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Trametes versicolor (Coriolus versicolor)

Japanese name – Kawaratake
Chinese name – Yun Zhi
English name – Turkey Tail

T. versicolor is the most extensively researched of all the medicinal mushrooms with large scale clinical trials on the T. versicolor extracts: PSK (‘Krestin’) and PSP in a variety of cancers, including Gastric, Oesophageal, Lung, Breast and Colorectal, showing impressive results 1-8.

PSK and PSP are both polysaccharide-protein complexes that are soluble in water but insoluble in ethanol9. PSK contains 34-35% polysaccharide (~92% glucan) and 28-35% protein10.

PSK has been shown to boost immune cell production, ameliorate chemotherapy and radiotherapy side effects, enhance immune status and tumour infiltration by dendritic and cytotoxic cells and significantly extend survival in cancers of the stomach, colon-rectum, oesophagus, nasopharynx, uterus and lung (non-small cell types), and in an HLA B40-positive breast cancer subset in combination with conventional treatment1. In addition to its immune related effects, PSK has shown an ability to enhance superoxidedismutase and glutathione peroxidase activity11,12.

PSP has been shown to significantly enhance immune status in 70-97% of patients with cancer of the stomach, oesophagus, lung, ovary and cervix8.

Although most clinical trials have been conducted with the above proteoglycan extracts, there is also evidence of immunomodulatory action for T. versicolor biomass, with improvements of immune status in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and enhanced clearance of low grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL) from the cervix.

CANCER– As mentioned above, the use of T. versicolor extracts in cancer treatment is supported by an impressive amount of clinical evidence8:

  • Stomach Cancer – Multiple clinical trials of PSK given alongside surgery and chemotherapy at 3-6g/day significantly extended survival times in stomach cancer at all stages. Even in patients with advanced stomach cancer with metastasis PSK doubled 2 year and 5 year survival and extended 15-year survival.
  • Colorectal – In different trials PSK extended 5-year and 8-year survival after surgery and chemotherapy and after surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy`
  • Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Stages I-III – PSK extended 5-year survival 2-4x for all cancer stages with stage III cancer patients taking PSK having a better prognosis than stage II patients without PSK.
  • Oesophageal – PSK extended 5-year survival after surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy while in double-blind trials PSP significantly extended five-year survival in oesophageal cancer as well as improving quality of life, providing substantial pain relief and enhancing immune status in 70-97 percent of patients with cancers of the stomach, oesophagus, lung, ovary and cervix at a dose of 3g/day.
  • Nasopharyngeal – PSK extended 5-year survival but not disease-free period after radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • Breast Cancer – Evidence from clinical trials (given alongside chemotherapy) is mixed. In one trial PSK was shown to extend survival in patients with oestrogen receptor negative, non-metastasised, stage II cancer but no benefit was shown in another. In a third trial significant benefit was seen for patients positive for HLA B40 with 100% survival after 10 years.
  • Cervical/Uterine Cancer – In combination with radiotherapy PSK (3-6g/day) given to patients with stage III uterine and cervical cancer patients enhanced survival and increased sensitivity of the cancers to radiotherapy. In another trial cervical cancer patients given the same dose together with radiotherapy showed clearance of cancer cells in 36% of patients versus 11% of controls and improved 5-year survival from 48% to 79%. In a recent study using T .versicolor biomass, supplementation with 3g/day produced a 72.5% regression rate in LSIL lesions, compared to 47.5% without supplementation, and also increased the clearance of high risk HPV strains from 8.5% to 91.5%13.

HIV – In several in vitro experiments PSK was found to exhibit anti-HIV activity through multiple routes 9,14,15:

  • Inhibition of HIV reverse transcriptase
  • Inhibition of viral binding to lymphocytes
  • Inhibition of cell-to-cell infection of HIV-1 and HIV-2

Use of T. versicolor supplementation (3.0g/day T.versicolor biomass) has also been reported to improve HIV patients’ immune status and produce improvement in HIV related Kaposi’s sarcoma16,17.

Herpes – Clinically T. versicolor supplementation is seen to reduce the frequency of Herpes simplex virus (HSV) outbreaks and it has also been shown to inactivate HSV in a dose dependent manner18.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) – T. versicolor biomass has shown promise in the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with immune system activation and increased NK cell activity reported in patients at 1.5g/day (3.0/day for the first 2 weeks) over a 2 month period19.

Hepatoprotective – T. versicolor extracts also demonstrate hepatoprotective properties20,21.


