Turkey Tail Mushrooms & The Antifragility of Immunity

This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Plant Healer Magazine, one of this era’s finest publications for plant aficionados.

Medicinal mushrooms have a lot to contribute to an herbalist’s practice. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor[1]) is begging to be used, like the little kid persistently raising its hand in the classroom, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me ppllleeaassee!” This little mushroom–so tenacious, resilient & adaptable–has so much to offer in terms of medicine. Their earthen-colored fan shapes herald the arrival of the rains as they move in and digest dead trees, turning them into soil so new life can sprout. These decomposing fungal organisms (known as primary decomposers) are vital in the cycle of life & the seasons, each one an agent in an autumnal pull back to the earth, doing the good dirty work so new life can leap forward in the next season[2].

Turkey Tail mushrooms are busy little beavers in our ecosystems, aiding decomposition & soil generation. In human & animal bodies, the story changes. They means by which they support immune function are enchanting–providing clever little nudges here & there that invigorate our immune response. They’re ubiquitous in the wild and versatile in combination with other plant medicines. To me, this makes them a key member of the apothecary.

Learning about Turkey Tail mushrooms is a welcome lesson in antifragility. Antifragility refers to the concept that certain systems thrive from shocks, volatility, and stressors in the environment. We see this phenomenon in post-traumatic growth, scandalous & volatility-loving celebrity reputations, evolutionary paths of species, and adaptive mechanisms in human bodies. We not only tolerate shocks, but we need a bit of it.

This particularly holds for our immune systems, which tends to go haywire when bored or gradually weakened by chronic infections and persistent environmental stressors. A little shake-up every now and then invigorates the organism & system. It’s part of our nature.

When our immune system gets lax & stagnant, its activity gets misdirected and can turn on itself. Like the bored student who starts to heckle her classmates or the family that bickers when snowed in for 5 days. Put an engaging assignment in front of her, give the family members a new board game and all is peaceful. Stimuli like this have a purifying effect on relationships. This is known in some circles as hormesis, and it’s responsible for the health benefits of exercise, intermittent fasting, (beneficial responses to) vaccinations, and the tissue repair processes stimulated by certain kinds of oxidative stress & inflammation. All involve clever stressors that nudge the system into strengthening the adaptive response.[3]

Turkey Tail mushrooms help our immune systems adapt by providing a clever stressor. Their B-glucans (polysaccharide) are the constituents considered most responsible for this hormetic effect. (They are contained in all fungal cell walls, so B-glucans are universal in medicinal mushrooms.) Upon ingestion, they dock with receptors in the small intestine, which initiates an immune response (B-glucans resemble a bacterial cell to the body). Different mushrooms have varying beta glucans and each elicits a slightly different effect on the immune system.

This is the cornerstone mechanism for Turkey Tail’s pharmacological effect in the body. Being the most studied medicinal mushroom, Turkey Tail is widely used in contemporary cancer treatment in Asia. The mushroom contains 2 notable protein-bound polysaccharide complexes: PSP & PSK (both are B-glucans). They help inhibit tumor development directly while stimulating a host-mediated immune response, making it a preferred complementary therapy among integrative oncologists & medical herbalists. (PSK is an approved cancer drug in Asia.) While most of the clinical trials concerning Turkey Tail are conducted with PSP & PSK (which don’t give a complete picture of Turkey Tail as a whole organism), studies are currently underway using the whole biomass–a welcome improvement. Other areas with research support include HIV, HSV, Hep C, and Chronic Fatigue syndrome. I’ve seen cases where Turkey Tail has helped cases of viral meningitis, Lyme disease (and particularly neurolyme), and mononucleosis.

Being a widely available & agreeable mushroom, I use Turkey Tail often. I particularly employ it in cases of immune suppression & sluggishness–especially when it appears to be a chronic or persisting condition. I find its taste to be neutral-slightly sweet and only slightly warming. It agrees with most people I see. The client presentation that makes me think of Turkey Tail is some bogged down with chronic infections and is running colder/cloudier because of it. (And this mushroom blends very well with Rosemary for this. A favorite combination of mine is Turkey Tail/Rosemary/Ashwaganda for these types of cases.) Because of this, it’s a quasi-adaptogen of mine. From personal experience, working with several clients, and hearing a bajillion anecdotes, I think that medicinal mushrooms help our immune systems become more adaptive and, in some ways, more intelligent. Their clever prodding helps us keep our systems on their toes, invigorating us in the process.

