Healing Support for Cancer: Turkey Tail Mushroom
Mushrooms are a staple in our household. I use them in just about every dish I make simply because I’m a big fan of the “earthy” flavor they promote. Of course, not everyone shares my love of these fungi as a daily addition to their cuisine, but whether or not you like to eat mushrooms, their immune-boosting properties can’t be denied. In fact, it’s pretty amazing to review all of the studies on the medicinal benefits of mushrooms, especially when it comes to the Turkey Tail or Coriolus Versicolor for cancer.
Coriolus Versicolor for Cancer
My research on various mushrooms has left me particularly intrigued by one specific species: the Turkey Tail or Coriolus Versicolor. This mushroom is known as the Yun Zhi in China and has been used in herbal medicine as far back as the 15th century when it was thought to benefit one’s spirit and vitality while supporting the strength of tendons and bones. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, this mushroom species acts through the spleen and heart meridians to rid the body of dampness and phlegm. Centuries ago, in order to experience its health benefits, the Coriolus Versicolor mushroom was picked, dried and steeped in boiling water and then consumed as a tonic. Nowadays, Hot water extraction is used to retrieve either Coriolus Versicolor PSK or Coriolus Versicolor PSP, two powerful extracts which are then concentrated, purified, and dried into a powder for easy consumption in capsule form.
The difference between PSK and PSP extracts
Coriolus Versicolor PSK is the polysaccharide (a large chain-like carbohydrate molecule built from smaller sugar molecules) extracted from the mushroom. It has exhibited the ability to enhance the body’s immune response and animal studies have shown it can inhibit the growth of tumors and malignant cells. A 2015 review of the literature on PSK and lung cancer patients showed that PSK has a history of improving immune function, reducing tumor-associated symptoms and extending the life of these individuals.
PSP (polysaccharopeptide) on the other hand, is very specifically a polysaccharide bound by a protein that is extracted from the mycelia of a specific strain of Coriolus Versicolor called COV-1. Over the years it has been determined that this active compound of the Coriolus Versicolor mushroom has significant antitumor, antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial properties while having no toxic effect on healthy cells.
PSP’s effectiveness at triggering a healthy immune response in the body has led to continued comprehensive research of this compound using western-medicine-based methods. As a result, the medicinal properties of Coriolus Versicolor have gained credibility throughout the world. In fact, Coriolus Versicolor PSP has gone through formal Phase I, II and III clinical trials – very rare for a product of its kind.
Digging deeper into Coriolus Versicolor PSP
As described above, PSP (polysaccharopeptide) is a molecularly bound combination of a polysaccharide and a protein. Because the molecular structure of a protein is similar to that of a bacterial invader, it is thought that when PSP enters the body, it may fool the body into initiating an immune response to keep that “invader” at bay. As a result, the immune system increases killer T-cell (a type of white blood cell that kills cancer cells, virus-infected cells or cells that have been damaged) and macrophage (also a white blood cell that engulfs and digests cellular debris, foreign substances, microbes, cancer cells, and anything else that does not have the types of proteins specific to healthy body cells) activity for protection.
Be aware that the term “PSP” is sometimes used very generally as a label for any combination of polysaccharides and peptides. In other words, not all PSP products are isolated from the same mushroom species so it’s very important to search for Coriolus Versicolor PSP specifically. Not only that, but the origin of isolation of the PSP can also vary. Look for Coriolus Versicolor PSP that has been isolated from the mycelium of the mushroom rather than from the fruiting body.
Coriolus Versicolor PSP as cancer support
PSP has been shown to boost the number of immune cells, lessen the nasty symptoms of chemotherapy, and allow what are called “dendritic cells” to get into the tumor, identifying it to the immune system as something that has to be destroyed. Coriolus Versicolor PSP raised leucocyte and neutrophil (both are white blood cells that fight infection and foreign “invaders”) blood levels in a recent clinical trial and this compound led to higher serum IgG and IgM concentrations (these are antibodies that can recognize and neutralize bacteria and viruses) in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer.
