Trametes versicolor and Beyond

Medicinal Value of Further Trametes spp.

Slogging around the dense northwest forest and in your periphery rests a nearly bare, fallen log. It is nude accept for the adornment of a troop of thin, layered polypore mushrooms. It is hard to tell from where you stand exactly which species this log beholds. At this point, there is that hope that this would be an especially auspicious amble in the woods, and that it would be the fruiting body of the great Turkey Tail mushrooms. With fingers crossed, you traverse the trail and walk towards the fungal bouquet. After stepping through the thick humus and crawling under fallen trees, you arrive at this mysterious cluster of mushrooms. The initial instinct is to look closely at the attractive pileus, and take note if there are alternating striations of colors, and within these striations, if there are alternating hirsute and silken layers. Next, you touch the body of this terrestrial being to take notice of its thickness and rigidity. Is it thick, or thin, bendy or stiff? Finally, you look for the pearly white pore surface on the caudal surface of the mushroom. You look to see if you notice the pores, if they are big enough to see or if they are so tiny that this surface looks entirely smooth. After this thorough inspection, you look at these elegant polypore mushrooms with disappointment. The pileus is a pearly white and seems continuously hirsute, the body feels thicker than you expected, and the pore surface is not as smooth as you wished it to be. Still, you recognize the brilliance, but leave the mushrooms be and continue along with your walk.

This was my story on numerous occasions. Though, the more I studied the mycomedicinals, the more my curiosities grew around the medicinal uses of other species of the Trametes genus. Fortunately, others had this curiosity as well. Here, I hope to give information of the modern research and traditional uses of four species of Trametes fungi that are found here in the Pacific Northwest. I will discuss Trametes hirsuta, Trametes ochracea, Trametes versicolor, and Trametes pubescens. I also added a bit of information on the False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea. These mushrooms are all common and widespread in boreal and temperate regions in the northern hemisphere.

Trametes hirsuta (One who is thin, hairy)

trametes hirsuta


Distribution and Natural Habitat

White rot mushroom found on the deadwood of hardwoods, usually found growing in clusters on logs and stumps. Fruiting in Summer and Fall. I usually find these mushrooms on logs by a river or stream.

Cap (pileus)

Semicircular, often kidney shaped. Other caps of adjacent mushrooms are sometimes fused. Hairy throughout, contrasting zones of different shades of grey and white.

Pore Surface

Whitish, tingeing yellow with age.

Spore Print


Active known constituents

Polysaccharides, (Beta Glucans), flavonoids

Therapeutic actions

Immune-modulating, immune-stimulating, styptic, Antioxidant, Genoprotective

Medicinal Properties

  • Aqueous extract Improves macrophage phagocytic activity
  • Immunomodulation activity from enhancing the number of vitality in Natural Killer cells, (NK cells)
  • Polysaccharides from T. hirsuta induced NK cell activation and significantly increased NK cell mediated cytotoxicity. This study1 explained; “NK cells begin to proliferate and secrete cytokines as a means of communication with other components of the immune system, in particular T cells. NK cells are best known for their capacity to kill tumor cells and there is evidence for their role in controlling infection in the earliest phases of body’s immune responses.”
  • Genoprotective activity of mushroom extracts are based on the reduction of oxidative damages of DNA. There is an abundance of free radicals in the environment associated with oxidative stress and as this paper2 explains, is the basis of aging and the initiation and progress of various diseases.
  • The fruiting body extract at the concentration of 20.0 mg mL -1 showed a genotoxic effect and DNA damage in cells was significantly less compared with the control. This was found to be dose dependent, and at lower concentrations, there was no significant genotoxic effect.
  • Antioxidant, free radical scavenging activity of 59% reduction of radicals.

Trametes Ochracea (One who is thin, yellowish-orange color)


Distribution and Natural Habitat

See T. hirsuta. Annual, slow to decay, usually found all year round, I have found they are more rotten around early spring and freshest looking in the Fall an Winter, which is when they release their spores.

Cap (pileus)

Different shades of orange and ochre in concentric zones, often with a stripe of white at the edge. Semicircular, or bell shapes, entire surface is covered with a thin fuzz. Caps are typically 1.5-5cm across and often overlap with other fruiting bodies of the same species.

