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Fungi 101, Immune System
Written By: Emily Spring
Did you know that the colorful mushroom growing on that fallen tree trunk in your backyard may have immune-boosting properties? Now, you won't want to go foraging for any random mushrooms you find in your backyard, but you may be curious to find that some of them have incredible health benefits and uses.
Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern and folk medicine for thousands of years, but recent research has shown that out of the vast scope of medicinal mushrooms out there, turkey tail mushrooms are one of the most potent varieties.
Turkey tail mushrooms look like their namesake: they are flat, multicolored discs that grow on trees and logs throughout North America. Currently, the FDA is conducting a clinical trial on this medicinal mushroom's applications for patients undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy. Interestingly, this is an application already approved in many Asian countries, such as Japan and China. While the findings of the FDA's trial are to be determined, there's ample evidence that turkey tail mushrooms provide a range of health benefits.
Read on for a guide to understanding how the turkey tail mushroom can boost your overall well-being.
Maybe you've seen mushroom coffee at your favorite cafe, or you have a friend who takes a mushroom supplement. Either way, it's evident that mushrooms are a growing presence in more "mainstream" natural medicine. That's because mushrooms of all kinds have the following health benefits:
But what is turkey tail mushroom good for? Scientifically known as Trametes versicolor (TV) or as Coriolus Versicolor (CV), turkey tails are common throughout the United States. The edible mushroom may be common, but its effects are anything but. Researchers in Frontiers in Immunology explain that:
"Ancient Chinese formulations of CV have long been believed to generally promote health, strength, and longevity. Laboratory studies suggest it may have antimicrobial, antiviral, and antitumor properties."
Because turkey tail mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for decades, they were one of the first fungi to receive attention from Western scientists. This research has confirmed the following mushroom supplements benefits:
These mushrooms for immunity come in a variety of formats. Turkey tail mushrooms, both whole and in extracted form, are some of the most powerful players in the new field of fungi-based health supplements. Don’t care for the taste? Thankfully, there are mushroom supplements packed with all the herbal benefits, without the earthy taste. The variety of ingestion methods available means you can enjoy them even if you don't like the taste or texture of mushrooms.
Next, we'll take a look at the compounds that make a turkey tail mushroom supplement a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle.
You've probably heard that it's beneficial to eat antioxidant-rich foods like raspberries and blueberries. You might even use a CBD skincare product full of plant-based antioxidants that combat the signs of aging.
Turkey tail mushrooms are also a wonderful source of natural antioxidants.
But what do antioxidants actually do?
The imbalance of free radicals, also known as oxidative stress, causes damage over time. Free radical damage can look like wrinkles, fine lines, or discoloration on the skin’s surface. Inside the body, it can manifest as inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing explains that chronic inflammation can have serious long term effects:
"Unchecked, the immune system prompts white blood cells to attack nearby healthy tissues and organs, setting up a chronic inflammatory process that plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time."
Antioxidants combat oxidation and inflammation, and turkey tails are naturally full of them. In 2017, researchers in the Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Molecular Chemistry found that turkey tails have more than 40 naturally occurring antioxidants.
Specific antioxidants include:
These findings led the researchers to conclude that turkey tails are a potent way to address conditions linked to chronic inflammation. Such conditions include:
Antioxidants aren't the only powerful compound in turkey tails. Polysaccharopeptides a type of long chain of carbohydrates that are found inside some proteins, and turkey tail mushrooms contain at least two of these highly beneficial compounds:
Like antioxidants, PSK and PSP have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. However, while antioxidants combat free radicals, these compounds seem to function by stimulating other immune cells to kick into high gear.
While Western scientists are still working to understand the specific mechanisms that make the turkey tail mushroom supplement a powerful immune system stimulant, turkey-tail derived PSP has been used clinically in Japan and China since the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.
Probiotics are helpful bacteria that boost gut health, which is vital for stable immune function. Modern science increasingly recognizes that our gut microbiome plays an important role in our overall health. A healthy gut influences:
Beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are therefore essential to overall health. You can support your gut microbiome by eating fermented or probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi or by taking a probiotic supplement. Still, the bacteria may not survive if it doesn't have adequate prebiotic nutrients.
The solution? Turkey tail mushrooms.
Turkey tails contain prebiotics, the fibers that gut bacteria feed on to survive and thrive. A 2014 study found that compounds in turkey tails "led to clear and consistent microbiome changes consistent with its activity as a prebiotic."
