A Miracle Mushroom – Turkey Tail

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Lately, there has been a lot of talk around the wide range of health benefits of mushrooms, ranging from the remarkable recent study reports about the benefits of psychedelic compounds like psilocybin in psychiatry to the medical and neurological benefits, especially related to improved cognitive function.

It seems more common than before for people to be taking mushroom daily whether it’s in a capsule, powder, or even ditching their daily caffeine and switching to a mushroom coffee. Mushroom fans are finding that supplementing with a variety of mushrooms has a surprising benefit on their brain, helping boosting memory, balancing energy levels, reducing anxiety, and regulating their stress response. Not only are these effects reported by individual consumers, but multiple studies have also been published to support these claims. The cognitive benefits are being talked about, but these wondrous superfoods have even been found to go way beyond just benefiting the brain. Specifically, Turkey Tail mushrooms have been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. This effect is so significant, that cancer patients who supplement with Turkey Tail mushrooms have had a shrinkage in their tumors and better results from their chemotherapy treatments.

“The cognitive benefits are being talked about, but these wondrous superfoods have even been found to go way beyond just benefiting the brain.”

Turkey Tail mushrooms have numerous health benefits in addition to boosting the immune system, but the miraculous effects they have as an immune modulator in aiding the body’s fight against cancer is most impressive. This strain of mushroom got its name for having a fan like, concentric pattern that represents that of a turkey’s tail. They are found worldwide in woodland areas and almost any environment where trees grow. For centuries, Asian cultures have used Turkey Tail mushrooms for medicinal purposes due to their immune-modulatory effects. It is common to consume this mushroom in powder form, as a capsule, or even brewed as a tea. Studies have shown that turkey tail mushrooms contain as many as 35 different phenolic compounds and multiple flavonoids, which have antioxidant effects on cells, and can repair cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. Flavonoids are large polyphenol compounds which cannot be absorbed intact, but require the actions of certain gut microbes to break them down into smaller, absorbable molecules. Another noteworthy property of them is that they contain polysaccharopeptides which have been shown to work to strengthen the immune system.

“The miraculous effects [Turkey Tail mushrooms] have as an immune modulator in aiding the body’s fight against cancer is outstanding.”

Researchers have found that Turkey Tail mushrooms specifically worked to help treat breast cancer in female patients. Specifically, one study focused on an 83-year-old woman who had received a diagnosis of advanced, metastatic inflammatory breast cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, she took a daily dose of Turkey Tail mushrooms. She took a dosage of 4g twice daily in the form of a capsule over the course of six months in conjunction with her chemotherapy. For the advanced stage of her cancer and her age, she was found to have a faster immune recovery following chemotherapy. Following her treatment of breast cancer, she continued to take a dosage of 4g of Turkey Tail mushroom capsules daily. Three and a half years later, she was reported to have still been cancer free and living a vivacious and active life. Even before her breast cancer had disappeared, she continued to take her daily dosage of Turkey Tail mushrooms.

The University of Minnesota and Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington decided to research the anti-tumor properties that Turkey Tail mushrooms seemed to have on female breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Their findings indicated that patients who were taking a dosage of just 6 g daily had been reported to have a quicker immune recovery after chemotherapy. Furthermore, they found that patients could safely tolerate a dosage of up to 9 g per day. These encouraging findings have the potential to optimize the treatment process for cancer patients, including the patients who are being faced with a diagnosis that is already at an advanced stage.

“Three and a half years later, she was reported to have still been cancer free and living a vivacious and active life. Even before her breast cancer had gone into prolonged remission, she continues to take her daily dosage of Turkey Tail mushrooms.”

It is not only breast cancer that Turkey Tail mushrooms have been shown to help treat. In a study that had been conducted in 2019, researchers evaluated the health of thousands of cancer patients to understand the effect that Turkey Tail mushrooms may have on the treatment of various types of cancers. The researchers had completed a total of 23 clinical trials and evaluated over 4,000 cancer patients which strengthened their findings even more so. Their results indicated that Turkey Tail has the power to improve both patient’s survival and their quality of life in those who had been diagnosed with cancers including those affecting the breast, lung, and gastrointestinal tract. Another study done in 2013 indicated that Turkey Tail mushroom had played a significant role in aiding in the treatment of Leukemia. The results of a 2019 study that evaluated the effects of Turkey Tail mushroom on the treatment of colon cancer showed that taking both Turkey Tail mushroom extract in conjunction with Maitake mushroom extract, helped to reduce tumor size and stopped them from spreading throughout the body. Furthermore, they enhanced the effectiveness of 5-fluorouracil, a drug prescribed to treat colorectal cancer.

“Their results indicated that Turkey Tail has the power to improve both patient’s survival and their quality of life in those who had been diagnosed with cancers including breast, lung, and gastrointestinal.”

While Turkey Tail mushrooms are not able to replace anti-cancer pharmaceutical drugs and intensive treatments like chemotherapy or radiation, they have been shown to be effective in the healing process and promote a faster recovery. Turkey Tail mushrooms are generally safe to consume with minimal side effects such as indigestion, but you should always consult with a doctor before incorporating this kind of unconventional therapy into cancer management. More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying the surprising effects of Turkey Tail mushrooms in the treatment of cancer.

Amanda Johnson Amanda is a recent graduate from the University of Southern California where she received her degree in Psychology. In addition to her university studies, she earned her Integrative Nutrition Health Coach certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN).

This article was reviewed and approved by Emeran Mayer, MD