What Are the Potential Benefits & Harms of Turkey Tail Mushroom?

Turkey tail mushroom, also known as Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor, is so named due to its fan-like shape and striking colors. While its attractive qualities could be praised extensively, its medical benefits have drawn the most attention in recent times.

turkey tail mushroom
Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

Namely, turkey tail has recently been hailed for its ability to boost the immune system and improve overall wellness. For this reason, it has become a popular ingredient in turkey tail mushroom capsules, which users take on a daily basis as a form of dietary supplement.

Before you take turkey tail mushrooms, it’s essential to know the details of what they can do. It’s also imperative to be aware of any potential side effects. This article explains the benefits and harms of turkey tail in detail, so keep reading to learn more.

What Are the Benefits of Turkey Tail?

Turkey tail has numerous potential benefits. However, it’s worth mentioning that most studies have been carried out on rodents and test tube models. As a result, human clinical trials are yet to take place, leaving a lot of knowledge gaps regarding the efficacy of turkey tail as a dietary supplement.

1. Contains a Lot of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a large part of the reason why turkey tail could be beneficial. This fungus species is loaded with antioxidants, which are a necessary part of the human diet.

As we age, oxidative stress can occur within the body. The result is cellular damage and chronic inflammation. Not only can this lead to notable signs of aging, but also chronic underlying conditions at earlier stages of life.

Consuming antioxidant-rich foods can support natural processes in the body, helping to combat oxidative stress. 

Turkey tail is one such food, packed with phenols and flavonoids. In general, these compounds can promote immune system health, which is good news for those looking to improve immunity. 

2. Can Boost the Immune System

Alongside antioxidants, turkey tail contains polysaccharopeptides, such as krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP).

PSP, for one, could boost the immune system by activating monocytes, white blood cells that can fight infection. Meanwhile, PSK can activate macrophages, another type of white blood cell that can protect against bacteria.

3. May Improve Gut Health

Gut health is essential to physical and mental health. The microbiome of bacteria in the gut can have a direct impact on immune response, which is why caring for this microbiome is so vital. 

Turkey tail mushrooms contain prebiotics, which can feed the beneficial gut bacteria. This is one of the few fields where human trials have taken place. In 2014, researchers conducted an 8-week study involving 24 healthy participants. The individuals were given 3600mg of PSP extracted from turkey tail every day. It led to positive changes in gut bacteria and suppressed the growth of potentially harmful bacteria types such as E. coli.

4. Could Assist with Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

There have been a couple of studies examining the effects of turkey tail extracts on patients with various cancers. In general, this extract could help those undergoing traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. 

One review stated that patients who administered 1-3.6g of turkey tail each day alongside conventional treatments had a survival advantage. The same finding was stated in another review, this time looking at patients with stomach cancers. The studies in this review demonstrated that patients given PSK alongside chemotherapy lived longer.

5. May Boost Workout Performance

Turkey tail is sometimes praised for its ability to improve athletic performance. While research in this area is just beginning, one study examined mice given turkey tail extract and suggested that the mushroom improved exercise performance. Furthermore, it reduced fatigue.

This finding, if replicable in humans, could make turkey tail supplements popular among athletes in the future.  

Do Turkey Tail Mushrooms Have Side Effects?

Despite all the potential benefits, turkey tail mushrooms are not perfect. Almost all supplements have side effects if they are not consumed in moderation.  

Turkey tail is generally safe and well-tolerated. There have been no specific studies into the recommended dosage or what amount is most likely to cause side effects. However, some users have reported the following minor side effects:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Dark feces
  • Darkening of the fingernails
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite when used in conjunction with chemotherapy

It’s worth noting that the latter effects could be caused by either the chemotherapy or the mushrooms, and researchers are not certain which. 

If you have any pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications, it’s recommended to speak to a physician before taking turkey tail supplements.

Turkey tail is really popular in the medicinal mushroom world, and for a good reason. The compounds within can promote a healthy immune system, making it an excellent option for individuals seeking general wellness supplements.

Although research into turkey tail is just beginning, the initial results are promising. Since this mushroom has a great safety profile, it poses few risks to those who want to try it. However, those who have health conditions should always check with their doctor before taking dietary supplements, including turkey tail.

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