The Activities of Coriolus

Ken Babal, C.N.

 Coriolus (also known as Trametes) may be the most studied medicinal mushroom of all. The immune-enhancing activities of Coriolus and its constituents have been extensively studied in Japan since the mid-1970s, with over 400 clinical studies conducted on it. It’s common name, turkey tail, is derived from its multicolored, fan-shaped fruiting bodies that grow in overlapping clusters.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Coriolus is used to clear dampness and phlegm, heal lung disorders, increase energy, strengthen the physique, and benefit people with chronic conditions. Medical use includes liver ailments, including hepatitis B and chronic active hepatitis, infection and inflammation of the upper respiratory, urinary and digestive tracts and for strengthening the immune response.

Coriolus use was first recorded during the Ming Dynasty of China, and brought to the attention of the modern world in a 1965 Japanese report of a patient with stomach cancer who benefited from drinking a tea that contained this mushroom. Subsequent laboratory and animal research identified the source of the tea’s anti-tumor effects to be two polysaccharides.

PSK Anti-Cancer Drug

Coriolus is the source of PSK (polysaccharide-K) (brand name Krestin), one of the all-time best-selling cancer drugs sold mainly in Europe and Japan. Clinical trials suggest that PSK can be used to treat a wide variety of cancers by increasing survival rates and lengthening intervals between illnesses, without causing major side effects. PSK seems to work in multiple steps of the malignant process by inhibiting adhesion, invasion, motility and metastatic growth of tumor cells in animal models of cancer.1,2 PSK is also beneficial for maintaining general immune health with no reported adverse effects.

A randomized, controlled clinical trial examined the effect of PSK administration on the prognosis of 185 lung cancer patients who also received surgery and radiation treatments.3 The study found that the five-year survival rate of patients with stages I or II cancer who received PSK was 39 percent. Among those with stage III disease who received PSK it was 22 percent. In comparison with the non-administered groups, survival rate was only 16 percent and 5 percent respectively. It is notable that stage III patients using PSK had a better survival rate than stage I patients not treated. (Stages describe the severity of a person’s cancer and whether or not cancer has spread in the body.)

Another study examined PSK as an adjuvant treatment after surgery in 110 colon cancer patients.4 The ten-year randomized, controlled trial found a remarkable enhancement of cellular immune activity as well as prolongation of a disease-free period in patients taking PSK orally. The survival rate was more than doubled over that of the control group.

PSK has potent antimicrobial activity against E. coli, Listeria and Candida albicans,5,6 as the mushroom uses antimicrobial agents to protect itself against rot. The traditional use of Coriolus in soups and teas conferred this medicinal benefit to humans.

Another important feature of Coriolus is the ability of its protein-bound polysaccharides to stimulate superoxide dismutase (SOD).7,8 SOD is the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzyme that neutralizes free radicals, and endogenous antioxidants are thought to be much more powerful than exogenous ones. (Free radicals are unstable molecules that are destructive to cells, causing deterioration and aging.)

Coriolus appears to act in part by restoring the balance of dendritic and T-helper cells and cytokines related to these cells’ function and maturation in cancer patients.


1. Kobayashi H, Matsunaga K, Fujii M. PSK as a chemopreventive agent. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 1993 May-1993 Jun;2(3):271-6.

2. Ooi VE, Liu F. Immunomodulation and anti-cancer activity of polysaccharide-protein complexes. [Review] [179 refs]. Current Medicinal Chemistry. 2000 Jul;7(7):715-29.

3. Hayakawa H, Mitsuibashi N, Saito Y, Takahashi M et al. Effect of Krestin (PSK) as adjuvant treatment on the prognosis after radical radiotherapy in patients with non-small lung cancer. Anticancer Res. 1993; 13: 1815-1820.

4. Torisu, M., et al. Significant prolongation of disease-free period gained by oral polysaccharide K (PSK) administration after curative surgical operation of colorectal cancer. Cancer 1990; 31: 261-268.

5. Tsukagoshi, S et al. Krestin (PSK). Cancer Treatment Review. 1984; 11:131-155.

6. Sakagami, H. et al. Induction of immunopotentiation activity by a protein-bound polysaccharide, PSK. 1991; 11:993-1000.

7. Kariya K, Nakamura K, Nomoto K, Matam S, Saigenji K. Mimicking of superoxide dismutase activity by protein-bound polysaccharide of Coriolus versicolor QUEL and oxidative stress relief for cancer patients. Molecular Biotherapy. 1992; 4: 40-46.

8. Kobayashi H, Matsunaga K, Masahhiko F. PSK as a chemoprotective agent. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. 1993; 2: 271-276.

9. Soares, R. et al. Maitake (D Fraction) Mushroom Extract Induces Apoptosis in Breast Cancer Cells by BAK-1 Gene Activation. Journal of Medicinal Food XX(X) 2011, pp. 1-10.

10. Konno, S. Anticancer Effects of Maitake D-Fraction (DF) on a Variety of Human Cancers: Its Combination with Chemotherapeutic Drugs or Vitamin C. 2011 (Accepted for publication in American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine A4M News.