Let's Talk Turkey
Turkey Tail is a polypore mushroom that grows on a variety of decaying logs worldwide. In 2012, the FDA approved a $5.4 million clinical trial that would allow people battling late-stage prostate cancer to take an oral extraction of Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor) in conjunction with their chemotherapy treatment. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and is being conducted by researchers at Bastyr University.
As a witness to those helped by Turkey Tail, I can attest that its benefits are verifiable and powerful. However, as a forestry mycologist, I feel compelled to share a word of advice. The most clinically researched mushroom on Earth is also the most frequently misidentified mushroom on the market.
Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail is potent in antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenols. These antioxidants promote immunity by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds. One striking study detected at least 35 unique phenolic compounds in a sample of turkey tail extract, including the flavonoid antioxidant quercetin. In another study, quercetin demonstrated the ability to hinder the release of inflammatory enzymes lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase.
2. Adjuvant Therapy
In Japan, PSK derived from mushrooms is approved to treat cancer as an adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant therapy is a form of secondary treatment administered after primary cancer treatment(s) to lower the risk that cancer will return. PSK has been rigorously researched in patients with breast cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, and lung cancer.
- One study demonstrated that daily use (45.5 mg per pound of body weight) of turkey tail mushroom extract significantly slowed the progression of cancer and prolonged survival times in dogs with an aggressive form of cancer (hemangiosarcoma).
- A study of mice with tumors found that treatment with doses of 45.5 and 90.9 mg / lb of body weight of CVG extracted from turkey tail mushrooms daily significantly reduced tumor size
3. Immune System Benefits
Studies have shown that PSP increases monocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights infection. PSP catalyzes the immune response by activating and hindering certain immune cells, as well as suppressing inflammation. Turkey Tail extract has also shown to increase natural killer cells and dentritic cells.
In conclusion, Turkey Tail is best used in collaboration with pharmacology, and may reduce the damaging side effects of chemotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of turkey tail or its active compound PSK as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.
Turkey Tail is Easy to Mistake
Turkey Tail is easily misidentified. There are at least 6 common look-alike species that we run into all the time. In fact, there are a number of online articles about Turkey Tail that feature Turkey Tail look-alikes. On the bright side, it's generally accepted that none of them are poisonous. Nonetheless, there is only one true Turkey Tail. If you're seeking the benefits of this mushroom, it's important that you find a source you can trust. Allow us to be your guide:
Identifying Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor)
Best Turkey Tail Mushroom Products
Six Turkey Tail Look-Alikes
1. Purple Bracket Fungus (Trichaptum abietinum)
When tinged with purple, the pore surface of this smallish but gregarious annual bracket fungus is very distinctive; however, sometimes the pore surface is brown with hardly a hint of purple. The variable shape - sometimes resupinate but more often sharply reflexed (bracket like) can cause confusion too.
2. The Gilled Polypore (Lenzites betulina)
Although it is a member of the Polyporales order, its fruiting bodies have gills instead of pores, which distinguishes it from Turkey Tail. It also tends to be more flat than Turkey Tail, which is more wavy, based on my own observations.
3. False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea)
Stereum ostrea has a colorful, somewhat fuzzy cap that displays zones of brown, red, orange, buff, and green colors. Compared to Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea is more red, more of the time. It's underside lacks any presence of a pore surface, making it a crust fungus, rather than a polypore.
4. Hairy Parchment (Stereum hirsutum)
The cap of Stereum hirsutum is densely hairy under a magnifying glass. The coloration is reddish brown to chestnut brown with the cap margins being orange, gold or tawny. The fertile, spore-producing surface is on the underside of the cap and is smooth, lacking pores, tubes or gills. Older specimens may show a greenish tinge caused by algae.
5. Violet Toothed Polypore (Trichaptum biformis)
Trichaptum biforme is another unexciting polypore, reminiscent of any number of faded Turkey-Tail-ish species. The fresh pore surface is a gorgeous lilac purple, which is a distinguishing feature..
6. Crowded Parchment (Stereum complicatum)
Distinguishing features include the orange colors; the smooth underside that lacks pores; and the small, often fused fruiting bodies. It is very close in appearance to Stereum hirsutum, but that species is yellow and brown, and slightly larger.
FDA Approves Bastyr Turkey Tail Trial for Cancer Patients. (2019). Retrieved 9 September 2019, from https://bastyr.edu/news/general-news/2012/11/fda-approves-bastyr-turkey-tail-trial-cancer-patients
Li, Y., Yao, J., Han, C., Yang, J., Chaudhry, M. T., Wang, S., … Yin, Y. (2016). Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity. Nutrients, 8(3), 167. doi:10.3390/nu8030167
Satoh, Y., Goi, T., Nakazawa, T., Kimura, Y., Hirono, Y., Katayama, K., & Yamaguchi, A. (2012). Polysaccharide K suppresses angiogenesis in colon cancer cells. Experimental and therapeutic medicine, 4(3), 370–374. doi:10.3892/etm.2012.632
Brown, D. C., & Reetz, J. (2012). Single agent polysaccharopeptide delays metastases and improves survival in naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 384301. doi:10.1155/2012/384301
Awadasseid, A., Hou, J., Gamallat, Y., Xueqi, S., Eugene, K. D., Musa Hago, A., … Xin, Y. (2017). Purification, characterization, and antitumor activity of a novel glucan from the fruiting bodies of Coriolus Versicolor. PloS one, 12(2), e0171270. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171270