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Turkey Tail benefits: the what & why
The quick scan
Turkey Tail Mushrooms are so named because their various colors—brown, orange, maroon, blue and green—are reminiscent of the iconic American bird’s plume of feathers. Its 3 superpowers are gut support, immune health and longevity. My favorite time to bring Turkey Tail into my daily routine is as the colorful Autumn leaves begin to fall and the crisper winter air begins to creep in.
The quick and dirty: Think of Turkey Tail as your daily ally for gut health and immune support. Since ~70% of immune cells are located in the gut, supporting the gut inevitably benefits the immune system and vice versa.
At Four Sigmatic, we use the fruiting bodies (real mushrooms) of organic log-grown Turkey Tail mushrooms, just as nature intended. We then extract them to ensure the many beneficial compounds are bioavailable to your body. The extract is then combined with plant-based protein, organic Arabica coffee, turmeric, or chai spices to create decadent functional beverages. Bring this ancient mushroom on board around Turkey Tail Mushroom Day to prepare your body for a healthy Winter season ahead.
Traditional uses of Turkey Tail Mushroom
A little more juicy
Ready for more? In this section, we’ll go over:
Proper sourcing for highest quality
Best time to take
Four Sigmatic products with Turkey Tail
How to maximize benefits by pairing with the right ingredients
If you spot Turkey Tail out in the wild, it is a thin polypore that grows horizontally from both living and fallen trees. As one of the most abundant and easily identifiable functional mushrooms in forests worldwide, Turkey Tail is a perfect first mushroom to add to your foraging list. Its various colors range but regardless of where it’s found, it will always have stripes of Fall colors across its fruiting body. It’s abundant in forested ecosystems across the globe and has been documented as a medicinal mushroom for 3,000 years in Europe, Asia, and among Native tribes of the Americas.
The story of Turkey Tail making its way from traditional folk medicine into the mainstream dates back to 1965 Japan. The story goes that a man came down with late stage gastric cancer and told his neighbor about his state of health. Due to the late stage of the disease, the man was rejected from conventional treatments. He used Turkey Tail mushroom daily and after just a few short months, his cancer was gone and he returned to work, completely cured! The neighbor, who witnessed this miraculous healing story, asked how he had returned to health, discovering that Turkey Tail was the secret weapon. This neighbor happened to be an engineer at a large chemical company, Kureha Chemical Industry. He brought the mushroom in for investigation and discovered 2 polysaccharides (long sugar chains common in functional mushrooms) that were anti-cancer. One of them was named PSK, which stands for Polysaccharide-K for Kureha. PSK went on to become the first ever mushroom-derived anti-cancer drug approved by the Japanese government. Since this time, Turkey Tail has continued to be widely studied for its immune supportive benefits both on sick and healthy individuals.
Like the majority of functional mushrooms, proper sourcing is critical to ensure you will actually get the benefits from the mushroom. Make sure to purchase organic, log-grown, fruiting bodies that have been properly extracted.Do your best to stay away from Turkey Tail that has been lab-grown on mycelium. This means you’re purchasing the growing medium—a cereal grain like oat or rice—with a bit of mushroom “roots.” Literally, there is often no mushroom in the final product at all! It can be up to 90% grain with a bit of fermented mycelium (essentially tempeh). Be wary of words like “full spectrum” or “mycelium and fruiting body”. There is no standard as to how much of each of the parts of the species are going into the final product and since mycelium and the earlier stages of mushroom growth are so much more efficient and cheaper to use, products that say anything but “fruiting body” or “mushroom” itself are most likely full of grain, fermented substrate, and cheap benefits. Not only does this mean you are paying for very expensive rice or oats, you’re missing out on all the amazing benefits the real, extracted mushroom has to offer!
What to look for when shopping for Turkey Tail Mushroom
Once you are 100% certain the product you are purchasing is only the whole fruiting body AKA real mushroom, extraction is the next keyword to look out for. If a mushroom hasn’t been extracted, your body can’t access any of the beneficial compounds that contribute to its gut and immune benefits. Extract means that the tough chitin cell wall of the fungi has been broken up to release the many beneficial compounds (like the PSK mentioned above) so they become bioavailable and usable by your body. Before looking at dosage, make sure you know what you are getting! Bring this checklist:
The real mushroom (fruiting body)
That’s the way this functional mushroom has been used for 3,000 years. Plus, current studies show that this form of the mushroom contains 30-40 times the amount of beneficial compounds! It’s the gold standard.
