Turkey Tail

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TURKEY TAIL (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey tail mushrooms are multicolored fungi that grow on tree trunks and fallen trees in wooded areas. These specific fungi are plentiful in various parts of the world, including the United States. Turkey tail is a unique species and when identified, has a disc-like shape and varying colors. Their overall appearance may resemble a turkey’s tail. For centuries, people have used these mushrooms, also known as Trametes Versicolor or Coriolus Versicolor, as a health supplement. In traditional Chinese medicine, people use turkey tail extract as a treatment for various conditions. Finding a disease-fighting agent growing on trees, stumps and fallen logs may sound unlikely. However, it wouldn’t have surprised our ancestors, who relied on plants for their health-giving properties. They’re incredibly important as nutrition and also medicine. Humans co-evolved with mushrooms. Fungi are more important in our biology than we imagine. The most impressive quality of the turkey tail mushroom is its ability to enhance the health of your immune system.

Health Benefits and Clinical Studies

Loaded With Antioxidants: Turkey tail contains a wide variety of phenol and flavonoid antioxidants, which are substances isolated from a wide range of vascular plants and fungi. They help promote the immune system with strong health by reducing inflammation in the body and stimulating the release of protective compounds.

Eating foods with high levels of antioxidants or supplementing with these powerful compounds that mushrooms contain may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which naturally occur in our bodies. Turkey tail contains an impressive array of antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids.

  • One study detected over 35 different phenolic compounds in a sample of turkey tail mushroom extract, along with the flavonoid antioxidants, quercetin, and baicalein (Trusted Source). Phenol and flavonoid antioxidants promote immune system health by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds (Trusted Source). Quercetin has been shown to promote the release of immunoprotective proteins like interferon-y while inhibiting the release of the pro-inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) (Trusted Source). Antioxidants are compounds that help inhibit or reduce damage caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress results from an imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules known as free radicals. This can result in cellular damage and chronic inflammation (Trusted Source). Imbalances from oxidative stress have also been linked to an increased risk of developing health conditions, such as certain cancers and heart disease (Trusted Source, Trusted Source).

Contains Immune-Boosting Polysaccharopeptides: PSK and PSP are powerful polysaccharopeptides found in turkey tail mushrooms that may strengthen the health of one’s immunity. Polysaccharopeptides are protein-bound polysaccharides (good carbohydrates, beta-glucan) that are found in, turkey tail mushroom extract. Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) are two types of polysaccharopeptides found in turkey tail (Trusted Source). Both PSP and PSK possess powerful immune-boosting properties that promote immune response by both activating and inhibiting specific types of immune cells by suppressing inflammation.

  • Test-tube studies have demonstrated that PSP increases monocytes, which are types of white blood cells that fight infection and boost immunity (Trusted Source). PSK stimulates dendritic cells that promote immunity to toxins while regulating the immune response. In addition, PSK activates specialized white blood cells which are called macrophages. These protect your body against harmful substances like certain bacteria (Trusted Source). Due to their ability to naturally strengthen the immune system, PSP and PSK are commonly used as anticancer agents in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation in countries like Japan and China (Trusted Source).

Improve Immune Function in People With Certain Cancers: Research has demonstrated that turkey tail mushrooms may have antitumor properties. However, the most impressive evidence regarding the anticancer benefits of turkey tail is when it’s used in combination with more traditional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation (1Trusted Source, Trusted Source, Trusted Source).

