Monday, January 9, 2012


Most medicinal teas are made by steeping the dried plant in hot water (infusion) but some woody or fibrous herbs need immersion in boiling water (decoction) for dissolution of constituents. When the medicinal part of a plant is the root, bark, or fibrous stem, decoction is the preferred method of water extraction.

Shelf fungi on fallen trunk

True or false turkey tail?
Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is a tough shelf fungus growing year round on old tree trunks or downed logs in moist forests. Turkey tail is related to reishi and artist's conk mushrooms (Ganoderma) and has similar immune stimulating properties (see December 30, 2011 post). 

Unlike some mushrooms, the shelf fungi have no deadly look-alikes, although they might be confused with similar but less active species. Turkey tail has small pores on the underside while the bottoms of the medicinally inactive false turkey tail (Stereum ostrea) are smooth.

Tops of true and false turkey tail 
Bottoms of true and false turkey tail

HERBALIST’S NOTE: Water extractions (infusions and decoctions) have limited shelf life and should be refrigerated and used within 36 hours of preparation.


Chopped turkey tail ready for decoction
1. Gather a bagful of turkey tail mushrooms and snip off any bark still attached to the stems;
2. Cut or tear the turkey tails into small pieces and place in a glass or ceramic pot with a lid; 
3. Pour in enough cool water to completely cover the mushroom pieces;
4. Place the lid on the pot, set it on a burner set to high, and bring the water to a high boil;
5. Reduce heat to maintain a low boil for 10-15 minutes;
6. Strain the decoction into a quart jar and press or squeeze out the liquid, saving the mushroom pieces for tincturing;
7. Place a tight sealing lid on the jar and refrigerate until use;
8. For turkey tail mushroom, take one cup daily as an immune tonic, use as a stock for healing soups, or mix the decoction 50:50 with turkey tail tincture (high proof) for preservation and enhanced immune stimulation - decoction before tincturing softens the cell walls for enhanced extraction.

Decoction will be combined 50/50 with high proof tincture

DOCTOR’S NOTE: Tumors and persistent infections should be evaluated by a medical professional for accurate diagnosis.

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