These forest darlings have been with people a long time. Trametes species have been used for centuries around the globe, including China, Mexico, Finland, and even England. I’ve also seen references to Australian Aboriginal use of Trametes species of sucking on the polypore for mouth sores. But most of the traditional use comes from Ancient China & Japan, where mushrooms were enthusiastically embraced in healing & medicine traditions. (In contrast, Western cultures tended towards mycophobia, associating the fungal beings with witchcraft & devilry.) The Ancient Taoists observed its ease in growing on pine trees–a notoriously antifungal wood. This fashioned a reputation for Turkey Tails as one of stubbornness, resilience & strength. In Japan, it earned the name kawaritake, meaning “bellowing clouds.” This also conveyed a sense of longevity, divinity & spiritual resilience. It was used for centuries in TCM to clear damp condition, strengthen the lungs, stomach, & spleen, increase energy & assist in convalescence in long-term diseases.

Finding Turkey Tail Mushrooms

These mushrooms are primary saprophytes, meaning that they grow on fresh, organic material (mostly wood). They’re found in every state in the country and are known as ‘bracket fungi,’ which form leathery/leaf-like structures in concentric circles. When you’re in the field, you want to look for the characteristic Turkey Tail fan shape, with tiny pores underneath & a hairy/velvety top surface. There are other Trametes species–notably T. hirstua, which is usually white & paper thin. There is also a False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea) which is larger and funnel-shaped when compared to the true Turkey Tail. (Michael Kuo has a ‘True Turkey Tail’ key on his website, listed below.) I read on one site, “Found everywhere on dead logs & stumps. If you can’t find them, you need to visit an eye doctor or give up mushroom collecting.”

They are also silly easy to cultivate. Being quite the aggressive little guys, they’ll pretty much grow on any type of wood (except for cedar, cypress, pine, and redwood). You can pick up plug spawn to inoculate to fresh logs fairly inexpensively. In fact, due to their prolific fruiting habits & abundance, they are one of the most common contaminants of other mushroom logs (like Shiitake or Maitake). It’s a weedy little mushroom.

A Few Worthy Recipes

While some say that Turkey Tail smells like gym socks, I find their flavor to be very mild (when compared with Reishi, Shiitake & the like). So these little critters often find their way into my decoctions. I especially like this blend below as a nourishing adrenal/immune/nervous system tonic. Use a generous pinch (the 4-finger pinch as I call it) each of the following and prepare as usual.

  • Oatstraw or tops
  • Ashwaganda root
  • Turkey Tail fruitbodies
  • Nettle leaf
  • Tulsi aerial parts (add towards the end)

Hawthorn berries (or leaves/flowers) make a nice addition, as well as Devil’s club root bark.

And here’s a mineral rich, cleansing & fortifying Spring tonic recipe that I swear (& make promises) by. I call it ‘Live Long & Prosper’ (Adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe.)

Live Long & Prosper

In a big stock pot, add:

  • a large handful of nettles
  • a large handful of fresh dandelion roots, leaves & flowers
  • fresh chopped blackberry leaves
  • fresh chopped yellow dock root
  • a sprig of young horsetail
  • a handful of cleavers
  • good pinch of dried calendula blossoms
  • a bit of kelp, nori (or whatever seaweed you have around)
  • pinch of hawthorn berries (and leaves/flowers if you have them)
  • good 4-fingered pinch of sliced dry or fresh Turkey Tail mushrooms

Cook on medium until the brew reaches a light boil. Simmer for several hours. I usually let the liquid reduce by half. Strain it–you’ll have this dark, bitter liquid. Add black berry juice, molasses & honey until it’s sweet enough for you. I like to add a little good-quality brandy to help preserve it. Keep it in the fridge, but consume it within 3 months. I take a few tablespoons daily. Don’t be shy.


Tincturing Medicinal Mushrooms: The Double Extraction Process

Mushroom tinctures are made using a double-extraction technique. First, the alcohol extracts the constituents that are not soluble in water, like sterols & terpenes. After the mushrooms have been extracted in alcohol, it goes through a hot water extraction or decoction process to extract the beta-glucans, proteoglycans, and other immune-supporting polysaccharides. The below steps outline the double extraction process using the folk method of tincturing. (For more detailed recipes and ratios, see references below.)

