By Reishi Strauss (B. Sc. Herbal Science)
Turkey Tail is a beautifully multicolored mushroom, with stunning stripes of alternating colors across its surface. Its latin name, Trametes versicolor, means “thin mushroom of many colors'' and has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Records of turkey tail brewed as medicinal tea date from the early 15th century, during the Ming Dynasty in China. Nearly all mushrooms can provide support for the immune system, but some consider Turkey Tail to be the strongest. Turkey Tail may have the highest beta glucan content of all medicinal mushrooms, thus having the strongest effect on the immune system. This mushroom and its constituents are some of the most studied of all medicinal mushrooms, let’s dive into some of the research!
Turkey Tail as an Adjuvant to Chemotherapy Treatments for Cancer
Paul Stamets, who is a pioneer in the world of American mycology, is famously known for talking about supporting his mother in using Turkey Tail when she had stage 4 cancer. This incredible talk on TEDMED can be watched here.
In Japan, the drug PSK (Polysaccharide Krestin, derived from Turkey Tail) has been approved by the Japanese government to be given to cancer patients to strengthen their immune system when given with standard cancer treatment (1). It is used as an adjuvant to chemotherapy to manage gastric, colon, and colorectal cancer. A combination of Trametes versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum (both found in the Mushroom Superfood powders) was observed to clear oral human papillomavirus (HPV) in patients with HPV-positive gingivitis .
Another bioactive component present in Trametes versicolor is called Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP), which has also been shown to have promising effects when used as a treatment for small cell lung cancer treatment therapy 
The National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States funded a multi-year study investigating the effects of Turkey Tail on the immune systems of breast cancer patients (4). Immune system activity is measured by the number of white blood cells, and this usually declines dramatically after radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Bastyr University hypothesized that breast cancer patients’ health can be improved after radiotherapy, if their immune system activity is restored.
The study titled “Phase I Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer” was published in the ISRN Oncology Journal and showed that turkey tail mushrooms can support conventional therapies for treating breast cancer by increasing immune system activity. The authors concluded:
“... research by our center continues to indicate that Trametes versicolor represents a novel immune therapy with significant applications in cancer treatment”
Turkey Tail to Support Digestive Health
Turkey Tail mushrooms are abundant in prebiotics, which is a type of fiber that nourishes the beneficial bacteria inside of our digestive tract, helping with improved digestion and immune response (6). Our gut is filled with a community of bacteria that is referred to by scientists as the human gut microbiota. This human gut microbiota is also sometimes called the gut microbiome, intestinal flora, gut bacteria, or "good" bacteria. These good bacteria can support our immune system, and help digest our food in order to make nutrients more bioavailable. So basically, having an abundant microbiome is a very, very helpful thing! Keep in mind that you can increase the amount of "good" bacteria in your gut by taking probiotics or ingesting prebiotics as found in Turkey Tail and other mushrooms!
It’s also worth mentioning that the health of your microbiome has a direct correlation to the health of your immune system. So, by supporting your digestive health, Turkey Tail is also supporting your immunity! Neat!
In conclusion, the research certainly seems to point to Turkey Tail’s promising potential as a supportive immune system therapy. With the abundance of bacteria, viruses, and pathogens that can pose a threat to our immune system, we are very lucky to have such an incredible mushroom to support us! Leave it to Mother Earth and her medicines to always take care of us.
You can find Turkey Tail mushroom powder in our Wisdom Superfood Mushroom Blend.
Written By Reishi Strauss, B. Sc. in Herbal Sciences and Scientific Advisor to Wisdom Superfood SPC