The Trametes Versicolor Mushroom

 Trametes versicolor

(Coriolus versicolor)

Known by its popular name “Turkey Tail” the mushroom grows all over the world. The name was given because the mushroom has many colors, similarly to the wild turkey tail.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the mushroom is known by the name “Yun Zhi” in China and Japan(1).

Polysaccharide-K (PSK)

PSK is a polysaccharide (beta-glucan 1-3) related to a protein that was isolated from the mushroom Trametes versicolor, which is used as a part of an oncological treatment for enhancing immune activity. This component is integrated as part of cancer treatments in China and  apan. In Japan it is defined as having activity that improves the response to oncological treatments (adjuvant)(2), especially in cancers of the digestive system; esophageal and rectal cancer, and breast uterus and lung cancers (3), and also prevents renewed cancer outbreaks when taken as a preventive treatment (4-6).

It inhibits cell proliferation in laboratory studies on cancer cell cultures especially when given in combination with Shitake (7).

The use of Trametes extract which contains high concentration of Polysaccharide-K reduces the side effects of chemotherapeutic and radiation treatments, reduces infiltration of cancer cells into the blood stream by activating dendritic and cytotoxic cells and increases the levels of intracellular and liver antioxidants (superoxidedismutase – SOD and glutathione peroxidase)(8-9).

The family of dendritic cells contains many cell groups that are spread in various body systems. Langerhans cells that originate from skin and epithelia are part of this cell family, which are responsible for identifying various factors that enters the body and for evoking the immune in response. The dendritic cells are found in various bodily tissues and are part of the first line immune responders. The Langerhans cells found in the digestive system are the first to recognize the polysaccharides that enter the body. While the glucans go through the digestive system they are sampled by the Langerhans cells that are found in the epithelial tissue along the digestive tube. After the glucans are absorbed into the blood stream and are transported to the liver, dendritic like cells of the Kuffer type are sampled, the glucans are transferred to the lymphatic system and are sampled by the dendritic cells found in the lymph nodes. An active part of the polysaccharide K (Carbon-14 radiolabeling) is found in various tissues and in the lymphatic system, after it was broken by the digestive system or went through a modulation by the liver (16). Finally, macrophages of the blood system that come in contact with the polysaccharide are stimulated, as well as other pathogenic recognition factors (17, 18).

The polysaccharide also affects new phagocytes that are created with the knowledge of identifying carcinogen cells.  The cells that
“hunt“ antigens are also activated by the polysaccharide.

T cells (killer or pre-killer T-cells) that are active nearby tissues (and not only in the blood stream) react to glucans bedding, and their activity against cells that went through carcinogenic or pre- carcinogenic modulation  is enhanced (19,20).

In human stomach cancer studies, in which patients were injected by polysaccharide K extract (PSP) into the stomach tissue that engulfed a tumor in a pre-surgery procedure, an anti-tumor T-cells activity was observed around the tumor due to the Langerhans dendritic cells (20).

In healthy blood, immune modulation of NK cells was also observed after taking the Trametes extract (19, 20).

In a double blind – placebo Phase II and III in situ study on metastatic tumors, an Trametes extract (PSP) increased the cytotoxic activity of
the NK cells, increased the IL-2 level, and increased the activity of T cells of the CD4 helper/CD8 suppressor type (all of the which are the natural
response to tumors)(19).

CFS – Chronic fatigue syndrome

A possible major factor in the outbreak of chronic fatigue syndrome is the imbalance of the immune system after a viral, such as herpes and mononucleosis viruses (EBV, CMV) infection, Polio, Adenoviruses, Retroviruses. In patients, the Trametes extract increased the NK level and balanced the immune profile and also activated the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) that reduces oxidant damage and has strong anti-inflammatory activity. All these factors improved the immune indices and the symptoms of patients.


In in-vitro studies Trametes demonstrated activity that inhibited the transcription of the virus, inhibit the binding of the virus to lymphocytes and inhibit cell-to-cell adherence.

The Trametes polysaccharide inhibits the HIV virus by inhibiting transcriptase and protease enzymes. These two enzymes are essential for the life cycle of the virus. The polysaccharide also inhibits additional proteases such as trypsin, α-chymotrypsin, proteinase K, subtilisin, elastase.


A study explored the effect of the Trametes extract PSK on type 1 and 2 Herpes virus (HSV). These types are expressed in skin and genital herpes. In an in-vitro study Trametes extract was found to deactivate viruses from both human and laboratory sources. Viruses that were not destroyed by the extract were not able produce the proteins necessary for taking over the host DNA (15).


  2. Krestin (PSK). Tsukagoshi S, Hashimoto Y, Fujii G, Kobayashi H, Nomoto K, Orita K. Cancer Treat Rev. 1984;11(2):131-55.
  3. Fisher, M. Y. (May 2002). “Anticancer effects and mechanisms of polysaccharide-K (PSK): implications of cancer immunotherapy”. Anticancer research 22 (3): 1737–1754.
  4. Hsieh TC, Wu JM (January 2001), “Cell growth and gene modulatory activities of Yunzhi (Windsor Wunxi) from mushroom
    Trametes versicolor in androgen-dependent and androgen-insensitive human prostate cancer cells”, Int J Oncol 18 (1): 81–8
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  8. 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
  9. 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
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    reverse Transciptase and Protease. Tzi Bun Ng, Hexiang Wang, Wan D. C. C. Int J Med Mushr. 2006;8(1):39-43
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    International Congress of Mucosal Immunology, 1999.
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  18. Tsujitani S, Furukawa T, Tamada R, et al. Langerhans cells and prognosis in patients with gastric carcinoma. Cancer 1987;59:501-505.
  19. Kariya Y, Inoue N, Kihara T, et al. Activation of human natural killer cells by the proteinbound polysaccharide PSK independently of interferon and interleukin 2. Immunol Lett 1992;31:241-246.
  20. Mizutani Y, Yoshida O. Activation by the protein-bound polysaccharide PSK (Krestin) of cytotoxic lymphocytes that act on fresh autologous tumor cells and T24 human urinary bladder transitional carcinoma cell line in patients with urinary bladder cancer. J Urol 1991;145:1082-1087.
  21. Coriolus. Jean Munroe. J Integrative Medicine. 2004;8:101-108