Part 1: Alcohol extraction

Break the fruitbodies up into the smallest pieces possible. This makes for a larger surface area and thorough extraction. It’s easier to do this while they’re still fresh before drying.

  1. Fill a quart or half-gallon canning jar halfway with the dried mushroom.
  2. Add the vodka, filling the jar to the top. Label it!
  3. Cap the jar and keep it in a warm, dark place. Agitate daily.
  4. After about a month, strain.

Part 2: Hot water extraction

  1. Take the alcohol-soaked mushroom pieces that are left over after straining (called the marc) and put them in a pot. Cover them with water.
  2. Simmer for 2 hours. The water will evaporate throughout this time.
  3. Allow the tea to cool before you strain it. Discard all the solids but save the water.
  4. Add this water to an equal amount of the alcohol extract. This gives you an extract that’s 25% alcohol, as the vodka was 100 proof to begin with (50% water/50% alcohol).

You may need to do some measuring before you boil the water to make sure you have enough. Gauge the amount of liquid used in your first alcohol tincture and boil at least triple that amount of water for the hot water extraction. It may seem like a lot but it will reduce (you can always keep boiling if it doesn’t).

Suggested use varies depending on the size of the person and the strength of the tincture. A good standard amount is 1/2 of a teaspoon taken 2–3x a day. It should keep for about 2 years. And as always, store in a cool place in dark-colored bottles away from direct sunlight.

…And Some Odd Ways that People Use Turkey Tails

I’ve heard of folks tearing a fruitbody off a log and chewing fresh. It’s called “Redneck Chewing Gum.” Sounds fishy, but some people do it. I’ve had people ask for Turkey Tail extract to use as a hair strengthener. (It’d never occur to me to put this in my hair, so I have no idea if this works or not. But I neither want straight hair, nor wish to waste product on vanity.) It’s also used in floral arrangements by some outfits in Europe. I’ve also come across a couple hardcore mycophagists who toss the fruitbodies into their stew.


Hobbs, C. (1986). Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Culture. Summertown: Botanica Press.

Kuo, M. (2005). Trametes versicolor: The Turkey Tail.

Powell, M. (2010). Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide. East Sussex: Mycology Press.

Rogers, R. (2011). The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms & Lichens of North America. Berkely: North Atlantic Books.

Stamets, P. (2002). MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. Olympia: MycoMedia.

Stamets, P. (2012). Turkey Tail Mushrooms Help Immune System Fight Cancer. Huffington Post. Retrieved June 10 2013 from

[1] Its former Latin name is Coriolous versicolor. Fungi are often renamed as new developments in DNA analysis cause a bit of taxonomic reshuffling every now and then. So if you see references to C. versicolor, it’s referring to the same organism.

[2] Besides helping decompose organic material & build soil, the enzymes secreted by mycelium have bioremediation potential, and may play a role in breaking down persistent soil contaminants.

[3] There have been some notable studies demonstrating this effect. David Strachan (1989), a British epidemiologist conducted a study in which a correlation between small families and hay fever and ezcema was observed. Younger siblings are thought to be less at risk for autoimmune conditions, thanks to the microbial exposure of elder members. So, to an extent, microbes (and things that resemble them) can help keep the immune system on its toes, and even recalibrate it.


About Author

Renée A. Davis MA RH is a designer and educator in botanical and mycological medicine. Her training began at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York City and concluded in biomedical sciences at the University of Washington. She currently directs research and development for a nutraceutical mushroom company in the Pacific Northwest.


  • ben
    November 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Renee, great post, though I’m having a really hard time figuring out if it’s NECESSARY to dry the turkey tail before doing the double extraction tincturing, and if so, why. Got ideas?

    • Renée A.D.
      November 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Hey Ben!

      From what I understand about their composition, it’s not absolutely necessary to dry them before extraction. But I haven’t experimented much with using fresh fruitbodies, so I don’t have a basis for comparison. By default I have always dried them prior to any other activity. I’d love to hear people’s experiences with the fresh fruitbodies. -R

    • Richard Kischuk
      October 26, 2014 at 10:51 am

      From what I’ve read and heard if one dries the chopped up Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) in direct sunlight the vitamin D content increases significantly. Considering what we are finding out about vitamin D (how fairly large amounts, like 2000 IU per day) being so important for us to maintain a healthy system. The vitamin D content alone is a good reason to use the dried fungi.

