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AHCC® Versus Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms have been thought to have traits that can help boost the immune system. Many people may be surprised that AHCC® is not an actual mushroom. Rather, it is a proprietary blended extract from the mycelia of shiitake mushroom that maximizes the health benefits found in these medicinal mushrooms. AHCC® undergoes a patented process that reduces the molecular weight of the nutrients, helping to improve absorption and efficacy.* This is why AHCC® is high in alpha-glucans as opposed to most medicinal mushrooms, which tend to be high in beta-glucans.  

It can be very confusing as an American consumer to navigate the world of supplements. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate medicinal mushrooms or their extracts as medicine, but instead as nutritional supplements. These supplements are regulated in the same fashion as your daily multivitamin supplement may be. There are good news and bad news about this approach. The good news is that you have the option to try a wide range of substances that can potentially be helpful to your health. The bad news is that you, the consumer, are entirely responsible for conducting due diligence to investigate the truthfulness of vendor claims about the contents and effects of their supplement. Don’t worry though--we are here to help you clear through the clutter and bogus claims that can be pervasive in this market. 

It should always be emphasized that supplements are not medicine. You should not use medicinal mushroom supplements to try and treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. These supplements should only be taken in a supplementary way to generally contribute to a comprehensive health and wellness regimen that includes a healthy diet and exercise. If you gain nothing else from this article, please at least remember that you always need to consult your physician before starting a new supplement. You should never replace a prescription medication with a supplement. It is also important to note that supplements, although they are not prescription medications, may significantly impair or prevent the mechanisms by which some prescription medications work. This again, stresses the important fact that you need to always consult a physician before starting a new supplement, no matter what.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Turkey tail mushrooms are usually found on the bases of trees or on fallen trees in heavily wooded areas and forests. They are shaped like a disc and have gotten their name because of a close physical resemblance to the tail of a turkey. Turkey tail mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a very long time and are thought to help with respiratory issues. Below is a quick summary of just a few potential benefits of turkey tail mushrooms:

  1. Contains Antioxidants: Antioxidants can help mitigate the damage caused by oxidative stress. Free radicals are molecules that can cause damage to DNA and start the process of malignant growth. Therefore, it is essential to maintain an appropriate level of antioxidants, which turkey tail mushrooms can help you achieve.* One study detected over 35 unique phenolic compounds in turkey tail mushroom extract. Antioxidants can promote immune system health by helping to reduce inflammation. *
  2. Contains Polysaccharopeptides: These immune-boosting carbohydrates are plentiful in turkey tail extract and are important in the body's immune response. Dendritic cells are another essential part of immunity function, and it is thought that turkey tail mushrooms can help stimulate the proliferation of these cells.* 
  3. May Enhance Gut Health: Health of the digestive system is crucial to overall human health. One of the body's most essential functions in extracting nutrients from food. Turkey tail mushrooms contain prebiotics, which help nourish positive bacteria that aids your body in digestion. Studies have found that the compounds in turkey tail mushrooms may suppress the growth of problematic bacteria. It is thought that turkey tail mushrooms can positively affect gut health by potentially promoting a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.* 
  4. May Possess Antibacterial Qualities: In a test-tube study, turkey tail extract inhibited the growth of harmful bacterial pathogens. 

AHCC® Mushrooms

AHCC® Mushrooms are specially engineered to have maximum benefits. While single-mushroom supplements can be beneficial, the innovation and complexity involved with the manufacture of AHCC® make it easier for the body to absorb. The process of making the compound results in a lower molecular weight and an extremely high level of alpha-glucans. The benefits of this compound are similar to turkey tail and other medicinal mushrooms, though there are also quite a few differences

Alternative medicine has been using AHCC® since the 1980s to try and boost immunity, and also as a complementary treatment to mainstream treatments. It has steadily gained popularity since then, and although it is a supplement, there is a good amount of human studies conducted showing promise for potential benefit and unlikelihood of harm. AHCC® is extracted from the Shiitake species, as well as others that fall under that species group, called basidiomycetes. Like turkey tail mushrooms, AHCC® is still considered a supplement in the United States even though it’s commonly used as alternative medicine in Japan and other Asian nations. 

AHCC is thought to help boost the immune system, and human studies are in the works to build a greater foundation of evidence for this.* 

Immune system support is a hot topic of late given the recent times. Much of the affected population has existing conditions or immune system deficiencies. Thus, interest has peaked in any product that may help boost immunity. While there is still not enough evidence to definitively say that AHCC® definitively boosts immunity, one study did suggest that it enhances the body's ability to produce dendritic cells, which can assist in the body's immune system function. *

If you’re a consumer, you should only select vendors that back their claims with evidence from human trials. Many supplements do not even have enough human trial evidence with definitive dosages demonstrated to work efficiently on humans. Fortunately, if you’re looking to take AHCC®, there’s more  information available to you than most supplements

It is always important to do your own due diligence as a consumer in the supplement space. Make sure you can verify the ingredients and claims of whatever vendor you are using. You are responsible for selecting products that meet your standards. Medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake or mushroom turkey tale can have many benefits, but they should always be treated as supplements and not a cure-all!


Medically reviewed by Jimmy Salas Rushford

Written by Quality of Life – Updated on March 3, 2021

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