Benefits of turkey tail mushroom for the immune system

The turkey tail mushroom, also called Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor, It is valued for its medicinal properties. Although it is not considered a good edible due to its consistency, since ancient times it has been prepared in infusions and extracts as a supplement to take care of health.

In general, it grows on organic bases such as the trunks of trees, from which it obtains its food. In addition, it is characterized by its striking colors, ranging from dark brown parts to blackish and green areas. Why is it recommended for the immune system?

Properties of the turkey tail mushroom

In traditional Chinese medicine, the turkey tail mushroom is considered a powerful immunomodulator. Due to its interesting nutritional composition, supplements derived from this fungus are used as adjuvants against various chronic diseases, such as cancer.

A study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies exposes that Trametes versicolor concentrates active substances such as β-glucans, proteoglycans and heteroglycans. In addition, it is a source of other pharmacological compounds, among which the following stand out:

  • Proteins
  • Lecithins.
  • Triterpenes.
  • Phenols
  • Sterols
  • Fatty acids.

At present, although it is still a matter of research, it is a supplement to which properties are attributed anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, antiviral and anticancer. Let's see its benefits below.

The immune system has one of its main components in white blood cells, but we must not forget immunoglobulins and lymphoid tissues.

Read also: The immune system

Benefits of turkey tail mushroom for the immune system

In eastern countries, the turkey tail mushroom is a popular remedy with a long history in natural medicine. Its content in bioactive molecules has been valued to stimulate the functions of the immune system and protect the body against infectious processes and chronic diseases.

To this day, it is one of the most investigated medicinal mushrooms, especially for its potential against pathologies such as cancer. And although it is not a first-line treatment, the findings posit it as a promising ingredient for developing future therapies.

Turkey tail and the immune system

There are many investigations that have corroborated the immunomodulatory properties of the turkey tail mushroom. In a recent study, published via International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, it was determined that Versicolor trametes it is a source of bioactive products with pharmacological and food potential.

Specific, provides phenolic compounds, free amino acids, vitamins and fatty acids that are essential to modulate the immune response. These, in turn, help to inhibit the action of free radicals, molecules associated with aging and the appearance of diseases.

For its part, an investigation by the biomedical journal Oncotarget details that this fungus concentrates polysaccharide peptides, such as krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP), which stimulate the immune system by activating and inhibiting certain types of immune cells and by controlling inflammation.

In test tube studies, polysaccharide peptide (PSP) was helpful in increasing the presence of monocytes, a type of white blood cell which is essential to fight infections. For its part, krestin (PSK) helped activate macrophages, another form of white blood cells that are responsible for protecting the body against toxins and bacteria.

Immunomodulator against cancer

Without a doubt, one of the main benefits of the turkey tail mushroom is its anti-tumor capacity. While it is true that it is not a cure for cancer, the research findings are relevant. These effects appear to be closely related to its immunomodulatory capacity.

In a test tube study disclosed in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine it was observed that krestin (PSK) – one of the polysaccharpeptides of turkey tail – helped inhibit the growth and spread of colon cancer cells in humans.

In turn, a polysaccharide called glucan Coriolus versicolor (CVG), which is also in this fungus, showed antitumor potential by shrinking the size of a tumor in a mouse study. According to said research, this took place due to the enhanced immune response.

A meta-analysis in Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery conclude that turkey tail mushroom has survival benefits for cancer patients, particularly with breast, colorectal and gastric carcinoma.

Meanwhile, another meta-analysis published in Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy suggests that the antitumor ability of this mushroom is most useful when used in combination with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy.

Prebiotic Effects That Improve Gut Health

The balance of the intestinal microbiota plays an important role in optimizing the functions of the immune system. Bacteria housed in the intestine interact with immune cells and they are key to the response to the presence of pathogens or toxins.

The turkey tail mushroom, by providing prebiotics, is useful to nourish these bacteria. In a study published in 2014, 24 people consumed 3,600 milligrams of PSP extracted from turkey tail mushroom per day for 8 weeks.

The researchers observed that this supplement improved the balance of intestinal bacteria and stopped the growth of bacteria like E. coli Y Shigella. In turn, another study found that the extracts of this fungus helped increase the presence of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium Y Lactobacillus.

Are there other benefits?

Beyond its immunomodulatory capacity, the turkey tail mushroom and its bioactive compounds provide other health benefits. For now, research in this regard is ongoing and it is estimated that, in the future, it may become a therapeutic option against diseases:

This mushroom is not edible, so its commercial presentations are already formulated for medicinal consumption.

Find out: Allergy to fungi, is it possible?

How to consume turkey tail mushroom?

Currently, turkey tail mushroom extracts are available as powder, capsules or pills. They are often consumed as an infusion or added to other beverages. By itself it is not considered edible, like other mushrooms, as it is hard.

Anyway, the suggested dose is usually 3 grams a day for periods ranging from 28 days to 3 years. The latter should be determined by a professional, be it a doctor, pharmacist or herbalist.

Final Cautions and Tips

The turkey tail mushroom is considered safe, since few side effects have been reported. In some people it can cause digestive symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and dark stools. Meanwhile, when used concurrently with treatments such as chemotherapy, it tends to cause nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Still, it is unknown if these side effects are linked to the consumption of this mushroom or to conventional treatments for cancer. It is best to speak with your doctor before taking these types of supplements.

You need to remember that it is not a miracle cure for cancer or other diseases. Although the evidence supports many of its effects, it does not replace the conventional therapeutic options prescribed by the professional.