  • Lisa Crow
    November 15, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Excellent post and blog! Thank you! Especially thanks for addressing the necessity of provoking immune response to strengthen our system! ~Lisa

  • wren haffner
    July 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    thanks for this article: this sentence really stood out to me: I think that medicinal mushrooms help our immune systems become more adaptive and, in some ways, more intelligent. Their clever prodding helps us keep our systems on their toes, invigorating us in the process.

    Love this co-evolution with mushrooms. Thankful for them! And your sharing & gathering of wisdom. ~wren

  • nigel
    October 9, 2014 at 7:43 am

    I’m a wood sculptor and have the turky-tail growing in my wood-piles.
    I do the red-kneck chewing gum method . Just eating or chewing fresh. This only works when the fungi are newly grown as they get too tough after a while.
    I can say its been benicial to my general health . I’m now less likely to get flu and I feel generally better. Another longterm condition I had seems to a have gone.
    We pick and dry them and make a tea in the winter.

  • robert rogers
    October 18, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Nice job of summarizing turkey. you can indeed use fresh fruiting bodies, it is my favourite, especially if doing alcohol bath first.

  • juan
    December 4, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I think i found some turkey tail, i will check it. My questions is if i can dry it up and make powder of it and just eat it??
    If so, do i dry the entire turkey tail or should i dry only a part of it??
    Thanks in advance

    • Renee Davis
      December 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      If you want the immune-supporting polysaccharides, it’s important to apply heat as our digestive enzymes cannot break the beta linkages in chitin. So cooking is is important (usually in a decoction). The whole mushroom is used–no need to trim.

      • Scott Johnson
        January 11, 2015 at 1:40 am

        What ratio of fresh turkey tails to water is recommended for cooking them down to make a medicinal tea? I have 3.5 lbs that I collected today. When you say no need to trim do you mean not to remove the moss and bark attached to the base of the mushroom? Thanks,

        • Renee Davis
          January 11, 2015 at 1:44 am

          Hey Scott,

          If you have extraneous matter like moss and bark, I’d recommend removing them. And when it comes to tea, I’m very casual about it and just use a hefty pinch in about 1.5 cups of water. But if one wanted to be more precise, use 1 tablespoon for 1 cup of water.

  • Kat Sanchez
    January 13, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Renee: Love this informative post. We just harvested some Turkey Tail mushrooms this morning. A few of the mature ones have moss growing on them. Are they okay to use as well? Should I try to brush the moss off? Thanks much!

    • Renee Davis
      January 13, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Hey Kat! Moss is common to see, and I’d just brush it off. If the fruitbodies themselves are showing signs of decay, then I’d trim it off. But otherwise just clean the debris off.

      • Kat Sanchez
        January 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm

        Great! Thank you so much for the quick reply Renee. I hope I get to meet you in person one day! Maybe at this year’s Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference?!

        • Renee Davis
          January 17, 2015 at 1:52 am

          That would be great Kat! I’m still undecided on travel plans this year but I’m hopeful for TWHC 🙂

  • Michael DeMarco
    January 31, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Hi Renee,
    When you take a pinch of Turkey Tail what form is it in? Small bits, ground?

    • Renee Davis
      February 1, 2015 at 12:30 am

      Hey Michael, I have it in small bits or slices.

  • Anne-Marie Bilella
    March 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Renee –
    I just noticed on the recipe for the Live Long & Prosper, you did not have a liquid amount to start off with. Could you tell me how much or did you just cover the herbs?
    Thank you!!!

    • Renee Davis
      March 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Hi Anne, thanks for catching that. I go by volume–look at the amount of herbs in the pot and double the volume. Then slow cook for a few hours…

      Sorry that’s not very precise, but it’s just how I’ve always done it 🙂

  • Celia
    September 11, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I’ve identified Turkey Tail since I was a kid but I’ve never crossed over to actually harvesting it myself. I was always forgetting how to prepare it, with the double extraction and all. And if it needs to be dried, powdered, ect…all the little details you have cleared up so nicely. Thank you!

    That being said, I’m a huge fan of dried shiitake for medicinal purposes – mostly in defections and soups. There’s no reason I can’t harvest and use Turkey Tail instead/additionally, since it’s so ubiquitous (and shiitake is expensive!).

