Turkey tail mushrooms, or Trametes versicolor, are a type of polypore fungus that grows on decaying wood, forming fan-shaped, multi-colored brackets resembling a wild turkey’s tail. Their vibrant colors and distinctive patterns make them easily recognizable among other fungi. Turkey tail mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine across the world for centuries, with a wealth of research supporting their many health benefits. In this article, we will explore the nutritional properties of these fascinating fungi, their historical and traditional uses, and their medicinal and health benefits.

Nutritional Properties

Turkey tail mushrooms are rich in various

essential nutrients that contribute to overall health and well-being.

Some key nutrients include:

  • Polysaccharides: Turkey tail mushrooms are abundant in bioactive polysaccharides, specifically beta-glucans. These complex sugars have been shown to have immune-modulating effects, helping to stimulate the body’s immune response and support overall immune function (1).
  • Antioxidants: These mushrooms are packed with antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants have been linked to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders (2).
  • Dietary Fiber: Turkey tail mushrooms are a good source of dietary fiber, which helps support digestion, promotes bowel regularity, and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity (3).
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Turkey tail mushrooms contain essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, and selenium. These nutrients play crucial roles in maintaining bone health, energy production, nerve function, and cellular health (4).

Medicinal Uses

Turkey tail mushrooms have been widely used in traditional herbal medicine across Asia, Europe, and North America for centuries. Here are some of their most well-documented medicinal uses:

  • Immune System Support: Research indicates that the polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP) present in turkey tail mushrooms can boost immune function by stimulating the production of immune cells and modulating the immune response (5). This immune support has been used as an adjunct therapy in cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, to help improve patients’ overall outcomes and quality of life (6).
  • Cancer Treatment: Numerous studies have demonstrated that the PSK and PSP compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms exhibit anti-tumor properties, inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells. In Japan, PSK is approved as a treatment for various cancers, including stomach, colorectal, and lung cancer (7).
  • Antiviral and Antibacterial Properties: Turkey tail mushrooms have been shown to exhibit antiviral and antibacterial properties, helping the body combat infections. Research has found that the polysaccharides in turkey tail mushrooms can inhibit the replication of viruses such as HIV and the herpes simplex virus (8). Additionally, the mushrooms have demonstrated antibacterial effects against common pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (9).

Traditional Herbal Uses and History

Turkey tail mushrooms have a rich history of use in traditional medicine, particularly in Asia. Some of their traditional uses include:

  • Chinese Medicine: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), turkey tail mushrooms are known as Yun Zhi and have been used for centuries to strengthen the immune system, treat respiratory ailments, and support overall health (10).
  • Japanese Medicine: In Japan, turkey tail mushrooms are known as Kawaratake and have long been used to support immune function, treat cancer, and improve overall health. PSK, derived from turkey tail mushrooms, is a widely accepted and prescribed cancer treatment in Japan (11).
  • Native American Medicine: Indigenous people of North America have traditionally used turkey tail mushrooms to treat a variety of ailments, such as colds, flu, and digestive issues. They have also been utilized for their immune-boosting properties and general wellness (12).

Health Benefits

In addition to their medicinal uses, turkey tail mushrooms offer numerous health benefits supported by scientific research:

  • Improved Gut Health: Turkey tail mushrooms contain prebiotics, which can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall health, including immune function, mental health, and digestion (13).
  • Reduced Inflammation: The antioxidants found in turkey tail mushrooms help combat oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is associated with numerous health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (14).
  • Enhanced Detoxification: Turkey tail mushrooms have been shown to support liver function and detoxification processes. By aiding in the removal of toxins from the body, these mushrooms can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and promote overall health (15).
  • Supports Mental Health: The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in turkey tail mushrooms can help support brain function and mental health. Studies suggest that the consumption of mushrooms may be associated with a reduced risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (16).


Turkey tail mushrooms are a fascinating and versatile fungus, boasting an array of nutritional properties that contribute to overall health and well-being. From their immune-boosting polysaccharides to their antioxidant-rich compounds, these mushrooms offer numerous health benefits. Their use in traditional medicine across the world is a testament to their medicinal potential, with modern research continually uncovering new applications for these incredible fungi.