 Pore Surface

Creamy ochre with roundish pores 1-4mm deep, spaced 3-4 pores per mm. Stains more significantly than other trametes sp. when bruised.

Spore Print


Active known constituents3

Saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, steroids, phenols, tannins

Therapeutic actions

Anti-inflammatory, Cytotoxic, Antioxidant, Hypocholesterolemic

Medicinal Properties3,4

  • Methanol extracts showed significant proton donating ability and could serve as free radical inhibitors as a primary antioxidant.
  • Antioxidant activity significantly comparable to major antioxidants; Tocopherol and ascorbic acid.
  • High flavonoid content suggests an important role of stabilizing lipid oxidation
  • One cause of inflammation is the denaturation of proteins. The anti-inflammatory activity of T. ochracea was tested by assessing membrane stabilization using the red blood cell membrane. The methanol extract was effective at inhibitting the heat induced hemolysis. It is thought that this is from the presence of phytochemicals in the extract that inhibit the release of lysosomal content of neutrophils at the site of inflammation.
  • Slightly less effective but comparable to Asiprin in membrane stabilization and proteinase inhibition.
  • Methanol extract exhibited acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity.
  • Methanol extract induced mitotic activity by reducing cell division suggesting further research for possible use as an antitumor therapy.
  • Addition of T. ochracea extract to hyperlipidemic diets was found to significantly decrease the risk of atherosclerosis by decreaseing cholesterol levels.



Trametes pubescens (one who is thin, hairy)


Distribution and Natural Habitat

Same as T. hirsuta

Cap (pileus)

Up to 8 cm across and 5cm deep. Semicircular, irregular bracket shape, sometimes fusing with other caps laterally and caudally. Velvety, though sometimes becoming bald with age. Usually cream and light gray in color. Faint textural zones, no obvious color zoning.

Pore Surface

Creamy, yellowish with age, 3-5 angular pores per mm

Spore Print


Active known constituents

Laccase, Beta glucans, phenolic compounds: gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, apigallocatecin gallate, caffeic acid, rutin hydrate, p-coumeric acid, naringin, resveratrol, kaempferol, and biochanin

Therapeutic actions

Antioxidant, Immune-modulating, immune-stimulating, metal ion chelating, anti-dementia, anti-inflammatory

Medicinal Properties

  • Laccase can oxidize, polymerize and detoxify urushiol (the irritating chemical in poison ivy). Oxidized urushiol is nontoxic, and so laccase can reduce the effect of poison ivy dermatitis.
  • Hydroxy radical is the most reactive oxygen species in attacking biological molecules and can be reduced by regulating gene expression. Laccase can reduce OH radicals.5
  • Hot water extract of .125-2mg/mL had 41.91% to 93.45% free radical scavenging activity, showing high value as an antioxidant.(19)
  • Hot water extract also had 96.85% chelating activity at concentrations of 2mg/mL (19)
  • The phenolic compounds in the fruiting body demonstrated strong, dose dependent anti-acetylcholinesterase activity. (high amounts of acetylcholinesterase can lead to neurological disorders) hence, the possibility of using extracts of this mushroom for preventative treatment of dementia. (19)
  • I could not find very many studies discussing the medicinal value of this mushroom, so I hope that it is further researched. Though, it is very similar genetically to the other Trametes sp. and so I feel comfortable postulating it has therapeutic immune-stimulating and immune-modulating actions due to the beta-glucans being a key component of the fungal cell wall.


Trametes versicolor (One who is thin, of many colors)

Coriolus versicolor

Turkey tail

Cloud Mushroom

Yun Zhi


Distribution and natural Habitat

  • Found throughout North America, and the entire world
  • The most common polypore found on dead hardwoods found on trees that reproduce by flowers, and have broad leaves. Many are deciduous; oak, maple, cherry, birch.

 Totally True Turkey Tail Test- derived from

1) Is the pore surface a real pore surface? Like, can you see actual pores?

Yes: Continue.
No: See Stereum ostrea and other crust fungi.

