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What is the Turkey Tail Mushroom? (The Medicinal Mushroom of Immunity)

This is a top view of a large healthy Turkey Tail Mushroom.

Of the 5 Types of Medicinal Mushrooms: The Royal Family of Fungus, the turkey tail mushroom is responsible for Immunity. This is a mushroom that has been present in traditional Chinese medicine practices for over 2,000 years, and today we’re going to look into why that is.

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You can also grow your own mushrooms! This incredible Florida based company called Nearby Naturals, actually mails you your very own mushroom growing kit with detailed instructions. Their customer service is amazing and they’ll quickly answer any question you have.

Related: Types of Mushroom | Chaga Mushroom | Cordyceps Mushroom | Reishi Mushroom | Medicinal Mushrooms | Types of Truffles | Lions Mane Mushroom

Introducing the Turkey Tail Mushroom

Trametes Versicolor gets its name due to the mushroom’s striking variety of colors. Just because this mushroom is classified as being inedible (they only mean it’ll taste gross if you try to cook it, it’s very firm after all) doesn’t mean we can’t extract all the goodies in another way.

Turkey tail mushrooms are one of the top choice medicinal mushrooms and are often turned into powders, tinctures, and extracts.

They’re often found growing off of hardwood and conifer trees (pine, hemlock, Douglas firs, spruces, etc) and are native to North American wooded areas. If you live in these kinds of areas, there’s a good chance there’s a mushroom hunting facebook group who organizes foraging trips. Get involved!!

A rotting log with Turkey Tail Mushrooms.

Mycological Characteristics

  • polypore – the fruiting body possesses gills or pores on the underside where spores are released
  • leathery in texture
  • the flat cap grows in various colors
  • lacks a stipe (mushroom stem)
  • white or yellow spore print
  • classified as inedible

Interactions with Other Plant Life

The turkey tail is a saprotrophic mushroom, meaning that it digests decaying matter. This is what ensures the cycle of life continues in forests. This oftentimes gets confused with the term saprophytic, but this indicates that fungi will digest and recycle decaying matter for other organisms to ingest. A saprotrophic fungus will digest all of that lovely dead stuff for itself.

To clarify, a saprophyte recycles, whereas a saprotroph consumes.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms growing on a tree.

Benefits for Humans

I’m going to begin with a little excerpt from the documentary Fantastic Fungi. The words turkey tail mushroom and anti-carcinogenic can often be found in the same sentence, and this is why:

Paul Stamets is a world-leading mycologist, who took a great part in the documentary Fantastic Fungi. His mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 84, and the doctors notified her that an operation to extract the tumors would not be possible.

Paul encouraged his mother to start taking turkey tail mushroom supplements, and she was ingesting around 8 capsules a day. Within the year, Paul Stamets’ mother was completely cancer-free.

A cluster of Turkey Tail Mushroom on a rotting tree.

This may be because turkey tail mushrooms possess a property called coriolus versicolor glucan (CVG) that actually attacks cancerous cells. Why? Because CVG encourages an influx of polysaccharopeptides krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP). PSP activates immune cell response by increasing the production of monocytes.

Monocytes are white blood cells that fight infection. PSK is a property that protects against bacteria. Both PSP and PSK are used in conjunction with other cancer-fighting efforts. But turkey tails produce this naturally and don’t attack healthy cells.

Like many other mushrooms, the turkey tail is also full of antioxidants which help reduce the damage that is caused by oxidative stress. Antioxidants also help balance the number of unstable molecules in one’s body (which may be cancer-causing), and they’re known as free radicals.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms with a purplish tint.

Pre-biotics are essential to a healthy gut biome, and lucky for us, the turkey tail mushroom also takes care of that issue. 24 people participated in an 8-week study (published by the National Library of Medicine) to see how turkey tail mushroom affects the gut. These people consumed 3,600 mg daily of PSP extracted from turkey tail mushrooms. Not only did it significantly increase their gut biome healthy, but it was also able to completely inhibit the growth of Shigella bacteria and E. coli.


Where do turkey tail mushrooms grow?

They are native to North American wooded areas and tend to grow on hardwood trees and conifers.

What do turkey tail mushrooms taste like?

They have a rather mild, unimpressive flavor, and so these mushrooms are usually turned into powders, tinctures, and extracts.

Are turkey tail mushrooms psychedelic?

They may look psychedelic, but they don’t actually possess any psilocybin, which is what makes a mushroom “magic”.

Are turkey tail mushrooms legal?

Absolutely! There is no reason why they wouldn’t be.

Are turkey tail mushrooms poisonous?

No, they are not. They’re classified as inedible mostly due to their lack of flavor and texture.