The medicinal mushroom for protection against infections

Coriolus versicolor or Trametes versicolor is a very common fungus that grows on organic substrates such as tree trunks from which it obtains its nourishment. Due to its woody consistency, it is not considered a good edible mushroom. However, it is commonly used as an infusion or extract due to its biochemical compositionIt is also known as Turkey Tail because its carpophore is very similar to the tail feathers of a turkey. Due to its chromatic variability, it is also known as the ‘Rainbow Mushroom’. Among other names, Coriolus is known as ‘Yun-zhi or Kawarakate‘.

Essential notes on the ‘rainbow mushroom’

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Turkey Tail is used to “stimulate the spleen-pancreas complex”, which is used to “reduce Tan” (the Chinese term for any tissue formation caused by the accumulation of phlegm, fibroids, cysts, etc.). It also “disperses dampness and unblocks and tonifies Qi (flow of vital energy)”. The most important compounds include polysaccharides such as beta-glucans, mannitol, and proteoglycans such as polysaccharide K (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP), as well as sterols. Glycoproteins (such as PSK) have been extensively studied for the development of different drugs. The areas of interest for the study of C. versicolor are:

  • Immunology: studies on its capacity to enhance the immune response and activation of NK cells
  • Integrative support: clinical trials in patients using Coriolus to improve survival in combination with other treatments

Coriolus is probably the most studied mushroom in modern science and Coriolus extracts (containing concentrated levels of compounds such as PSK) have been used in primary cancer treatment in Japan since the 1980s.

Properties, applications and uses of Coriolus

The cultivation of Coriolus on substrates free of toxic substances is essential when growing  for therapeutic purposes or for the production of extracts for pharmacological use. Japan and China extracted two polysaccharide fractions from Turkey Tail (C. versicolor) PSP and PSK – which were approved as drugs. In 1990, PSK accounted for 25% of cancer drugs used in JapanTraditionally, Turkey Tail was used in its dried and powdered state to prepare infusions and currently it is also used as an ingredient, which can be added to coffee, hot chocolate, or in yoghurts or smoothies, as is the case with other medicinal mushrooms such as Cordyceps or Reishi. Thanks to modern extraction methods, its active biomolecules can be concentrated without denaturing them, making them more bioavailable. Turkey Tail extract (Mico Corio) is usually marketed as a food supplement in capsule form, although liquid extract formulations are also available. Other forms are available, but have more limited efficacy.

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NUTRIENT HIGHLIGHTS

C. versicolor contains nutrients of functional interest, active biomolecules among which the most important are:

ERGOSTEROL

PSK

(polysaccharide K or Krestin)

PSP

(polysaccharide peptide)

Habitat and distribution

This medicinal fungus is found almost everywhere in the world and usually grows on the remains of dead trunks of various tree species and in different climates. It is cultivated on wood both for therapeutic purposes and to obtain various extracts for pharmacological use

C. versicolor usually grows naturally on the remains of trunks of different tree species and in different temperate zones and climates

Mycological notes

Turkey Tail belongs to the order Polyporales, family Polyporaceae, genus Trametes, of which Coriolus is a synonym. Polyporaceae play a very important role in the ecosystem, as they decompose wood and recycle nutrients and minerals so that they can be used by other organisms. 

The genus Coriolus is abundant in Europe and comprises seven to nine lignicolous species. Its appearance does not correspond to the classical form of a higher fungus, as it forms colonies with a multitude of annual carpophores 2-6 cm wide. Its fine, velvety-looking carpophores stand out on the upper part, with alternating brownish glabrous stripes in concentric shapes of various shades; the edges are dominated by a whitish growth-indicating stripe. 

For several centuries, C. versicolor has been a highly prized species of medicinal interest. It is now a component of widely used drugs in Japan as a result of major studies of its anti-cancer properties over the last thirty years.

TRAMETES CULTIVATION

This small and light medicinal fungus is easily cultivated on Quercus robur  wood inoculated with pellets. However, it is also possible to use softwoods such as poplar or acacia, among others.

In nature it is found as a wood-destroying saprophyte, which means it can be harvested in large quantities over long periods. Coriolus can be found worldwide on stumps of old trees and on branches of deciduous trees.

The largest specimens have so far been found in the USA and Canada. Its preference for a cool, moist environment means it thrives in old mine tunnels with wooden anchors, where it is still frequently found today. However, C. versicolor can also be grown in “grow-bags”.

Hifas da Terra recommends using pesticide-free sawdust in these incubation bags. Once the mycelium has matured, holes are made in these bags to open the way for the colourful fruiting body to develop.