2) Squint real hard. Would you say there are about 1-3 pores per millimeter (which would make them fairly easy to see), or about 3-8 pores per millimeter (which would make them very tiny)?

3-8 per mm: Continue.
1-3 per mm: See several other species of Trametes.

3) Is the cap conspicuously fuzzy, velvety, or finely hairy (use a magnifying glass or rub it with your thumb)?

Yes: Continue.
No: See several other species of Trametes.

4) Is the fresh cap whitish to grayish?

Yes: See Trametes hirsuta.
No: Continue.

5) Does the cap lack starkly contrasting color zones (are the zones merely textural, or do they represent subtle shades of the same color)?

Yes: See Trametes pubescens.
No: Continue.

6) Is the fresh mushroom rigid and hard, or thin and flexible?

Rigid and hard: See Trametes ochracea.
Thin and flexible: Totally True Turkey Tail.

Spore Print – White

Active Constituents

  • B- glucans
  • PSK (protein bound polysaccharide)
  • PSP (Polysaccharopeptide)
  • Ergosterol (Provitamin D2)

Therapeutic Actions

Styptic, anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating, immune-modulating, chemo-protective, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-hypertensive, antigenotoxic, prebiotic, gastrocyte protective


Increases circulation, clears heat and damp, sweet and slightly warming

Medicinal Properties

  • PSP alters the composition of the gut microbial activity. The presence of PSP increased levels of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus sp. in the gut while reducing E. coli, Staphylococcus and Clostridium.7
  • PSK, “Krestin” a protein bound polysaccharide, anti-cancer drug sold in Asia, works as a chemo protective defense to healthy cells, while sensitizing cancer cells. (made them abnormally sensitive to the chemo)14,16
  • People treated with this showed less recurrence in gastric cancer
  • Inhibiting cancer cell growth in combination with enhancing the host’s natural immune response; more killer cells and less cancer.16
  • Significant improvement in breast and cervical cancer survival rates.14
  • Anti microbial activity against E-coli, Listeria, and Candida
  • Use to normalize immune function in patients with chronic rheumatoid arthritis
  • Suppressed blood sugar and increased bone density in diabetic rats.15
  • Ethanolic extracts reduces the growth of hormone responsive prostate cancer cell growth.
  • PSP, polysaccharopeptide, is water soluble polysaccharide, anti-viral agent, shown to inhibit HIV replication, also antitumor properties, immune-modulating response by inhibiting proliferation of leukemia cells, but not affecting growth of leukocytes.
  • Cleared 88% of oral HPV in combination with Ganoderma lucidum.10
  • PSP also have superoxide dismutase, anti-oxidizing actions against free radicals.2
  •  Oxidative damage is a key factor in aging and age related disease DNA can be damaged by oxidative and non oxidative processes. T. versicolor, T.   hirsuta, and T. gibbosa were all shown to be genoprotective when tested on human peripheral white blood cells. T. versicolor had the strongest benefit in maintaining DNA integrity.
  • The polysaccharides instigate both the innate and acquired immunity. Stimulating the macrophages and also the cells that are there to recognize the foreign antigen.
  • When mixed with Astragalus it enhances neutrophil function and speeds recovery in rabbits suffering from burns.13

 Trametes betulina (Lenzites betulina)

“Birch Maze-gill Polypore”


An oxymoron of a mushroom – a gilled polypore

Distribution and natural habitat

Found on deadwood of hardwoods, annual, alone or overlapping on logs – Summer and Fall

Cap (pileus)

Irregular bracket or kidney shaped, concentric zones of texture, zones of white, grey, brown


Pore/gill Surface

Whitish, up to 1cm or more deep, interconnected. KOH negative

Spore Print


Active known Constituents

Benzoquinone compounds: Betulinans A and B (20), p-terphenyl compounds, steroids; ergosterol peroxide and 9(11)-dehydro-ergosterol, L-glutamate, ergosta-7,22-dien-3B-ol, geranicardic acic, sigmasterol, D-allitol

Therapeutic Actions

Antioxidant, anti-atherosclerotic, cytotoxic, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic

Medicinal Properties

  • Fruiting body methanol extract inhibit lipid peroxidation through free radical scavenging activity20,23
  • In-vitro anticancer activity against human breast cancer cells, Hela cells21
  • Antimicrobial against S. aureus and B. subtilis21
  • Antiviral against H5N1 and H3N222
  • Crude exopolysacchardies have a hypoglycemic effect – helping to lower blood sugar.26
  • Water extract has mild anti-tumor activity against Sarcoma 180


In China, this mushroom was traditionally used to treat haunch, femora pain, acropathy, applexy and cold.

