Mushrooms are a delicious delicacy in many cases, but they are so much more than just food. Humans have consumed them for thousands of years to help maintain overall health and well-being. There is an abundance of mushrooms with potential therapeutic properties, but one of the most well-known is turkey tail.
The scientific name for turkey tail is Trametes Versicolor, also known as Coriolus Versicolor. It’s a mushroom that can be found worldwide, mostly in wooded areas since they grow on tree trunks and fallen trees. With a disc-like shape and varying colors, their appearance may resemble that of a turkey tail, hence the name.
Typically classified as a medicinal mushroom, turkey tail is touted to support the immune system and fight disease. In many Asian cultures, the mushroom symbolizes longevity and health, spiritual attunement, and infinity. In the Western world, turkey tail is widely researched for its potential ability to support immune health, gut health, and liver health.
Below we will look at turkey tail mushroom benefits, why they are used, and what vitamins they contain.
What Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms Good For?
Two of the most important compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms are Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharopeptide (PSP). PSK is a protein-bound molecule known to support a healthy and robust immune response, while PSP may help support inflammatory response at the cellular level.
Polysaccharides are types of beta-glucans, which is what gives structure to the cell walls of mushrooms. A variety of beta-glucans can be found in nature, but PSK and PSP are the two that play a large part in turkey tail benefits. In addition to supporting immunity, they may also have antioxidant properties, may balance blood sugar, and may support healthy cholesterol.
As a rich source of antioxidants, turkey tail mushrooms potentially can also help reduce damage caused by oxidative stress. Essentially, antioxidants have the potential to prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms produced by the body in response to lifestyle, stress and environmental factors. They’re often linked to illness, aging and can increase risk of disease.
The most important antioxidants found in turkey tail include phenols and flavonoids. In Japan, flavonoids are believed to contribute to the low rate of heart disease in the country. Phenols, on the other hand, are known to possess the following beneficial agents:
Now, back to the importance of antioxidants. These compounds are important to the diet because they help us manage free radicals. Although having a few free radicals in our cells is normal, factors like stress, pollution, smoke and radiation can lead to an excess number of free radicals in the system. When this happens, the free radicals start damaging cells - known as oxidative stress.
Fortunately, antioxidants can help the body neutralize free radicals by giving up some of their own electrons. This is how they act as a natural “off” switch for free radicals. This process is often referred to as “free radical scavenging.”
According to a 2018 study, an extract from the fruiting body of the turkey tail mushroom was effective in scavenging free radicals and showed promising antioxidant activity.
What Is Turkey Tail Used For?
Traditionally, people have been using turkey tail mushrooms for centuries to boost energy and immunity, fight infections, support stomach health, and promote overall health.
Here are several of the most popular health benefits associated with turkey tail.
Support Immune Health
First and foremost, turkey tail mushrooms may be used for immune support. This is largely due to the presence of PSK and PSP, which, as discussed above, are two types of polysaccharopeptides found in the mushroom. They promote immune response by both activating and inhibiting certain types of immune cells and by potentially suppressing inflammation.
Fight the Common Cold and Flu
Besides supporting the immune system, turkey tail reportedly has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which means it might be useful in fighting the common cold and flu. When used in combination with other health supplements, the mushroom can be an especially powerful tool in boosting the immune response when you’re feeling unwell. Basically, it could potentially help your immune system become more resilient against ill-causing germs.
Support Digestion and Gut Health
Maintaining a healthy balance of “good” bacteria in the gut is important for keeping the immune system strong. And research shows that turkey tail contains significant amounts of prebiotics, which is what helps nourish these helpful bacteria.
What Vitamins Are Found in Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Turkey tail mushrooms are a rich source of vitamins and minerals and thus make a great addition to the nutritional content of the diet. They have a high potassium and vitamin B2 content. Potassium is a mineral that may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, while vitamin B2 (riboflavin) helps break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It plays an important role in maintaining the body’s energy supply.
Turkey tail mushrooms are also rich in vitamin B3 (niacin), a vitamin known to promote the health of the digestive system, nervous system, and skin. Plus, it contains vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which is necessary to make blood cells and helps convert food into energy.
It’s also worth mentioning that turkey tail mushrooms don’t contain any fat or caffeine. The sodium content is also relatively low. Additionally, they are low in calories and free of cholesterol and gluten.
Final Thoughts: What Are Turkey Tail Mushrooms?
Turkey tail mushrooms are full of antioxidants, support the immune system, and are packed with beneficial vitamins. Additionally, these mushrooms may support digestion and gut health.
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