The 2 reasons why Doctors are now using the Turkey Tail mushroom as cancer therapy.

The FDA has recently approved human clinical trials for a Turkey Tail extract as an adjuvant therapy for breast cancer.¹

Turkey Tail, also known as Trametes versicolor, Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor, is a common mushroom found mostly on dead logs in temperate forests around the world. The name comes from the unique appearance of the concentric, multi coloured alternating rings of the mushroom’s fruiting body, which closely resembles the ruffled feathers of a Turkey’s tail.

The therapeutic effects of Turkey Tail have long been known and utilised in Asia, specifically in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it was used to treat respiratory infection and to strengthen the immune system². In modern times the health benefits of Turkey Tail have since been recognised by mainstream western medicine, foremostly used by Japanese doctors as an adjuvant cancer treatment. Research and trials have since begun in the US following its success in Asia.

American medical researchers from the Bastyr University in a phase 1 clinical trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Health, have shown results that immune function was enhanced in the patients who took daily doses of Turkey Tail in pill form following radiation therapy for breast cancer³. These incredibly promising results are leading to continued research into Turkey Tail’s seemingly “significant application in cancer treatment.” (Torkelson et al., 2012).

The following two points are the key factors of the Turkey Tail mushroom that makes it a promisingly effective cancer treatment and immune stimulator.

1. Immuno stimulating effects.

Two compounds found in the Turkey Tail mushroom have been studied for their immunologic stimulating effects. Polysaccharide K (PSK or Krestin) and Polysaccharopeptide (PSP) are derived from the Turkey Tail mushroom and are have been studied in vitro, and human clinical trials, although PSK is more widely researched. PSK has been shown in randomized clinical trials to have strong potential in modulating the immune system and improving its response⁴.


A phase 1 clinical trial using a Turkey Tail extract as an adjuvant cancer therapy has shown that patients had increased lymphocyte numbers and NK cell tumoricidal activity (Torkelson et al., 2012). This increase in immune system response is an incredibly beneficial result for a cancer treatment as it can mitigate the immunity depressive effects caused by destructive treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The immuno stimulating effects that Turkey Tail has been shown to have is complementary to the second observed effect: anti cancer properties.

Takeaways: The Turkey Tail mushroom contains compounds (PSK, PSP) that have been long studied and well known to have strong stimulating and supportive effects on the immune system and is being increasingly used in mainstream western cancer treatments.

2. Anti cancer properties.

Alongside the strong immunity stimulating effects of Turkey Tail adjuvant therapy, it has been strongly suggested in research that the active compounds PSK and PSP have antitumor properties. WENNER et al., 2011 observed in a study that when PSK was used in conjunction with chemotherapy a significantly higher tumor suppression was observed than in either treatment alone, as well as suppressed tumor proliferation and apoptosis.

Turkey Tail mushroom anti cancer properties have also been observed in a study where colon cancer cells were cultured with and without PSK present. The results revealed in the cancer samples with added PSK a “significant decrease in [tumor] expression, as well as a decrease in angiogenic growth factors” (SATOH et al., 2012). The study concludes with the statement that “these findings demonstrate the potential of PSK to ultimately suppress [cancer cell development].”⁶

The research into the anti cancer properties of Turkey Tail are still in early stages, but the results so far are very promising, especially so since Turkey Tail and its constituent compounds have been found to be safe in its trialed clinical doses.⁷

Takeaways: The Turkey Tail mushroom constituent compounds (PSK, PSP) have been identified in both vitro and vivo studies to decrease and suppress cancer cell activity.

The mainstream use of Turkey Tail extracts and constituent compounds as a highly effective complementary cancer therapy is on going in Asia and Western countries. More research into its effectiveness is highly anticipated from the US, hopefully then followed by FDA approval. The research into Turkey Tail as an immunity stimulant, and as a potential anti cancer treatment is developing but very promising. Further research is highly anticipated.