Famed mycologist Paul Stamets often shares the story of how (he believes) turkey tail supplements, in combination with chemotherapy, saved his mother's life after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2009.
His mother, then 83 years old, continued taking turkey tail capsules after her chemotherapy and is still living disease-free to this day (and is still taking turkey tail supplements).
This article is your guide to turkey tail mushroom supplements in the UK.
Turkey tail mushroom explained
Turkey Tail, also known as Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor, is a non-edible (but safe to consume) mushroom, belonging to the Polyporaceae family.
They are called bracket fungi due to their thin structures in concentric circles that grow almost everywhere trees are found.
They grow up to four inches wide and can be found on dead logs, stumps, tree trunks, and branches throughout the wooded temperate zones of Asia, Europe, and North America.
Health benefits of turkey tail mushrooms
In Asia, turkey tail mushroom has a long history of use as a nonspecific immunomodulator, which means it affects the immune system in a general way, without targeting specific pathogens or antigens.
Recent research suggests that these mushrooms have immunomodulatory, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties.
- Antioxidants to promote immune system health
- Immune-boosting effects via polysaccharopeptides (PSPs)
- May suppress growth of certain types of cancers
- Enhances gut health
- May combat Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Antibacterial qualities
- May improve athletic performance and reduce markers of fatigue
- May improve insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes
Studies on turkey tail mushroom are ongoing and you can expect more information about the health benefits of this medicinal mushroom to be revealed in the near future.
Beneficial compounds in turkey tail mushroom
Boiling turkey tail mushrooms in water releases two therapeutic polysaccharides: polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide K (PSK).
PSK, also known as Krestin, has been used in Japanese medicine since the 1980’s to treat several types of cancer. In fact, it is the best-selling anti-cancer drug in Japan and is often used in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
PSP was discovered more recently in China and is considered a candidate with strong potential in drug development for the treatment and prevention of human cancers.
Studies have reported that PSP and PSK can inhibit the proliferation of leukaemia, lymphoma, hepatoma, breast, lung, and prostate tumour cell lines. In mice studies, a water-based turkey tail extract was shown to decrease tumour weight by 36% and lung metastasis by 70.8% against untreated control.
Other beneficial compounds in turkey tail
Both PSP and PSK contain the biologically active component β-glucan (beta glucan). β-glucans activate receptors, which in turn activate a series of immune cells, such as monocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells.
They also act as prebiotics, enhancing the growth of beneficial gut microbes.
Turkey tail also contains the compounds baicalein and quercetin, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to induce cell cycle arrest and suppress cancer cell colony formation and migration.
Quercetin is known to help release interferon, an antiviral signalling molecule, which may help reduce cancer.
Turkey tail mushroom side effects
While turkey tail mushrooms are generally considered safe for consumption, some people may experience mild side effects such as digestive upset, including bloating, gas, and nausea.
This is usually more common when taking higher doses or using concentrated extracts. It's always a good idea to start with a smaller dose and gradually increase it to see how your body responds.
Additionally, if you have a known allergy to mushrooms, you should avoid consuming turkey tail altogether. As always, if you have any concerns or experience any adverse reactions, it's best to speak with a health professional.
Is it safe to take turkey tail daily?
Yes, turkey tail mushrooms are generally safe to consume daily as a food or supplement.
Just be sure to purchase turkey tail products from a reputable source to ensure their quality and purity.
Who should not take turkey tail?
While turkey tail is generally safe for most people, there are a few groups that may want to avoid taking it or consult with a health professional before doing so. These include:
- People with autoimmune diseases: Turkey tail can stimulate the immune system, which can be problematic for people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Those taking immunosuppressant medications: Similarly, if you're taking medication to suppress your immune system, such as after an organ transplant, turkey tail may not be appropriate for you.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: There is limited research on the safety of turkey tail during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it's best to avoid it during these times.
- Children: There is also limited research on the safety of turkey tail in children, so it's best to avoid giving it to them unless recommended by a healthcare professional.
In conclusion, turkey tail mushroom is a medicinal mushroom that has long been used in Asia for its immune-boosting properties.
Recent research suggests that it may have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties as well.
However, it's important to purchase turkey tail products from a reputable source to ensure their quality and purity.