Turkey Tail Mushrooms for Cancer Treatment? – Dr. Weil

Below is an article I wanted to share with you, written by Dr. Andrew Weil.


I just learned of the exciting results of a seven-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health of the use of turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) to boost immunity in women who had been treated for breast cancer. (The mushroom’s name comes from its unique shape and colors, which make it resemble a wild turkey’s tail.)

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Bastyr University conducted the study in women with stages I-III breast cancer who had completed radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Results showed that immune function was enhanced in the women who took daily doses of turkey tail in pill form. (The actual product used in the study was Host Defense Turkey Tail mushroom from Fungi Perfecti.) The researchers reported that the improved immune response was dose dependent and that none of the subjects suffered any adverse effects. The findings were reported in November, 2010, at the International Conference of the Society of Integrative Oncology in New York.

We don’t know exactly how the turkey tail mushroom product used in this trial worked to boost immunity. Paul Stamets, director of research and founder of Fungi Perfecti, said that one theory holds that the mushroom improves the ability of the immune system’s natural killer cells to attack cancer cells. The next phase of this ongoing study will be to evaluate the effects of this improved immunity on patient survival.

The findings so far are very good news, just what physicians who treat cancer have been looking for – a non-toxic therapy to boost immune function, which is typically depressed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I have long recommended medicinal mushrooms to strengthen the body’s defenses in persons with cancer.

Three other mushroom species, maitake, reishi and Agaricus blazei, are known for their immune-enhancing and anti-cancer effects.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is an edible mushroom known in the United States as “hen of the woods” because it resembles the fluffed tail feathers of a nesting hen. In addition to its anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, maitake may also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), too bitter and woody to eat as food, is widely available in tea bags, capsules and as liquid extracts. Animal studies have shown that reishi improves immune function and inhibits the growth of some malignant tumors; it is also a natural anti-inflammatory agent.

Agaricus blazei contains beta glucans, a group of polysaccharides (complex sugars) believed to be the compounds responsible for its immune-boosting effects. Research has also shown that Agaricus blazei has anti-tumor and anti-viral activity, as well as moderating effects on blood sugar and cholesterol.

Andrew Weil, M.D.



10 thoughts on “Turkey Tail Mushrooms for Cancer Treatment? – Dr. Weil

  1. I forward so many of your posts to my friend who is currently undergoing chemo, she has 4 more treatments then starts radiation. I find your research fascinating and very very helpful. I read the posts to my Mom and Sister who don’t use computers and both are breast cancer survivors.

  2. I’m thrilled that the info is helpful. I am fortunate to have learned so much through the wonderful people I found in the Integrative World of Medicine. If your friend would be open to a consultation with the Nutritional Oncology practice I relied on to stay strong and healthy, please let me know and I will send you the info. They do phone consultations, and will send a comprehensive individualized report to the person, which includes the appropriate supplement suggestions and diet.
    hugs to you, ~ Hoda

  3. We first had our wonderful correspondence on July 28th, the date of this post. I believe I had asked you about Turkey Tail. I’m wondering if you looked it up and posted this as a result? I just purchased Host Defense. I am taking 2 pills of Host Defense and 2 pills of AHCC a day to cut down on costs of AHCC. Host Defense is much more cost effective. I had a natural killer cell test today. I may get one again in a few months after my new regimen. Thanks for posting this!!

    1. I sure did Idelle! I talk about Turkey Tail in another post about Mushrooms, but wanted to highlight its benefits in its own post. I wish I could take Host Defense, my body does not like Reishi or Cordyceps!
      Good job keeping up with Killer Cell function. I have analysis done in Germany every 5 -6 months, where they are able to detect 1 in 5 billion cancer cells! Pretty awesome. Cheers!

  4. Wow almost six months later! Sorry I just discovered your response. Do you believe Host Defense Turkey Tail is as effective as AHCC? Again, as I stated earlier, I’m trying to economize. Dr. Hardy suggested I take 1500 mg a day since I’m in remission 2 1/2 years. Alternatively, she suggested I take 1000 mg of AHCC. When I first asked her about Host Defense, she hadn’t heard of it. But when I recently met with her, she recommended it. Perhaps she too read the research after I spoke with her. Have you heard anything new? Would you feel as comfortable taking Turkey Tail as AHCC? Also how do you get an analysis of killer cell function in Germany? I hope you’re doing well and thank you for providing such a valuable blog!

    1. Hi Idelle. So glad to know you are doing well!
      I’m not sure that I am able to draw a comparison between AHCC and Turkey Tail. My relationship with medicinal mushrooms is tricky, so when I find one I can tolerate, I stick with it! So far I like AHCC and I also take Cordyceps occasionally. I can do Reishi a couple of times a week, but not consistently (TIP: two capsules at the onset of a cold are amazing).
      If you’d like the address and phone number of the clinic in Germany I can email it to you. They offer a number of blood tests. The one I have used is their Maintrac circulating cancer cell count. It’s highly sensitive and gives one helpful insight. They also do chemo-sensitivity analysis, which is a MUST before agreeing to Chemo treatment.

  5. Hi HodaI I would love the address and phone number of the clinic in Germany. When you send it, could you kindly remind me of their Maintrac circulating cancer cell count blood test? Your Reishi tip for colds sounds great. Regarding mushrooms, Dr. Hardy does not recommend the high therapeutic dosages of mushrooms when you are 2 1/2 years in remission as I am. So she only recommended 1500 mg of turkey tail or 750 to 1000 mg of AHCC per day. What do you think?

    If you recall, I have a friend you also contacted regarding mushrooms and AveUltra. She has been on both AveUltra and AHCC since we originally corresponded nearly five months ago. Nevertheless, her cancer is advancing rapidly. She is stage 4 with cancer everywhere in her body. She eats really healthy, does all the right things, etc. Sometimes, I do wonder how much any of this helps . . . whether the effect is placebo or has real health benefits. I do think much of cancer is genetic. But what else can we do?

    Did you know that I don’t get mail notifications when you respond? That’s why it took me so long to write you back the first time. Thanks Again. 🙂

  6. Thanks again Hoda! I responded to your email. You are extremely helpful and offer and excellent service to cancer survivors! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s