and loses its elasticity. Check the mushroom's pliability by bending it over with your fingers. It is young and edible if it bends readily. Look at the brilliant white outer ring as well.

If you're going to the woods to look for turkey tail mushrooms, have a tiny sharp knife with you. This gadget will make it easier to remove mushrooms from tree trunks and logs.

Smaller mushrooms can be easily removed by hand.

How to Clean Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

You can typically locate turkey tail mushrooms on both live and dead trees. Due to this fact, they are often higher above the ground and do not become as dirty as compared with the other types of mushrooms that grow directly or near the soil.

After harvesting the turkey tail mushrooms, I recommend you first examine them for indications of insects, mold, or other major concerns. If everything seems fine, your next step is to brush your mushrooms with something like a toothbrush. This item normally removes the majority of the dirt or debris that has clung to it.

A lot of residues may have adhered to the edge where turkey tail mushrooms join to a log. This part of the mushroom may be easily removed with a pair of kitchen shears.

How Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms Consumed?

The texture of the turkey tail is chewy, and the flavor is powerful. Some people like to cut dried turkey tail mushrooms and soak them in tea, while others cook with them. Turkey tail extract is offered as a powder or tea.

Turkey tail mushrooms can be consumed in different forms, including:

Tea: Turkey tail mushroom tea is a popular way to consume the mushroom. To make tea, simply steep dried or fresh turkey tail mushrooms in hot water for several minutes. You can add honey or lemon to improve the taste.

Capsules: Turkey tail supplements are available in capsule form, which is a convenient way to consume the mushroom. It is recommended to follow the instructions on the product label for dosage and frequency.

Powder: Turkey tail mushroom powder can be added to smoothies, juices, or other beverages for an easy way to consume the mushroom. You can also add it to soups or stews for a savory flavor.

Extracts: Turkey tail mushroom extracts are concentrated forms of the mushroom and can be added to drinks or taken in capsule form. They are often more potent than other forms of the mushroom.

Food: Turkey tail mushrooms can also be used in cooking. They have a slightly bitter taste and a chewy texture, so they are often added to soups, stews, or stir-fries. You can also roast them with other vegetables or add them to pasta dishes.

It's important to note that while turkey tail mushrooms are generally considered safe, it's important to source them from a reputable supplier to ensure that they are not contaminated with harmful substances. It's also important to talk to your doctor before taking turkey tail supplements, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a medical condition.

Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Offer Potential Health Benefits?

People have utilized these mushrooms, also known as Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor, as a health supplement for ages. Turkey tail extract (Yun zhi) is used to treat respiratory disorders in traditional Chinese medicine.

There appear to be few if any, negative effects from turkey tail extract. But, before taking it, a person should always see a doctor and only get a pure form from a trustworthy supplier.

Here are some known potential health advantages of turkey tail mushrooms:

Could potentially fight cancer

Many studies have demonstrated that turkey tail mushrooms have immune-boosting qualities. According to one 2014 assessment, its extract may be effective in combating some forms of cancer. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/)

The researchers looked at trials on five different species of mushrooms, including turkey tail, as cancer therapies. "The evidentiary foundation for employing mushrooms in cancer therapy has considerably increased," they conclude.

None of these trials, however, advocate mushroom extract as a stand-alone therapy. Instead, the researchers discovered that these extracts may be beneficial to those who take them in conjunction with therapies like chemotherapy.

A meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials discovered that cancer patients who got turkey tail in addition to normal therapies survived longer than those who received chemotherapy alone. Those with breast cancer, stomach cancer, and colorectal cancer benefited the most from the combination of turkey tail plus chemotherapy. (https://www.eurekaselect.com/article/39867)

Additional research has found that turkey tail extracts not only limit the development of some cancer cells but also boost immunological function in persons with specific malignancies, potentially lowering the risk of infection.


Could potentially improve gut health

The Turkey tail may benefit intestinal health by encouraging the development of good bacteria that aid in digestion. Turkey tail functions as a prebiotic, encouraging the growth of "good" bacteria in the gut microbiome. A healthy, balanced gut microbiota is associated with better digestive health, a stronger immune system, and a decreased incidence of gastrointestinal illnesses and diseases. (https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/7/1/14)

For eight weeks, subjects in one small trial were administered 3,600 milligrams (mg) of turkey tail PSP extract each day. Turkey tail extract enhanced the number of good bacteria while suppressing the growth of possibly dangerous bacteria, according to the findings. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.4161/gmic.29558)


Could potentially boost athletic performance: Turkey tail may improve athletic performance by increasing stamina and combating weariness. A study employing animal models discovered that turkey tail extract boosted mouse endurance and strength. Also, the extract decreased physical exhaustion and blood sugar levels during rest and after exercise in rats. (https://www.medsci.org/v14p1110.htm)

Could potentially fight against HPV: A study of 91 women with HPV infection discovered that 84.9% of those treated with a turkey tail-based vaginal gel had a normal pap smear and colposcopy 6 months later. In comparison, 64.5% of individuals who did not use the gel did not. Furthermore, 59.6% of women who were treated were entirely free of the infection, compared to 41.9% of those who were not. (Source: https://journals.lww.com/jlgtd/Fulltext/2021/04000/Efficacy_of_a_Coriolus_versicolor_Based_Vaginal.9.aspx)

Could potentially improve insulin resistance: Turkey tail extract dramatically lowered blood sugar levels and improved insulin resistance in rats with type 2 diabetes, according to research. (Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32749097/)

Could potentially promote bone health: According to animal model research, turkey tail extract results in larger, less porous bones and may protect against bone loss associated with some cancer therapies. (Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27649725/)

Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Come with Health Risks?

Despite a dearth of information on the dangers of Turkey Tail mushrooms, they appear to be quite harmless. It should also be mentioned that Turkey Tail mushrooms, unlike psilocybin mushrooms, are not psychedelics.

You shouldn't be too concerned about how much Turkey Tail to take. Turkey Tail mushroom supplements are said to have little negative effects, even at large doses. According to one study, even at 100 times the average clinical dose, the mushrooms induced no adverse responses in mice. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5666542/)

Despite the information I mentioned above, it's vital to remember that nothing is very certain. Turkey Tail mushrooms may still cause certain undesirable side effects and contraindications, especially if you are allergic to mushrooms.

Although the danger is low, individuals who do report ill effects after ingesting Turkey Tail mushrooms describe any of the following six symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Darkened nail pigmentation
  • Constipation and stomach pain
  • Cold and flu symptoms

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