Known as the turkey tail mushroom because of its appearance, the Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor is honored among other mushrooms in traditional Chinese medicine for extending lives. Modern medical research shows that this is due to its anti-cancer activities.
Polysaccharide-K or polysaccharide kurcha is the most important component of the turkey tail mushroom. This protein-based sugar can be extracted and then taken as tea or tablet. Now legally approved in Japan as an adjuvant or supplement with chemotherapy, polysaccharide-K is on its way to being formally recognized for its effects against cancer. Current medical research shows its ability to boost the immune system especially during chemotherapy, when the body needs it the most.
Polysaccharide-K is responsible for immune system regulation. Research on this compound shows that the body is stimulated to produce more lymphocytes or white blood cells to kill viruses or harmful cells. These lymphocytes include natural killer T cells and cytotoxic T cells, and T helper cells that help the former two become stronger.
This activity of polysaccharide-K is useful in treating cancer because the processes that facilitate the growth of cancer cells are inhibited. Polysaccharide-K can inhibit platelet aggregation, the accumulation of platelets where cancer cells can let tumors transfer and grow. Polysaccharide-K can also prevent tumor detachment, the phenomenon where a tumor is removed only to reattach and spread its cells on a new body part.
Another protein sugar called polysaccharide peptide can be extracted from the turkey tail mushroom. Polysaccharide-K is known to have positive effects against gastric and colorectal cancers and lung cancers, while polysaccharide peptide or PSP can fight mononuclear leukemia and lymphoma. Polysaccharide peptide can cause apoptosis or programmed cell death against the leukemic cells.
Turkey tail mushroom extracts are most useful as an adjuvant in cancer therapy. The polysaccharide-K can preserve the immune system during chemotherapy. Many cancer patients experience a drop in their immune system function because of chemotherapy; introducing polysaccharide-K can help their body retain its immune system and fight cancer cells effectively. Furthermore, it can enhance the effects of chemotherapy, specifically the activity of doxorubicin and etoposide which are common chemotherapy medicines.
Turkey tail mushroom extracts can help cancer patients have better chances of overcoming the disease, and prevent other people from acquiring it. Boosting the immune system can aid in avoiding sicknesses, and if they occur, the body can repair itself more efficiently. No wonder Chinese traditional medicine holds the turkey tail or yun zhi in such high regard. For more information, see Cancer.org.
How Turkey Tail Mushroom Helps Preserve Lives