Turkey Tail, or Trametes versicolor, is a common and easy-to-identify mushroom that's found throughout the world. Its name derives from the fan-like shape and multicolored rings that resemble a turkey’s tail. This resilient mushroom grows on dead logs and stumps year-round, enhancing the decomposition process in forests. Beyond its ecological role, Turkey Tail has been utilised as a medicinal mushroom in various cultures for hundreds of years.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Turkey Tail is known as Yun Zhi and has been used to support health and longevity. Similarly, in Japanese folk medicine, it is known as Kawaratake and has been traditionally used to boost the immune system and aid in digestion.
Today, Turkey Tail is used worldwide as a natural health supplement. People brew it as a tea or take it in capsule or extract form to support their immune health. It's also one of the most thoroughly researched medicinal mushrooms, with numerous clinical trials investigating its potential benefits.
Chemical Constituents and Actions
Turkey Tail is packed with beneficial compounds including polysaccharides, phenols, flavonoids, and terpenes. Of particular interest are two types of polysaccharides: Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and Polysaccharide-P (PSP).
PSK and PSP are beta-glucans which are known to have immunomodulatory effects. They can enhance the body's immune response by stimulating the activity of certain immune cells like macrophages and natural killer cells. They may also have prebiotic effects, supporting gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Scientific research on Turkey Tail mushroom has provided promising results. Several studies have focused on its potential as an adjunctive therapy in cancer treatment due to its immune-boosting effects.
For instance, a study published in ISRN Oncology found that oral administration of PSP from Turkey Tail improved the immune status of 70% of lung cancer patients. Another study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine showed that Turkey Tail could enhance immune function in women with breast cancer.
Precautions and Contraindications
Generally, Turkey Tail mushroom is considered safe for most people. However, some individuals may experience digestive upset, including darkened stools, bloating, or gas. As with all medicinal mushrooms, it's best to start with a small dose to see how your body reacts and gradually increase as tolerated.
Those with mushroom allergies or immune disorders should consult with a healthcare provider before using Turkey Tail. Also, due to its immune-stimulating effects, it's advised to stop using Turkey Tail at least two weeks before scheduled surgery.
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