Turkey tail mushrooms are colorful medicinal mushrooms with a wide range of benefits and uses. Its scientific name is Coriolus versicolor, and its common name comes from its resemblance to a turkey’s tail.
If you take turkey tail mushroom regularly as a health supplement, it can can boost your immune system, improve digestion, fight infection and lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease. In the short term, turkey tail mushroom supports higher energy levels and better athletic performance. It also lowers inflammation and provides antioxidant support.
Dried turkey tail mushrooms are often steeped to make tea. You can also enjoy their health benefits on a daily basis by taking turkey tail mushroom powder in capsules. Here are 9 benefits and medicinal uses this impressive fungus has to offer:
1. Enhances Gut Health
From the moment you were born, your gut begins to colonize beneficial bacteria, which play a role in the functioning of your body and brain, as well as in your immune system’s defense against infections. When there aren’t enough good bacteria in your gut, it can get overrun by bad bacteria and play a role in the pathogenesis of various diseases. Turkey tail mushrooms are shown in test tube studies to boost populations of beneficial bacteria, and as a result reduce the presence of harmful bacteria, including Clostridium and Staph infections . The prebiotics in turkey tail mushrooms are like food that fuel the friendly bacteria in your gut.
Their efficacy has been proven in human trials. In an 8-week study on 24 healthy individuals, taking turkey tail mushrooms as a daily supplement was shown to suppress the growth of E. coli and Shingella bacteria by increasing good bacteria populations .
In addition to fighting off harmful bacteria, healthy levels of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are proven to improve digestion, enhance immune function, lower cholesterol and even reduce your risk for cancer . By making turkey tail mushrooms a part of your diet, you can maintain higher friendly gut bacteria populations and reap all the benefits they offer.
2. Fights Bacteria and Infections
Turkey tail mushrooms have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects that could potentially help fight off drug-resistant bacteria strains. One clinical trial found that turkey tail supplementation effectively treated the HPV virus in 88 percent of the 61 participants . In test tubes, turkey tail extract has been shown to stop the proliferation of Staphylococcus aureus, which is a harmful bacteria associated with psoriasis and known to be antibiotic-resistant. It’s also stopped the growth of Salmonella enterica in test tubes, suggesting it could be widely useful in fighting infections of various types .
3. Enhances Athletic Performance and Physical Endurance
Medicinal mushrooms are often known for their ability to fight fatigue. One study examined the effects of turkey tail mushroom extract on physical endurance in mice. After a group of mice were treated with turkey tail mushroom extract, they were subjected to a physical endurance test along with a control group. The results showed that the turkey tail mushroom group had better exercise performance and less fatigue compared to the control group . This suggested turkey tail mushrooms could potentially be used to improve short-term athletic performance and help you exercise harder and longer for a better workout.
It could also potentially reduce recovery time after workouts, as the mice group that had turkey tail mushroom extract was found to have lower levels of lactate in their bloodstream. Lactate, or lactic acid, is a waste product formed in muscle tissue during strenuous exercise. Lactic acid need to circulate out of the muscle tissue as part of the recovery process, so the smaller concentrations of lactic acid in the turkey tail mushroom group could indicate a faster recovery time and less muscle soreness between workouts.
4. May Improve Diabetes
Diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin–the hormone responsible for transporting glucose inside your cells, where it’s expended as energy. When your body is resistant to insulin, glucose builds up in your bloodstream outside of cells and eventually becomes stored as fat instead of burned as fuel. Turkey tail mushrooms may help people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes by reducing insulin resistance and promoting better insulin sensitivity. In a study on diabetic rats, turkey tail mushroom extract significantly lowered blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity .
If the same effects apply in humans, then taking turkey tail mushroom as a daily supplement could potentially help prevent diabetes. Or, it could serve as an adjunctive therapy in managing diabetes that lowers the amount of medicine required to keep blood sugar stable.
5. Lowers Inflammation
Turkey tail mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory properties, including flavonoids (responsible for their delightful colors) and phenols. Chronic inflammation is known to raise your risk for several diseases. Nipping inflammation in the bud can help manage pain and other symptoms of inflammatory conditions. If you’re required to take medication to manage inflammation, turkey tail mushroom extract could potentially serve as a natural medicine that reduces the amount of drugs you need .
6. Helps Fight Cancer
Scientists have isolated antitumor and anticancer properties in turkey tail mushrooms. In one test tube study, PSK, which is a polysaccharopeptide found in turkey tail mushrooms, stopped the proliferation of human colon cancer cells . A polysaccharide from turkey tail mushrooms called Coriolus versicolor glucan has been shown to suppress tumor growth, which could stop tumors from becoming cancerous, or stop the spread of a tumor that is already cancerous. In a study on mice with tumors, a daily dose of Coriolus versicolor glucan extracted from turkey tail mushrooms was shown to significantly shrink tumors .
Another way turkey tail mushrooms fight cancer is by stimulating your immune system’s natural defense mechanisms that combat cancer cells. Test tube studies suggest they can increase the number of immune cells actively fighting back. Sure enough, studies on tumor-bearing mice showed that the Coriolus versicolor glucans in turkey tail mushrooms strengthened their immune systems .
7. Improves Chemotherapy Treatment
In cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, turkey tail mushrooms may be able to enhance the efficacy of their treatment regimen and help protect against its side effects. In a review of 13 studies on the effects of turkey tail mushroom on cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment, daily supplementation was shown to improve survival rates significantly. In those who took turkey tail mushroom alongside conventional treatment, patients with breast cancer, stomach cancer and colon cancer had 9 percent less mortality compared to those who only received chemotherapy .
In a review of 8 studies involving over 8,000 stomach cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment, daily doses of PSK extracted from turkey tail mushroom were shown to increase life span . In a study on women with breast cancer taking 6 to 9 grams of turkey tail mushroom powder daily alongside radiation therapy, researchers measured an increase in their body’s own cancer-killing immune cells in the immune system. This suggests that stimulating the body’s own immunity against cancer could be the extra advantage turkey tail mushrooms provide to cancer patients .
8. Provides Antioxidant Support
With their ample supply of antioxidants, turkey tail mushrooms are able to fight oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when there aren’t enough antioxidants circulating to neutralize free radicals, which damage cells and DNA and are linked to premature aging, chronic inflammation and some of the most common diseases. Eating antioxidant-rich foods is shown to prevent oxidative damage and even slow down the aging process.
One study isolated over 35 phenols, or plant compounds, within turkey tail mushroom extract, plus the colorful flavonoid antioxidants quercetin and baicalein . Quercetin in particular is one of the most potent antioxidant found in plants, and is known to inhibit the body’s inflammatory response.
9. Boosts Your Immune System and Prevents Colds
The immune-boosting abilities of turkey tail mushroom extend beyond its applications for cancer patients. It also wards off common infections, including cold and flu viruses, by stimulating your immune system and making it more resilient to germs. Supplementing with turkey tail mushroom is a good idea when flu season comes around, as it could help prevent you from getting sick.
Supplementing with Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail mushroom is often taken in capsules or as a supplement. It’s generally considered safe, but some people have reported digestive complaints when taking it, such as gas and bloating. Taking too high of a dose could bring on these side effects. Refer to your product’s label about recommended doses, because different supplements can have different concentrations. If you’re taking medications, consult with your doctor before taking turkey tail mushroom, as it could have interactions.
Turkey tail mushroom is a great source of natural plant compounds that fight cancer and protect your body against disease. They can also improve your energy and endurance, making them a great health supplement for short- and long-term health benefits.