Turkey Tail Mushroom: The Disease-Fighting, Immune-Boosting Fungus
Some of the most potent immuno supportive agents come from mushrooms, and science is just beginning to tap into this vast natural medicine warehouse.
There are mushrooms that kill viruses, mushrooms that kill bacteria, and even mushrooms that kill yeast—which may surprise you, given they’re both fungi.
Some mushrooms destroy cancer cells, and others facilitate nerve regeneration.
A promising clinical study shows that the turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients. The multiyear study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), tracked whether or not turkey tails could positively affect the immune system of patients rebound after they ended their radiation therapy.
Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system. If it weren’t for mushrooms, we wouldn’t have plants, because mushrooms (and their “parent” mycelium) break down rocks and organic matter, turning them into soil that provides the framework to nourish plants..
Mushrooms are actually only the fruiting body of a more vast fungal form—the mycelium. The mycelium is a fascinating cobweb-like mat that infuses nearly all landscapes. It is through the mycelium that the fungus absorbs nutrients from the environment. When two compatible mycelia combine, the resulting mycelium occasionally forms fruiting bodies called mushrooms. The mushrooms make spores, which fly away to make new mycelial colonies, and the lifecycle is complete.
Mycelial mats can be too small to see or cover vast areas of ground.
Their extreme tenacity makes the soil spongy and able to support 30,000 times its weight. A single cubic inch of soil can contain 8 miles of mycelium cells. The largest living organism on Earth is a mycelium in Eastern Oregon that covers 2,200 acres, is ONE cell wall thick and 2,000 years old.
Paul Stamets believes fungal mycelia and the intricate, branching network they form function as “the Earth’s Internet,” a complex communication highway that is sort of Mother Nature’s neural net. In some ways, mycelia are “sentient” and seem to demonstrate learning. If one pathway is broken, it develops an alternate path. According to Stamets, when you step on it, it knows you’re there and “leaps up” in the aftermath of your footstep, trying to grab debris. The mycelia—not JUST the mushrooms—contain many of the healing agents for which mushrooms are revered.
Top 5 Mushrooms to Beat Cancer
Reishi: Known to the Chinese as “spirit plant,” this mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) has been proven in clinical studies to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect that also works to balance blood sugar and regulate blood pressure. In regards to the immune system, Reishi boosts three key modulators (TNF alpha, interleukin-1-beta and interleukin-6) that naturally seek out and destroy cancer cells and inhibit angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors ). It showed excellent results in preventing the excessive loss of white blood cells during traditional radiation treatment; thus preventing the immune system from being ravaged!
Maitake: This large mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is used in recipes and has similar medicinal benefits to the Reishi. It has been shown to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and improve triglycerides. Clinical trials have been done where the beta glucan extracted from maitake was injected into live cancer cells. The cells were dead within a day – and using a combination of beta glucan and vitamin C significantly increased its cancer fighting ability. The maitake’s affinity for the reduction of vomiting, loss of appetite and pain is a major benefit for those in the midst of chemotherapy.
Turkey Tail: This mushroom (Trametes or Coriolis versicolor) is rare in that it is found throughout the forested regions of North America. Several hundred studies have been done on the benefits of the turkey tail mushroom. A strong polysaccharide known as polysaccharide-K (PSK – which is used as an active ingredient in chemotherapy drugs) enhances the immune system and improves the growth of white blood cells. The compound in this mushroom produces a strong immune system (antigen-antibody specific) response that destroys tumors; consequently, survival rates are higher for patients who receive PSK during treatment. Using mushrooms to beat cancer is already being done…doctors simply don’t put the pieces together.
Shiitake: This is probably the most popular mushroom (Lentinula edodes) known around the world. The beta glucan extracted from the shiitake is called Lentinan and Japanese scientists have found that it can be powerful ammunition in the fight against cancer. It doesn’t kill the cells directly, it boosts the T-cell and natural killer cell production instead, which search out and destroy cancer cells. After the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Lentinan helps the immune system to recover more quickly. Though it is safe and effective, the extract has not been approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you plan to get the compound through the consumption of shiitakes, at least they are delicious!
