This Medicinal Mushroom Is Praised For Its Immune-Boosting And Cancer-Fighting Properties
Jan 27, 2021
Meet Turkey Tail – The immune-boosting, anticancer super mushroom.
These days, we’re all looking for ways to give our immune system a little extra boost. In addition to best-practices like getting enough sleep, eating a colorful array of fruits and veggies, and frequent hand-washing, certain supplements have been shown to support immunity — and turkey tail is one to know.
“Turkey tail can modulate immunity and inflammation, and improve the body’s resilience to bacteria and viruses and wear and tear,” says Dana Remedios RHN, NNCP, holistic nutritionist and Product Information Specialist at Flora Health. “It’s is deeply nutritive and nourishing to the immune system and overall health, and good for people who feel run down, get sick often, or tend to have digestive issues.”
Here’s the low-down on the immune-boosting supplement wellness experts are raving about, including what it is, how it works, and how to incorporate it into your own daily health routine.
What is Turkey Tail?
Turkey tail is a species of medicinal mushroom (technically called Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor), found on dead logs around the world (but don’t let that scare you off). It’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years to fight infection, as well as act as a general health tonic, says Remedios.
“The pretty fan-shaped rings of the mushroom are called the fruiting body, and the mycelium is the name of the underground root portion,” says Remedios. This former is where the mushroom gets its name — its brown and tan rings are reminiscent of turkey tail feathers. It’s also where most of the mushroom’s healing properties come from.
How Does Turkey Tail Work?
“[Turkey tail is] ‘immune-modulating,’ which means the turkey tail mushroom factors influence the immune system to adjust and prime its response by releasing important immune cells,” says Remedios. In other words, it gives your body a jump-start in activating its natural immune response — and the way it does so is actually very well-studied.
The two notable compounds (called polysaccharopeptides) that are largely responsible for this are Krestin (PSK) & Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP). “Test-tube studies show PSP ups white blood cells that fight infection & boost immunity,” says Remedios. It also activates another type of white blood cell that helps protect against harmful bacteria and other substances, she adds.
For this reason, it’s also often used in conjunction with cancer treatments. “It has been shown to improve the health outcomes in those receiving chemotherapy and radiation and reduce adverse events associated with chemo,” shares Remedios. Some wellness experts suggest that turkey tail even has anti-cancer properties, but this claim has not been confirmed by research studies. (For those on prescribed cancer treatments, please consult with your doctor).
In addition to PSP and PSK, turkey tail is chock full of antioxidants, which help fight against inflammation in the body (this can lead to a reduced immune response). It also contains prebiotics, which help support the balance of good gut bacteria (gut health has also been linked to the body’s immune response).
How Do You Take Turkey Tail?
Turkey tail and its immune-boosting powers can be found in a number of different products, including capsules and liquid extracts (such as tinctures, or water extractions). You could also chop it up to make a tea, but this is not as strong as an extract, says Remedios. In any case, turkey tail tends to be easy to digest and its nutrients are easily absorbed into the body, she adds.
As for when to take it, perspectives have shifted from taking it only when needed to using it as an immune-boosting supplement on a daily basis. “Traditionally, turkey tail tea was taken at the onset of cold or flu, however, many modern illnesses are more chronic, and to support people with chronic illness it can also be taken as a tonic (long term) to get the body into a better state of resilience and health,” says Remedios.
Now more than ever, that’s something we can all toast our turkey tail to.
Alexa is a Denver-based writer, editor, and marketing pro who covers all things wellness, travel, beauty, and lifestyle. She has written for Women’s Health, Woman’s Day, Runner’s World, Self Magazine. When she’s not crafting content, you can find her hiking or skiing (depending on the season), drinking red wine, or planning her next travel adventure.