What dose of Turkey Tail is right for me?
Once the above criteria are met in a Turkey Tail supplement, then you can start looking at dosage. Remember that not all “mushroom powders” are created equal! An extract at a lower dose is significantly more potent than a higher mg dose of ground up grain with some mushroom roots. Don’t be fooled—always make sure you are getting the ingredient as nature intended and as science proves is the most effective: log-grown, fruiting body, and extracted.
So let’s say you’ve vetted your products, you know you’re getting the most traditional and scientifically backed effective Turkey Tail, from there, how much should you take? An effective dose of Turkey Tail extract is between 500 mg - 1500 mg. I recommend starting small and then building up from there after a few days. Always check in with your body and how you’re feeling, because each body requires a different amount to feel their best.
Benefits start plateauing around 3,000-5,000 mg/day, but compounds like vitamin C can help delivery in the system. This is why I love pairing Turkey Tail with vitamin C rich foods or herbs like rose hips, citrus, or berries.
Four Sigmatic products with Turkey Tail
At Four Sigmatic, we only use extracted, log-grown fruiting bodies of Turkey Tail mushrooms. Since we know you are looking for gut and immune support, we feature Turkey Tail in two of our bestselling products: Plant-based Protein and Gut Health Ground Coffee. Plant-based Protein is a custom blend of organic plant protein and functional ingredients, crafted to be delicious, smooth, and effective. It’s flavored with real vanilla and pure cacao, no artificial flavors or even “natural” ones. You won’t find any gums, fillers, or grains to weigh you down or upset your stomach. We make it easy to support muscle health, immunity, and balance stress–with one delicious shake. Each serving of any flavor (Sweet Vanilla, Creamy Cacao, Peanut Butter or Unflavored) has 200 mg of extracted Turkey Tail mushroom.Gut Health Ground Coffee is a gut cup of coffee. Support your digestive health with coffee that loves you back. We've paired premium organic coffee with four remarkably gut-friendly ingredients—probiotics, prebiotics, Turkey Tail and Chaga mushrooms—for a delicious brew that’s good for (and gentle on) your stomach.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will love our caffeine-free lattes. They both contain coconut milk powder so are the perfect functional upgrade to a classic latte, on-the-go. While Chai typically starts with a base of Black Tea, our Chai Latte Mix swaps the black tea with Turkey Tail mushroom and Reishi spores for a totally caffeine free, warm, functional cup of chai day or night. Both Turkey Tail and warming, carminative spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg have gut supporting properties! We also have a caffeine-free Golden Latte Mix, which is a formula that combines 900 mg of Organic Turmeric Root, Black Pepper, and several other both delicious and functional herbal ingredients with Turkey Tail. Either can be mixed up with some hot water for a functional cup of gut and immune support anywhere you go.
Turkey Tail extract(ed): How this functional mushroom actually works
Super nerd alert
Oh, you’re still here? I love people like you. Welcome to the deeper, juiciest part of this article.
Turkey Tail, like our other favorite functional mushrooms (including Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, and Cordyceps) have a key group of constituents called IP’s, which stands for immunomodulating polysaccharides. There are two primary IP’s studied in Turkey Tail for its powerful immune and gut supporting benefits: PSK (as mentioned earlier) and PSP. As you learned above, PSK is such a powerful immune system ally that it is now a legal anti-cancer drug in Japan. PSP is another long chain sugar (in Latin, poly means many, sacchradies means sugar) that modulates the immune system. It has been shown to strengthen the immune system in both weak and healthy bodies, meaning it is beneficial for year round immune support no matter where your state of health is.
Beyond immune support, let's look at the gut health components of Turkey Tail. PSP acts as a prebiotic. You are probably familiar with probiotics. Prebiotics are just as (if not more) important for sustainable, long-term microbiome benefits. Think of your gut (microbiome) as a pond. Taking probiotics is like replenishing the pond with fish. Prebiotics is like feeding the fish that are already in the pond so that they grow and thrive. Essentially, they are food for good bacteria in the gut. New research shows that PSP in Turkey Tail improves gut health via its prebiotic activity, and since ~70% of immune cells are located in the gut, this means the immune system is also benefiting.
Ready to start drinking warm delicious latte’s that support your gut and immune system? Four Sigmatic functional protein powder, ground coffee, and lattes are here to make the transition from Fall to Winter as smooth as possible with the help of this incredible ancient mushroom, Turkey Tail.