Turkey Tail is one of the most common medicinal mushrooms you will see growing in the forest on dead hardwood trees and stumps. This mushroom gets its name from the distinct multicolored rings it forms that resemble a turkey’s tail. The tenacity and vigorous growth of Turkey Tail was highly revered by the ancient Chinese. In TCM terms, it is thought to collect the yang energy of the trees and said to replenish the essence and qi in the body. Traditionally, it has been used to invigorate the spleen, eliminate dampness and wind, relieve cough, help with breathing difficulty, and regulate the immune system.
The success of Turkey Tail as an immuno-modulator and cancer medicine has made it the most heavily researched medicinal mushroom on the planet. Many large-scale clinical trials and peer reviewed studies have been done over the last 50 years, showing impressive results from Turkey Tail extracts. This mushroom has triterpenes, polyphenols, and other active chemistry, but the majority of the research has been focused on two of its powerful polysaccharides, PSK (polysaccharide krestin) and PSP (polysaccharide peptide).1
PSK and PSP have several benefits, but the most significant is their ability to boost immune cell production and enhance tumor infiltration by active cytotoxic cells. These compounds have also been shown to help protect the body from the side effects of radiotherapy, significantly extending survival rates in cancer treatment.
When it comes to cancer treatment, Turkey Tail is the medicinal mushroom of choice. With over 400 peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials, Turkey Tail extracts have shown promising results when used both with and without conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Cancers that have shown the most significant improvement include stomach, colorectal, liver, breast, uterine, esophagus, and lung. Turkey Tail extracts also stimulate the regeneration of bone marrow damage and speed immune recovery up to 400% when used in conjunction with radiation therapy. Today Turkey Tail extracts are the best selling anti-cancer drug on the Japanese market and are used extensively throughout Asia, Europe and North America.2 3 4 5
Turkey Tail mushroom can modulate the immune response and support the body’s recovery from low immune function and autoimmune conditions. Extracts have the ability to regenerate white blood cells and stimulate the activity and creation of T-cells, macrophages and natural killer cells. Turkey Tail has been shown to be anti-pathogenic for a variety of harmful organisms most significantly- this mushroom has anti-viral qualities. It has been shown to be effective in assisting recovery from HIV, Herpes, HPV and Hepatitis C as well as a variety of other retroviral infections.6 7 8 9
Gut Microbiome Benefits
Turkey Tail is the most studied mushroom in regard to the prebiotic benefit of polysaccharides on the gut microbiome. Research has shown that the fermentation of PSP by gut bacteria increases the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus spp. while reducing less desirable bacteria, Clostridium difficile, Staphylococcus spp. and Enterococcus spp. One study showed that an intravaginally-administered PSP extract from Turkey Tail improved cervical mucosa, and reduced PH while increasing healthy bacteria by 54.5%.10 11
The benefits of polysaccharides from medicinal mushrooms on the health of the human microbiome is an exciting area of research, as gut imbalances are the root cause of many chronic diseases of the 21st century. These polysaccharides calm down gut inflammation and support a healthy pre-biotic ecosystem for quality bacterial communities to thrive in.
Dosing and Concentration
All in all, Turkey Tail shows a lot of promise for benefiting human health. Like most medicinal mushrooms, it is safe to consume in good sized volume, and for best results should be worked with consistently for 3 or more weeks. Harmonic Arts offers a true log-grown concentrated fruiting body powder at an 8:1 ratio. This is the most ideal form of this mushroom, as much of the research has shown that concentrated extracts have the most benefit. Typical dosage for maintenance is usually 0.5-1 g, 1-2 times per day. For deeper imbalances or cancer treatment, it is recommended to take 3-5 times that amount.
Written by Yarrow Willard Cl.H.
1. C.J. Torkelson, E. Sweet, M.R. Martzen, et al.: Phase 1 clinical trial of Trametes versicolor in women with breast cancer. Int Sch Res Netw. 2012
2. L.J. Standish, C.A. Wenner, E.S. Sweet, et al.: Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer. J Soc Integr Oncol. 6 (3):122-128 2008
3. H. Fritz, D.A. Kennedy, M. Ishii, et al.: Extracts for lung cancer: a systematic review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2015
4. Adjuvant immunochemotherapy with oral Tegafur/Uracil plus PSK in patients with stage II or III colorectal cancer: a randomized controlled study. Ohwada S et al. Br J Cancer 2004
5. W.Y. Chay, C.K. Tham, H.C. Toh, et al.: Coriolus versicolor (Yunzhi) use as therapy in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma patients with poor liver. J Altern Complement Med. 23 (8):648-652 2017
6. The effectiveness of Coriolus versicolor supplementation on HIV+ patients and the impact on CD4 count and viral load. Pfeiffer M. 3rd International Symposium on Mushroom Nutrition, 2001
7. In vitro inactivation of herpes simplex virus by a biological response modifier, PSK. Monma Y, Kawana T, Shimizu F. Antiviral Re. 1997
8. S.H. Buhner: Herbal Antivirals. 2013 Storey Publishing North Adams, MA
9. Couto, S. Coriolus versicolor supplementation in HPV patients. 20th European Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2008
10. K. Pallav, S.E. Dowd, J. Villafuerte, et al.: Effects of polysaccharopeptides from Trametes versicolor and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers: a randomized clinical trial. Gut Microbes. 5 (4):458-467 2014
11. Z. Yu, B. Liu, P. Mukherjee, D.S. Newburg: Trametes versicolor extract modifies human fecal microbiota composition in vitro. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2013 107-112