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Turkey Tail


A promising clinical NIH-funded study titled Phase I Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer indicates that the turkey tail mushroom improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients, helping them rebound after radiation therapy. The number of lymphocyte and natural killer cells, which protect us from tumors and viruses, usually dramatically decline after radiation treatment and turkey tail mushrooms support conventional breast cancer therapies by increasing NK and CD8+T cell activity.


For hundreds of years, turkey tail mushrooms have been used to treat various diseases in Asia, Europe and North America. Though, most likely, our ancestors knew of their medicinal value long before it was recorded, we know medicinal tea was enjoyed as early as the 15th century, during the Ming Dynasty in China. Japan, a leader in mushroom research, has been focusing since the late 1960s and on how turkey tail benefits human health and how extracts of turkey tail can boost the immune system.

Turkey tail, also called bracket fungi are some of the most common woods mushrooms on the planet: growing on dead trees, logs, branches and stumps. This very abundant, colorful mushroom, reminiscent of the plumes of turkeys, form thin, leather-like and leaf-like structures in concentric circles. They don’t have gills like shiitakes do.  Instead their undersides have tiny pores, which emit spores, placing them in the polypore family.


According to Paul Stamets, the natural killer cells promoted by ingesting turkey tails target virally-infected cells. Additionally, turkey tail mycelium excretes strong anti-viral compounds, specifically active against Human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer and hepatitis C virus (HEP-C), which causes liver cancer. Viruses that induce cancer are called “onco-viruses.” The virus-to-cancer connection is where medicinal mushrooms offer unique opportunities for medical research. The current thinking amongst many researchers is that turkey tails and other medicinal mushrooms lessen the odds of getting cancer by reducing causal co-factors such as onco-viruses.

Turkey tail is renowned in Asia as a source for cancer therapy. Growing the population and activity of natural killer cells and ensuring antioxidant effects against free radicals can both reduce inflammation and limit damage to healthy cells, distinct advantages to using mushrooms in cancer therapy.


Another helpful characteristic of turkey tail and many other mushrooms like shiitake is that they can also accumulate selenium from the environment. When mercury meets selenium, they form a bimolecular unit that is totally non-toxic. I smiled to learn that whenever Paul Stamets eats fish, he also enjoys soup with organic shiitake or turkey tail mushrooms!  Now I make sure I have Mushroom Mama’s turkey tail as part of our broiled salmon dinners!


Possible Medicinal Benefits of Turkey Tail:

  • anti-bacterial
  • anti-oxidant
  • anti-tumor
  • anti-viral
  • immune enhancer
  • kidney tonic
  • liver tonic

Some people think I’m a mycological heretic, some people think I’m a mycological revolutionary and some just think I’m crazy.  Paul Stamets

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