Phellinus Linteus: Outside of Korea, this mushroom is fairly unknown (though it is an active ingredient in many skin care products) and is referred to by its scientific name. Boiled in water to produce a tea or soaked in wine, the health benefits of the Phellinus Linteus against cancer are promising. In clinical trials using animals, those given only the mushroom were concluded to have the highest survival percentage and lowest rate of metastasis (when cancer spreads to other parts of the body). Like others in my list, Phellinus works by enhancing your own immune system response to fight the cancer more effectively, rather than directly killing the cancer.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Benefits
Prevents and Treats the Common Cold and Flu
The turkey tail mushroom has long been known to stave off any infection, including those associated with the common cold or flu. It helps your immune system become more resilient to ill-causing germs. When flu season approaches, you may want to include turkey tail as a supplement in your dietary routine.
The turkey tail mushroom has been shown to modulate the immune system, helping fight infections, illness and diseases.
Helps Treat Human Papilloma Virus
Mushrooms, in particular the turkey tail mushroom, may help heal infections, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV). According to a study of 61 patients with gum disease testing positive for HPV, 88 percent of the 41 patients who received both turkey tail and reishi mushrooms showed positive results after only two months of treatment.
Can Offer Support to Chemo Patients
Turkey tail mushrooms may help cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted clinical trials for a turkey tail extract to be consumed by patients who have advanced prostate cancer and are enduring conventional chemotherapy as well as testing how well it helps women with breast cancer in combination with a vaccine treatment in hopes of a new and better form of cancer therapy. Ultimately, since chemotherapy suppresses the immune system, the hope is that turkey tail mushroom builds the immune system up to better handle the weakness that chemo often causes. And a stronger immune system can help combat deadly cancer cells, making the turkey tail mushroom a potentially potent cancer-fighting food.
Aids in Digestion
The mycelium in the mushroom is what may help you have a smoother digestion process when supplementing with turkey tail mushrooms. The mushroom contains perfect prebiotics that assist the microbiome. This means that it can help the growth of the good bacteria in the body, including acidophilus and bifidobacterium, which is even more beneficial for anyone suffering from leaky gut syndrome. And this better digestion could even help you lose weight.
May Combat Breast Cancer
A study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine revealed that an 83-year-old woman who was diagnosed with advanced, metastatic inflammatory breast cancer led a disease-free life after using turkey tail mushroom. Though she continued chemotherapy use, she consumed capsules of turkey tail mushroom at the same time.
Scientists believe that the immune response of the turkey tail mushrooms boosted the woman’s immune system by recognizing the tumor, which increased the effectiveness of the chemotherapy. This is consistent with research that claims medicinal disease-fighting mushrooms like turkey tail, as well as maitake, reishi and Agaricus blazei, can be natural immune-enhancing and anticancer treatments.
May Help Patients with HIV/AIDS
Studies reveal that the use of turkey tail mushroom, in conjunction with other wild medicinal East African mushrooms, may be useful in treating patients with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin cancer often affecting those with HIV/AIDS. The same product has also benefited patients with HIV/AIDS even without the sarcoma.
Turkey tail has antibacterial and antioxidant properties; therefore, an extract of the turkey tail mushroom may be helpful. This extract, called PSP, has been studied in vitro, noting it as an antiviral agent that may prevent the replication of the HIV virus.
Turkey tail can be prepared and used in various ways from teas, tinctures, extracts, and chewed like gum. Overall, turkey tail delivers a mild, pleasant, mushroomy aroma and flavor.
A word of caution! Do not go out and begin harvesting wild mushrooms! Many fungi are dangerously poisonous. There are so many varieties, species and sub-species that a simple mistake could result in severe consequences or even death.
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