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Turkey Tail Mushroom Side Effects and Precautions

Published on December 26, 2022


By Lisa Stockwell

Lisa Stockwell

Lisa Stockwell has worked as a copywriter, writer, author, and editor for 35 years, specializing in the field of healthcare since 2009. She recognized the need for reliable health information while supporting friends through unique health challenges and refocused her career to bring clarity and compassion to healthcare communications. Lisa is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and a lifelong Northern Californian.

http://lisastockwell.com/

Turkey tail mushroom has been consumed for centuries for its potential health benefits. They were mentioned for traditional Chinese medical use over 2,000 years ago and included in the 16th century Compendium of Materia Medica, the most comprehensive book written on the history of traditional Chinese medicine and herbology. By 1960, the Japanese studied the mushroom’s ability to strengthen the immune system and serve as an adjunct to chemotherapy.

Throughout its long history of use in Eastern medicine and more recent use as a health supplement in western cultures, the turkey tail mushroom has shown no significant negative side effects for most people.* 

However, everybody is unique. Some people have experienced minor side effects when taking turkey tail, such as flu symptoms or constipation. 

In this article, we address safety concerns, the potential side effects of turkey tail mushrooms, and what precautions to take before adding this mighty mushroom to your health routine. 

Turkey Tail Mushroom Has Been Studied Thoroughly

Just how much do we know about turkey tail mushrooms?

Turkey tail mushrooms, and the two complex carbohydrates extracted from turkey tail — polysaccharide peptide (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK) — have been researched in thousands of studies. 

In fact, they are probably the most studied mushroom used as a health supplement. Human clinical trials in the Western world have used modern technology to test the medicinal benefits of PSP and PSK. 

Some human studies have tested the mushroom’s ability to fight inflammation and pain and support the immune system The majority of modern trials focus on the use of PSP and/or PSK when combined with chemotherapy for cancer patients. 

Turkey Tail Mushrooms Are Safe for Most People

Generally, turkey tail mushrooms are considered safe to consume for extended periods — unless you have an allergy to mushrooms. (If you have reacted to other mushroom species, you may have similar reactions to turkey tail, so it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before trying this type of mushroom.)

Since the mushroom has been used in Asian medicine for centuries, most research has involved people of Asian descent. However, more recent clinical trials conducted on a diverse population demonstrate only a low rate of mild and temporary side effects. Additionally, tests of turkey tail in cancer patients have shown no evidence of increased adverse effects when used as an adjunct to chemotherapy.

As with any herbal supplement, you should consult your healthcare provider before taking turkey tail, since all supplements have the potential to interact adversely with other prescription, over-the-counter medications, or combinations of medications. 

You should always keep your healthcare provider up-to-date on all herbal supplements and medications you take to manage or improve your health.

Side Effects of Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Most people who eat turkey tail mushrooms or take them in supplement form tolerate them well and have no side effects, even when taking them at high doses. 

Side effects, however, have been recorded that include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues (bloating, gas, stomach pain, nausea)
  • Constipation
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Heart palpitation
  • Rash

If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking the supplement immediately and contact your healthcare provider. 

If you’re allergic to mushrooms or mold, you may be among the few who experience adverse side effects after taking turkey tail, including trouble breathing, throat swelling, or skin rashes. If this happens, seek medical help immediately.

Chemotherapy patients have reported side effects, including nausea, vomiting, low white blood cell count, and liver problems when taking the PSK extract. But more research is needed to determine if those side effects result from the chemotherapy or the PSK. 

Turkey Tail Mushroom Precautions 

Turkey Tail mushrooms are not recommended for use during pregnancy or lactation. 

If you have any of the following conditions, you should not take turkey tail without first consulting your healthcare provider:

  • Have a known allergy to any other mushroom species, PSK, or any of turkey tail’s other components, since you may experience similar adverse reactions.
  • Suffer from a bleeding or clotting disorder (or use anticoagulant or antiplatelet agents), since the mushroom may cause low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia).
  • Take immunosuppressants for an autoimmune disease, organ or stem cell transplant, or cancer, since any food or supplement can change the level of immunosuppressant in your blood.

