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Top 5 medicinal benefits of turkey tail

One of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms is Trametes versicolor, more commonly referred to as turkey tail because of the fascinating colours. 

Because of its use in traditional medicine, turkey tail attracted scientists all over the world and has become one of the most researched and well-documented medicinal mushrooms. 

The most notable aspect of turkey tail is its immune-boosting properties. Research suggests taking turkey tail mushroom supplements can help people undergoing cancer therapy or to help lower inflammation as well as oxidative stress. Other reports cite the mushroom’s benefits supporting healthy ageing and ramping up energy levels.

Before we dive into what makes turkey tail an amazing medicinal mushroom, let's first explore the mushrooms unique components that give it its medicinal properties.

Turkey Tail: Medicinal Components

Polysaccharopeptides

Polysaccharopeptides are protein-bound carbohydrates, or polysaccharides, that are present in turkey tail. These proteins are known to be potent in strengthening immunity and have shown incredible results especially in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy. [1]

There are two types found in the turkey tail mushroom: Polysaccharide Peptides (PSP) and Krestin (PSK). Both contain immune-boosting properties that activate and inhibit specific immune cells and reduce inflammation.

Polysaccharide Peptides

PSPs found within turkey tail have substantial effects on cytokine production. Cytokines are messenger molecules released by cells to regulate immune responses, inflammatory reactions, and other processes. Essentially, cytokines tell our immune system cells when to act, where to act, and what to act on. [2]

A test-tube study published in the Journal of Food Chemistry shows that Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) increases a type of white blood cells known as monocytes. Monocytes are produced in the bone marrow and are used by the body to combat infections, cancer cells, and even remove dead or damaged cells. [3]

Polysaccharide-K

The most highly researched turkey tail concentrate is Polysaccharide-K (PSK, a.k.a. Krestin). Clinical trials have shown that PSK enhances immunity as well as provides antiviral and cholesterol-regulating effects, among other health benefits. [4]

Now, let's explore how turkey tail can impact on our health with these 5 health boosting benefits:

1) Could improve cancer therapy treatments

Turkey Tail has been mostly studied for its anti-cancer effects, with more than 40 clinical trials comprising over 180,000 patient volunteers with stomach, colorectal, oesophageal, and breast cancers. 

General anti-cancer benefits

Results have mostly demonstrated the mushroom’s anti-cancer benefits, including by means of immune status improvement in those who take turkey tail alongside chemotherapy compared to chemotherapy-only patients. [5]

Furthermore, the patients taking turkey tail with chemotherapy also reported better quality of life, even in advanced cancers, and showed signs of reduced cancer therapy side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and decreased appetite.

Helps protect healthy cells from cancer therapy

Turkey tail extracts may also help by protecting the body's healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Turkey tail shows promise in the prevention of uterine cancer

A 2011 study found that women who consumed turkey tail daily had fewer signs of abnormal cell division than those who did not consume it. [6]

The study indicates that some compounds in turkey tail mushrooms could provide some protection against abnormal cell division, which can lead to cancer.

2) Strengthens overall immunity

Studies reveal both PSK and PSP have a broad spectrum of multifunctional immunological effects, some of which may be triggered through contact with immune tissue in the digestive tract. 

The mushroom cell wall components like beta d glucans and chitin have complex interactions with our body's immune sensors, such as toll-like receptors (an “immune protein”), in the small intestine as the turkey tail cell walls are processed and pass through our body. [7]

Once the body recognizes fungal beta d glucans, a complex immune response takes place that can suppress cancer and tumour cell growth. It can also lead to a greater immunity surveillance and antibody production that identify and target potentially pathogenic viruses and bacteria.

3) Supports energy levels and improves overall mood

An eight-week-long, placebo-controlled trial found that people suffering from fatigue reported increased energy levels after taking turkey tail supplements just after two weeks. [8]

The researchers discovered that compounds found in turkey tail have a positive effect on certain immune system cells that play a major role in producing energy and neurotransmitters that affect mood, while reducing other types of cells which can cause fatigue.

