Yet another traditional medicine in the Chinese medical armamentarium, coriolus (Coriolus versicolor) was harvested and ground to make a powder and tea. Traditional medical applications included improving vitality and strength, enhancing respiratory function, promoting calmness and well-being, restoring energy following intense physical exertion, strengthening tendons and bones, enhancing liver health, and fostering longevity. Coriolus became very popular during the Ming Dynasty, when the mushroom was widely prescribed to enhance vigor and longevity.

As an antioxidant, coriolus has shown great potential. In one study, the fungus demonstrated an approximately 59% inhibitory effect on the oxidative process. The mushroom's free-radical scavenging ability was near 25% when challenged in a laboratory setting.39 Free-radical scavenging ability can be applied to immune function. NK cells can be damaged easily by reactive oxygen species. Polysaccharide krestin (PSK), which is derived from coriolus, can mimic SOD and restore NK cell function in people who have cancer.40 Coriolus, like other medicinal mushrooms, is well known for its immune-enhancing effects. One group of researchers noted a wide-ranging enhancement of immune-cell function and the mushroom's ability to inhibit the growth of certain cancers.41

Numerous studies have been conducted on coriolus' immune-enhancing properties. These studies have identified the mushroom's active constituents. Among them are the beta-glucan polysaccharides. Coriolus contains several different types: 1-3 beta-glucan, 1-4 beta-glucan, and 1-6 beta-glucan, protein-bound PSK, and polysaccharide peptide (PSP).42 The target of numerous research investigations, PSK and PSP have anti-tumor effects and are used widely as biologic response modifiers in cancer chemotherapy regimens in Japan.43,44 In fact, PSP has been used throughout Asia as an adjunctive cancer treatment for the last 30 years. PSK has shown benefit in gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast, and lung cancer therapies.45

Coriolus holds promise as an antiviral as well. Both PSK and PSP have demonstrated inhibitory effects against HIV-1 in laboratory settings.46,47 Coriolus appears to have wideranging immunomodulatory effects, making it a prime therapy in conditions of impaired immunity.

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