Trametes discolor Double Extraction

I already touched upon some of the details regarding the process of double extraction in my first post on foraging for wild medicinal mushrooms which you can check out right here. I decided to write a piece exclusively outlining this process because I find it to be particularly deserving of one. My original post focused on the anatomical features and other interesting facts surrounding the turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) species but double extractions can be made using many medicinal mushrooms or plant species. Here I am strictly going to limit myself to discussing the process of double extraction and why this method works so well for extracting the medicinal compounds found in the mushrooms and making them available for your body to metabolize and utilize.

I also mentioned in my previous post that I was not going to go into the medicinal compounds found in Trametes versicolor (that are also likely found in other medicinal mushrooms) but feel that it may be beneficial to at least lightly graze the surface of this subject matter because I find it quite interesting and I am hoping that you will as well. It gives you more of an appreciation for the complexity of medicinal mushrooms and how much they have to offer. Regardless, I still encourage you to explore outside the confines of this website and check out the two links that I posted earlier in the year about various studies that have been conducted by different institutions around the world exploring the immense potential of medicinal mushrooms.

Turkey tail mushrooms are one of the most thoroughly studied medicinal mushroom species in modern medicine, especially in Asia where the raw, dried form of the mushroom has been used for generations as an immune system stimulator and preventative cancer remedy. The fruiting bodies and even more so the mycelium itself have powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, discouraging countless pathogens and abnormalities which may result in the development of hepatitis C, liver cancer and cervical cancer among others. Tramates versicolor was also found to produce a powerful immune response, a property that was verified by various subsequent studies, which has the potential to assist cancer patients recover from chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

The double extraction method involves steeping your medicinal mushrooms in alcohol for several weeks and then boiling those same mushrooms in an equal amount of water. Processing the mushrooms in alcohol and water allows for both the alcohol soluble and water soluble compounds to be extracted, for if you only boil the mushrooms in water or steep them in alcohol, you are only accessing the beneficial compounds that can be extracted from the mushrooms in that particular solvent. By soaking the mushrooms in alcohol for several weeks, then boiling those same mushroom pieces in equal parts water and mixing the two solutions together, you get an end product that contains the full range of accessible nutrients and medicinal compounds that also stores for very long periods of time. This allows you to have a ready made supply of medicine which can be taken on a daily basis for preventative measures or when ill.

The ratio of dried mushrooms to alcohol and water is not consistent with the resources that I have been able to access on the subject, so a great deal of experimentation is likely going to be required to determine how strong you would like the final product to be. I came across one mushroom tea recipe that suggested boiling 10 grams of dried mushrooms in 16 ounces of water. Deciding that 16 ounces didn’t appear to be enough water, I double that to 32 ounces. After bringing the water to a boil and gently simmering the mushrooms for 2 hours, I removed the tea from the heat and allowed it to cool before straining it. It had a caramel color and a damp, mossy aroma. I would describe the taste as something worth acquiring: mildly bitter and earthy. Tastes exactly like good medicine should.

Since the amount of mushrooms to solvents is quite variable, the yields of medicinal compounds in the resulting extraction will fluctuate a little bit between batches. As far as daily dosage goes, I have heard 2 tsp. 2 or 3 times a day as a tonic and immune system stimulant. I’m sure you could probably handle more, especially if you were sick and needed an extra boost, although drinking a wineglass full or more might be pushing it. Here is what I believe to be the most consistent and straight forward recipe.

Double Extraction Recipe Recipe

1. Fill an air-tight resealable container (preferably glass) with pieces of dried mushrooms. (crumbled into the smallest possible pieces)
2. Pour in high proof alcohol such as brandy or vodka (I prefer vodka because it doesn’t impart any flavor. 30-40% is recommended)
3. Put container in a cool, dark place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate. Disturb and shake the container daily for 3-4 weeks.
4. After 3-4 weeks, strain out the mushrooms while pouring the alcohol extract into a separate container. The alcohol by then should have taken on a dark brown color.
4. Fill a saucepan with slightly more water than you have alcohol extract (to compensate for some evaporation)
5. Bring water to a boil and add mushrooms. Simmer for 2 hours.
6. Allow decoction to cool before mixing with the alcohol extract. Stir to combine and store in a dark colored bottle in a cool, dark place. This extract will last for years, but should be consumed within the first year to maximize on potency and quality.

Pro Tip: By facing the gills of the mushrooms upwards while they are drying, the concentrations of vitamin D in the mushroom tissue exponentially increases and remains high even after thorough drying. So if you want an extra vitamin boost from your mushroom extract, drying the mushrooms in bright but indirect sunlight with the gills of the caps facing upward is the way to go.

Foraging Fun: Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor, more commonly known as the turkey tail mushroom (named for the concentric bands of brown, beige, gray, green and rusty hues which resemble the tail plumage of a turkey) is a very common mushroom in temperate woodlands, but can be found all around the world where suitable habitat exists. It is encountered regularly here in southern Ontario, growing out of a variety of downed hardwood trees, stumps and branches. The fungi fruit in mid to late summer with slightly tilted, congested waves of 1-3mm thick stemless caps with a velvety, leathery texture. The mushrooms are very durable and survive in good condition straight through the winter and into the following spring. Dry, crispy looking turkey tail mushrooms in autumn miraculously revive themselves by absorbing moisture after a rainfall and usually remain plump and pliable during the winter months.

