Discover the power of turkey tail mushrooms! As one of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms, turkey tail has gained popularity for its many potential health benefits.
In this guide, we will explore the fascinating world of turkey tail mushrooms, including their therapeutic properties and various ways to incorporate them into your diet and wellness routine.
The turkey tail mushroom, scientifically known as Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor, is a type of adaptogenic mushroom. The turkey tail mushroom grows in North America, northern Europe, and northern Asia. It has a distinctive appearance resembling the tail feathers of a turkey, hence the name.
In traditional Chinese medicine, these mushrooms, known as yun zhi, have been used for centuries due to their substantial benefits. They are considered a valuable Chinese medicinal mushroom, believed to support immune function and overall health.
Turkey tail is an adaptogenic mushroom. If you want to learn more about how this and other adaptogens work, take a look at our guide to adaptogenic mushrooms.
Coriolus versicolor showed antimicrobial activities against Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus sanguinis, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus ratti, Streptococcus criceti, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Actinomyces viscosus, and Actinomyces israelii. Therefore, they could be considered as natural oral antimicrobial agents against oral pathogens. (Kim, et al.)
Turkey tail mushrooms have been studied extensively for their medicinal properties. Some of the notable evidence based health benefits of turkey tail mushrooms include:
Though more human studies are needed to uncover the effects of turkey tail on cancer in people, current medically reviewed research seems promising.
The illustration below explains the mechanisms behind the anti-cancer potential of polysaccharide peptides found in Colorius versicolor fruit bodies.
According to the National Cancer Institute, turkey tail appears to aid in the treatment of various types of cancers, with its effects on breast cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, and colorectal cancer being the most widely researched.
Two protein-bound polysaccharides found in turkey tail, PSP and PSK, were found to “serve as adjuvant therapy for cancers” in a 2020 research paper. Researchers found that turkey tail can aid in cancer treatment in two ways, by causing apoptosis of cancer cells and by aiding in the immunity of healthy cells, such as dendritic cells, natural killer cells, and macrophages. These cells, in turn, fight cancer.
A clinical trial looked at the effects of Coriolus versicolor (CV) on human breast cancer cells. The researchers tested the effects of a turkey tail liquid extract on four different breast cancer cell lines. They measured the growth of the cancer cells when exposed to the turkey tail extract and investigated whether the turkey tail causes cell death through a process called apoptosis.
The results showed that the CV extract reduced the growth of three breast cancer cell lines (T-47D, MCF-7, MDA-MB-231) in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that higher doses had a stronger effect.
Researchers concluded that the CV extract may kill human breast cancer cells by triggering apoptosis and could be used as a treatment for human breast cancer, but further research is needed to confirm its effectiveness and safety.
A systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized clinical trials on turkey tail and cancer came to a similar conclusion. This review concluded that turkey tail consumption “would have survival benefit in cancer patients, particularly in carcinoma of breast, gastric and colorectal.”
Polysaccharide K (PSK) is derived from the Coriolus versicolor fruiting body and is used in Japan as an alternative medicine for lung cancer. In 2015, a systematic review of 28 studies evaluated the safety and effectiveness of PSK for lung cancer.
Reviewed preclinical studies showed that PSK provided anticancer effects by modulating the immune system and directly inhibiting tumor growth. Non-randomized controlled clinical studies demonstrated improvements in survival measures, while randomized controlled trials showed benefits in immune parameters, tumor-related symptoms, and overall survival.
PSK was safely administered alongside standard treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. The findings suggest that PSK can improve immune function, reduce tumor-related symptoms, and extend survival in lung cancer patients. However, more rigorous randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these effects.
Another polysaccharide found in turkey tail, called PSP, also appears to aid lung cancer. More specifically, a double-blind clinical study found that turkey tail could slow down the progression of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This study concluded that “PSP treatment appears to be associated with slower deterioration in patients with advanced NSCLC.”
A study published by the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Therapies examined the effects of turkey tail on colorectal and gastric cancer. Researchers found that using PSK alongside chemotherapy can be beneficial for treating gastric cancer, which led them to investigate whether PSK could also be helpful for colorectal cancer.
In a large study involving multiple medical centers, 448 patients who had undergone surgery for colon or rectal cancer were divided into two groups. One group received chemotherapy alone, while the other group received both PSK as adjuvant immunochemotherapy.
After three years of treatment, the results showed that the group with colon cancer who received PSK had significantly better outcomes compared to those who only received chemotherapy. Their survival rates improved, and they had a longer period without a recurrence of the disease. However, in the group with rectal cancer, the addition of PSK did not show the same benefits.
The researchers concluded that PSK “appears to act in part by restoring the balance of dendritic and T-helper cells and cytokines related to these cells’ function and maturation in cancer patients.”
