Cold and flu + COVID season are fast approaching and herbalists everywhere are making immune supporting herbals for their community, myself included. My apprentice, Kiana and I are focusing on the Root Chakra and Nervous System in class and going over all types of adaptogenic herbs and plant friends. The founding member of the American Herbalists Guild, David Winston, co-authored a book on adaptogens and states, “Adaptogenic herbs increase your body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors…They also build stamina, ease anxiety, or enhance cognitive function.” Many adaptogenic herbs work in tandem with the Immune System, supporting and balancing the endocrine system, adrenal functions and helping cells use oxygen more efficiently and increasing cellular respiration.
Adaptogens have the ability to simulate macrophage, a specific white blood cell. Marcophage stands for big (marco) eater (phage) and they destroy pathogens int he blood like bacteria and viruses. Macrophages are the defensive linemen and protect us from colds, flu and other kinds of infections. One popular adaptogen that also strengthens immunity, is the medicinal mushroom. While hiking at one of our favorite local spots in Atlanta, we stumbled upon tons of Turkey Tail, a famous polypore. Turkey is really cool in that it helps with the natural cycles of Mother Nature. Trametes vesicolor breaks down dead wood all along North America, Europe and Asia. Thanks to Turkey Tail, all the nutrients trapped in dead wood is returned back to Gaia.
Once I found all that Turkey Tail, I knew Gaia was nudging us to make a few plant offerings and it came just in time for flu season to be honest. Kiana and I dedicated a Saturday morningto foraging some Trametes vesicolor and turned them into tinctures! Recipe and instructions are below but first, some information I found on Turkey Tail.
The first way to spot Turkey Tail is buy the brown, cream, orange and/or green concentric rings on its cap. Turkey Tail will also have a white or cream outer ring. If you look at the cap of Turkey Tail, it resembles that of a… you guessed it, Turkey’s tail!
Fake Turkey Tail does exist though so you have to be careful when wildcrafting. The pores on the other side of a Turkey Tail mushroom are tiny, just visible to the naked eye and should cover 3-8 pores per millimeter.
Another way to make the distinction between Turkey Tail and other mushrooms is its fuzzy layer of hair and its leather-like texture. A fresh mushroom will also be flexible. Its flexibility will decrease the older the mushroom gets, and also becomes thinner. Older Turkey Tail becomes covered in green algae and the underside of it where the pores are will turn brown.
turkey tail uses
Okay! Here comes some science!
Turkey Tail is known for its natural polysaccharides. Polysaccharies are a type of carbohydrate, a polymer made up of subunits called monosaccharides. A polysaccharide’s purpose is for cellular communication, energy storage and structural support. Turkey Tail contains polysaccharide K (PSK), a carbohydrate that supports healthy immune response. This medicinal mushroom is also packed with antioxidants, promoting a healthy immune system. Turkey Tail contains compounds that improve stamina and gut health and prebiotics that restore balance of good flora in the gastrointestinal tract, improving immunity but also digestion! One study showed that the polysaccharide PSP in turkey tail greatly improved immune health in 97 percent of cancer patients.
how to prepare turkey tail
Because of its leather-like texture, its best to prepare Turkey Tail via a decoction or a tincture. When making either, you want to chop your fresh or dried mushroom into small pieces. For a decoction, place about 1-2 tablespoons of your chopped Turkey Tail in a saucepan with two cups of water and bring it to a simmer for about 25 minutes. If you decide to decoct your mushrooms for longer than 25 minutes (up to one hour), be sure to add more water should your liquid evaporate.
To make a mushroom tincture:
- 80 proof or higher alcohol (we used vodka)
- Consciously harvested dried mushrooms such as reishi, maitake, chaga, or shiitake
- Fill a mason jar half way with your chopped medicinal mushrooms. I use a 64 ounce mason jar
- Cover and fill your mason jar with 80+ proof vodka. Leave a 1/2 inch of space at the top.
- Mix / shake for synergy.
- Cover and label your tincture with the plant material, menstrum used and the date made. Let sit in dark space for one month.
- After a month, strain the liquid and mushroom and set liquid off to the side
- Make a water extract by bringing a half gallon of water to a simmer in a stock pot. Take the mushrooms from the alcohol extract and add to the simmering water.
- Simmer for about 2 hours. The water should reduce to approximately 8 to 16 ounces. Add water to the stock pot throughout the process.
- After 2 hours, let it cool.
- Strain using a strainer, funnel and cheesecloth, reserving the mushroom-infused water.
- Combine the water extract with the alcohol extract.
The alcohol percentage should be somewhere between 25% and 35%, making it shelf stable.
Congratulations! The final product is your mushroom double extract!