Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail (Yun Zhi)

Botanical Name: Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor

Turkey tail mushroom is recognizable for its striking colors that resemble the fan of a turkey’s tail. It has been used around the world for its ability to treat a variety of conditions. It is an adaptogenic herb full of a variety of powerful antioxidants. Turkey tail is now commonly used as an anticancer agent in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapies. Turkey tail also contains prebiotics that help maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, further supporting your immune system’s ability to function correctly.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Must-Know Tips About Foraging For Turkey Tail!

Below is an overview of turkey tail​, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of turkey tail.

How to take FULL advantage of Turkey Tail's healing powers...

Turkey Tail (Yun Zhi)

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Western Name: Turkey Tail

Also Known As: N/A

Organs/Systems: Immune System

Key Actions: Adaptogen, Antioxidant. Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Immunostimulant

Medicinal Uses: HPV, cancer, diabetes, improve endurance, reduce blood sugar, HIV/AIDS, colds, flu, leaky gut.


Pin Yin: Yun Zhi​

Also Known As: Kawaratake, Coriolus versicolor (translates as “cloud mushroom”)

Meridians: Spleen, Lung, Liver

Key Actions: Tonifies Qi , Tonifies Jing (Essence), Strengthens Spleen, Eliminates Damp, Promotes Urination, Clears Heat, Removes Toxicity

Medicinal Uses: General weakness, poor appetite, diarrhea, hepatitis, cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic cough, asthma, chronic fatigue, counter the adverse effects of chemotherapy or radiation, cancer, longevity, lifts the spirit, reduce tumors, support immune system, balance blood sugar, build stamina, diabetes.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Turkey tail typically grows in rows of overlapping shelves. Its outer edge may be either smooth and uniform or lobed and wavy. The cap is characterized by defined bands of different colors ranging from cream, gray, yellow, orange, and brown. The cap’s surface is finely fuzzy or velvety. Many clearly resemble a turkey’s tail. The inner flesh is white and rubbery. They have no gills, they have pores.

Turkey tail is found all over the world. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is commonly found in Canada and the U.S. It is virtually anywhere there is dead deciduous wood or in the wounds of living hardwood trees.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Mushroom​

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Bland (Neutral), Slightly Cool

Caution: Considered safe. Some people may experience a potential side effect of a darkening of their fingernails, stools, or bloating. There are no poisonous species of Trametes anywhere in the world, and most have medicinal properties.

Key Constituents: B-glucans, (including Polysaccharide-K (PSK), Polysaccharide peptide (PSP)), Flavonoids, Phenols, Triterpenoid sterol ergosta-7, Fungisterol, B-sitosterol, Selenium, Vitamin D and B3

History/Folklore: Turkey tail mushroom is one of the most researched medicinal mushrooms and is recognized for its powerful anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing properties. The herb has been shown in many studies to help prevent and aid cancer recovery and survival. It is also effective in improving athletic performance and reducing fatigue. Turkey tail has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in Native American herbalism.

Turkey tail has been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.

One study detected over 35 different phenolic compounds in turkey tail extract, along with the flavonoids quercetin and baicalein. Each of these various compounds promotes immune system health and significantly improves the chance of recovery from cancer, in particular colon, stomach, and breast cancers. A review of 8 studies of over 8,000 people with stomach cancer who used turkey tail along with chemotherapy lived longer than those who did not use the mushroom.

A seven-year study conducted by Bastyr University and the University of Minnesota reported that women with stage I – III breast cancer who had completed radiation or chemotherapy and began using turkey tail daily in pill form (made by a company called Fungi Perfecti, and called Host Defense), showed notable improvement in immune response post therapies and improved recovery.

The polysaccharide-K (PSK or aka Krestin) found in turkey tail mushrooms has been isolated and is now sold as a dietary supplement. The polysaccharide peptide (PSP) found in turkey tail helps to increase monocytes, the white blood cells that fight infection and boost immunity. PSK stimulates dendritic cells that promote immunity to toxins as well as activates macrophages that protect the body from microbes and certain bacteria. Both PSK and PSP are now commonly used as anticancer agents in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation treatments in Japan and China. Studies have found that PSK may also specifically inhibit the spread of colon cancer. PSK is extremely popular in Japan for treating cancer but is not sold legally in the U.S. A pure version of turkey tail called, “Host Defence”, is available and approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration in the U.S.)

Current studies are indicating that other polysaccharides found in turkey tail show signs of significantly reducing tumor size in tumor-bearing mice.

A 2011 study found that turkey tail contains a unique protein, called TVC. It stimulates the immune system while simultaneously modulating its response. This property could make turkey tail a powerful agent for protecting against illness while also controlling the immune system from harming itself, as in cases of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or HIV/AIDS.