The photo below was taken on Tuesday, March 11th along the Bruce Trail, which follows the bottom talus of the Niagara Escarpment in Stoney Creek where I currently live. That day was a particularly balmy 11°C, resulting in the previously frozen and snow covered trails to become either slick with mud, covered in a wet sheet of ice or an unimaginably sloppy combination of the two. It was a good thing that I decided to take advantage of that warm spell to investigate what the temporarily melting snow would reveal because not only only would I not be writing about this encounter, but the next day saw an afternoon high of well below freezing, viciously bitter winds and 10cm of snow accumulation. A meander through the woods and wild places is never a waste of time, as I was lucky enough to strike a medicinal mushroom gold mine. For a wealth of information on the medicinal properties of turkey tail mushrooms, check out this and this. I was going to write my own interpretation of their findings but figured that I might as well not reinvent the wheel as these writers and researchers communicate their results more effectively then I would be able to anyways.

So now that you are well versed in why you ought to get your hands on some Trametes versicolor, how might one go about doing that? Well like a lot of resources, nature provides quite a bountiful and long-lasting crop of turkey tail mushrooms every single year, and if you are reading this from somewhere in Ontario, they are likely quite close to you somewhere right now. However, given the fact that there are an awful lot of people on Earth the last time I checked, the natural production of these mushrooms is most certainly less than the demand would be if everyone was as open minded as you or I, especially if more people become acquainted with the benefits that these fungi can provide us with considering the growing instances of diet and stress related diseases. Luckily, these mushrooms can be grown quite easily using kits that can be purchased from mushroom growing companies such as Fungi Perfecti (based on the American west coast) or The Mushroom Patch, based out of Chatham/Kent county in Ontario, for you locavores.

It’s also important to note that obtaining your turkey tail mushrooms, whether by ordering them from a retailer or whether wild crafted are a) identified properly by an expert and b) do not contain any contaminates, unwanted byproducts, fillers or other such disappointing and unnecessary inclusions. Sometimes retail outlets / companies which do whole sale of medicinal plants and mushrooms are not always certain as to the origin of their product, as they may frequently change sources based on product availability, ‘perceived’ quality and -wait for it- price, all of which may influence the quality of what you are getting. Even though I already mentioned that in many places collecting the mushrooms for yourself is not an option, use your noodle. If nobody knows what these mushrooms are, where they can be found, or how to identify them with enough certainty as to go through all the trouble of brewing them and actually drinking the delicious, mossy-flavored beverage, then you are probably going to have them all to yourself or whoever you choose to share them with. As always, don’t be a jerk and harvest sustainably, if that is the direction that you choose to take.

In my humble opinion, turkey tails are best harvested by hand. Although they often appear in dense colonies. those groups are often composed of clusters of caps attached by small nubs directly to the bark which can be ripped off without too much effort. When there are this many mushrooms in one spot, it does not take long to accumulate more than you are going to need. Once returning the mushrooms home, I broke them into small ‘corn flake’ sized pieces and spread them out evenly on a plate to allow them to dry. Once they become brittle, they can be broken into smaller chips or even powdered in a coffee or spice grinder to expose even more surface area which extracts a greater concentration of the beneficial proteins, micro nutrients and other medicinal compounds.

I have searched through a number of different online sources and am continuously coming out empty handed when it comes to solidifying a dose and serving of the active medicinal components of these mushrooms. One source suggested 10 grams of dried mushroom boiled for an hour and a half to two hours in 16 liquid ounces of water to make tea, but I couldn’t find this claim backed up or duplicated by another source or recipe. So I decided to try it out and when I measured out the mushrooms and water it looked to me like the tea would be too strong and so I doubled the amount of water to 32 liquid ounces (4 cups or 1 litre). After it was brewed, the flavor was quite nice, although you shouldn’t really listen to me because I can drink and eat some pretty weird stuff. If you find the taste too strong and mushroom-y, either add more water or less dried mushrooms next time, or add a sweetener such as unpasteurized honey to balance the weirdness and also to add more health promoting enzymes and micro nutrients. You could also add this mushroom tea to soups, stews, chili or anything else like that so that you can disguise the flavor but still get the benefits that you want. I find the tea very contemplative and interesting, so I’m probably just going to keep it simple and stick to that.

Before I bring us in for a soft landing, I also want to introduce you to another method of processing medicinal mushrooms, which is also applicable for some other plant based medicines as well, and this is known as a double extraction. In order to achieve this, you create a concentrated tea like I discussed above, but you also steep the dried mushrooms in alcohol to form a tincture. There are different chemical compounds in the mushrooms that are responsible for their therapeutic properties, some of which are soluble in water but others that require prolonged steeping in alcohol to extract. In order to do this, fill a container halfway up with loosely packed dried turkey tail mushrooms and then pour in enough grain alcohol/ethanol or high quality vodka to fill the container. Put in a cool, dark place and shake every day or so to keep the mushrooms suspended. After 3-4 weeks, the tincture of done and can be mixed with a tea that you make fresh that day. This is your double extraction, and can be consumed in a variety of ways to make the best possible use of ingesting both the alcohol and water soluble compounds from the mushrooms.

As the strength of the sun continues to strengthen and the bitter nights lose their grip on the land, nature is preparing for her greatest unveiling. During this time, the ‘natural produce market’ (i.e. fields, fence rows, forests, backyards etc.) is slowly opening it’s doors with a flush of much anticipated greenery and life. As the seasons transition from one of stillness and quiet to one of vibrancy and growth, expect quite a bit from me as my regular skirmishes and explorations in nature reveal more hidden gems in the form of roots, leaves, fruits, medicine and mushrooms. The best season, the growing season, is just around the proverbial corner and I’m as excited as ever.