A close up of a cluster of Turkey Tail mushrooms paired with a blog by Forage Hyperfoods titled "Turkey Tail: The History and Benefits Behind This Powerful Mushroom".

Turkey Tail: The History and Benefits Behind This Powerful Mushroom

Turkey Tail mushroom is a multicoloured fungus that gets its name from its unique shape and colour, which resembles the feathers on a turkey’s tail. 

Scientifically known as Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail is a thin shelf mushroom that grows on dead or dying logs in the forest. It’s a common mushroom and can be found almost anywhere trees are found.  

Turkey Tail is not a gourmet mushroom, but rather a functional mushroom. It has a tough texture and needs to be thoroughly extracted in hot water for the beneficial compounds to become bioavailable.

A brief history of Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years to treat various health conditions and concerns. Most of its traditional use stems from ancient China and Japan, where medicinal mushrooms were enthusiastically embraced in healing and medicine. 

Turkey Tail was mentioned in the first written text on medicinal herbs from the Han Dynasty, Shennong Ben Cao Jing, around 200 BC. There is also a record of Turkey Tail in the Compendium of Materia Medica (Ben Cao Gang Mu) from the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. In this text, Turkey Tail is said to promote vitality, healthy liver function, and strong bones and muscles. 

The Western world has since caught on to Turkey Tail’s many benefits, which have been demonstrated in numerous clinical trials. It became even more popular in the past decade after a 2011 Ted Talk in which well-known mycologist Paul Stamets tells the story of his mother’s battle with cancer and how Turkey Tail played a role in her recovery. 

The health benefits of Turkey Tail 

People are still talking about Turkey Tail 3,000 years after its discovery. Why? Because of its powerful health properties: 

  • Rich in antioxidants: Turkey Tail is packed with antioxidants, including more than 35 phenols and powerful flavonoid antioxidants like quercetin and baicalein.[*] Phenol and flavonoid antioxidants promote health by reducing damage caused by oxidative stress.[*]
  • Offers immune support: Turkey Tail is brimming with polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, polysaccharide K (PSK), and polysaccharide peptide (PSP), all of which support a healthy, balanced immune system.[*][*
  • Supports gut health: Turkey Tail contains prebiotics, which help nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut.[*] This may positively impact the balance of bacteria in your gut by enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria and suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria.  
  • May help combat cancer: Research has shown that Turkey Tail may have antitumor properties, thought to be related to its immune-boosting effects.[*] Some research also shows that Turkey Tail may enhance the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments.[*]

A final word 

Despite being discovered thousands of years ago, Turkey Tail’s popularity only continues to increase. Even though this colourful fungus is quite common in forests around the globe, the health benefits it offers are anything but typical. Turkey Tail is brimming with health-promoting compounds that have the potential to improve people’s health, especially when it comes to nurturing a robust, balanced immune system. 

At Forage Hyperfoods, we offer a dual-extracted, 100% wild Canadian Turkey Tail tincture (original or alcohol-free), making it easier than ever to get a daily dose of this powerful medicinal mushroom. 

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