A Cup of Coffee – Can Mushrooms Kill Cancer Cells?

Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Stress Belly and how I dropped from a size 3x to a 1x in just six weeks’ time. If you missed this blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

I recently came across an article, followed by a video, proclaiming that there’s a mushroom that stops cancer in its tracks. I watched the video with a high degree of skepticism as patient after patient talked about their cancer disappearing after ingesting these mushrooms. I decided to dig in and research this myself, as I felt strongly this was a scam…and shame on them if it was, right?

It turns out that this mushroom, combined with traditional cancer-treating drugs, has promise.

I started my research with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I figured if anyone would know about these mushrooms, they would, and I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, they had a page dedicated to these mushrooms.

Coriolus versicolor: what is it?

Coriolus is a mushroom used to help with health issues in traditional Chinese medicine. It can also come as a dietary supplement in pills or powders.

It’s brand name is Krestin and it’s scientific names are: Coriolus versicolor, Trametes versicolor, Polyporus versicolor, and Polystictus versicolor.

Common Names

  • PSK
  • PSP
  • VPS
  • Turkey Tail
  • Yun Zhi
  • Kawaratake
  • Krestin

Turkey Tail

You may have already heard of this but didn’t know what it was. Its internet name is Turkey Tail, and many people are singing its praises.

Turkey tail mushrooms are a fascinating fungus found in wooded areas throughout the world. Named for their colorful, fanlike shape, which resembles a turkey’s outspread tail, these mushrooms grow on trees and fallen logs. They have a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, where they are used as a tonic and to treat lung conditions. More recently, they have caught the interest of modern researchers by exhibiting a range of health benefits. These include anti-tumor properties and support of certain types of immune responses.

It’s used in Japan

While professionals caution against taking it without first checking with your doctor, they also don’t deny that it “is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic, and studies suggest that it has immunostimulant and antitumor properties. Polysaccharide-K (PSK), a proprietary product derived from Coriolus, was developed for cancer treatment in Japan. Other Coriolus extracts such as polysaccharide-peptide (PSP) and VPS are available as dietary supplements.

What type of cancer are we talking about?

When used as an adjuvant, PSK appears to improve survival rates in patients with gastric and colorectal cancers. It may also benefit patients with esophageal cancer. Findings from a study of PSP in conjunction with chemotherapy suggest benefits in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. PSP was also reported to act as a prebiotic and to modulate human intestinal microbiome composition. Studies of Coriolus extracts alone or in combination with other botanicals suggest positive immunomodulatory effects. However, data on their effects on breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, or leukemia are mixed. A meta-analysis reported reduced mortality risk with adjuvant use of Coriolus across a variety of cancers, but confirmatory studies are needed.

In an open-label randomized trial, the use of a Coriolus–based vaginal gel had a clinical benefit over watchful waiting for patients with HPV-related low-grade cervical lesions.

Coriolus extracts are generally well tolerated but minor adverse effects have been reported. Many over-the-counter products are not standardized, making it difficult to compare potency between brands. It is also unclear if PSK, PSP, and other Coriolus extracts have comparable effects.

UCLA Health

UCLA Health has an “ask the doctor” column. Here is a question that a veteran asked on Aug. 29., 2022.

Dear Doctors: I’m a 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange. Last December, I was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. I had immunotherapy and also used turkey tail mushroom extract. All except one of the tumors shrank. Do you think the mushrooms helped?

Elizabeth Ko, MD, and Eve Glazier, MD responded.

“Among the treatments available for certain types of liver cancer is immunotherapy. In that instance, it works by deactivating proteins found in some types of cancer cells, which trick the immune system into ignoring the cancer. By disabling these proteins, immunotherapy drugs let the immune system do its work. And this brings us back to turkey tail mushrooms.

Modern research confirms that compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms have an effect on the immune system. More precisely, they act as nonspecific immune modulators. That’s a fancy way of saying that something either stimulates or suppresses immune function in a general way. In turkey tail mushrooms, the effect is to bolster immune function. A clinical trial conducted in 2012 found that breast cancer patients who took capsules of powdered turkey tail mushrooms recovered immune function after radiation therapy more quickly than those who didn’t take the capsules. Another study into breast cancer patients found the mushrooms appeared to boost the efficacy of chemotherapy. Other research suggests that compounds found in turkey tail mushrooms also have anti-tumor properties.

A preparation made from the turkey tail mushroom, known as Krestin, has been used as a supportive therapy in cancer treatment in Japan for decades. This includes not only breast cancer but lung, gastric, pancreatic, and liver cancer as well. Despite decades of study, the mechanisms at work here remain unclear.

When it comes to the success of your own cancer treatment, it would be difficult to say whether or not the mushrooms played a part. But, due to their role as immune modulators, and the fact they can cause side effects, we urge you to let your doctors know you are using them.”

Susan G. Komen

The Susan G. Komen web page states: “People use turkey tail mushroom to improve response to cancer medicines and radiation. It is also used for muscle strength, fatigue, UTIs, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.”

FDA approved?

In 2012, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a clinical trial for a turkey tail extract, allowing patients with advanced prostate cancer to take it in combination with conventional chemotherapy. Another trial pending FDA approval will test the effects of taking the extract along with a vaccine treatment in women with breast cancer. These will help researchers gather safety data and continue their development of potentially transformative cancer therapy.

We didn’t discover turkey tail,” says lead investigator Leanna J. Standish, Ph.D., ND, LAc, FABNO, medical director of the Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center. “It’s been used in Asia for thousands and thousands of years, and it turns out to be a really potent immune therapy. The significance, I think, is that we’re bringing a new medicine to cancer patients in the U.S.

Previous research by Bastyr and the University of Minnesota found a turkey tail supplement may support conventional breast cancer therapies by strengthening a patient’s immune system. That study was published recently in the peer-reviewed journal ISRN Oncology.

Know your turkey tails and the interactions with other medications

While it might be tempting to go out and forage for your own turkey tail mushrooms, I strongly advise that you A. talk to your doctor first, B. read up on the mushroom, and C. learn how to pick a safe turkey tail, as there are others out there that look like a turkey tail but are not. Mushroom foraging can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. You can purchase turkey tail mushrooms online and in health food stores.

Additionally, there are some interactions noted between turkey tail and medications. You would need to rule these out before taking turkey tails.

The side effects of turkey tail aren’t much. The darkening of stools and nails was noted in my personal research. It was also noted that most people can take this mushroom with little danger to themselves, but I would never take knowledge obtained on the internet as facts. Please check with your doctor before ingesting anything that the doctor hasn’t prescribed.


As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.

That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!


  1. Mushrooms have a lot to offer but your PCP doesn’t have a clue. Oncologists don’t know enuf to feel safe adding them to their routine chemo and radiation protocols. You have to do the work yourself and make your own decisions taking many perspectives into consideration. Can be scary but it is up to you.

  2. Love this post.. I work in this business, and all very true information. The studies are out there.

  3. Mindful Mushrooms at the Oregon City Year Round Farmers Market and Portland Farmers Market have a wealth of knowledge about the health benefits of mushrooms. They sell both fresh, friend and tinctures.

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