  • One test-tube study found that PSK inhibited the growth and spread of human colon cancer cells (12Trusted Source). As well as a certain type of polysaccharide found in turkey tail mushrooms called Coriolus Versicolor glucan (CVG) may suppress certain tumors.
  • A study in tumor-bearing mice found that treatment with 45.5 and 90.9 mg per pound (100 and 200 mg per kg) of body weight of CVG extracted from turkey tail mushrooms daily significantly reduced tumor size (Trusted Source). Researchers recognized this development to enhance immune response (Trusted Source).
  • Another study demonstrated that daily treatment with 45.5 mg per pound (100 mg per kg) of body weight of turkey tail mushroom extract significantly slowed the spread of cancer cells and improved survival times in dogs with a highly aggressive cancer (hemangiosarcoma) (Trusted Source).
  • Clinical Evidence: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a few clinical trials of this mushroom when combined with chemotherapy for several different cancers. 3
  • Enhanced chemotherapy and radiotherapy effects on cancer cells while protecting normal cells4
  • Breast cancer: Extended survival in patients with certain types of breast cancer. And the improved survival curve of people with operable breast cancer and vascular invasions5 6
  • Gastrointestinal cancers: Improved both the five-year disease-free rate and fiver year survival after curative gastrectomy for gastric cancer10 Improved overall and relapse-free survival when used as an adjunct with chemotherapy/ radiotherapy or surgery across four trials with stomach cancer11
  • Extended survival in a group of stomach cancer patients with high granulocyte and lymphocyte count ratios, perhaps through the restoration of immunocompetence12
  • Neck, head, and oral cancers: Improved overall survival when used as an adjunct with chemo/radiotherapy or surgery in a trial with nasopharyngeal cancer13
  •  Lung cancer: Slowing deterioration in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Turkey tail mushrooms are considered antiviral, antibacterial, and provide antioxidant activities. This fungus may improve markers of inflammation in people with cancer. PSK enhanced natural killer (NK) cell and T-cell activities. Manage relief and or side effects/symptoms by reducing toxicity. You may support the overall quality of life and general well-being. See improved function with turkey tail when used as an adjutant with chemo or radiotherapy. You may also reduce the risk of developing cancer or the risk of recurrence.

May Enhance the Efficacy of Certain Cancer Treatments

Several research studies demonstrate turkey tail enhances the mutual benefits of chemotherapy and radiation in people with certain cancers; this is due to the many beneficial compounds it contains. This fungus is commonly used in tandem with traditional treatments like chemotherapy as a natural way to fight certain cancers. 

  • A review of 13 studies found that patients given 1–3.6 grams of turkey tail mushroom per day along with conventional treatment had a significant survival advantage. The study also revealed that people with breast cancer, gastric cancer, or colorectal cancer treated with turkey tail and chemotherapy experienced a 9% reduction in 5-year mortality compared to chemotherapy alone (Trusted Source).
  • Another review of 8 studies in over 8,000 people with stomach cancers demonstrated that those who were given chemotherapy along with PSK lived longer after surgery compared to individuals given chemotherapy without PSK (Trusted Source).
  • A study in 11 women with breast cancer found that those who were given 6–9 grams of turkey tail powder per day following radiation therapy experienced an increase in cancer-fighting cells in the immune system, such as natural killer cells and lymphocytes (Trusted Source). 

Enhanced Gut Health: Turkey tail extract positively impacts gut bacteria by balancing and enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria while suppressing harmful species. Keeping a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut is critical for maintaining a strong immune system. Gut bacteria interact with immune cells and directly impacts one’s immune response (Trusted Source). Turkey tail contains prebiotics as well as probiotics’s which help nourish these helpful bacteria. An individual must have healthy levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria has been linked to improved intestinal symptoms like diarrhea, enhanced immune system, reduced cholesterol levels, lower risks of certain cancers, and improved digestion (21Trusted Source). Turkey tail may positively impact gut bacterial balance by enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria while suppressing harmful species.

  • An 8-week study in 24 healthy people found that consuming 3,600 mg of PSP extracted from turkey tail mushrooms per day led to beneficial changes in gut bacteria and suppressed the growth of the possibly problematic E. coli and Shigella bacteria (Trusted Source).
  • A test-tube study found that turkey tail extracts modified gut bacteria composition by increasing populations of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus while reducing potentially harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium and Staphylococcus (Trusted Source).
  • Turkey tail extracts may improve insulin resistance, help fight pathogenic bacteria, reduce inflammation throughout the body, treat HPV, and boost overall exercise performance.
  • May combat HPV: A study in 61 people with HPV found that 88% of participants treated with turkey tail experienced positive results, such as clearance of HPV, compared to just 5% of the control group (22Trusted Source).
  • May reduce inflammation: Turkey tail is loaded with antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenols that may reduce inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and certain cancers (23Trusted Source).
  • Has antibacterial qualities: In a test-tube study, turkey tail extract inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enterica, bacteria that can
    cause illness and infection (24Trusted Source).
  • May improve athletic performance: A mouse study showed that turkey tail extract improved exercise performance and reduced fatigue as well as, and the mice treated with turkey tail experienced lower blood sugar levels at rest and post-exercise (25Trusted Source).
  • May improve insulin resistance: A study in rats with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that turkey tail extract significantly reduced blood sugar levels and improved insulin resistance (26Trusted Source).