Main Therapeutic Application – Cancer
Key Component – Polysaccharides
Dose – Commercial polysaccharide extracts are commonly prescribed at 3g/day and dosage for crude polysaccharide extracts is typically 3-6g/day for cancer and 1-2g/day for immune support. For chronic immune deficient conditions the biomass shows promise at 3g/day, while biomass products have also been used for cancer treatment at 15g/day.

1. Krestin (PSK). Tsukagoshi S, Hashimoto Y, Fujii G, Kobayashi H, Nomoto K, Orita K. Cancer Treat Rev. 1984;11(2):131-55.
2. Anticancer effects and mechanisms of polysaccharide-K (PSK): Implications of cancer immunotherapy. Fisher M, Yang L.X. Anticancer Res. 2002;22:1737-1754.
3. A review of research on the protein-bound polysaccharide (polysaccharopeptide, PSP) from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor (Basidiomycetes: Polyporaceae). Ng T.B. Gen Pharmacol. 1998;30(1):1-4.
4. Polysaccharopeptides of Coriolus versicolor: physiological activity, uses, and production. Cui J, Chisti Y. Biotechnol Adv. 2003;21(2):109-22.
5. Effects of PSK on T and dendritic cells differentiation in gastric or colorectal cancer patients. Kanazawa M, Yoshihara K, Abe H, Iwadate M, Watanabe K, Suzuki S, Endoh Y, Takita K, Sekikawa K, Takenoshita S, Ogata T, Ohto H. Anticancer Res. 2005;25(1B):443-9.
6. The immunomodulator PSK induces in vitro cytotoxic activity in tumour cell lines via arrest of cell cycle and induction of apoptosis. Jiménez-Medina E, Berruguilla E, Romero I, Algarra I, Collado A, Garrido F, Garcia-Lora A. BMC Cancer. 2008;8:78.
7. Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer. Standish L.J, Wenner C.A, Sweet E.S, Bridge C, Nelson A, Martzen M, Novack J, Torkelson C. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2008;6(3):122-8.
8. The use of mushroom glucans and proteoglycans in cancer treatment. Parris K. Alternative Medicine Rev. 2000:5(1)
9. Medicinal value of turkey tail fungus Trametes versicolor (L.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae). A Literature Review. Christopher Hobbs. Int J Med Mushr 2004;6(3)
10. Method of producing nitrogen-containing polysaccharides. Ueno S, Yoshikumi C, Hirose F, Omura Y, Wada T, Fujii T et al. 1980. US Patent 4,202,969.
11. Polysaccharide Krestin enhances manganese superoxide dismutase activity and mRNA expression in mouse peritoneal macrophages. Pang Z.J, Chen Y, Zhou M. Am J Chin Med. 2000;28:331-341
12. Effect of polysaccharide krestin on glutathione peroxidase gene expression in mouse peritoneal macrophages. Pang Z.J, Chen Y, Zhou M. Brit J Biomed. 2000;57:130-16
13. Coriolus versicolor supplementation in HPV patients. Couto S., da Silva D.P. 20th European Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2008.
14. A biological response modifier, PSK, inhibits reverse transcriptase in vitro. Hirose K, Hakozaki M, Kakuchi J, Matsunaga K, Yoshikumi C, Takahashi M, Tochikura T.S, Yamamoto N. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1987;149(2):562-7.
15. Polysaccharopeptide from the turkey tail fungus Trametes versicolor (L.:Fr.) Pilát inhibits human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse Transciptase and Protease. Tzi Bun Ng, Hexiang Wang, Wan D. C. C. Int J Med Mushr. 2006;8(1):39-43
16. The clinical use of Coriolus versicolor supplementation in HIV+ patients and the impact on CD4 count and viral load. Pfeiffer M. 3rd International Symposium on Mushroom Nutrition, 2001.
17. The effectiveness of Coriolus versicolor supplementation in the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma in HIV+Patients. Tindall J, Clegg E. 10th International Congress of Mucosal Immunology, 1999.
18. In vitro inactivation of herpes simplex virus by a biological response modifier, PSK. Monma Y, Kawana T, Shimizu F. Antiviral Res. 1997;35:131-138
19. Coriolus. Jean Munroe. J Integrative Medicine. 2004;8:101-108
20. Effects of a hot water extract of Trametes versicolor on the recovery of rat liver function. Kim B.K et al. Int J Med Mushr. 2000;2(1):35-42
21. Pharmacological studies on certain mushrooms from china. Ooi V.E.C. Int J Med Mushr. 2001;3(4):341-354