Immune System herbs

Turkey Tail Mushroom

turkey-tail mushroomMushrooms are one of the most powerful foods and nutritional supplements that anyone can take. Hundreds of studies from across the world have demonstrated the value of different species of mushrooms. Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor) is an especially potent mushroom showing utility as an immune system booster and anticancer agent.

Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates in Turkey Tail mushrooms known to enhance immune activity. One study in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed how a Turkey Tail polysaccharide extract stimulated activity of macrophages, a special type of white blood cell that destroys a variety of pathogens as well as cancer cells. A 2015 study in Molecular Immunology further demonstrated that the polysaccharides could activate B white blood cells.

In addition to directly stimulating the immune system, Turkey Tail improves immune function and general health through antioxidant activity. A Chinese study from the Medical School of Taizhou University indicated antioxidant effectiveness against free radicals in brain tissue as well.

The immune-boosting properties underlie much of the anti-tumor properties of Turkey Tail. Studies have shown that components of the mushroom fight many forms of cancer. One polysaccharide ingredient called PSP demonstrated surprisingly powerful preventive activity against prostate cancer. Researchers concluded, “Whereas 100% of the mice that fed with water only developed prostate tumors at the end of experiment, no tumors could be found in any of the mice fed with PSP, suggesting that PSP treatment can completely inhibit prostate tumor formation.”

A May 2015 review study in Integrative Cancer Therapy examined the impact of Turkey Tail-derived polysaccharide K (PSK) on lung cancer. 11 controlled trials and 17 preclinical studies were analyzed in the review. The majority of the preclinical evidence showed PSK inhibited cancer through immune system potentiation and direct anti-tumor and antimetastatic effects. Benefits observed in randomized trials included improvements in immune and hematological function, body weight, performance status, fatigue, anorexia, and survival. Very importantly, PSK was used in conjunction with and following radiation and chemotherapy in a safe manner.

The effects of Turkey Tail extract on breast cancer are profound as well. An animal study conducted in 2014 showed that 1 gram/kilogram of extract orally administered to mice daily for 4 weeks decreased tumor weight by 36% and inhibited lung metastasis by 70.8%. Overall, the extract “exhibited anti-tumor, anti-metastasis and immunomodulation effects in metastatic breast cancer mouse model, and could protect the bone from breast cancer-induced bone destruction.”

Other cancers like esophageal carcinoma are also susceptible to polysaccharides in Turkey Tail. The mushroom also holds promise for treating symptoms of dementia and diabetes. Given the proven safety and efficacy of Turkey Tail, any patient looking to improve their treatment outcome should consider trying it.


The herb turmeric has been used for nearly 4000 years in India and throughout the world. It is a popular spice due to its nutritional value, flavor, and vibrant yellow color. Thousands of studies have illuminated the incredible and multifaceted benefits of this ancient plant. Most research has focused on curcumin, the primary active constituent of turmeric.

Curcumin is an exceptionally powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It can inhibit numerous enzymes linked to the promotion of inflammation, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipooxygenase (LOX), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). By working through multiple pathways, curcumin may potentially treat diseases like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain types of cancer.

Like many compounds that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is an antioxidant. A 2005 study from a UK medical school described unique mechanisms of curcumin’s action. In addition to directly scavenging two types of oxidants, it increased levels of glutathione, a natural antioxidant produced in the human liver. Therefore, curcumin exerts both direct and indirect antioxidant activity. Along with the ability to maintain calcium homeostasis, these actions contribute to curcumin’s protective effects on the cardiovascular system.

Perhaps most exciting is the anticancer potential of curcumin. A review article titled, “Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Can Curry Kill Tumor Cells Selectively?” explored over two dozen mechanisms of anticancer action. Not surprisingly, curcumin demonstrated antiproliferative and cell-killing effects against “almost all types of tumor cells.”

Several studies have indicated the value of using turmeric or curcumin alongside chemotherapy. A July 2015 study inBMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that turmeric prevented liver damage in mice resulting from administration of the chemotherapeutic drug methotrexate. Another recent study pointed to curcumin’s ability to ameliorate neuropathy resulting from cisplatin administration. In addition to stopping chemotherapy side effects, curcumin has been shown to work synergistically with chemotherapy to reduce proliferation and increase programmed cell death of cancer cells.

The fundamental healing abilities of curcumincur extend to psychological conditions as well. A study in Brain Research provided evidence that the compound may act as a stress alleviator and antidepressant. Indeed, a randomized controlled trial in 2014 reported benefits in patients with major depressive disorder.

Using a turmeric extract standardized to contain high levels of curcumin is an easy way to take advantage of the herb. To maximize benefits, the extract should also contain some black pepper. Pepper contains piperine, which substantially inhibits the liver’s metabolism of curcumin. Without it, the value of turmeric alone is almost worthless. A study from St. John’s Medical College in India found that after humans ingested two grams of curcumin, their blood serum levels of the compound were very low or undetectable. By combining 20 milligrams of piperine with the curcumin, bioavailability was increased by 2000%.

Consuming whole turmeric root is also an effective means of getting curcumin into your system. As long as it is mixed with at least a small amount of black pepper, it will be effective. Many types of curry powder contain turmeric and black pepper as primary ingredients. Of course, due to the ability of black pepper to inhibit liver enzymes, it is best taken separately from cannabis extracts or pharmaceutical medications.

List of Herbs for strengthening the Immune System and fighting Cancer:

  • Astragalus Root
  • Turkey Tail Mushroom
  • Cordyceps
  • Sea Cucumber
  • Chinese Skullcap (Huang Qin)

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