Turkey Tail Mushroom: Know Before Use

What is Turkey Tail Mushroom?

Turkey tail mushroom (scientific name: Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor) is a remarkable medicinal mushroom with a rich history of use in traditional medicine. Turkey tail mushroom is mentioned in the original Chinese Materia Medica published 2000 years ago, and 120 varieties of turkey tail mushrooms were recorded in the compendium of Chinese Materia Medica (1). Krestin, known as Polysaccharide-K (PSK), is derived from the turkey tail mushroom mycelium (Trametes versicolor). It has been approved for clinical use in Japan. PSK is used as an adjunct to cancer therapy due to its immunomodulatory properties. Turkey Tail mushrooms also contain another type of immune-boosting active compound called PSP,  Polysaccharopeptide, which is known to promote intestinal health(1)(4). Let’s delve into this fascinating functional mushroom:

  1. Appearance:
    • Wild turkey tail mushrooms grow on dead branches and stumps of hardwood trees.
    • They have a thin, rubbery, and semicircular shape.
    • The mushroom caps often display colorful striations, similar to turkey tails.
    • Typically, they measure only 3 to 6 centimeters (1.2 to 2.4 inches) in width and form longitudinal clusters or flower-like rosettes.
  1. Commercial cultivation of turkey tail mushrooms involves specific steps to ensure successful growth and harvest. Here’s what happens during typical commercial cultivation(2).
  1. Substrate Preparation:
    • Choose a suitable substrate (growth medium) for the mushrooms. Standard options include hardwood sawdust, straw, or a mix of both.
    • Sterilize the substrate to eliminate competing organisms.
  2. Inoculation:
    • Introduce the turkey tail mushroom spores or mycelium into the sterilized substrate.
    • This can be done using liquid culture, grain spawn, or agar plates.
  3. Incubation:
    • Place the inoculated substrate in a controlled environment (usually around 75-80°F or 24-27°C).
    • Allow the mycelium to colonize the substrate fully. This process takes several weeks.
  4. Fruiting Conditions:
    • Once colonization is complete, transfer the substrate to a fruiting chamber.
    • Maintain high humidity (around 90%) and provide indirect light.
    • The optimal temperature for fruiting is around 55-65°F (13-18°C).
  5. Fruiting Body Formation:
    • Turkey tail mushrooms form bracket-like structures with concentric rings.
    • Harvest the mature fruiting bodies when they reach the desired size (usually 3-6 inches in diameter).
    • Harvest by cutting them off at the base.
  6. Harvest and Post-Harvest:
    • Harvest regularly to encourage continuous production.
    • Dry the harvested mushrooms for long-term storage or process them into extracts or powders.
  7. Quality Control and Disease Management:
    • Monitor product quality by measuring levels of key active compounds, heavy metals, and microorganisms.
    • Maintain proper hygiene and sanitation throughout the process.

As you can see, growing fruiting bodies takes more time and resources. It explains why dietary supplements made with mushroom-fruiting bodies are more expensive than mycelium only.  

Five Reasons to Use Turkey Tail Mushroom

    1. Support Immune Health: Turkey tail mushrooms have well-documented uses for supporting immune function. It contains various phenolic compounds that are antioxidants and other health-boosting compounds such as beta-glucans.(1)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)
    2. Support a Healthy Inflammatory Response: The mushroom's properties may help support a healthy inflammatory response and speed up recovery(12).
    3. Gut Health: Turkey tail mushroom supports gut health and is a prebiotic(1)(10).
    4. Oncology Support: It may enhance the efficacy of standard oncology care as an immunonutrition tool(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9).
    5. Balancing Blood Sugar Levels: Researchers are exploring the potential of ternatin, beta-glucans, and polysaccharides in balancing blood sugar levels (13)(14).

Turkey Tail Mushroom Fruiting Body and Mycelium

The fruiting body comprises the stem and cap. It serves as the mushroom's reproductive structure. Mycelium is akin to the fungus's roots. It grows underground and acts as a vegetative body. There are some similarities and differences between those two.  


  1. Origin:
    • Both the mycelium and fruiting body originate from the same fungal organism.
    • They are different stages in the life cycle of the mushroom.
  2. Composition:
    • Both contain polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, contributing to their health benefits.
    • These compounds play a role in immune modulation and overall well-being.
  3. Nutritional Content:
    • Both mycelium and fruiting bodies are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
    • They provide essential nutrients that support health.


