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The Magical Turkey Tail

by Justin Wexler

The turkey tail mushroom is a forest fungus that grows on downed trees. Turkey tail actually refers to a number of fungus species in the Trametes genus, notably Trametes versicolor, and they can be found in forests around the globe.


In traditional Chinese medicine, the turkey tail is known as yun zhi (雲芝) or “cloud mushroom.” Used primarily as a tonic, it is said to be cooling while gently eliminating dampness, making it therapeutic for the spleen, lung and liver meridians. As a tonic, turkey tail replenishes the qi and is also believed to regulate immune functions. Many of the traditional uses are now supported by both in vitro and in vivo studies.


As with any medicine, most of the peer-reviewed research describing the medicinal properties of the turkey tail mushroom has been conducted in laboratories using test tubes, mice and other non-human animals. In vitro studies have shown that turkey tail mushrooms are a natural source of antioxidants, stimulating the release of protective compounds, reducing inflammation, and generally promoting immune health. However, the turkey tail is unique because of the considerable quantity of research based on human clinical trials that has been done. Much of this research now proves that this mushroom is an invaluable medicine for many ailments.

Dozens of human clinical trials using extracts of turkey tail mushroom have demonstrated that, above all, this fungus is extremely useful as an immunotherapeutic medicine during cancer treatment. Many of the studies have focused on the use of polysaccharopeptide (PSP), a peptide-containing polysaccharide that is isolated from turkey tail mushrooms. PSP is so effective in immunotherapy that it has been used in routine clinical practice in both Japan and China for over four decades. PSP is immunomodulatory, has powerful anti-tumor properties, and ameliorates the adverse effects of chemotherapy. It is also effective at improving the quality of life of those being treated for hepatitis and other chronic diseases.


Thousands of patients in dozens of trials have provided strong evidence that turkey tail mushrooms can improve the likelihood of survival of cancer patients while improving their quality of life. Laboratory studies have also shown promise for the use of turkey tail mushroom extracts in treating Alzheimer’s disease, in ameliorating insulin resistance, and even in preventing fatiuge. Laboratory research has also demonstrated that the little forest mushroom exhibits bactericidal activity against pathogenic bacteria! With more research, we can better understand the many other healing properties of the turkey tail mushroom. But for the time being, we are at the very least assured that this magical little mushroom is a lifesaver for those undergoing the severity of many cancer treatments.

Works consulted


Chang, Y et al. “Preclinical and clinical studies of Coriolus versicolor polysaccharopeptide as an immunotherapeutic in China.” Discovery Medicine. Vol. 23, 127 (2017): 207-219.


Eliza, WL et al. “Efficacy of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) on survival in cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis.” Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery. Vol. 6, 1. (2012): 78-87.


Ho, Chun-Sheng et al. “Effect of Coriolus versicolor Mycelia Extract on Exercise Performance and Physical Fatigue in Mice.” International journal of medical sciences. Vol. 14, 11 1110-1117. 4 Sep. 2017, doi:10.7150/ijms.20547


Janjušević, Ljiljana et al. “The lignicolous fungus Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920): a promising natural source of antiradical and AChE inhibitory agents.” Journal of enzyme inhibition and medicinal chemistry. Vol. 32, 1 (2017): 355-362. doi:10.1080/14756366.2016.1252759


Knežević, Aleksandar et al. “Antigenotoxic Effect of Trametes spp. Extracts against DNA Damage on Human Peripheral White Blood Cells.” The Scientific World Journal. Vol. 2015 (2015): 146378. doi:10.1155/2015/146378


Matijašević, Danka et al. “The Antibacterial Activity of Coriolus versicolor Methanol Extract and Its Effect on Ultrastructural Changes of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella Enteritidis.” Frontiers in Microbiology. Vol. 7 1226. 4 Aug. 2016, doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01226


Oba, K. et al. “Efficacy of adjuvant immunochemotherapy with polysaccharide K for patients with curative resections of gastric cancer.” Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy. Vol. 56, 6 (2007): 905-11. Epub 2006 Nov 15.


Pallav, K. et al. “Effects of polysaccharopeptide from Trametes versicolor and amoxicillin on the gut microbiome of healthy volunteers: a randomized clinical trial.” Gut Microbes. Vol. 1, 5(4). (2014): 458-67. doi: 10.4161/gmic.29558. Epub 2014 Jul 9.


Song Z.H. et al. “Clinical study of PSP on chronic hepatitis B.” Guangxi Medical Journal. Vol. 22. (2000): 1424-25.


Torkelson, Carolyn J et al. “Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer.” ISRN Oncology. Vol. 2012 (2012): 251632. doi:10.5402/2012/251632


Xian, XM et al. “Coriolus versicolor aqueous extract ameliorates insulin resistance with PI3K/Akt and p38 MAPK signaling pathways involved in diabetic skeletal muscle.” Phytotherapy Research. Vol. 32, 3. (2018): 551-560. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6007.

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