 Stereum ostrea (Hard/Stiff, Oyster)

“False Turkey Tail”


Although not part of the Trametes genus or even the polyporaceae family, this mushroom that is often called false turkey tail, should not be overlooked. This too has great medicinal value and further research should be done.

Another point of interest regarding this mushroom is that one of my favorite and often neglected medicinal fungi, Tramella mesenterica, is parasitic on Stereum. Most of the time it is only parasitic on the mycelium, but in some cases, Tremella can be found growing right on the fruiting body.

Distribution and natural habitat

Deadwood of hardwoods, growing densely, but not fusing together as Trametes sp. often do. Found in all seasons throughout the year.

Cap (pileus)

Often fan shaped, or irregularly kidney shaped. Hairy at first, getting smoother with maturity. Concentric zones of red, orange, yellow and brown. Sometimes taken over by greenish shades with age due to algae.

Interesting about this algae: This algae has a commensal relationship with Stereum. The algae do not get nutrients from the fungus, but uses it to gain a better position in the environment for photosynthesis.

Pore Surface

Smooth, no pores, whitish to reddish brown.

Spore Print


Active known Constituents

Stereumone (a sesquiterpene), three aromatic compounds, methyl 2,4-dihydroxy-6-methylbenzoate.

Therapeutic Actions

Antifungal, Antimicrobial

Medicinal Properties6

  • Water and ethanol extract were effective against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, water extract having a stronger effect.
  • When compared with antibiotics Streptomyocin and tetracycline, Stereum extracts showed more inhibition of E.coli and P. aeruginosa.


Interesting Ethnomycology Tidbits

Of the mushrooms used by the maya, the polypore mushrooms, including Ganoderma and Trametes were mentioned for treating diverse conditions, from stomach aches to mouth sores, and insanity.(17)

In Western and Central Nepal, Trametes versicolor, Ganoderma lucidum and Coriolus hirsutus were found used for ignition of cigarettes in Lumle area. These species are also used to lock the crevices of the wooden pot (Thekaa). They are cut into small pieces, inserted into crevices and left for one whole night in water. Mushrooms after soaking in water completely, blocked the crevices. (18)


I hope that this post is helpful in elucidating that there is a lot of further research that needs to be done on these beloved polypores. Maybe next time you come across one of these thin, woody fruiting bodies that is not a true Turkey Tail, you will realize it’s medicinal value and decoct them with your other medicinal mushrooms in a tea or broth. 

Now that you can ID these mushrooms and you are aware of their medicine, how will you include them in your life?

Things you can do:

Make a Northwest Trametes spp. dual extract

Easy Folk Recipe:

  • Cover bottom of sauce pot with mushrooms
  • Add 4 Cups of water, and boil until water has reduced by half
  • If you have a high speed blender, now would be a good time to put mushrooms and water into the blender to increase surface area for maximal extraction. You can also chop up the mushrooms before doing this entire process, and will be easiest to cut with scissors.
  • pour into jar, and add 95% alcohol so that the jar contains 2/3 mushroom and water extract and 1/3 ethanol.
  • Shake well and let sit for 3 weeks. Shake whenever you remember to!
  • Press extract out and take as you feel needed.

Some folks like to do an alcohol extraction before the water extraction. I have found that heating the mushroom in the water prior to alcohol extraction has superior results.

Make a Trametes Syrup

A recipe:

  • 1 Large handful of various Trametes spp. in a pot.
  • Cover with 4 C water and decoct until the water is reduced to 2C
  • Simmer with Astragalus for extra immunomodulation action!
  • Mix in 2 C of Raw honey and you have a Trametes syrup. This delicious syrup can be used to sweeten tea, put on pancakes, and just take throughout the year to keep you healthy and strong!