Also when it comes to cancer support, Coriolus Versicolor PSP can alleviate the symptoms of conventional therapies like radiation and chemotherapy while boosting the patient’s immune system.
Although there have been many studies supporting the positive benefits of Coriolus Versicolor PSP when it comes to its use as a part of cancer therapy, what actually makes PSP work in this healing-supportive manner has not been all that clear. One 2012 study that sought to figure that out determined that Coriolus PSP actually stimulated monocyte function (monocytes are white blood cells that are able to turn into macrophages, which basically travel the body and engulf pathogens and other faulty cells) while not significantly affecting the numbers of other immune cells such as T-cells, NK, and B-cells. The authors felt that this provides a bit of a direction for cancer therapy, as PSP is able to target tumors and trigger the death of those cells.
There is one brand of Coriolus PSP – I’m-Unity® – that has been studied extensively for its use for splenic hemangiosarcoma in dogs, a type of cancer that originates in the blood vessels, is very aggressive and most commonly affects the spleen. The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is looking for clinical trial subjects as of the writing of this article. View the canine splenic hemangiosarcoma clinical trial information here. The hope is that studies like this will lead to the creation of additional therapies focused on aggressive cancers in humans using Coriolus PSP’s ability to inhibit cell adhesion, cell migration, and cell invasion.
In addition to its incredible promise as an anticancer agent, Coriolus PSP also possesses antioxidant, antibiotic, antiviral, anti-HIV, liver-protective and anti-inflammatory properties. This compound may also help lower blood pressure and reduce fatty acids and sugar in the blood.
Dosage of Coriolus Versicolor PSP
The following dosing information can be found on the I’m-Unity® website:
“For healthy individuals, start at one 400-mg capsule three times a day. Depending on your body constitution you can escalate the dose to a maximum of 3 capsules three times a day.”
Contraindications and Side Effects of Coriolus Versicolor
Because of the ability of Coriolus Versicolor to stimulate the immune system, caution is advised when using this compound if you have an autoimmune condition, are using immunosuppressive medications, or have had an organ transplant.
Minor side effects such as dark-colored stools, darkening of fingernails, or gastrointestinal upset may be experienced during the use of Coriolus Versicolor PSP. Mild toxicity has been reported when used in conjunction with chemotherapy, although it is possible that this was a reaction to the chemotherapy alone. Otherwise, no serious side effects or toxicities have been reported for doses up to 15 grams daily.
There have been no reports of drug interactions, nor do the extracts of CoriolVersicolorlor seem to affect the metabolism or effectiveness of other drugs, including chemotherapy, with the possible exception of immunosuppressants as discussed earlier.
The safety of extracts from Coriolus versicolor has not yet been established for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with liver or kidney disease. As usual, be sure to speak with your physician prior to adding this to your health regimen.
- Trovato, A., et al. “Redox modulation of cellular stress response and lipoxin A4 expression by Coriolus versicolor in rat brain: Relevance to Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis.” Neurotoxicology (2015).
- Shi, Shao-Hua, et al. “β-glucans from Coriolus versicolor protect mice against S. typhimurium challenge by activation of macrophages.” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules (2016).
- Tsang, K. W., et al. “Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide peptide slows progression of advanced non-small cell lung cancer.” Respiratory medicine97.6 (2003): 618-624.
- Zeng, Fanya, et al. “Molecular characterization of Coriolus versicolor PSP-induced apoptosis in human promyelotic leukemic HL-60 cells using cDNA microarray.” International journal of oncology 27.2 (2005): 513-523.
- Fritz, Heidi, et al. “Polysaccharide K and Coriolus versicolor Extracts for Lung Cancer A Systematic Review.” Integrative cancer therapies (2015): 1534735415572883.
- Sekhon, Bhagwant Kaur, et al. “PSP activates monocytes in resting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: Immunomodulatory implications for cancer treatment.” Food chemistry 138.4 (2013): 2201-2209.
- Lim, Beong Ou. “Coriolus versicolor Suppresses Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Inhibiting the Expression of STAT1 and STAT6 Associated with IFN‐γ and IL‐4 Expression.” Phytotherapy Research 25.8 (2011): 1257-1261
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