Cited Sources:

Akramiene, D., et al. (2007). Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas), 43(8), 597-606.
Barros, L., et al. (2008). Antioxidant activity of Agaricus sp. mushrooms by chemical, biochemical, and electrochemical assays. Food Chemistry, 111(1), 61-66.
Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417-1435.
Valverde, M. E., et al. (2015). Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. International Journal of Microbiology, 2015, 376387.
Wasser, S. P. (2002). Medicinal mushrooms as a source of antitumor and immunomodulating polysaccharides. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 60(3), 258-274.
Standish, L. J., et al. (2008). Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 6(3), 122-128.
Tsukagoshi, S., et al. (1984). Krestin (PSK). Cancer Treatment Reviews, 11(2), 131-155.
Eo, S. K., et al. (1999). Antiviral activities of various water and methanol soluble substances isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 68(1-3), 129-136.
Kim, H. W., et al. (2008). Antoxidant and antimicrobial activities of Trametes versicolor extracts. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 2(10), 268-273.

Zhu, T., et al. (1998). Review of recent clinical trials of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) in China. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 26(1), 3-10.

Sakamoto, J., et al. (1991). Preoperative and postoperative adjuvant therapy with PSK in patients with colorectal cancer: an analysis of data on 1,012 patients followed for 5 years. Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, 82(4), 383-389.

Hobbs, C. (1995). Medicinal mushrooms: an exploration of tradition, healing, and culture. Botanica Press.

Gibson, G. R., & Roberfroid, M. B. (1995). Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics. The Journal of Nutrition, 125(6), 1401-1412.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., et al. (2010). Chronic inflammation: links with angiogenesis and wound healing. American Journal of Pathology, 177(4), 1693-1701.

Ramesh, C., et al. (2011). Hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects of the aqueous extract of Trametes versicolor (L.: Fr.) Pilát in CCl4-induced liver injury in rats. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 13(2), 129-136.

Zhang, S., et al. (2016). Dietary patterns and risk of dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Molecular Neurobiology, 53(9), 6144-6154.

Other Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Environmental Benefits: Turkey tail mushrooms, like many other fungi, play a crucial role in the ecosystem by breaking down dead plant material and recycling nutrients. This process helps maintain soil health and promotes plant growth. They also have the potential to help with bioremediation, a process that uses living organisms to remove or neutralize pollutants from the environment (17).

Culinary Uses: Turkey tail mushrooms are not typically consumed for their flavor or texture, as they can be tough and fibrous. However, they can be boiled or simmered to make a nutritious and flavorful tea or broth. This method of preparation allows for the extraction of the beneficial compounds, which can then be consumed in a more palatable form (18).

Potential Risks and Side Effects: While turkey tail mushrooms are generally considered safe for consumption, some individuals may experience side effects such as digestive upset or allergic reactions. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating turkey tail mushrooms or any other medicinal mushrooms into your diet, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition, are taking medications, or are pregnant or breastfeeding (19).

Future Research: As the popularity of medicinal mushrooms grows, so does the body of research surrounding their potential health benefits. Future studies may reveal even more applications for turkey tail mushrooms in the prevention and treatment of various health conditions. Researchers are also exploring the possibility of utilizing compounds derived from these mushrooms in the development of new pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals (20).

Cited Sources:

Stamets, P. (2005). Mycelium running: how mushrooms can help save the world. Ten Speed Press.

Rogers, R. (2011). The fungal pharmacy: the complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America. North Atlantic Books.

Powell, M. (2014). Medicinal mushrooms: a clinical guide. Mycology Press.

Valverde, M. E., et al. (2016). Fungi: an unexplored source of biotechnological applications. Current Opinion in Food Science, 7, 99-104.

Information on turkey tail mushrooms including their nutritional properties, medicinal uses, traditional herbal uses, and history,environmental benefits, culinary uses, potential risks and side effects, and areas for future research.

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