Turkey Tail Side Effects: Turkey tail mushroom is considered safe, with few side effects reported in research studies. Some people may experience digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, and dark stools when taking turkey tail mushroom. When used as a cancer treatment alongside chemotherapy, side effects including nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite have been reported (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source). However, it’s unclear if those side effects were related to turkey tail mushroom or the conventional cancer treatments being used (29). Another potential side effect of consuming turkey tail is darkening of the fingernails (30Trusted Source). Even though this mushroom has a good safety profile, it’s important to speak with your doctor before supplementing with turkey tail mushroom.

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*for educational use only. The information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a qualified physician or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any condition. This site is also not to be used as the final word in identification. Never eat anything you haven’t positively identified at least three times before. Please use your common sense and be safe!

References

Antigenotoxic Effect of Trametes spp. Extracts against DNA Damage on Human Peripheral White Blood Cells – PMC

The lignicolous fungus Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920): a promising natural source of antiradical and AChE inhibitory agents – PMC

Flavonoids, Inflammation and Immune System – PMC

Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity – PMC

Evolutionary and Biogeographic Insights on the Macaronesian Beta-Patellifolia Species (Amaranthaceae) from a Time-Scaled Molecular Phylogeny – PMC

Oxidative Stress and Cancer: Advances and Challenges – PMC

CVD and Oxidative Stress – PMC

Medicinal mushrooms as an attractive new source of natural compounds for future cancer therapy – PMC

PSP activates monocytes in resting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: immunomodulatory implications for cancer treatment

TLR2 agonist PSK activates human NK cells and enhances the anti-tumor effect of HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody therapy – PMC

Preclinical and clinical studies of Coriolus versicolor polysaccharopeptide as an immunotherapeutic in China

Polysaccharide K suppresses angiogenesis in colon cancer cells – PMC

Purification, characterization, and antitumor activity of a novel glucan from the fruiting bodies of Coriolus Versicolor – PMC

Single Agent Polysaccharopeptide Delays Metastases and Improves Survival in Naturally Occurring Hemangiosarcoma – PMC

Efficacy of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) on survival in cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis

Efficacy of adjuvant immunochemotherapy with polysaccharide K for patients with curative resections of gastric cancer

Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer – PMC

Effects of polysaccharopeptide from Trametes versicolor and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers: a randomized clinical trial

Beneficial Properties of Probiotics – PMC

Control of oral human papillomavirus (HPV) by medicinal mushrooms, Trametes versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum: a preliminary clinical trial

Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation – PMC

The Antibacterial Activity of Coriolus versicolor Methanol Extract and Its Effect on Ultrastructural Changes of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella Enteritidis – PMC

Effect of Coriolus versicolor Mycelia Extract on Exercise Performance and Physical Fatigue in Mice – PMC

Coriolus versicolor aqueous extract ameliorates insulin resistance with PI3K/Akt and p38 MAPK signaling pathways involved in diabetic skeletal muscle

Phase III trial comparing UFT + PSK to UFT + LV in stage IIB, III colorectal cancer (MCSGO-CCTG)

Adjuvant immunochemotherapy with oral Tegafur/Uracil plus PSK in patients with stage II or III colorectal cancer: a randomised controlled study

Polysaccharide K and Coriolus versicolor extracts for lung cancer: a systematic review

Turkey Tail Mushroom — Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies

Turkey Tail Fungus – Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area – Macalester College

Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits: A Clinical Review – IMMA