What You Should Know
Known by its popular name “Turkey Tail” is a mushroom that grows on hardwood, has beautiful multicolored zones and it is very easy to identify. Although not directly edible due to its tough texture, they can be made into a powder and boiled or made into a tincture when covered with ethanol for 2 weeks, then diluted or boiled to remove the alcohol.
The medicinal mushroom Trametes versicolor (Tv, Turkey Tail) is often prepared for consumption as a powder from the fungal mycelium and the fermented substrate on which it grew. The goal for this study was to evaluate the immune-modulating properties of the mycelium versus the fermented substrate, to document whether an important part of the immune-activating effects resides in the metabolically fermented substrate.
It contains a cancer therapy drug sold under the name Krestin, PSK that has recently gained approval by the FDA for adjunct cancer therapy due to its lack of toxicity while modulating and improving immune function during chemotherapy.
11 Facts About the Trametes versicolor Mushroom
The Latin name is Trametes versicolor, which means thin (trametes) and many-colored (versicolor). In Chinese medicine it is referred to as yun zhi, and the Japanese name is kawaratake.
The turkey tail is a polypore mushroom, meaning they release spores through many small holes underneath their caps. Many medicinal mushrooms are polypores.
Like so many polypores, these mushrooms are also bracket fungi. They produce fruiting bodies that are shaped like shelves or brackets. These brackets are grouped closely together either horizontally or one on top of another.
They are saprotrophs, which means they feed on the decaying matter of other living things. This is why you always find them on old, rotting logs.
To spot a turkey tail, it's best to look down. You'll usually find them on decaying hardwood or at the base of trees.
For other identifying characteristics, know that they have no stem, groups of thin caps with concentric zones of varying colors, and a spore print that ranges from whitish to yellowish.
One of the most vivid colors that you'll find on these mushrooms is bright green. However, this green is usually a ring of green algae rather than an actual color of the mushroom. (I prefer the purple ones myself!)
You probably don't need to go far to find one of these multi-colored mushrooms. They're found in forests all over the world from Europe to Asia to the US and Russia.
Many people think that the Coriolus Versicolor mushroom is a different species. It's not! Coriolus Versicolor is just another name for the same turkey tail.
Turkey tails are edible, but as they're also very tough and leathery, most people consume them by making a tea.
This is a mushroom for all seasons! They're common from spring until fall, and you can sometimes even find them in the winter.
Trametes versicolor Health Benefits
Reduce inflammation throughout the body
Fight viral infections and diseases such as herpes and hepatitis. A study explored the effect of the Trametes extract PSK on type 1 and 2 Herpes virus (HSV). These types are expressed in skin and genital herpes. In an in-vitro study, Trametes extract was found to deactivate viruses from both human and laboratory sources. Viruses that were not destroyed by the extract were not able to produce the proteins necessary for taking over the host DNA (15).
Reduce the growth of tumors and prevent new ones
Lessen the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
Increase stamina and energy
Trametes versicolor Identification
Saprobic on the deadwood of hardwoods, or rarely on the wood of conifers; annual; causing a white rot of the sapwood; growing in dense, overlapping clusters or rosettes on logs and stumps; year-round; very widely distributed and common in North America.
2–8 cm across; 1–4 cm deep; 1–2 mm thick; plano-convex to flat; in outline circular, semicircular, fan-shaped, bracket-shaped, or kidney-shaped; often fused with other caps; flexible when fresh; densely hairy or velvety, often with alternating zones of texture; with concentric zones of white, gray, brown, cinnamon, orangish, and reddish-brown (but highly variable in color and sometimes with other shades, including blue, green, and orange).
Whitish to pale brownish; not bruising; with 3–6 or more tiny pores per mm; tubes up to 1.5 mm deep.
Insubstantial; whitish, except for a very thin black line (in cross-section) separating the cap surface from the flesh; tough and leathery.
Chemical Reactions: KOH negative to yellowish or yellow on flesh.
Trametes versicolor Cultivation
While in many places turkeytail is super abundant in the wild, they’re also possible to cultivate at home. The advantages of home cultivation include that you can be sure of provenance and control all the ingredients used.
Turkeytail colonises suitable material very quickly, making it a great mushroom to grow at home.
Trametes versicolor can be cultivated in bags / buckets / jars.
Turkeytail can also be grown on logs and stump culture, like shiitake, using plug or sawdust spawn.
Trametes versicolor Tea
Preparation Pick nice clean specimens with very white pore surfaces. You might find scissors useful in cleaning by cutting off the edges that were attached to the wood. This one is dried, ground, and used as tea or tincture. The tea is fairly pleasant.
Trametes versicolor Extract
A tincture can be made using alcohol and water. That makes 80 or 100 proof vodka a good easy choice for making the tincture. Fill up a container such as a bottle or jar at least 1/2 with Turkey Tail powder then fill it to the top with the vodka and allow it to sit for a few days or up to 2 weeks.
Strain off the liquid and run it through an unbleached coffee filter. Squeeze the filter after it has stopped dripping. That yields a "single extraction".
You may take the leftover single extracted mash (marc) and decoct it in water. Reduce the liquid by half and add it to your first extraction making a stronger "double extraction" maintaining an alcohol concentration of around 25%.
Chris Hobbs' book Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture (Herbs and Health Series) covers this in detail.
As always try a small amount at first. If you have health issues or take medication there is a possibility of interaction. Check with your doctor.
Trametes versicolor Taxonomy
Originally described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, who gave it the binomial name Boletus versicolor, it was as recently as 1939 that this species was renamed Trametes versicolor by the Czech mycologist Albert Pilát (1903 - 1974).
Synonyms of Trametes versicolor are many and include Boletus versicolor L., Poria versicolor (L.) Scop., Agaricus versicolor (L.) Lam., Polyporus fuscatus Fr., Polyporus versicolor (L.) Fr., Polystictus azureus Fr., Polyporus nigricans Lasch, Coriolus versicolor (L.) Quél., and Polystictus versicolor (L.) Cooke.
Trametes versicolor Etymology
Trametes, the genus name, comes from the prefix tram- meaning thin - hence the implication is that fruitbodies of fungi in this genus are thin in section.
The specific epithet versicolor means 'of several colours', a descriptive name that is fully justified not only by the variability of coloring from specimen to specimen but also the presence of several color bands on the upper surface of a single fruitbody.
Trametes versicolor Video
All photos were taken by the Ultimate Mushroom team and can be used for your own purposes under the Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.
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