1 teaspoon of Turkey Tail a day keeps the doctor away! Turkey Tail has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries to treat various health conditions and concerns.
Turkey Tail is a mushroom that grows on decaying or dead wood and it’s unique and beautiful concentric rings resemble the tail of a turkey - hence the name! They come in a panoply of colours, from blue, grey and red. Like the Reishi and Lion’s Mane mushrooms, Turkey Tail doesn’t have gills, instead it has pores or a series of tubes inside the mushroom which it uses to expel its spores.
It is one the most researched functional mushrooms and we want to shed light on all its mind-blowing immune-modulating properties.
Historically the first mention of Turkey Tail comes from China in the Han dynasty around 200BC, where it was used as an immunomodulator to treat infections.
Turkey Tail is also mentioned in the Great Pharmacopeia (an encyclopedic collection focusing on medicine), known as the Classics of the Materia Medica or as Shen-nong’s Herbal Classics. It was published over 3,000 years ago from the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century, about natural history and Chinese herbology. According to this collection, Turkey Tail was ranked the highest in the fungi kingdom and was applied as a folk medicine, particularly in Asia. It was also said to promote vitality, healthy liver function, and strong bones and muscles.
Over the years Turkey Tail has accumulated several different nicknames. In 1939 the Czech mycologist Albert Pilat named Turkey Tail ‘Trametes Versicolor,’ which translates to ‘of several colours.’ In China, the mushroom is called ‘Yun zhi,’ which means ‘the cloud fungus’ and in Japan it is known as ‘Kawaratake,’ which means ‘mushroom that grows by the riverbank’.
Deep within this mushroom lies an array of bioactive compounds, all of which have been shown to have the potential to improve our gut health and increase natural killer cells and T-cells. Like Chaga, Turkey Tail has a high concentration of antioxidants which have been shown to improve our immune health.
Below is a breakdown of the compounds and benefits of Turkey Tail that may help to support our gut and immune health.
Mushrooms have a high concentration of beta-d-glucans which have a myriad of benefits for our immune system. Turkey Tail has been shown to be one of the highest sources of beta-d-glucans.
So, what are they, and how can they benefit us?
Beta-d-glucan is a polysaccharide found in the cell wall. The structure is made of glucose monomers (molecules that bind together), creating a branched molecule that interacts in the body in various ways and modulates our immune system, meaning they can keep our immune system at its cruise level, not overstimulating nor suppressing it. Turkey Tail is known as a biological response modifier (BRM) as it works to restore balance to the immune system and improve the body’s natural response to infection and disease.
Turkey Tail contains very specific protein-bound polysaccharides that have been isolated, studied and shown to potentially do some really cool things for our bodies! These specific polysaccharides are called polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP).
PSK and PSP can promote immunity by stimulating specific types of immune cells, and defeating inflammation. Other known benefits include painkilling, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant activity.(1)
PSK was discovered in the 1960s and first isolated for research in Japan in the late 1970s and PSP was isolated around 1983 in China. Each compound was found with strong immunological values.
In 1977, the Japanese Ministry of Health approved PSK for clinical use and it has since been extensively studied for its role in supporting the immune system, whilst over 45 independent PSP-related preclinical and clinical studies have been conducted.
GUT HEALTH – Turkey Tail as your personal pre-biotic kick
In one randomised controlled trial published in 2014, conducted with 24 healthy volunteers over 8 weeks, researchers examined the prebiotic effects of PSP isolated from Turkey Tail on the human gut microbiome.(2) They wanted to compare it with amoxicillin, an antibiotic used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria, which can often result in unwanted side-effects such as diarrhoea and a disrupted microbiome.
The 24 participants were either given PSP, amoxicillin, or no treatment (control). Over the course of the trail their stools were analysed, and results showed that PSP led to clear and consistent microbiome changes consistent with its activity as a prebiotic. But those who received amoxicillin saw a substantial microbiome changes, notably an increase in Escherichia/Shigella.
The research concluded that the antibiotic, amoxicillin, disrupts the microbiome and recovery from this can take several weeks compared to PSP from Turkey Tail which acts as a prebiotic to modulate human intestinal microbiome composition.
