Turkey Tail Mushroom: Are you a health professional? - CancerChoices

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.

Are you a health professional?

This section does not replicate the other information on this topic but provides additional details or context most relevant to professionals.

More on safety

“Due to the stimulatory effects of Coriolus on immunocompetent cells, there is the potential for counteraction when administered with immunosuppressants. Therefore, caution should be exercised when administering Coriolus alongside immunosuppressants, or this combination should be avoided altogether.”1Professional Resource: Coriolus Versicolor. Centre for Health Innovation. Viewed October 25, 2021.

Some preclinical studies on breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and leukemia produced mixed results regarding benefit and risk. A hot water extract of Coriolus enhanced development of large intestinal tumors in mice.2Toth B, Coles M, Lynch J. Effects of VPS extract of Coriolus versicolor on cancer of the large intestine using a serial sacrifice technique. In Vivo. 2006 May-Jun;20(3):341-6.

Turkey tail constituents

The known active constituents of turkey tail mushrooms associated with its medicinal properties:3Stamets P. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms, 3rd Edition. China: MycoMedia Productions. 2002. p. 42.

  • β-glucans
  • PSK (protein bound polysaccharide, β (1-4)D-glucan protein): Krestin (Japanese formulation)
  • PSP (polysaccharopeptide)
  • Ergosterol (provitamin D2 derivatives)

Turkey tail is prepared from three forms:  

  • Fruiting bodies (the part that grows above ground or outside the host tree)
  • Mycelium (the thread-like, root-like branching hyphae) grown on grain
  • Mycelium in fermentation

PSK (a glycoprotein-bound mixture) is the best-known component of turkey tail. While its mechanism of action is not yet clearly defined, studies of PSK suggest anticancer mechanisms, as described below and on How can turkey tail mushroom help you? What the research says ›

Mode of action: gene expression

Turkey tail mushroom has multiple activities in cancer which scientists propose is due to modulating gene expression, thereby decreasing a gene master switch that turns on genes that drive cancer transformation, development, and progression. Preclinical evidence supports this.4Wu JM, Doonan BB et al. Recent advances and challenges in studies of control of cancer stem cells and the gut microbiome by the Trametes-derived polysaccharopeptide PSP (review). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2016;18(8):651-660.

Preclinical evidence 

Notable preclinical evidence is listed here; clinical evidence is in How can turkey tail mushroom help you? What the research says ›

Improving treatment outcomes

Cancer as a whole
  • Less vascular density and less expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) among mice implanted with murine sarcoma s180 cells and treated with PSP compared to control mice given only water. Greater arrest in tumor growth was also observed in the group of mice treated with PSP compared to control mice.5Ho JC, Konerding MA, Gaumann A, Groth M, Liu WK. Fungal polysaccharopeptide inhibits tumor angiogenesis and tumor growth in mice. Life Sciences. 2004 Jul 30;75(11):1343-56.
Breast cancer
  • Greater arrest of  tumor growth among neu-T mice bearing HER2/neu+ breast cancer tumors treated with trastuzumab plus PSK compared to those treated with trastuzumab or PSK alone. Greater arrest in tumor growth was also observed in mice treated with PSK alone compared to controls but not compared to those treated with trastuzumab alone.6Lu H, Yang Y, Gad E, Inatsuka C, Wenner CA, Disis ML, Standish LJ. TLR2 agonist PSK activates human NK cells and enhances the antitumor effect of HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody therapy. Clinical Cancer Research. 2011 Nov 1;17(21):6742-53.
  • An ethanol extract of Coriolus versicolor demonstrated in vitro anti-proliferation effects on a B-Cell lymphoma (Raji) and 2 promyelocytic leukemia (HL-60 and NB-4) cells lines in a dose dependent manner. No significant cytotoxic effect was observed in normal liver cells.7Lau CB, Ho CY et al. Cytotoxic activities of Coriolus versicolor (Yunzhi) extract on human leukemia and lymphoma cells by induction of apoptosis. Life Sciences. 2004 Jul 2;75(7):797-808.
  • Greater cell lysis of K562 leukemia cells correlating with greater interferon gamma (IFN-𝛾) detected from natural killer (NK) cells stimulated with PSK compared to controls in vitro8Lu H, Yang Y, Gad E, Inatsuka C, Wenner CA, Disis ML, Standish LJ. TLR2 agonist PSK activates human NK cells and enhances the antitumor effect of HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody therapy. Clinical Cancer Research. 2011 Nov 1;17(21):6742-53.
  • Inhibited tumor growth, cell proliferation and viability of melanoma cancer cells in vitro and in mice treated with a C. versicolor methanol extract. In addition, macrophages harvested from treated mice exhibited stronger ex-vivo tumorostatic effects compared to macrophages harvested from control mice9Harhaji L, Mijatović S et al. Anti-tumor effect of Coriolus versicolor methanol extract against mouse B16 melanoma cells: in vitro and in vivo study. Food Chemistry and Toxicology. 2008 May;46(5):1825-33.
  • Direct anticancer effects resulting in reduced tumor growth and metastasis including induced cell death (apoptosis) in human osteosarcoma cells grafted into mice10Zhao X, Ma S, Liu N, Liu J, Wang W. A polysaccharide from Trametes robiniophila inhibits human osteosarcoma xenograft tumor growth in vivo. Carbohydrate Polymers. 2015 Jun 25;124:157-63.
Prostate cancer

Optimizing body terrain

Blood sugar and insulin resistance
Immune function
  • Significant immune activity15Standish 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.
  • Modulates immune response by activating cancer cell-killing macrophages, helper T cells and natural killer cells16Wu JM, Doonan BB et al. Recent advances and challenges in studies of control of cancer stem cells and the gut microbiome by the Trametes-derived polysaccharopeptide PSP (review). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2016;18(8):651-660.
  • Increased Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. and decreased Clostridium, staphylococcus, and enterococcus spp. In a fecal culture within a medium including PSP compared to a medium including cellulose18Yu ZT, Liu B, Mukherjee P, Newburg DS. Trametes versicolor extract modifies human fecal microbiota composition in vitro. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2013;68:107–12.

Helpful links for professionals

Keep reading about turkey tail mushroom


Nancy Hepp, MS

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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 and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. 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.

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Andrew Jackson, ND

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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.

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Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

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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.

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Last update: June 21, 2024

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.

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