The Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom in Cancer Treatment

Author: Laura Vasquez, MSN, APRN, NP-C

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food,” a well-known quote by Hippocrates that stands the test of time. When working with cancer patients, we always address nutrition and food. We also use medicinal compounds that are derived from food whenever possible. Coriolus versicolor or Turkey Tail mushroom is one such compound with some impressive research-backed benefits for cancer patients.

Coriolus is a multicolored fungus that grows wild in various parts of the world and in the United States. The mushroom is also named Turkey Tail due to the appearance resembling; you guessed it – a turkey tail with rings of brown and tan. Medicinal mushrooms such as Coriolus versicolor have been used for centuries, primarily in Asia, to treat lung diseases and cancer. In Japan, Coriolus is an integral part of the standard cancer treatment plan to help strengthen the immune system and is used alongside other standard treatments.

The most active compound in the Coriolis versicolor, which is responsible for the immune enhancing effects, is Polysaccharide K (PSK). PSK is extracted from the mushroom and taken in capsule form. There have been several promising studies of PSK as an adjunct component of cancer care. The mushroom has been studied on patients with gastric, colorectal, breast and lung cancer. Outcomes showed improved lifespan compared to those who did not take PSK in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or radiation. Studies have also correlated PSK with increased immune system cells that help fight cancer such as natural killer cells (NK). The NK cells enhance various mechanisms to disrupt the cancer cell cycle and induce cellular death.1 Those taking Coriolis versicolor report few side effects. It is safe to use in conjunction with chemotherapy agents, radiation, and other supplements. Since this is a member of the fungus family anyone with a mold or allergy to mushrooms should use caution with this supplement. Always speak with your health care provider to see if Coriolis versicolor is appropriate for you.

Laura Vasquez, MSN, APRN, NP-C is now accepting new patients at our Overland Park locations. Call 1-800-447-7276 to schedule!

  1. PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®): Patient Version. 2021 Jul 28. In: PDQ Cancer Information Summaries [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002-. Available from: