Turkey Tail for Cancer and Beyond

Turkey Tail is a medicinal mushroom. It is also known as Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor, and Yun Zhi in traditional Chinese medicine. Commercial extracts of Coriolus include polysaccharide peptides (PSPs) or polysaccharide K (PSK). Beyond eating the mushroom, it can be found in a powder, capsule, tincture form. It is best as water extract as it contains a higher content of the beneficial phenolic compounds. (1)

Turkey tail is most commonly used in cancer care to help stimulate the immune system, directly inhibit growth of cancer cells and slow progression of disease as well as overall improve quality of life by reducing side effects of conventional treatments and cancer-related symptoms. (2-9)

PSP has been found to increase expression of cytokines and chemokines, active natural kill (NK) cells and enhance dendritic and T-cell infiltration in tumors. (2) There has been ongoing research showing that turkey tail may enhance immune function (lymphocytes and NK cells) in breast cancer undergoing radiation. (3) In colorectal cancer patients, it may be useful to improve quality of life in terms of mitigating side of chemotherapy. (4,5) It may also lead to an increase in disease-free survival when used alongside standard chemotherapy in colorectal cancer. (6,7) In patients with liver cancer, when Coriolus was used alongside conventional treatments had improved cognition, social, and emotional functioning in addition to nausea, vomiting, pain, insomnia, constipation, diarrhea. (7,8) Interestingly, there has been some evidence for the use of vaginal gel including Coriolus to enhance HPV clearance in low-grade cervical lesions. (10)

Benefits of Turkey Tail beyond cancer: (2,8,9)

  • – Enhance gut microbiome diversity
  • – Immune Health: increase T and B cells
  • – Anti-microbial
  • – Memory enhancing, anti-aging
  • – Liver protecting

1. Habtemariam S. Trametes versicolor (Synn. Coriolus versicolor) Polysaccharides in Cancer Therapy: Targets and Efficacy. Biomedicines. 2020;8(5):135. Published 2020 May 25. doi:10.3390/biomedicines8050135

2. Gariboldi MB, Marras E, Ferrario N, et al. Anti-Cancer Potential of Edible/Medicinal Mushrooms in Breast Cancer. Int J Mol Sci. 2023;24(12):10120. Published 2023 Jun 14. doi:10.3390/ijms241210120

3. Torkelson CJ, Sweet E, Martzen MR, et al. Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor in Women with Breast Cancer. ISRN Oncol. 2012;2012:251632. doi:10.5402/2012/251632

4. Dan A, Swain R, Belonce S, Jacobs RJ. Therapeutic Effects of Medicinal Mushrooms on Gastric, Breast, and Colorectal Cancer: A Scoping Review. Cureus. 2023;15(4):e37574. Published 2023 Apr 14. doi:10.7759/cureus.37574

5. Ohwada S, Ogawa T, Makita F, et al. Beneficial effects of protein-bound polysaccharide K plus tegafur/uracil in patients with stage II or III colorectal cancer: analysis of immunological parameters. Oncol Rep. 2006;15(4):861-868.

6. Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):32-44.

7. Chay WY, Tham CK, Toh HC, et al. Coriolus versicolor (Yunzhi) Use as Therapy in Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients with Poor Liver Function or Who Are Unfit for Standard Therapy. J Altern Complement Med. 2017;23(8):648-652. doi:10.1089/acm.2016.0136

8. Jeitler M, Michalsen A, Frings D, et al. Significance of Medicinal Mushrooms in Integrative Oncology: A Narrative Review. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:580656. Published 2020 Nov 11. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.580656

9. Gil-Antuñano SP, Serrano Cogollor L, López Díaz AC, et al. Efficacy of a Coriolusversicolor-Based Vaginal Gel in Human Papillmavirus-Positive Women Older Than 40 Years: A Sub-Analysis of PALOMA Study. J Pers Med. 2022;12(10):1559. Published 2022 Sep 22. doi:10.3390/jpm12101559

10. Park HJ. Current Uses of Mushrooms in Cancer Treatment and Their Anticancer Mechanisms. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Sep 10;23(18):10502. doi: 10.3390/ijms231810502. PMID: 36142412; PMCID: PMC9504980.

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