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Turkey Tail mushroom benefits, plus dosage and side effects

As people continue to explore ways to improve the health benefits they can enjoy during everyday life, more and more people are turning to traditional Chinese medicine for natural answers to their health woes. Medicinal mushrooms have recently come into the spotlight, providing a wide range of solid heath benefits when studies. The turkey tail mushroom, trametes versicolor, is so named for its beautiful bands of color, reminiscent of a wild turkey.

Though they can be found on dead wood logs and stumps around the world, it can be difficult to identify wild mushrooms safely, but fortunately, this powerful mushroom is available from cultured stock. Turkey tail mushroom can be used effectively to boost the immune system, fight cancer and improve digestive health, along with some other effects in improving skin health and appearance, lowering cholesterol levels and lowering glucose levels in patients with diabetes. In this article, we'll talk about what the turkey tail mushroom is, how it works in the body to improve health, the risks of using it and how to optimize the benefits you'll get from this medicinal mushroom.

turkey tail mushrooms

What are Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

A member of the polypore group of mushrooms, trametes versicolor or Turkey Tail mushrooms have a pore surface that releases spores rather than the more common gills or fins. Though, as many natural remedies, it hasn't been reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration, it has an ancient history in treating a multitude of cancers, providing solid digestive benefits and providing a tonic effect on the immune system, as well as a range of other benefits. Their distinctive bands of ivory, blue, gray, brown, red and yellow radiate out in concentric circles, while being high in potassium, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper and phosphorus while remaining very low in sodium. The mushrooms help your body to produce vitamin D with a little sunlight and produce 18 amino acids, beta-glucans, ergosterol and polysaccharide k (PSK).

What are the Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

Though turkey tail mushrooms have a range of effects on the body, it's mainly noted for its work as a cancer treatment, treatment for relieving the effects of cancer therapies and its effect on the immune system. These impacts make it a great option when you're dealing with an illness that suppresses your immune system or when it can be otherwise overwhelmed, such as human papilloma virus or HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer, or as a complementary therapy for chemotherapy to build the immune system back up after a course of treatment to prevent secondary infections.

Cancer-Fighting Effects of Turkey Tail Mushrooms

In 2020, 1,806,590 new cancer cases were projected, with over 1/3 of those cases leading to the death of the patient. It's a terrible disease, one that's hard to fight, but as science expands to include more of nature's pharmacopeia, we can improve survival rates, both short-term and long-term. Using turkey tail mushrooms to help fight cancers in the digestive tract as well as breast cancer can help with this fight by directly attacking tumors. Japanese patients suffering from this terrible disease are commonly treated with the polysaccharides K (PSK) and P (PSP), with studies showing significantly stronger survival rates. Another study has shown a 9% increase in 5-year survival rates, showcasing the medicinal mushroom's ability to give cancer patients more time with their loved ones. This is just part of the reason why it's been used as a complementary therapy in Asia for over three decades.

In addition, the immune-boosting effects of turkey tail mushroom make it a popular treatment following a four-week chemotherapy course. This helps reduce secondary infections that can arise so easily following chemotherapy. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has conducted clinical trials, providing turkey tail extract to patients with advanced prostate cancer being treated with chemotherapy, as well as women with breast cancer, a process rarely seen with natural remedies.

Turkey tail mushroom is especially effective in reducing the effects and severity of digestive-tract cancers, such as gastric, colon and colorectal cancers, even targeting cancer stem cells earlier than other treatments currently available, but has also been shown to be effective against at least specific types of breast cancer. Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of skin cancer that is quite typically found in AIDS/HIV patients, has also been studied with the use of a variety of east Asian medicinal mushrooms, with turkey tail proving its worth as both an immune-boosting compound as well as an anti-cancer agent.

Immune-Boosting Effects of the Turkey Tail Mushroom

The turkey tail mushroom supports the immune system in three different ways: by boosting bone marrow production, which in turn boosts white cell production; by its solid antiviral properties that help the body fight off the common cold, influenza and even HPV, the virus which is the precursor to cervical cancer; and by modulating the immune system as a whole, boosting it when it's most needed while keeping it from getting out of hand and turning into an autoimmune disease.

But how do turkey tail mushrooms have this effect on the body's immune system? It's linked to botanical compounds that stimulate the immune system, including PSK and PSP. Other compounds within the mushroom boost the body's cytokine response, an important but minuscule protein that has shown strong effects on this specific immune function in animal studies.

Digestive Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms

In addition to helping prevent digestive-tract cancers, turkey tail mushrooms also help improve the digestive tract as a whole by providing vital prebiotics to the body. These compounds nourish your existing gut bacteria to improve your body's natural flora to reduce the severity and occurrence of digestive-tract problems. It's been found to be especially beneficial in patients with leaky gut syndrome.

Related: Medicinal mushrooms in the 21st century (in-depth exclusive)

Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Turkey Tail Mushrooms

The turkey tail mushroom can also reduce inflammation both internally and externally, which it manages by moderating the response of pro-inflammatory cytokines, an important part of immune function. This benefit is especially strong in individuals suffering from colitis, which causes inflammation in the bowel, which turkey tail is especially effective in treating. Some of these effects can even help promote weight loss.

turkey tail mushroom monograph

Are There Any Risks to Using Turkey Tail Mushrooms?

If you have mold or fungus allergies, you'll want to avoid any medicinal mushrooms unless your healthcare provider deems it an acceptable risk. As with many supplements and medicines, it hasn't been tested on pregnant or lactating women and should be used cautiously in these situations. As with any changes to your healthcare regimen, you should discuss these issues with your doctor before starting to use turkey tail mushrooms. Generally speaking, any side effects are relatively rare and mild, but can include diarrhea, dark stools and darkening finger- and toe-nail pigmentation.

How to Get the Best Benefit From Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Turkey Tail is also safe for long-term use. It can be taken daily at a dosage of 3 grams for up to seven years and dosages of 1 gram daily for up to ten years. If you're dealing with a chronic disease, such as diabetes or cholesterol, you'll want to keep a lower dose. However, if you're using it to boost the immune system between chemotherapy courses, you'll want to take the full three grams daily to get your system back where it needs to be to keep you as healthy as possible during those trying times. Given its ability to boost cancer survival rates, you'll want to keep a higher dosage initially, then taper down to a 1-gram daily dosage to extend the benefits as long as possible. 

When you are investigating ways to enjoy your best health now, understanding how medicinal mushrooms such as turkey tail work to boost your body's health helps put you in a better position to decide if it's the right option for your health concerns. As with any changes you make to your healthcare routine, take a few minutes to talk to your healthcare provider to determine whether turkey tail mushrooms are right for your healthcare needs.

When you are investigating ways to enjoy your best health now, understanding how medicinal mushrooms such as turkey tail work to boost your body's health helps put you in a better position to decide if it's the right option for your health concerns. As with any changes you make to your healthcare routine, take a few minutes to talk to your healthcare provider to determine whether turkey tail mushrooms are right for your healthcare needs.

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