4) Helps with blood sugar management

When taken in conjunction with blood sugar medication and treatment, turkey tail has been shown to help diabetic patients manage their blood sugar levels. [9]

The mushroom helps by supporting healthy blood glucose metabolism, which can improve insulin sensitivity. A study found that individuals taking insulin experienced an average decrease in fasting blood glucose when taking a supplement containing turkey tail extract. [10]

5) Promotes Healthy Ageing

Research shows that turkey tail is rich in antioxidants, including ergothioneine and glutathione, which aid the body's natural detoxification processes. [10]

When combined with regular exercise, scientists found turkey tail can lower oxidative stress in older adults, boost energy levels, and support healthy ageing.

We’ve shown the five key and evidence-backed benefits of taking turkey tail mushrooms. If you want to take advantage of this mushroom’s health properties, read our quick and easy How-To guide below.

How to use Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail can be consumed via a capsule or in powdered form. We recommend a dose between 1/2 - 1 tsp daily, which is equivalent to about 4-6 capsules. It should be noted that there is no difference in terms of health properties between the capsule or the powder. The only difference is the preferred method of use.

If you want to give the powdered extract a try, one of the main ways people love incorporating turkey tail into their daily routine is by adding it into their morning coffee, tea, and/or matcha and smoothies.

Check out our recipes page for some delicious ideas.

References:

1. Fisher M, Yang LX. Anticancer effects and mechanisms of polysaccharide-K (PSK): implications of cancer immunotherapy. Anticancer Res. 2002 May-Jun;22(3):1737-54. PMID: 12168863.


2. Kowalczewska M, Piotrowski J, Jędrzejewski T, Kozak W. Polysaccharide peptides from Coriolus versicolor exert differential immunomodulatory effects on blood lymphocytes and breast cancer cell line MCF-7 in vitro. Immunol Lett. 2016 Jun;174:37-44. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2016.04.010. Epub 2016 Apr 14. PMID: 27091479.


3. Sekhon BK, Sze DM, Chan WK, Fan K, Li GQ, Moore DE, Roubin RH. PSP activates monocytes in resting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: immunomodulatory implications for cancer treatment. Food Chem. 2013 Jun 15;138(4):2201-9. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.11.009. Epub 2012 Nov 15. PMID: 23497877.


4. Huang Z, Zhang M, Wang Y, Zhang S, Jiang X. Extracellular and Intracellular Polysaccharide Extracts of Trametes versicolor Improve Lipid Profiles Via Serum Regulation of Lipid-Regulating Enzymes in Hyperlipidemic Mice. Curr Microbiol. 2020 Nov;77(11):3526-3537. doi: 10.1007/s00284-020-02156-3. Epub 2020 Aug 11. PMID: 32780205.


5. Stamets P. Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail Mushrooms) and the Treatment of Breast Cancer. Glob Adv Health Med. 2012;1(5):20. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.5.007


6. Torkelson CJ, Sweet E, Martzen MR, et al. Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer. ISRN Oncol. 2012;2012:251632. doi:10.5402/2012/251632


7. Spagnuolo R, Cosco C, Mancina RM, Ruggiero G, Garieri P, Cosco V, Doldo P. Beta-glucan, inositol and digestive enzymes improve quality of life of patients with inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017 Jun;21(2 Suppl):102-107. PMID: 28724171.


8. Venturella G, Ferraro V, Cirlincione F, Gargano ML. Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials. Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(2):634. Published 2021 Jan 10. doi:10.3390/ijms22020634


9. Lo HC, Hsu TH, Lee CH. Extracellular Polysaccharopeptides from Fermented Turkey Tail Medicinal Mushroom, Trametes versicolor (Agaricomycetes), Mitigate Oxidative Stress, Hyperglycemia, and Hyperlipidemia in Rats with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2020;22(5):417-429. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2020034560. PMID: 32749097.


10. Kıvrak I, Kivrak S, Karababa E. Assessment of Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Turkey Tail Medicinal Mushroom Trametes versicolor (Agaricomycetes). Int J Med Mushrooms. 2020;22(6):559-571. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2020035027. PMID: 32865897.


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