Turkey tail mushroom and cancer research
What do we know so far?
Turkey tail mushroom (trametes versicolour) is a bracket fungus that spurts out of fallen tree trunks and decaying hardwood. It’s common throughout the world —particularly in Europe and America— recognised by its stunning tiered layers and vivid colours.
But appearance aside, what’s particularly fascinating about turkey tail mushroom is its potential to boost immunity. Yep, studies show a link between turkey tail and reduced inflammation, antibacterial properties, and a healthy gut microbiome.
And this immune-boosting potential is what led countries like Japan and China to use turkey tail mushroom in combination with traditional cancer medicine for over 30 years.
So, are these countries ahead of the eight ball?
Does turkey tail support traditional cancer treatment?
And what does the turkey tail mushroom and cancer research tell us so far?
Turkey tail mushroom for cancer
Before we dip our toe into the research, we wanted to make one thing super-duper clear. We are in no way saying turkey tail mushroom alone can treat, cure or prevent cancer. Absolutely not.
Instead, we’re a team of scientists and mushroom farmers, here to present the current research and findings.
In most of the studies and clinical trials, two compounds called polysaccharopetide (PSP) and polysaccharide-K (PSK) are derived from the turkey tail mushroom and prescribed to patients. These compounds are believed to play a major role in immunity.
You’ll notice we refer to PSK throughout this article, which is often taken in a tea or capsule form.
Ready to take a closer look?
Turkey tail and breast cancer study
A small study in 2012 looked at nine patients with breast cancer, orally administering turkey tail after chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The results found that up to 9 grams of turkey tail per day increased lymphocyte numbers (a type of white blood cell that plays a role in the immune system) as well as the activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells (which are important for controlling diseases, infections and tumours).
Overall, this study considered turkey tail a safe and tolerable treatment, with the potential to be used after traditional cancer treatment.
Turkey tail and colorectal (bowel) cancer
A 2009 study looked at 63 elderly patients with colorectal cancer.  Of these patients, 39 were administered only with traditional treatment (Tegafur and Uracil) and 24 were administered with both traditional treatment and PSK (you know, that compound found in turkey tail we mentioned earlier?)
The results found the relapse-free survival rates were more in the group that took turkey tail derived PSK. More specifically, the 3-year survival rate was 52.8% in the group receiving traditional treatment only, and 80.8% in the group receiving traditional treatment *and* PSK.
Turkey tail and lung cancer
A 2015 systematic review summarised 28 studies that looked at the use of PSK to help prevent lung cancer and improve survival rates.  The review included 11 clinical trials and 17 preclinical studies.
Across the board, most studies found improved survival rates for patients who underwent radiation (and took PSK) after 1, 2 and 5 years. The review concluded that turkey tail derived PSK may improve immune function, reduce tumour-related symptoms like fatigue, enhance quality of life and increase survival rates.
Turkey tail and gastric cancer
A review of 8 studies which included 8,009 people living with gastric cancer, found that adding PSK from turkey tail to their chemotherapy treatment improved survival rates. 
Another study that was not included in this review found that patients receiving PSK had an improved survival rate. The survival rate was 67.9% in the PSK group, versus 61.8% in those that didn’t receive PSK.
But as is often the case, more study needs to be done.
Turkey tail mushroom side effects
The current research shows that turkey tail mushrooms are generally safe and well tolerated, with very few adverse effects reported across the board. In saying that, occasional side effects include digestive upset like gas, diarrhoea, and bloating. Always speak with your doctor before starting with any mushroom supplement.
What’s the final word?
When we look at the research, the potential for turkey tail mushroom to aid traditional cancer treatment becomes clear. Although the research is far from done.
We still have a long way to go before we make any definitive conclusions about the role of turkey tail in cancer treatment.
In the meantime, we’re going to keep our eye on what’s happening in many Asian countries, who use turkey tail to help bolster immunity in patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Finally, at Natura Mushrooms we’re a team of scientists and mushroom farmers. If you’re wondering whether turkey tail is right for you, consult your doctor or a medical professional.
Interested in learning more about the wonders of turkey tail?
Check out these articles…
Turkey tail mushroom benefits – immunity, digestion and wellbeing
Superfood for gut health: turkey tail mushroom