A study published in 2013 analysed how PSP from Turkey Tail could be beneficial to microbiota and their pH levels.(3) Microbiota stimulate the immune system, breakdown potentially toxic food compounds and synthesize certain vitamins and amino acids. The results showed that Turkey Tail does contain recognized prebiotic agents that alter human gut microbiota and pH which may explain the plethora of health benefits that are attributed to this mushroom.
STRESS CONTROL IN ONE SIP
Oxidative stress results from an imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules known as free radicals and can lead to cellular damage and chronic inflammation.
Turkey Tail contains an impressive array of antioxidants, including flavonoids and up to 38 phenols.(4) Phenol and flavonoid antioxidants promote immune system health by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds, thereby reducing the amount of oxidative stress.(5)
Obesity is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease; if untreated, it can lead to other health issues. Globally, it is estimated that almost 2.3 billion children and adults are living overweight and diagnosed as obese.(6)
A 2019 study on mice researched the link between one protein-bound beta-glucan (PBG) (a type of polysaccharide) from Turkey Tail and anti-obesity effects.(7) Gut microbiota analysis revealed that PBG markedly increased the abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila (a bacteria that helps maintain our gut lining, increase metabolism and prevent weight gain) and further, PBG was shown to increase metabolism in microbiota-depleted mice. To conclude, the study highlighted that PBG (from Turkey Tail) may exert its anti-obesity effects through a microbiota manner.
HOW TO TAKE
If eaten whole, Turkey Tail tastes slightly bitter, chewy and has a strong earthy flavour. They are not typically consumed like this but rather boiled to make tea, taken in powder form or capsules to reap all the benefits. DIRTEA Turkey Tail has a light, slightly earthy taste but it isn’t bitter.
With an array of immunity-boosting properties, Turkey tail mushroom seems to be nature's doctor whom you can call upon any time, no appointment needed!
5 KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. Immunity-boosting properties
2. Packed full of antioxidants
3. Can act as a prebiotic for gut health
4. May lower blood sugar
5. May help with weight management
- Wan, M-F, J., (2013). ‘Handbook of Biologically Active Peptides (Second Edition)’. In Kastin, A. J. (ed) Chapter 27- Polysaccaride Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharopeptide PSP. 180-184. ISBN 9780123850959, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-385095-9.00027-0.
- Pallav, K., Dowd, S.E., Villafuerte, J., Yang, X., Kabbani, T., Hansen, J., Dennis, M,.Leffler, D.A., and Kelly C. (2014). ‘Effects of Polysaccharopeptide from Trametes Versicolor and Amoxicillin on the Gut Microbiome of Healthy Volunteers: A Randomized Clinical Trial’. Gut Microbes, 5(4), pp. 458-467.
- Yu, ZT., Liu, B., Mukherjee, P., and Newburg, D.S. (2013) ‘Trametes versicolor Extract Modifies Human Fecal Microbiota Composition In vitro’. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 68, pp.107–112.
- Knežević, A., Živković, L., Stajić, M., Vukojević, J., Milovanović, I., and Spremo-Potparević, B. (2015). ‘Antigenotoxic Effect of Trametes spp. Extracts against DNA Damage on Human Peripheral White Blood Cells’. ScientificWorldJournal. 146378. doi:10.1155/2015/146378.
- Janjušević, L., Karaman, M., Šibul, F., Tommonaro, G., Iodice, C., Jakovljević, D., and Pejin, B. (2017) ‘The Lignicolous Fungus Trametes Versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920): a Promising Natural Source of Antiradical and AChE Inhibitory Agents’. J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem. 32 (1), pp.355-362. doi: 10.1080/14756366.2016.1252759.
- World Heart Federation. (2022). Obesity. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/what-we-do/obesity/#:~:text=Global%20estimates%20suggest%20that%20almost,overweight%20or%20obesity%20by%202025. (Accessed: 10 March 2023).
- Li,X., Chen,P., Zhang,P., Chang,Y., Cui,M., and Duan, J. (2019) ‘Protein-Bound β-glucan from Coriolus Versicolor has Potential for Use Against Obesity’. Wiley Online Library. 63 (7), doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201801231.