Cultivation in bioreactors

Highest quality, purity and performance in our production systems

One of the most powerful lines of research at Hifas da Terra focuses on the continuous improvement of the cultivation of different species in bioreactors (Reishi, Lion's Mane, Shiitake and Maitake) using certified organic substrates, as well as the standardisation of the quality of  source ingredients to guarantee excellence in the final product  with each medicinal mushroom.

Hifas Quality System (HQS)

Through our own quality standards, we identify biomolecules and active ingredients with therapeutic actions, selecting the fungal strains that contain the optimum amounts, and use our own specific analytical systems to apply analysis protocols at different stages of productionThanks to this rigorous system, we offer natural products, supplements and nutraceuticals with the Hifas Quality System guarantee, setting us apart from other products in terms of quality, safety and efficacy.  

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R&D and studies with Turkey Tail

A study by Hifas da Terra carried out on cell lines and Coriolus extracts shows that it could compromise the progression of metastasis in colorectal cancer

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FUN FACTS

  • Coriolus is an outstanding natural bioremediator, which means it is capable of removing contaminants and pollutants from soil or other growth medium
  • It is therefore important that it is produced on organic substrates or that controlled cultivation is carried out using substrates which are controlled for contaminants
  • The Latin name suffix ‘versicolor‘ could not be more appropriate, as it means having many colours
  • This mushroom is often used in Central Europe as part of decorative flower arrangements
References
  • Sekhon BK, Sze DM, Chan WK, Fan K, Li GQ, Moore DE, Roubin RH. PSP activates monocytes in resting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: immunomodulatory implications for cancer treatment. Food Chem. 2013 Jun 15;138(4):2201-9.
  • Wang DF, Lou N, Li XD. Effect of Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide-B on the biological characteristics of human esophageal carcinoma cell line eca109. Cancer Biol Med. 2012 Sep;9(3):164-7.
  • Hirahara N, Edamatsu T, Fujieda A, Fujioka M, Wada T, Tajima Y. Protein-bound polysaccharide-K induces apoptosis via mitochondria and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent pathways in HL-60 promyelomonocytic leukemia cells. Oncol Rep. 2013 Jul;30(1):99-104.
  • Brown DC, Reetz J. Single agent polysaccharopeptide delays metastases and improves survival in naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:384301.
  • Eliza WL, Fai CK, Chung LP. Efficacy of Yun Zhi (Coriolus versicolor) on survival in cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2012 Jan;6(1):78-87.
  • Ho CY, Kim CF, Leung KN, Fung KP, Tse TF, Chan H, Lau CB. Differential anti-tumor activity of Coriolus versicolor (Yunzhi) extract through p53- and/or Bcl-2-dependent apoptotic pathway in human breast cancer cells. Cancer Biol Ther. 2005 Jun;4(6):638-44. Epub 2005 Jun.
  • Chen J, Jin X, Zhang L, Yang L. A study on the antioxidant effect of Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide in rat brain tissues. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2013 Oct 3;10(6):481-4.
  • Szeto YT, Lau PC, Kalle W, Pak SC. Direct human DNA protection by Coriolus versicolor (Yunzhi) extract. Pharm Biol. 2013 Jul;51(7):851-5.
  • Collins RA, Ng TB. Polysaccharopeptide from Coriolus versicolor has potential for use against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection. Life Sci. 1997;60(25):PL383-7.
  • Su CH, Lai MN, Ng LT. Inhibitory effects of medicinal mushrooms on α-amylase and α-glucosidase – enzymes related to hyperglycemia. Food Funct. 2013 Apr 25;4(4):644-9.
  • Chu KKW et al., (2002) Coriolus versicolor: a medicinal mushroom with promising immunotherapeutic values. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 42, 976-984.
  • Donatini B (2010) Coriolus versicolor: the most powerful immunostimulating agent. Interest in oncology, against virus and for all types of immunostimulation. Phytothèrapie 8, 255-258.
  • Harhaji LJ et al., (2008) Anti-tumor effect of Coriolus versicolor methanol extract against mouse B16 melanoma cells: In vitro and in vivo study. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46, 1825-1833.
  • Shibata M et al., (2011) Effect of PSK on FOLFOX4-induced peripheral neuropathy and bone marrow suppression in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology 29, 596-596.
  • Hsieh TC et al., (2013) Regulation of cell cycle transition and induction of apoptosis in HL-60 leukemia cells by the combination of Coriolus versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum. International Journal of Molecular Medicine 32, 251-257.

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