Polysaccharopeptide (PSP) is the main bioactive component derived from Coriolus versicolor's mycelium or fermentation broth. One of the identified components in PSP is β-glucan (beta-glucan), known for its immunomodulatory effects.
According to a 2019 study, this compound enhances the function and recognition ability of immune cells, boosts macrophage phagocytosis, increases the production of cytokines and chemokines, and promotes the infiltration of dendritic cells and T-cells into tumors. PSP has also been found to mitigate adverse effects associated with the body’s immune response to chemotherapy.
Another study found that turkey tail polysaccharides interacted with the MAPK and NF-kB signal pathways. This study demonstrated that turkey tail “can bind and induce B cell activation using membrane Ig and TLR-4 as potential immune receptors.” Turkey tail activates mouse B cells through the MAPK and NF-κB signaling pathways, improving immune function.
More research is necessary to understand the effects of turkey tail on human immune systems, but current research is promising, and consuming turkey tail to improve your overall immune function certainly won’t hurt.
In addition to aiding in digestive cancer treatment and prevention, turkey tail also appears to protect the gut microbiome in healthy individuals. In a controlled, randomized trial, researchers examined the effects of Trametes versicolor on healthy volunteers.
This controlled study compared the effects of amoxicillin, a placebo, and PSP (a turkey tail polysaccharide) on human gut microbiotas. The researchers concluded that “PSP from T. versicolor acts as a prebiotic to modulate human intestinal microbiome composition.”
These results are promising and warrant further research into the use of turkey tail dietary supplements in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and other gut health issues.
Turkey tail has high protein content, which keeps athletes satiated and provides beneficial effects for weight loss and weight management. However, according to animal research, these mushrooms may also help you exercise better and for longer due to their anti-fatigue effects.
In a 2017 study, researchers evaluated the effects of Coriolus versicolor mycelia (CVM) on exercise performance and fatigue in mice. Male mice were divided into four groups and received different doses of CVM orally for four weeks.
Forelimb grip strength improved in the mice that received turkey tail, while the control group experienced no significant forelimb grip strength improvement.
After a swimming exercise, the levels of serum lactate, which is associated with fatigue, were significantly lower in the groups that received turkey tail supplementation. The levels of ammonia and serum creatine kinase (CK) were also significantly reduced in the CVM-treated groups.
Overall, supplementation with turkey tail showed beneficial effects on exercise performance improvement and anti-fatigue activity in the mice. These findings suggest that turkey tail has the potential to be used as an alternative medicine product to enhance performance and reduce fatigue.
According to animal research, turkey tail may lower blood sugar levels and aid in diabetes treatment. An animal study investigated the effects of extracellular polysaccharopeptide (ePSP) from turkey tail on type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
Results showed that ePSP stabilized blood glucose levels, reduced instances of insulin resistance, and stabilized serum fructosamine and triglyceride levels. It also alleviated oxidative stress by reducing lipid peroxidation, increasing superoxide dismutase activity, and elevating glutathione levels. These effects suggest that ePSP has the potential to prevent diabetic complications in patients with type 2 diabetes.
The study concluded that ePSP improved glucose control, reduced triglyceride levels in T2DM rats, and alleviated oxidative stress, which is often a source of diabetic complications. These results are promising and warrant further research on this topic.
Though there is not a lot of research on turkey tail and infections, the available human research seems promising. A 2021 pilot study examined the effect of Coriolus versicolor on a uterine tract infection in women caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
In this study, half of the women were treated with a turkey tail based gel, while the other half were given a placebo. Results show that, after 6 months, the HPV test came back negative for 67% of the women who were given turkey tail and 37% of those given the placebo. Researchers concluded that “the use of a Coriolus versicolor-based vaginal gel in high-risk HPV patients is safe and effective based on all examined tests.”
Incorporating turkey tail mushrooms into your diet can be a great way to enjoy their nutritional value and potential therapeutic properties. One of the best ways to consume turkey tail is a high quality extract, such as the nutrient-dense turkey tail extract we offer. Here are some suggestions on how to eat turkey tail mushrooms:
Prepare a nourishing tea by steeping dried turkey tail mushroom slices or turkey tail powder in hot water. This allows you to enjoy the mushroom's flavors and potential health benefits in the form of a warm beverage.
Turkey tail mushrooms can be used in various culinary preparations. They have a tough texture and are not typically consumed whole, but they can be added to soups, stews, and stir-fries as sliced or powdered mushrooms.
Turkey tail mushrooms are available in powdered form. You can incorporate them into your smoothies, juices, or other beverages as an easy and quick way to enjoy the potential health benefits of turkey tail mushroom supplements.
