Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is one of the easily recognizable mushrooms in the world. It grows in overlapping clusters on dead and decomposing hardwood stumps and logs. Some grow on conifers, too. Another name for this mushroom is Coriolus versicolor.
What does turkey tail mushroom look like?
Trametes versicolor is so named because of the varying colors present on its cap. The caps are zonate, which means the colors appear in contrasting zones arranged in a concentric pattern. The colors range in the reddish brown, cinnamon and brown hues. Sometimes, the colors ay include orange green and blue.
The cap’s surface is velvety or fuzzy. The texture of the zones vary too, in alternating fuzzy and smooth feel.
The cap can grow to about 10 centimeters across. It is only a few millimeters thick. When fresh, the caps are flexible. The shape can be kidney-shaped, bracket-shaped, circular or semi-circular. The caps are often fused together.
The flesh is white. It is leathery and very tough. There is no distinctive taste or odor of the flesh of the turkey tail mushroom. The flavors can be bland to mildly sweet. When freshly harvested, the mushroom is slightly cold.
Where can turkey tail mushroom be found?
The mushroom has a wide habitat. This is among the commonly growing mushrooms in the world. It grows widely in North America and in hardwoods growing in the 3000-m altitudes. It is also distributed throughout most of the regions in China.
Active compounds in Trametes versicolor
The active compounds found in turkey tail mushroom include the following:
- Polysaccharide-K (Kresin, B-1,4 glucans, PSK, PSP, B-1,3)
- Monosaccharides, including galactose, arabinose, xylose, rhamnose and mannose
- lanostane-type tetracyclic triterpenoid sterol ergosta-7,22,dien-3B-ol
Benefits of turkey tail mushroom
Turkey tail mushroom is traditionally used for treatment and healing of various ailments concerning the lungs, spleen and liver.
The main benefits include:
Strengthening the immune system
The active compounds in turkey tail mushroom have been found to stimulate and strengthen the actions of the immune system. These compounds specifically target one of the immune system’s most important cells- the T helper cells. These cells regulate the function of all the other cells of the immune system. It sends signals what cells to be activated, when, until when and to what degree.
Turkey tail can help strengthen the function of T helper cells. There are some conditions wherein this vital immune cell is suppressed, such as in cancers. Turkey tail can help reactivate the T helper cells in order to restore the normal immune processes.
This effect can help in better regulation of inflammatory processes in the body. It can inhibit chronic inflammation.
The activation of the T helper cells also aids in a more effective fight against viral infections. This action can help protect the body against viral invasion such as in hepatitis and herpes.
This benefit is in line with the previously discussed action of turkey tail in the body. When cancer develops, rogue cells develop. These rogue cells secrete cytokines. These are chemical messengers that send a “stop” signal to the immune system. The release of cytokines will cause the other immune cells to stop functioning.
The rogue cells send cytokines that give a false signal for the immune cells to stop working. This effect will promote the proliferation of cancer cells. There will be no immune cells that will kill and hinder the development and multiplication of the cancer cells.
By taking tail, the T helper cells are reactivated. This reactivation will set the immune processes in motion once again. Immune cells will then be able to seek, destroy and eliminate the cancer cells.
These actions also aid in the reduction of tumor growth. These can also inhibit the development of new tumors.
Research was able to demonstrate this effect. However, this is not an indication that turkey tail is finally the magic bullet to end cancer. More research is still needed. What is certain is that turkey tail can help improve the quality and prognosis of cancer patients.
Improve energy and stamina
Again, this is an added benefit of the immune-boosting effect of turkey tail mushroom. Because the body is better protected against the negative effects of infections and poor immune response, the tissues can function better. Energy is better circulated and utilized.