Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version
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Medicinal mushrooms have been used for hundreds of years, mainly in Asian countries, for treatment of infections. More recently, they have also been used in the treatment of pulmonary diseases and cancer. Medicinal mushrooms have been approved adjuncts to standard cancer treatments in Japan and China for more than 30 years and have an extensive clinical history of safe use as single agents or combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
More than 100 species of medicinal mushrooms are used in Asia. Some of the more commonly used species include Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor (turkey tail), Lentinus edodes (shiitake), and Grifola frondosa (maitake).
Studies have examined the effects of mushrooms on immune response pathways and on direct antitumor mechanisms. The immune effects are mediated through the mushroom's stimulation of innate immune cells, such as monocytes, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells. The activity is generally considered to be caused by the presence of high-molecular-weight polysaccharides in the mushrooms, although other constituents may also be involved. Clinical trials in cancer patients have demonstrated that G. lucidum products are generally well tolerated.
Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are hypertext linked (at first use in each section) to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms, which is oriented toward nonexperts. When a linked term is clicked, a definition will appear in a separate window.
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- Jin X, Ruiz Beguerie J, Sze DM, et al.: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 6: CD007731, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Turkey tail is a woody bracket polypore fungus that grows on dead logs worldwide. The scientific name of turkey tail is Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd, although it has been known by other names, notably Coriolus versicolor (L. ex Fr.) Quel. It is known as Yun Zhi in traditional Chinese medicine and Kawaratake (roof tile fungus) in Japan. The name turkey tail refers to its concentric rings of brown and tan, which resemble the tail feathers of a turkey.
- There are many other species of Trametes, some of which are difficult to distinguish from turkey tail. Internal transcribed spacer sequences alone have been found inadequate to distinguish turkey tail from other species of Trametes, so other molecular characters are required for that task.
- The fungus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many years to treat pulmonary diseases.[2,3] A purified hot water extract prepared from the cultivated fungal mycelium has been used in Japan for its immunomodulatory effects as an adjuvant treatment for cancer.[4-6] Polysaccharide-K (PSK) or krestin, from the mushroom versicolor, is an approved mushroom product used for cancer treatment in Japan. PSK is a proprietary formulation from the Kureha Corporation. PSK has been used as an adjunctive cancer treatment in thousands of patients since the mid-1970s. The safety record for PSK is well established in Japan. Few adverse events have been reported in patients treated with PSK. Polysaccharopeptide (PSP) is another extract from T. versicolor produced in China.
- Carlson A, Justo A, Hibbett DS: Species delimitation in Trametes: a comparison of ITS, RPB1, RPB2 and TEF1 gene phylogenies. Mycologia 106 (4): 735-45, 2014 Jul-Aug. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Ng TB: A review of research on the protein-bound polysaccharide (polysaccharopeptide, PSP) from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor (Basidiomycetes: Polyporaceae). Gen Pharmacol 30 (1): 1-4, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Ying J, Mao X, Ma Q, et al.: Icons of Medicinal Fungi from China. Beijing, China: Science Press, 1987.
- Tsukagoshi S, Hashimoto Y, Fujii G, et al.: Krestin (PSK). Cancer Treat Rev 11 (2): 131-55, 1984. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cui J, Chisti Y: Polysaccharopeptides of Coriolus versicolor: physiological activity, uses, and production. Biotechnol Adv 21 (2): 109-22, 2003. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Sakagami H, Aoki T, Simpson A, et al.: Induction of immunopotentiation activity by a protein-bound polysaccharide, PSK (review). Anticancer Res 11 (2): 993-9, 1991 Mar-Apr. [PUBMED Abstract]