Extracts of turkey tail mushroom and its constituent PSK are used with conventional cancer treatment to improve survival and reduce risk of recurrence. The constituent PSP shows some benefit for pain, appetite, and percentage of body fat.

How do experts use turkey tail mushroom?

Integrative experts provide recommendations for this therapy in treating people with cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations.

Published protocols, programs, and approaches

Turkey tail mushroom is used in programs, approaches, and protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care from these integrative oncologists, drawing from both scientific research and observations from years or even decades of treating people with cancer.

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella

Approaches are described for certain cancer types, or along with certain conventional therapy treatments, or for particular conditions such as insulin resistance.

Uses of turkey tail mushroom:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Hormone balancing
  • Immune enhancing supplements
  • Insulin resistance, reversing
  • Radiation and mushroom interactions

Keith Block, MD

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:

  • Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
  • Those in treatment
  • Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence

Barbara MacDonald, ND, LAc

MacDonald B. The Breast Cancer Companion—A Complementary Care Manual: Third Edition. Self-published. 2016.

Naturopathic physician Barbara MacDonald provides information about breast cancer, its conventional treatment, and natural approaches to enhancing treatment, managing side effects, reducing risk of recurrence, and healthy living after cancer treatment is completed.

Neil McKinney, BSc, ND

McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, Fourth Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2020.

This book includes descriptions and uses of many natural and complementary protocols for cancer in general and for specific cancers. It also includes information on integrative support during conventional cancer treatment.

Uses of turkey tail mushroom:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Immune modulation
  • Bastyr University Integrative Oncology Research Center protocol for stage IV breast cancer

Expert recommendations

Integrative oncology review

Abrams DI, Weil A, editors. Integrative Oncology, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 2014.

This book by integrative medicine experts and CancerChoices advisors Donald Abrams, MD, and Andrew Weil, MD, desribes a wide variety of complementary interventions to conventional cancer care, including a chapter from the perspective of a cancer patient.

According to Abrams & Weil, turkey tail mushrooms or extracts are among the botanicals most commonly used by oncology naturopathic physicians for colorectal cancer.

Traditional medicine

Turkey tail mushrooms are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Learn more about traditional medicine and how to find practitioners.

Dosing

Dosage has not been standardized for use in cancer care, but recommendations are available from these sources.

Moss Reports

These reports discuss use and access of turkey tail mushroom with cancer; purchase is required

Access the Moss Reports

General information about dosing

Find general dosing guidelines regarding natural products and supplements.

Preparation

In traditional Chinese medicine and in many of the studies of medicinal mushrooms, hot water extracts have been used. The cell wall of the mushroom is indigestible by humans—hence, eating raw mushrooms either as food or as medicine is not recommended. Ground mushroom eaten as a powder is irritating to the liver, yet when that ground mushroom is decocted in hot water, the medicinal ingredients become available and it is safer to consume. As a result, several integrative oncology clinicians report that they prescribe hot water extracts of medicinal mushrooms.1McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2016. p. 228.

Expert commentary

In a 2008 article, naturopathic oncologist and CancerChoices advisor Leanna Standish, PhD, ND, LAc, FABNO, and her colleagues suggest that “immune therapy utilizing the polysaccharide constituents of Trametes versicolor as concurrent adjuvant cancer therapy may be warranted as part of a comprehensive [breast] cancer treatment and secondary prevention strategy.”2Standish LJ, Wenner CA et al. Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 2008 Summer;6(3):122-8.

In Life Over Cancer, integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor Keith Block, MD, advises: “It is difficult to obtain clinically meaningful quantities of the mushroom phytochemicals from even the healthiest diet, which is why I recommend getting them in the form of extracts. Look for those containing maitake (Grifola frondosa), agaricus (Agaricus blazei), shiitake (Lentinula or Lentinus edodes), reishi (Ganoderma lusidum), turkey tails (Trametes or Coriolus versicolor), and caterpillar fungus or cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis).”3Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. p. 114. He further advises using extracts that are blends of several different medicinal mushrooms, including turkey tail.

Paul Stamets, in MycoMedicinals, says this about using a blend of several different medicinal mushrooms: “A number of researchers have come to the conclusion that, to maximize a host-mediated response—that is, to awaken the immune system—a panoply of polysaccharides and medicinal mushroom constituents is best. These constituents increase the number and activity of macrophages, killer T and NK lymphocytes. Combining medicinal mushroom species sends the immune system multiple stimuli, awakening the body’s natural defenses.”4Stamets P. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms, 3rd Edition. China: MycoMedia Productions. 2002. p. 68.

Naturopathic oncologist and CancerChoices advisor Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, August 9, 2018: There are instances when I use specific mushrooms, for instance: Coriolus (aka Trametes) versicolor (turkey tail) for breast cancer, Agaricus blazeii for ovarian cancer and chaga mushroom for melanoma. However, it is a very valuable and reasonable strategy to use a blend that includes mushrooms, each of which is standardized to its polysaccharides and beta-glucans. The key is to use a hot water extract of the fruiting bodies or a full-spectrum extract (includes mycelium) that clearly identifies on its label the quantity of mushroom extract.

Some blends that I often recommend:

Per capsule:

  • Trametes versicolor (turkey tail) (40% polysaccharides, 40% beta-glucans)–100mg
  • Grifola frondosa (maitake) 40% polysaccharides, 30% beta-glucans–100mg
  • Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), 40% polysaccharides, 15% beta-glucans–100mg
  • Lentinula edodes (shiitake), 409% polysaccharides, 40% beta-glucans–100mg

I would recommend between 2–3 capsules twice daily.

When recommending single mushrooms, it is important to know how much beta-glucan is in each serving so that I can titrate my dose accordingly. For instance, I often use Grifola frondosa m(aitake) mushroom to increase white blood cell counts. One product I use contains (per 6 tablets):

  • Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Fruiting body powder–600mg
  • Maitake fruiting body extract, standardized to contain 30% D-fraction–240mg (so 72mg D-fraction beta glucan)
  • Vitamin C 120mg (supports bioactivity)

Cost permitting, in most clinical studies, the daily dose of mushroom extracts that is correlated with improved survival (especially in breast, colorectal, gastric cancers) is 3000mg/day.

Keep reading about turkey tail mushroom

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
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Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: October 7, 2022

Last full literature review: October 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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