The Medicinal Turkey Tail Mushroom
Trametes Versicolor, or “Turkey Tail” is a common small-bodied polypore with many medicinal benefits! Though there is a crust fungi called Stereum Ostrea or “False Turkey Tail” tends to trick people, BUT I have the solution!
In the photos above, both true “Turkey Tail” and “False Turkey Tail” are featured. Can you spot the difference? Well it’s simple. True Turkey Tail is a tough polypore with a white underside. False Turkey Tail is a thin crust fungus with a colored underside. These mushrooms do commonly grow side by side as they both feed off fallen logs, but now you know how to tell them apart!
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the true “Turkey Tail” mushroom.
The fruiting bodies grow up to 3” wide and feature multicolored zones of colors including blue, green, gray, yellow, brown, red, and orange. If you study the flesh it closely you’ll see the surface is silky, almost finely hairy. The flesh is thin, but it is a true polypore as the underside is filled with tiny pores and is white in color, fading to gray or yellow with age.
As far as it’s medicinal benefits, Turkey Tail is still being studied to this day as the western region of the world is just now opening its eyes to the benefits of fungi. In Asia however, Turkey Tail has been used medicinally for centuries. Polysaccharide K (commonly referred to as PSK) is a chemical compound found in Turkey Tail that is an approved treatment for various types of cancer in Japan.
According to a 2017 study:
“[PSK] has been used as adjuvant therapy in thousands of cancer patients since the mid-1970s”
“In a phase I clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, a product made with turkey tail was given to a small group of patients with breast cancer following radiation therapy. There was an increase in natural killer cells and other cancer-fighting cells in the immune system.” With that said, Turkey Tail is commonly harvested, dehydrated and ground up to be made into decoctions or capsule supplements.
Appalachian Mushrooms: A Field Guide by Walter E. Sturgeon