Turkey Tail Mushroom Potential Drug Interactions 

If you are taking any of the following types of medications, you should talk to your physician before combining them with turkey tail mushroom: 

  • Diabetes medicationsREF#156: Turkey tail mushroom may affect blood sugar levels and could interact with diabetes medication, causing your blood sugar to drop too low. 
  • Blood thinner (anticoagulant/antiplatelet) medication: Turkey tail mushroom may have blood thinning properties and slow down blood clotting in people with bleeding disorders.
  • Cyclophosphamide: The PSP in turkey tail mushroom can alter how well cyclophosphamide works as a chemotherapy. 
  • Any chemotherapy: Turkey tail mushroom, PSK, or PSP extracts may interact with certain cancer drugs and should be monitored by your oncologist. Be aware that while its benefits are promising, turkey tail has not been evaluated by the FDA for its role as a cancer-treatment adjuvant. 

Safe Recommended Daily Dosage of Turkey Tail

Since no safety studies have established a specific dosage for taking turkey tail as an herbal supplement, we recommend you start by taking small doses of this mushroom to make sure you do not have any adverse reactions. 

Your dosage will also depend on the type of supplement you take. Some supplements contain whole mushroom in powdered form, such as Gaia Herbs Turkey Tail Mushroom, and others contain one or both of the compounds extracted from the mushroom: PSK and PSP. 

If you are taking 100% powdered turkey tail mushroom, 2,000 mg to 2,500 mg (2 mg to 2.5 mg) per day is considered safe.*

Clinical trials that have tested PSK as an extract on cancer patients have used a daily dosage between 3 grams and 9 grams for up to seven years safely.REF#157 

Turkey Tail Mushroom Combined with Other Mushroom Supplements

Each type of mushroom used as a supplement offers different health benefits. You can combine several pure mushroom supplements safely, or take a mushroom blend designed to support overall wellness.* 

Gaia Herbs offers an Immune Mushroom Blend, which includes turkey tail, reishi, cordyceps, shitake, and chaga to support your body’s immune defenses and maintain well-being.* 

What to Consider When Purchasing a Turkey Tail Mushroom Supplement

To experience maximum benefit from your mushroom supplement, select one that is 100% mushroom extract, with no:

  • Fillers
  • Starch
  • Grains 
  • Growing medium the mushroom was harvested from

Also, look for a mushroom supplement free of mycelium (the root system of the mushroom). This means that only mushroom fruiting bodies (the above ground part of the mushroom) are included in the final product. 

Why? The concentration of the primary active biochemical compound found in mushrooms — beta-glucans — is highest in the fruiting body versus the mycelium. Fruiting bodies contain all the vital nutrients known to support well-being.

Gaia Herbs offers a turkey tail mushroom supplement that meets these requirements. It comes in vegan capsules that contain 400 mg of 100% organic mushroom extract, equivalent to 2.5 grams of dry mushrooms. 

So, if you’re looking for a safe, widely-researched, and antioxidant-rich mushroom supplement to support immune health, gut health, and liver health, turkey tail mushroom is a good one to add to your natural health maintenance regimen.*

REFERENCES:

  • 1. Lo HC, Hsu TH, Lee CH., "Polysaccharopeptides from Fermented Turkey Tail Medicinal Mushroom, Trametes versicolor (Agaricomycetes), Mitigate Oxidative Stress, Hyperglycemia, and Hyperlipidemia in Rats with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus", Int J Med Mushrooms. 2020;22(5):417-429. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2020034560. PMID: 32749097. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32749097/
  • 2. Kathy Abascal, B.S., J.D., RH. And Eric Yarnell, N.D. R.H, "A Turkey Tails Polysaccharide as an Immunochemotherapy Agent in Cancer", August 2007. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/244889954_A_Turkey_Tails_Polysaccharide_as_an_Immunochemotherapy_Agent_in_Cancer