    I really liked the discussion about the immune system and how systems can and need to grow in the wake of trauma/stress. For years I’ve reflected about the fact that inflammation IS healing; I think stress IS adaptation as well. And the plants & mushrooms are here to help us integrate our experiences positively.

  • Jamie Graper
    November 2, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Is there any contradiction to using the turkey tail mushroom while breast feeding?

    • Renee Davis
      November 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Jamie, there is some grey area with this. Turkey tail mushrooms are generally recognized as safe, with clinical trials reporting tolerability. But they have not been tested in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Given what we know about Turkey tail’s compounds and actions, it’s highly unlikely that it would affect nursing infants. I still like to give the disclaimer anyway!

      • Jamie
        November 7, 2015 at 4:25 pm

        Thank you Renee! Love this site!

        • Renee Davis
          November 12, 2015 at 7:11 am

          Thanks Jamie! Glad it’s helpful.

      • Mintzy
        February 7, 2017 at 2:11 pm

        Hi Renee,

        I saw you posted about Turkey Tails and breastfeeding women. I had to use some while I was breastfeeding to help my immune system fight a nasty cold I was having trouble getting over. I used the Host Defense Turkey Tail Capsules from Fungi Perfecti. No issues for my Little One through the breast milk. Thought I’d offer this feedback in case it helps others.


  • Jamie Graper
    November 7, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Make my TTT ATM (at the moment)!

  • Robynne
    November 12, 2015 at 7:01 am

    Hi There – I have heard that Turkey Tail develops bugs/beetles after dried and stored for a few months. Do you have any experience or suggestions about this? My cousin freezes hers as a result and uses for tea – but I’d rather store in my pantry as I don’t have a lot of freezer space. Just don’t want them to go to waste. Thanks

    • Renee Davis
      November 12, 2015 at 7:13 am

      Hi Robynne,

      That’s a common gripe of mushroom storage. Larvae can remain on fruit bodies and develop as they’re drying. The only fix I know is to freeze them. They can be frozen and stored in the pantry again- the freeze kills the bugs, and the jar can be cleaned out before they’re re-stored.

      Hope that helps!

  • matthew
    April 7, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    If one were to successfully grow the mycelium on grain, one could extract the psk’s out of the mycelium, and it’s easier to access them as opposed to the much firmer fruit bodies.

  • Jim
    September 15, 2016 at 1:41 am

    I love turkey tail tea how much of it can I drink.. how much is 2 much. I took a handful Jordan big pot and boil it for 2 hours. It makes a gallon I had about a half a cup of sugar and it’s delicious. I like it better than chaga hell I like it better than Lipton

  • Wing-Sze Ordone
    October 9, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    I made Tincture, what do i do with the mushroom now?

  • Laura McCann
    October 27, 2016 at 2:17 am

    The “redneck cheeing gum” is an offtake on native american running mushrooms. When one had many miles to run and needed energy they would chew a turkey tail like gum. This increased their stamina to complete their run. Whenever im in the woods and find fresh rurkeyt as il i ‘ chew one. I like to think it improves stamina.

  • Joel Schipper
    November 24, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you for the information. Our acupuncturist has urged us to take several capsules of Turkey Tail daily, not just when we are getting a cold. But it seems to make more sense to take it, like Zinc or Echnenesia, at the on-set of a cold. Do you have any thoughts about using capsules (e.g., from Host Defense), and about taking TT “when needed” versus every day (forever)?
    Thank you! Joel & Laine

  • Joel Schipper
    November 24, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Changed my email so I could get the RSS response. Joel

    • Renee Davis
      November 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      Hi Joel, some people take mushrooms like Turkey Tail or Reishi daily, or as needed for immune support. Turkey Tail has other properties (liver support, 5-a-reductase inhibition) that would make a practitioner inclined to recommend it.

      I say go with your practitioner said- they know your individual case. Everyone’s different and there are few rules.

  • Dodi
    December 1, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    I am brand new to mushroom hunting and just verified that I have found true Turkey Tail. Can you dry your mushrooms in a dehydrator? I do all my dehydrating at 118 or lower to maintain life.

    • Renee Davis
      December 12, 2016 at 5:23 am

      Hi Dodi, you can definitely dry them in a dehydrator. In fact, it’s preferred unless you live in a dry climate (<40% relative humidity).