Turkey tail mushroom extract is also available in the form of mushroom capsules or tablets. This convenient option allows for easy supplementation and precise dosing of turkey tail, though many capsules contain questionable ingredients you won’t find in a turkey tail powder.
Turkey tail tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts that can be taken orally. They are typically made by extracting the mushroom's bioactive compounds using alcohol or another solvent. While they can be convenient to use, tinctures often taste bad and are difficult to dose.
Turkey tail mushrooms are generally considered safe for consumption. However, people prone to allergies, especially those allergic to other fungi, mold, or yeast, may experience an allergic reaction upon starting to take turkey tail.
Additionally, some people may experience mild adverse effects such as diarrhea and digestive discomfort when they first start taking this traditional medicine staple. To avoid these side effects, start with a low dosage and work your way up as your body becomes more accustomed to the effects of turkey tail.
Yes, it is completely safe to take turkey tail mushrooms every day. By taking these medicinal mushrooms daily, you will reap the compound, long-term effects they have on your body, such as their immunity-boosting properties. Make sure to stick with the recommended dosage, especially if you take turkey tail daily.
Turkey tail mushrooms may interact with certain medications. While interactions with specific drugs have not been extensively studied, it is advisable to exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking medications. This is particularly important for individuals on immunosuppressant drugs and anticoagulants, as turkey tail mushrooms may affect immune function and blood clotting.
If you are interested in taking turkey tail, why not try our turkey tail mushroom extract. This extract is gluten-free, vegan, and made of non-GMO ingredients and organic mushrooms. Each serving contains 1000 mg of turkey tail extract made from mushrooms cultured on organic, whole rice.
Additionally, you also get 30% of your daily serving of β-glucans, which were shown to have incredible benefits for immune health. What are you waiting for? Take the first step towards better health today.
While turkey tail mushrooms show promise in cancer treatment and prevention, more research is needed to determine optimal dosages for specific types of cancer. It's best to consult with a health care professional on the exact dosage if you plan on taking turkey tail mushrooms in addition to chemotherapy.
While you can eat turkey tail mushrooms, they have a woody texture, making them difficult to chew and digest. Instead, they are often prepared as extracts or powders and used for their many health benefits in the form of a supplement.
The turkey tail mushroom does not contain estrogen. It is a type of mushroom that is rich in polysaccharides and other bioactive compounds that can aid in women’s health by stabilizing hormone levels, but it does not naturally contain significant amounts of hormones like estrogen.
There is no evidence to suggest that turkey tail mushrooms are hard on the liver. In fact, studies show that certain compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms, such as polysaccharopeptides, can have hepatoprotective properties and support liver health. For example, a 2019 study found that polysaccharides found in turkey tail could alleviate liver injury associated with alcoholism.
Turkey tail itself is not specifically approved or regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any particular medical use, as it is a dietary supplement.
However, certain extracts or derivatives of the turkey tail mushroom, such as the polysaccharide compound PSK (polysaccharide-K) or PSP (polysaccharopeptide), have been studied and used in some countries for their potential health benefits, particularly in cancer treatment.
These extracts can be available as dietary supplements or prescribed as complementary therapies by healthcare professionals in those countries.
The frequency of drinking turkey tail mushroom tea can vary depending on your preferences and health goals. It is generally recommended to start with a moderate intake and gradually increase the dosage as tolerated. As a general guideline, consuming turkey tail mushroom tea 2-3 times per week, in addition to other forms of turkey tail supplementation, is a common recommendation.
No, turkey tail is not the same as lion’s mane. While both are incredibly healthy adaptogenic mushrooms, lion’s mane and turkey tail have different benefits.
For example, lion’s mane has been shown to aid in memory and cognitive functioning, as well as reduce symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, turkey tail has impressive immunity-boosting properties and is one of the best mushrooms for cancer prevention and treatment you can consume.
Do you want additional information on the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms? Check out our in-depth lion’s mane guide.
Yes, the turkey tail mushroom is classified as a type of bracket fungi known as a conk. Conks are characterized by their woody and shelf-like appearance, typically growing on tree trunks or branches. Turkey tail mushrooms have a distinct fan shape with concentric rings of different colors, resembling the pattern on a turkey's tail feathers.
Yes, you can take turkey tail with other medicinal mushrooms. Taking turkey tail with chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus), lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), or reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) will make the benefits of each fungus more pronounced, so it’s advisable to take multiple of these adaptogenic mushrooms at the same time.
The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or illness and should not be taken as medical advice. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before adding lion’s mane to your health and wellness routine, talk to a health care professional about the potential benefits, side effects, and uses of this mushroom.