A Boost to the Immune System?

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An extract from the turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor)—commonly found in the woods of North America, Asia and Europe—may boost the immune system, according to a study presented this week at the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ annual meeting.

The turkey tail mushroom (illustrated above) is too tough to eat, but it may be ingested as a liquid or powdered extract, note researchers from Bastyr University’s School of Natural Health Sciences and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. One such extract, known as Polysaccharide Krestin (PSK), is produced by Kureha, Inc., in Tokyo, Japan, and it has shown some beneficial effects in the treatment of certain cancers—especially when used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

Bastyr and UT researchers isolated immune cells from blood taken from nine healthy volunteers. Their findings suggest PSK may strengthen the immune system against diseases like cancer. It should be noted, however, that this study sample was extremely small, so further testing is necessary. The researchers believe their study, funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, invites further examination of selected extracts from medicinal mushrooms.

As with any herb or supplement, always check with your traditional or natural healthcare provider before adding it to your organic food regimen.

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