  • Rosie
    December 14, 2016 at 2:39 am

    First off, I am exceedingly greatful for your post. I found it because both my father in law and grandmother are stage 4 cancer and both spend a hefty sum using turkey tail capsules as part of their holistic treatment (they both also use traditional treatments). So we just hunted for some to gift them. I have never made a tincture before, although I’m familiar with how alcohol, oil, and water release components of plants and oregons for use. I’m going to try doing both a tincture for them and drying/encapsulated. Thank you for your post.

  • Rosie
    December 14, 2016 at 3:51 am

    If heat is needed to make it more medicinal, should I dry them at higher heat in the oven before tincturing?

    • Renee Davis
      December 30, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      Hi Rosie,

      If you’re doing the hot water extraction step, you don’t really need to dry at a higher temperature. The hot water extraction provides plenty of heat. Happy extracting!

  • Melissa
    December 31, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Wonderful article, thank you!
    I just collected some beautiful turkey tails, and I was going to do a fresh dual extraction.
    I was going to do a water decoction first, and then add that water and the mushrooms to the Everclear to sit for 4 weeks. Does it matter if the water decoction comes before the alcohol tincturing process?

    • Renee Davis
      January 1, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Melissa, yes it does matter. Alcohol step is best done first, prior to the hot water extraction. Hot water will denature some of the alcohol-soluble compounds.

    • Richard Kischuk
      January 2, 2017 at 5:50 am

      I always make my tincture first, then the water decoction to complete the double-extraction. For my tinctures I use vodka and I use distilled water when I make the decoction. I also use stainless steel (other than enamel or aluminum) to cook the decoction as stainless steel cookware seem to be inert and don’t react with the compounds in the decoction.

  • Josephine Slater
    January 15, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Has anyone used this wonder mushroom as an adjunct to radio therapy for breast cancer? Paul Stamets is an advocate. Just wondered if you had an idea of how much using the double decoction method would be effective ?

  • Joseph Tedone
    February 8, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Hi, i was just wondering are turkey tail mushroom safe to consume during pregnancy?.

    • Renee Davis
      March 27, 2017 at 2:36 am

      Hi Joseph, there is currently no data on the safety of mushrooms like Turkey Tail in pregnancy. It is best to consult a midwife or integrative OB/GYN. The general consensus is that small amounts are probably fine.

  • Pete
    March 8, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Howdy. I have a question about using the turkey tail mushrooms that are still on the dead trees from last year. I would like to know if these old, dried fungi are still usable like the new growth when making a tincture or a tea.

    • Renee Davis
      March 27, 2017 at 2:38 am

      Hi Pete, you’ll probably be better served by using fresher mushrooms. If they’ve been on the trees since Winter, they are probably mushy and buggy. But if they are firm in texture that might be OK. If you’re in doubt, better to pass on them and find fresher ones.

      • Pete
        April 6, 2017 at 4:04 am

        Thank you for replying Renee, I seem to have some turkey tail and some false turkey tail that grow on my trees. The old turkey tails get brittle when they dry up. I was wondering if I could use them in a tea or if the nutrients would have exited the fungi by spring. The fungi should be growing again soon here in South Central Illinois, so I can get fresh fungi soon. Thanks again.

  • Robynne
    April 3, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Hi There- I’m making a tincture for a friend to boost his immune system as he has been on antibiotics 4 times in 6 months and seems to be catching everything. My thoughts were to mix equal parts of Turkey tail, Reishi and Chaga tincture…any thoughts on this, or any other immune boosting herbs to add? I also wondered if I threw in some ginger root how that would be! I also wondered about dosage i.e. 30 drops per day for a month and see how he feels?
    Thanks ~ Robynne

  • Ann
    May 8, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    I am wondering as others may be, whether it is best to just turn the turkey tail into powder and encapsulate or boil it for two hours and drink?

    Host Defense seems to use the powdered whole dried mushroom.

    It would be very helpful to know.


    • Renee Davis
      May 8, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      Hi Ann,

      Most home-scale herbalists extract the mushrooms in water, or tincture it with the double extraction technique. As noted in the original post the mushrooms need to be heated/cooked for their constituents to be made bioavailable. To that end I do not recommend simply powdering mushrooms- it’s just expensive fiber. (Most) mushroom supplement companies have entire manufacturing facilities devoted to heat-treatment and milling – it’s not an easy task at home. Hope that helps.

