Turkey Tail Mushrooms Benefits for Cancer

Can consuming mushrooms help you fight cancer? The answer depends on what type of mushroom you’re having.


The trametes versicolor mushroom, more commonly known as turkey tail mushroom, is a functional mushroom that has been used in Eastern medicine for millennia. It’s called a turkey tail mushroom because of its unique shape and color swirl that resemble turkey feathers.


Turkey tail mushrooms grow naturally all over the world, including in the United States. They have recently gained popularity after research was published indicating that these mushrooms could have cancer-fighting properties.

A recent study (2023) found that cancer patients, including those with breast, colorectal, and gastric cancer,  who were given 1-3.6 grams of turkey tail mushroom every day, in addition to conventional cancer treatments, experienced a 9% reduction in 5-year mortality compared to the control group.

But how exactly do these mushrooms fight cancer in the body?

Turkey Tail Mushrooms Benefits Turkey Tail Mushrooms Benefits for Cancer 1

Here are some ways turkey tail mushrooms can help you stay healthy by boosting your immune system and fighting off cancerous cells.


1. Immune-boosting properties

These mushrooms have a high volume of polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that can improve the health of immune cells. In particular, turkey tails are full of Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptides (PSP). These can support your immune system by boosting your immune response while reducing inflammation.

PSP has been shown to increase white blood cell levels, while PSK activates macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that can protect your body from harmful bacteria.

2. Loaded with antioxidants

Oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation and cellular damage. Antioxidants can reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress.


There are several antioxidants in turkey tail mushrooms, including flavonoids and phenols, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate the release of essential protective compounds that can boost your immune function.

3. Improved gut health 

Research has found a correlation between turkey tail mushrooms and improved gut health and general metabolism. One study found that PSP in combination with a prebiotic helped increase the levels of beneficial bacteria in samples taken from the gut.


4. Could inhibit the growth of cancer cells 

Some studies have found evidence that turkey tail mushrooms can actually stop cancer cells from growing. In particular, there have been clinical trails and studies related to the following:

  • Breast cancer – The study found that oral administration of Trametes versicolor mushroom preparation, at doses of up to 9 grams per day, was safe and well-tolerated in women with breast cancer after standard treatment. The results indicated potential improvements in immune response, suggesting that trametes versicolor –  turkey tail may enhance breast cancer patients’ immune status after primary oncologic treatment.
  • Colon cancer-  In this study, researchers found that extracts from Trametes versicolor (TV) and Grifola frondosa (GF) mushrooms can inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells and reduce their ability to spread. The extracts also promoted healthy cell characteristics and decreased the activity of an enzyme that contributes to cancer progression. When combined with a common colon cancer drug, the extracts showed increased effectiveness in killing cancer cells. These findings suggest that TV and GF mushroom extracts may have the potential as anticancer treatments for colon cancer.
  • Colorectal– survival rates for metastatic Colorectal cancer remain low due to drug resistance. Medicinal mushrooms have shown potential anti-cancer effects. In this study, the mushroom extract improved survival in mice with colorectal cancer.
  • Lung cancer- PSK, derived from Coriolus versicolor mushroom, is used as an immunotherapy for lung cancer in Japan. A systematic review of 28 studies found that PSK may improve immune function, reduce tumor-related symptoms, and extend survival in lung cancer patients.
  • Gastric Cancer – Studies have found that PSK has been seen to diminish tumors and have anti-cancer effects in gastric cancer patients when taken alongside standard cancer treatments.


The Health benefits of turkey tail mushrooms are many. However, turning to turkey tail mushrooms is not recommended as a standalone treatment. Instead, researchers suggest that taking turkey tail mushrooms alongside traditional cancer treatment could lead to better outcomes.



Turkey Tail Mushroom Side Effects


For the most part, turkey tail mushrooms are safe when taken in small doses. The recommended dosage is usually around 3g/day for cancer patients. For up to 12 weeks, whole turkey tail mushroom can be taken orally in a daily dose of 2.4g. Of course, talking to your health provider before taking a supplement is always a good idea.


Some people have experienced mild side effects from turkey tail mushrooms even when taking the prescribed dosing. For example, some research study participants have reported having digestive symptoms after taking turkey tail mushrooms. These symptoms include bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, and dark stools.


In addition, some cancer patients who took turkey tail mushrooms along with chemotherapy experienced symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and a loss of appetite. Whether these symptoms are due to the mushrooms themselves or the chemotherapy treatment is unclear.


Anyone who suffers from a mushroom or mold allergy should stay away from turkey tail mushrooms since they are fungi.


How to Take Turkey Tail Mushrooms 


Although they grow in the wild, eating turkey tail mushrooms that you find in nature is not a good idea. You can’t be sure that the area around the mushroom is free from pollutants. Plus, there are many types of poisonous wild mushrooms, so you could easily eat the wrong one and get very sick.


Fortunately, turkey tail mushroom supplements are available as turkey tail mushroom extract, capsules, or powder. Some people like to put turkey tail mushroom powder in their tea or food, while others prefer the convenience of taking a capsule.


Turkey tail mushrooms can help you strengthen your immune system and fight off cancer cells. They are particularly potent when taken in addition to traditional cancer treatments.


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