TURKEY TAIL: PART 2 | TINCTURING
WATER OR ALCOHOL
While researching for the most efficient method of extracting the medicinal constituents of Turkey Tail mushrooms, we discovered that there are widely differing opinions held amongst communities of seasoned herbalists and mycologists. Generally, medicinal compounds in mushrooms are extracted with alcohol, water or a combination of both (a dual-extraction). Certain compounds within any given plant material (marc) may require a specific extraction solvent (menstruum) to pull the compounds out of the physical matter into a liquid solution (water-soluble vs. water-insoluble). We will be attempting to extract both water-soluble (polysaccharides) and water-insoluble (sterols & triterpenes) elements from the Turkey Tail marc and, therefore, had planned for a dual-extraction.
SINGLE OR DOUBLE-MARC
There is additional debate as to whether or not the same marc should be processed by both menstruum types in a dual-extraction (single-marc extraction vs. double-marc extraction). Advocates of the double-marc extraction claim that high-proof alcohol may compromise the integrity of water-soluble compounds and, in that case, recommend a separate fresh mushroom marc should be used for each extraction phase. We were unable to find any truly conclusive scientific evidence that indicated whether single or double-marc would be most beneficial.
WHICH EXTRACTION PATH TO TAKE
We were feeling pretty confident that a single-marc dual-extraction would suffice, however in order to clear the air a bit, we turned to one of mycology’s most prominent and impassioned public figures, Paul Stamets. Paul is a mycologist by trade and owner & founder of Fungi Perfect, which offers a wide variety of mushroom based tinctures and supplements as the Host Defense product line. Paul can be found, professing his fascination with all things fungal, everywhere on the internet, including his TED Talk, the Joe Rogan Experience and the Tim Ferriss Show. Of course, a man as in demand as Mr. Stamets is not capable of responding to every inquiry, however he seems to have surrounded himself with a team of equally high-spirited and informative fungii lovers at Fungi Perfect. Following a series of correspondences, our planned tincturing path was corroborated by immensely detailed and generous feedback from Fungi Perfect. We set forth, with confidence, to produce a single-marc double-extracted Turkey Tail tincture, commencing with an alcohol-extraction followed by a water decoction.
DUSTING OFF THE MATH
Alcohol is known to be an effective solvent for extracting particular non-water-soluble components into solution but it also has a secondary benefit in that it acts as a preservative. Alcohol retards the decomposition of materials and inhibits bacterial growth thereby extending the shelf-life of the tincture. Generally, alcohol-based tinctures will target a standardized concentration of 25-35% alcohol to keep the tincture viable for an extended period of time. Our final dual-extract product will be an aggregate of two different fluid solutions, an alcohol extraction and a water decoction. Therefore, in order to realize a targeted alcohol concentration of 35%, some pre-planning and mathematics will be required.
We started out with a single 750mL bottle of 190-proof Everclear Grain alcohol but decided to increase the volume and, consequently, lower the alcohol concentration from the absurdly high 95%. Therefore, we added another 750mL of 80 proof Vodka, which increased the total volume of our alcohol solution to 1500mL. We made use of the following formula so that we could determine what the resulting alcohol concentration would be if we combined these two bottles of alcohol into a single solution:
To determine the resulting alcohol concentration of our combined Everclear and Vodka solution…
This first bit of math lets us know exactly what the beginning alcohol concentration of our tincture will be. We will call upon MATH further down the line when we will need to combine the two resulting solution volumes from our dual-extraction together (alcohol extraction and water decoction) and still hit that target alcohol concentration of approximately 35%. Now that we have our alcohol solution prepared, we will begin with our alcohol extraction.
The TINCTURING Process
To get started with the alcohol extraction of our mushrooms we needed three items:
1. The canning jar of dried Turkey Tail mushrooms stored in our pantry
2. A high-power blender (or food processor)
3. An alcohol-based menstruum.
As mentioned earlier, we had a bit more dried Turkey Tail matter than we initially anticipated so we added a 750mL bottle of 80-proof Vodka to a 750mL bottle of 190-proof Everclear Grain Alcohol, resulting in a 65% alcohol solution.
We divided our mushrooms into more manageable batches for the size of our blender cup
We pulverized the dry mushrooms
We added some of the alcohol solution & pulverized again
The saturated and well pulverized matter was then added to a canning jar
We topped off the canning jar with the remainder of our 65% alcohol solution
We labeled the jar with the canning date & the alcohol extraction end-date.
The alcohol extract was set aside in a cool, dark kitchen cupboard for an entire month.
We agitated the solution on a daily basis to ensure consistent saturation of all matter.
After an entire month of daily agitation and patience we were ready to carry on with our dual-extraction
PRESSING THE ALCOHOL EXTRACTION
The final concluding step in the alcohol extraction is to separate the liquid from the solid. Many herbalists will stay true to the roots of tradition and utilize cheesecloth, which produces perfectly acceptable results. We opted for what we considered to be a far less messy and more efficient method, which was to use some sort of a metal press which would be capable of applying more mechanical force when pressing liquid from solids. We made use of a stainless steel frech press followed by a secondary filtering with a fine mesh sieve. A commercial fruit press or a potata ricer would also make for good presses.
From the original 1500mL alcohol solution we ended up pressing 1000mL of extract
We canned the alcohol extract and set it aside in the fridge while we proceeded with the water decoction
For the water decoction we simply take the dried, pressed Turkey Tail marc leftover from the alcohol extraction and add it to a pot, cover it with water, bring to boil and reduce for an hour or two until we have the the right volume to combine with our alcohol extract. So how do we know precisely what volume the water decoction should be reduced to? It’s time to make use of MATH once again!
We just finished our alcohol extraction and set a 1000mL solution of 65% alcohol extract aside in the refrigerator. If we wish to generate a tincture with a total alcohol concentration of, say, 33.75% how much of the water decoction solution would we need to add to the 1000mL of alcohol extract to dilute the alcohol concetration down from 65% to 33.75%? To figure this out, we will revisit the alcohol concentration formula that we made use of previously:
This time, however, we are trying to solve for Total Volume…
Therefore, we would need 1000mL of liquid product from the water decoction to mix with the 1000mL of alcohol extract to give us the total resulting volume of 2000mL and, ultimately, the 33.75% alcohol concentration. From what we’ve read, the amount of water that you start the decoction with is sort of arbitrary. Make sure it’s enough to cover and saturate all of the plant matter and be sure to add water throughout the reduction to keep the plant matter well submerged. We started out by adding 3000mL of water and occasionally adding a bit more throughout the decoction. Prior to beginning, we made a mental note of what 1000mL of liquid looked like in the pot so that we could tell when the solution had reduced down to near the desired 1000mL.
The water decoction commenced…
We readied the dried marc from the alcohol extraction
We added the marc to a stock pot
3000mL of water was added
The solution was brought to a boil and simmered for two hours
We stirred occasionally and added small amounts of water throughout
We pressed the liquid from the solids using the stainless steel french press
This resulted in 1000mL of liquid from our water decoction
COMBINE SOLUTIONS AND BOTTLE
We ended up with two solutions of 1000mL each, therefore we could easily combine the two to make one 2000mL solution with a 33.75% alcohol concentration. What you choose to do with the tincture from this point on would be totally up to you. Due to the alcohol content, the tincture will remain stable for years. Even though we will only use the tincture at home, we decided design some product labels and distribute some of the tincture into 4mL dropper bottles. The remainder of the tincture was sent back to the refrigerator for longterm storage in a large amber glass bottle.