The mycelium found in turkey tail is known for aiding digestive processes. The mushroom contains prebiotics that assist the microbiome helping good bacteria to flourish (including acidophilus and bifidobacterium which are especially important for anyone coping with leaky gut syndrome).

The B-glucans found in turkey tails further strengthen the mushroom’s adaptogenic properties. B-glucans are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies are also revealing that turkey tail used in combination with other medicinal mushrooms may be useful in the treatment of skin cancer or HIV/AIDS. The PSP compound has been found in vitro to be a powerful antiviral agent that may prevent the replication of the HIV virus.

Compared to reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail is used to prevent infections, support those in chemotherapy, and support microbes in the gut. More than any other medicinal mushroom, turkey tail supports the body’s own ability to detoxify. Reishi plays a stronger role in balancing hormones and stabilizing blood sugar levels, fighting asthma and allergies while promoting heart and liver health. Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) are best used for reducing inflammation, enhancing endurance, fighting viral infections, and boosting immune function. Cordyceps (Cordyceps) boosts energy and stamina in amazing ways and lion’s mane is especially known for its ability to boost mental energy. Maitake (Grifola frondosa aka “hen of the woods”) is best known for its ability to help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Each of these medicinal mushrooms has a powerful adaptogenic with anti-inflammatory properties.

How to Properly Identify True Turkey Tail from Lookalikes!

True turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) has fuzz on the top side which looks a bit like a silvery sheen in the right light. Its colors are distinct and striated like a turkey’s tail. Turkey tail’s pores are on its underside and it has no gills. Its pores are very small, you have to squint to see them! (other lookalikes have larger pores). The mushroom will be thin and flexible, even after drying. They may lose a bit of flexibility upon drying but will never become hard and rigid.

There is a type of mushroom called “false turkey tail” or golden curtain crust (Stereum ostrea). Both mushrooms contain compounds that are antibacterial and antifungal. False Turkey Tail is considered to have a stronger red color than True Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), and it has a smooth underside, without pores. They can curl up a bit into a funnel shape while true Turkey Tails are flat.

Two other species, Trametes pubescens and Trametes hirsuta can also both be mistaken for True Turkey Tail. Neither of these is particularly poisonous, but they are also not turkey tail!

Trametes pubescens lacks the starkly contrasting color zones of True Turkey Tail, It will have color zones that are subtle shades of the same color but are not the distinct color zones found in True Turkey Tail mushrooms.

Trametes hirsuta, commonly known as hairy bracket, looks a lot like turkey tail but its surface is mostly white-ish to grayish in color without the distinct color zones associated with True Turkey Tail.

Fresh or dried herb is generally recommended at 9 to 27g per dose.

Three tips for purchasing turkey tail:

  1. Is the product made from the mushroom or of its mycelium?
    When a product does not list the specific source of turkey tail, you may be buying a product that uses mycelium (fungal root structure) instead of the actual mushroom. Mycelium grows on grain, so both the grain and the root structures end up in the final supplement reducing the medicinal value of the 100% turkey tail mushroom. Be sure your product contains only organic mushrooms and no mycelium or grain.
  2. What is the Beta-Glucan content of the supplement?
    The primary compounds responsible for turkey tail’s immune-enhancing properties are its beta-glucans. Many brands may add starch, fillers, colorings, or other unnecessary additives, again reducing the benefits found in 100% turkey tail products.
  3. How is the turkey tail extracted?
    Mushroom extraction makes the beneficial compounds more readily available for absorption in our bodies. The enzyme chitinase is needed to break down the mushroom’s outer tough cell wall. Making the mushroom into a tea helps absorption or making use of a quality extract powder or capsule form will also aid absorption. Be sure the extract is true turkey tail and not a mycelium-based product.

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Did you know?

13 Studies

A review of 13 studies found that cancer patients who were given 1 to 3.5g of turkey tail per day along with their conventional treatment had a significant survival advantage.


Colds & Flu

Turkey tail helps prevent seasonal colds and flu.

Fun fact!


While edible when cooked, the mushrooms are not particularly delicious or tasty and they can be quite tough.

Take FULL advantage of Turkey Tail (Yun Zhi)!

Connecting Eastern and Western perspectives on HOW and WHY this herb works. Find out how to safely and effectively use this healing herb for treating conditions and for your Body, Mind, and Spirit. Find True Health. Explore uses, safety information, benefits, history, recipes, gardening tips, essential oil information, if it applies, and much, much more in this online course.

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ATTENTION: All material provided on this website is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional or physician. Redistribution permitted with attribution. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. Be Free.

ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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