      • Ann
        May 8, 2017 at 11:51 pm

        Thank you! I thought Host Defense just sold the whole powdered biomass without processing. On their bottle it says…”Host Defense® Turkey Tail uses activated, freeze-dried, Certified Organic mushroom mycelium,” …
        I guess “activated” means some kind of processing. Do you think it is similar to what you mention home brewers do?

        I bought a nice package of Turkey Tail mushroom from a Chinatown shop in New York City today. A man there did recommend I boil it for two hours with a couple of dates to allay the bitterness . I hope it helps. Although now I wonder, as it is not the mycelium, but the fruiting body. Would you know ?


  • Holly Hutton
    January 2, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    My understanding from several respected herbalist that soaking the mushrooms in alcohol inhibit several chemical constituents and that this should be the second step in the process, rather than the first. The first is a decoction, then the marc is extracted i.e., Brian Weissbuch and Jerry Angelini. The process that you described was outlined in Christopher Hobbs book on medicinal mushrooms, but I also believe that he has changed his process to decoction first and then tincture.

    • Renee Davis
      January 6, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      Hey Holly,

      My understanding from several respected herbalist that soaking the mushrooms in alcohol inhibit several chemical constituents and that this should be the second step in the process, rather than the first.

      I disagree, with the caveat that it depends on what you’re going for. We know that different solvents solvate different chemical compounds. If you’re prioritizing sterols and terpenes, do alcohol first. If you care about the polysaccharides (which is probably the case when you’re working with turkey tail), do the decoction first and to heck with the alcohol soluble compounds.

      If you’re extracting reishi and boil it first, the terpenes will be compromised by the excessive heat.

      I work with Jerry in the mushroom biz and I’m surprised that he would make a blanket assertion like that….

      I attended Chris Hobb’s mushroom class at AARM earlier this year and he didnt mention anything contrary.

      I am actually developing a research project testing the different methods and running HPLC to see how they differ. But in the meantime, clinically and subjectively, I like alcohol first.

      • Holly Hutton
        January 7, 2018 at 2:36 am

        Makes sense and I was prioritizing polysaccharides, so that makes sense. Does alcohol bind or inhibit polysaccharides?

    • Brian Hummel
      January 28, 2019 at 8:26 am

      If doing the decoction first, how do you keep it stable for the weeks during the alochol extraction. Is refridgeration enough?

    • Brian Hummel
      January 28, 2019 at 8:28 am

      When doing the decoction as the first stage, how to keep it stable throughout the duration of the subsequent alcohol extraction? Is refridgeration enough?

  • Richard Kischuk
    January 3, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Thanks Holly Hutton for your contribution. I have wondered if my processing has been correct. From the literature I read initially, and from you tubes, etc. I had my process reversed from the way you describe. Decoction first, tincture second, seems reasonable with your description of the process. Many thanks for this valuable information! I am definitely going to make my double extracts using your method, decoction first, tincture second, to compare both methods as best I can. Cheers!

  • Lisa Dix
    September 12, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    I very much enjoyed this article and “how-to”.

    My question concerns Part 2: Hot Water Extraction, #4. Add this water to an equal amount of the alcohol extract.

    Is the “equal amount of the alcohol extract”, what was strained off in Part 1?

    This is my first-ever attempt at tincturing 🙂

    Kind regards!

  • Brian Hummel
    January 28, 2019 at 8:29 am

    When doing the decoction as the first stage, how to keep it stable throughout the duration of the subsequent alcohol extraction? Is refridgeration enough?

    • Renee Davis
      April 12, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      Hi Brian, if you use decoction as a first step, then yes, you can refrigerate until you use it.

  • Jeff Berkoben
    January 29, 2019 at 7:38 am

    I made dual extraction turkey tail tincture, but this year it got cloudy on the bottom. What causes this? Is it still good if I shake it each time I use it? I hope you can help me with some information. Thank you.

  • palma
    November 20, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    I like to know if I can use glycerin instead of alcohol, I can’t drink or use alcohol in any form Thank you kindly

    • Renee Davis
      November 21, 2019 at 9:23 am

      Hi Palma, if you want to avoid alcohol, sticking to the hot water extracts/decoctions are best. I personally don’t think that glycerin is a good solvent for mushrooms as they are so tough. Hope that helps.

  • Michael Smith
    February 11, 2020 at 1:23 am

    This is an awesome blog for every mushroom lover, it seems to me, it will improve people’s knowledge on Turkey Tail Mushrooms, they also try it. Thank you for sharing.


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