While more studies are needed, turkey tails may be a way to improve your digestion, and in turn, your immunity.
Beyond their studied immune-boosting effects, turkey tails are currently in clinical testing to determine the efficacy of a wide range of health conditions. Recent studies suggest the following additional benefits:
With U.S. scientists progressing from animal to human subjects, we will soon gain an even better understanding of this medicinal mushroom's beneficial effects.
Now that you've read about the impressive immune-boosting effects of turkey tail mushrooms, you may be eager to add them to your routine. While the mushrooms are prevalent throughout North America, it's not ideal to go mushroom hunting simply to reap turkey tail benefits.
Besides that, turkey tail mushrooms have a chewy, unpleasant taste. Luckily, there are easy, tolerable ways of reaping their benefits than eating them as-is.
If you're able to find or source your own turkey tails, you can chop and boil them to create a turkey tail mushroom tea, as is done in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It may take significant time to extract all their beneficial properties, so be sure to boil them in water rather than merely steeping them. For a full breakdown of this process, check out this recipe for turkey tail tea. Be aware that the properties of individual mushrooms can vary based on where they've grown.
You may be able to find powdered whole turkey tail mushrooms. The turkey tail powder can be added to coffee, smoothies, or tea. Be warned, they are likely to have a strong mushroom taste. Research products carefully to ensure they come from a reputable company.
Are you looking for a way to experience the benefits of turkey tails every day? Plant People's Advanced Immune Power capsules combine the potency of turkey tail mushroom with reishi mushroom, Chaga mushroom extract, and astragalus extract to create a unique immune-enhancing dietary supplement. These turkey tail capsules also offer Vitamin C and many astragalus health benefits for added immunity-boosting properties.
It's easy to add this vegan capsule to your daily routine.
Like all of Plant People's products, Immune Power is 100% organic and sustainably grown so that you can experience the power of plants in their purest form.
Plant People is an industry leader in organic, plant, and fungi based wellness. Our 100% organic CBD tinctures and CBD skincare products are specifically formulated to deliver results, from balancing your mood to supporting healthy joints. Our new Advanced Immune Power capsules build on our years of experience with plant-based supplements, combining powerful mushrooms with adaptogenic herbs.
It's in our nature to help you support your overall wellness the natural way, the right way.
Written by Emily Spring
Emily Spring is the Director of Marketing at Plant People. A longtime proponent of balanced living, she has enjoyed over 8 years driving growth in the lifestyle, health and wellness sectors with deep experience in functional solutions for optimizing anyone's everyday life.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.
International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. Control of Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) by Medicinal Mushrooms, Trametes Versicolor and Ganoderma Lucidum: A Preliminary Clinical Trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25271984/
Frontiers in Microbiology. The Antibacterial Activity of Coriolus versicolor Methanol Extract and Its Effect on Ultrastructural Changes of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella Enteritidis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4972825/
International Journal of Medical Sciences. Effect of Coriolus versicolor Mycelia Extract on Exercise Performance and Physical Fatigue in Mice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5666542/
Gut Microbes. Effects of Polysaccharopeptide From Trametes Versicolor and Amoxicillin on the Gut Microbiome of Healthy Volunteers: A Randomized Clinical Trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25006989/
Heathline. Probiotics and prebiotics. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-and-prebiotics
Gut Microbes. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/
Oncotarget. Medicinal mushrooms as an attractive new source of natural compounds for future cancer therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6044372/
Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry. The lignicolous fungus Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920): a promising natural source of antiradical and AChE inhibitory agents. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010034/
WebMD. Quercetin. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-294/quercetin
Harvard Health Publishing. Understanding Inflammation. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-inflammation
Medical News Today. What Are Free Radicals. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652#What-are-free-radicals
Frontiers in Immunology. Immunomodulatory Properties of Coriolus versicolor: The Role of Polysaccharopeptide. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5592279/
International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. The Clinical Use of Mushrooms from a Traditional Chinese Medical Perspective. http://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,0d0f121956dd501b,185479042f290e6d.html
Bastyr University. FDA Approves Bastyr Turkey Tail Trial for Cancer Patients. https://bastyr.edu/news/general-news/2012/11/fda-approves-bastyr-turkey-tail-trial-cancer-patients