Turkey Tail Mushroom: Uses, Benefits, and More

The Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is a common polypore mushroom found throughout the world. Named for its striking multicolored pattern that resembles a wild turkey’s tail, this mushroom has garnered attention not just for its appearance but also for its potential health benefits.

Historical and Medicinal Background

For centuries, Turkey Tail mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to enhance immune function and treat various health conditions. The mushroom’s medicinal properties are attributed to its high content of polysaccharides, including polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP), which are believed to have immune-boosting effects.

Uses of Turkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey Tail mushroom is used for several purposes, both in traditional remedies and in modern alternative medicine:

  • Immune Support: Turkey Tail is most famous for its purported immune-boosting properties. It is believed that the polysaccharides in Turkey Tail can stimulate the immune system, helping the body to fight off infections and diseases.
  • Cancer Adjunct Therapy: Turkey Tail mushroom has been studied as an adjunct therapy for cancer. PSK, in particular, is recognized in Japan as a cancer treatment supplement, especially in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Antioxidant Properties: It is also known for its antioxidant properties that may help in reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Gut Health: Some studies suggest that Turkey Tail mushroom can positively affect gut health by modifying the gut bacteria, contributing to overall wellbeing.

Side Effects and Safety Considerations

While Turkey Tail mushroom is considered safe for most people when taken orally, there are some side effects and precautions to consider:

  • Chemotherapy and PSK: Some patients undergoing chemotherapy who also take PSK have reported side effects such as nausea, vomiting, low white blood cell counts, and liver problems. It is unclear whether these effects are due to chemotherapy or PSK.
  • Topical Use: The safety of Turkey Tail when used topically is not well-documented. It may cause itching and irritation.
  • Pregnancy: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of using Turkey Tail mushroom during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it is best to avoid use.
  • Medication Interactions: Turkey Tail mushroom can interact with certain medications, especially those metabolized by the liver. For instance, it may affect how quickly the body processes drugs like cyclophosphamide and tamoxifen, potentially altering their effectiveness and side effects.

Specific Precautions and Warnings

  • Cyclophosphamide Interaction: PSP in Turkey Tail mushroom might change the speed at which cyclophosphamide is metabolized in the body, leading to altered effectiveness and side effects.
  • Medications changed by the liver: PSP might affect how quickly the liver breaks down certain medications, altering their effects.

Dosing Considerations

The appropriate dose of Turkey Tail mushroom can depend on several factors, including age, health status, and other conditions. PSK is most commonly used by adults at a dose of 3 grams daily for up to 36 months. Whole Turkey Tail mushroom is sometimes used at a dose of 2.4 grams daily for up to 12 weeks. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

Scientific Studies and Clinical Trials

A variety of studies have been conducted to assess the effects of Turkey Tail mushroom on cancer and the immune system:

  • Adjuvant Therapy in Cancer: Clinical trials have evaluated the use of PSK as adjuvant therapy in treating gastric cancer and colorectal cancer, with some studies showing improved survival rates.
  • Immune Response: Research has shown that Turkey Tail can modulate the immune response, potentially making it a helpful supplement for those with weakened immune systems.
  • Antitumor Activity: Some studies indicate that Turkey Tail mushroom extracts may have antitumor properties, though more research is needed to confirm these findings in human subjects.

For further in-depth analysis and detailed studies on the Turkey Tail mushroom and its effects, you may refer to scholarly articles and clinical trial results available on platforms like PubMed (National Library of Medicine) and ScienceDirect (Elsevier’s leading platform of peer-reviewed scholarly literature).


Turkey Tail mushroom is a fascinating fungus with a rich history in traditional medicine and promising potential in modern health science. While it is well-tolerated by most and can offer health benefits, particularly in supporting the immune system and possibly as an adjunct in cancer therapy, one must be mindful of its interactions and side effects. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and before combining Turkey Tail with conventional treatments.

As research continues to unfold, the Turkey Tail mushroom remains a subject of interest for its therapeutic potential and serves as a testament to the power of natural substances in promoting health and wellness.