  1. Appearance:
    • Mycelium:
      • The mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus.
      • It consists of a network of fine, thread-like structures called hyphae.
      • Mycelium is usually white or off-white and grows within the substrate (such as wood or soil).
    • Fruiting Body:
      • The fruiting body is the reproductive structure of the mushroom.
      • It is the visible part that emerges above the ground.
      • Fruiting bodies exhibit various colors, shapes, and sizes, including the characteristic multicolored bands of the Turkey Tail mushroom.
  2. Function:
    • Mycelium:
      • Mycelium’s primary function is to absorb nutrients from the environment.
      • It decomposes organic matter and facilitates nutrient cycling.
    • Fruiting Body:
      • The fruiting body’s main purpose is reproduction.
      • It produces spores, which disperse to create new fungal colonies.
  3. Bioactive Compounds:
    • Mycelium:
      • Contains a higher concentration of certain bioactive compounds, including PSK (polysaccharide-K) and PSP (polysaccharopeptide).
      • These compounds have immune-modulating properties.
    • Fruiting Body:
      • Also contains beneficial compounds, but the specific composition may differ.
      • Beta-glucans are present in both, but their ratios can vary.
  4. Harvesting and Use:
    • Mycelium:
      • Often cultivated in controlled environments (labs or farms) for its medicinal properties.
      • Used in supplements, extracts, and tinctures.
    • Fruiting Body:
      • Harvested from the wild or cultivated in controlled environments.
      • Commonly used in culinary dishes, teas, traditional medicine, dietary supplements, extracts, and tinctures.

In summary, while both mycelium and fruiting bodies offer health benefits, their distinct roles and compositions make them valuable in different ways. Whether you’re seeking immune support or culinary enjoyment, both parts of the Turkey Tail mushroom contribute to its remarkable reputation. Their combination in medicinal mushroom preparations provides a holistic approach to health support. The pieces of scientific evidence led Superfood Science Mushroom Ekismate to contain extracts of turkey tail mushroom fruiting body and mycelium.(1)(10)(12)


  1. Venturella, G., Ferraro, V., Cirlincione, F., & Gargano, M. L. (2021). Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials. J. Mol. Sci. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22020634
  2. Petri Dish - Hypsizygus ulmarius | All About Growing & Hunting Mushrooms. https://funginomi.com/product/petri-dish-hypsizygus-ulmarius/
  3. Ma Y, Wu X, Yu J, Zhu J, Pen X, Meng X (2017) Can polysaccharide K improve therapeutic efficacy and safety in gastrointestinal cancer? a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Oncotarget 8:89108–89118
  4. PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®): Patient Version. 2023 Jun 8. In: PDQ Cancer Information Summaries [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424937/
  5. Standish LJ, Wenner CA, Sweet ES, Bridge C, Nelson A, Martzen M, Novack J, Torkelson C (2008) Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer. J Soc Integr Oncol 6:122
  6. Torkelson CJ, Sweet E, Martzen MR, Sasagawa M, Wenner CA, Gay J, Putiri A, Standish LJ (2012) Phase 1 clinical trial of Trametes versicolor in women with breast cancer. Int Sch Res Notices
  7. Piotrowski J, Jędrzejewski T, Kozak W (2015) Immunomodulatory and antitumor properties of polysaccharide peptide (PSP). Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online) 69:91–97
  8. Kobayashi H, Matsunaga K, Oguchi Y (1995) Antimetastatic effects of PSK (Krestin), a protein-bound polysaccharide obtained from basidiomycetes: an overview. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 4:275–281
  9. Maehara Y, Tsujitani S, Saeki H, Oki E, Yoshinaga K, Emi Y, Morita M, Kohnoe S, Kakeji Y, Yano T, Baba H (2012) Biological mechanism and clinical effect of protein-bound polysaccharide K (KRESTIN®): review of development and future perspectives. Surg Today 42:8–2
  10. Lysakowska, P., Sobota, A., & Wirkijowska, A. (2022). Medicinal Mushrooms: Their Bioactive Components, Nutritional Value and Application in Functional Food Production—A Review. Molecules. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/molecules28145393
  11. Jin, M. et al. (2019). Anti-inflammatory activities of the chemical constituents isolated from Trametes versicolor. Nat Prod Res. https://doi.org/ 10.1080/14786419.2018.1446011
  12. Lin, S. Y. et al. (2013). Comparative Study of Contents of Several Bioactive Components in Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia of Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. https://doi.org/DOI: 10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v15.i3.80
  13. Xian HM, Che H, Qin Y, et al. Coriolus versicolor aqueous extract ameliorates insulin resistance with PI3K/Akt and p38 MAPK signaling pathways involved in diabetic skeletal muscle. Phytother Res. 2018;32(3):551-560. doi:10.1002/ptr.6007
  14. Lo HC, Hsu TH, Lee CH. Extracellular polysaccharopeptides from fermented turkey tail medicinal mushroom, trametes versicolor (agaricomycetes), mitigate oxidative stress, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia in rats with type 2 diabetes mellitusInt J Med Mushrooms. 2020;22(5):417-429. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2020034560
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