When you find these in the forest and want something to chew on, first make sure the mushroom is not rotten, then stick it in your mouth and chew on it like gum.

Important: Most polypore mushrooms can dry fine on their own. Trametes need to be placed in the dehydrator if you plan on drying them for later use. If you let them air dry you will find that they will eventually turn to dust. (They will be consumed by little mushroom mite type creatures)

Work Cited

  1. R., Shenbhagaraman, Premalatha M.k., Jenefar S., Jagadish L.k., Saravanamurali K., Kaveri K., Karthik S.n., and Kaviyarasan V. “Immunopotentiating Properties of Extracellular Polysaccharide from Trametes Hirsuta Strain VKESR.” Carbohydrate Polymers106 (2014): 299-304. Web.
  2. Knežević, Aleksandar, Lada Živković, Mirjana Stajić, Jelena Vukojević, Ivan Milovanović, and Biljana Spremo-Potparević. “Antigenotoxic Effect Of Trametesspp. Extracts against DNA Damage on Human Peripheral White Blood Cells.” The Scientific World Journal2015 (2015): 1-10. Web.
  3. Mellapa, G., Roshan, A. Nithi, C. et al. “Phytochemical analysis and in vitro antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxicity activities of wood rotting fungi, Trametes ochracea” Pharmacognosy Journal 7(2) (2015): 136-146. Web.
  4. Shamtsyan, M., Antontceva E., Panchecnko A. et al. “Hyperlipidemic and Hypocholesterolic Action os Submerge Cultured Mushrooms” Journal of Hygienic Engineering and Design. Web.
  5. Si, J, Cui, B K “Study of the physiological characteristics of the medicinal mushroom Trametes pubescens (higher Basidiomycetes) during the laccase-producing process.” Int J Med Mushrooms 15 (2) 2013.199-210 Web.
  6. Imtiaj, Ahmed, Jayasinghe, Chandana, Lee, Geon Woo, Lee, Tae Soo “Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Stereum ostrea, an Inedible Wild Mushroom” Mycobiology 35(4) 2007: 210-214
  7. 7.Yu ZT, Liu B, Mukherjee P, Newburg DS “Trametes versicolor extract modifies human      fecal microbiota composition in vitroPlant Foods Hum Nutr – June 1, 2013; 68 (2); 107-12
  8. ui K.P., Sit W.H., and Wan J.M.: Induction of S phase cell arrest and caspase activation by polysaccharide peptide isolated from Coriolus versicolor enhanced the cell cycle dependent activity and apoptotic cell death of doxorubicin and etoposide, but not cytarabine in HL-60 cells. Oncol Rep 2005; 14: pp. 145-155
  9. Wan J.M., Sit W.H., and Louie J.C.: Polysaccharopeptide enhances the anticancer activity of doxorubicin and etoposide on human breast cancer cells ZR-75-30. Int J Oncol 2008; 32: pp. 689-699
  10. Donatini, Bruno “Control of Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) by Medicinal Mushrooms, Trametes versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum: A Preliminary Clinical Trial” international Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 16 (5) 2014: 497-498
  11. Patel, S. Goyal, A. “Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review” 3 Biotech. 2012 March; 2(1): 1-15
  12. Stamets, Paul, and C. Dusty Wu Yao. Mycomedicinals: An Informational Booklet on Medicinal Mushrooms. Olympia, WA: MycoMedia, 2002. p. 42-44 Print.
  13. Rogers, Robert Dale. The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2011. Print.
  14. Standish, Leanna J., Wenner, Cynthia A., Sweet, Erin S., Bridge, Carly, Nelson, Ana, Martzen, Mark, Novack, Jeffrey, Torkelson, Carolyn. “Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer” Journal of the society for integrative oncology. 6(3) 2008: 122-128
  15. Chen, C.,Kang, L, Lo Ho. Et al. “polysaccharides of Trametes versicolor improve bone properties in Diabetic Rats” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 63 (42) 2015: 9232-9238
  16. Guggenheim, Alena G, Wright, Kirsten M, Zwickey, Heather L. “Immune Modulation from Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology” Integrative Medicine. 
  17. Shepard, G., Arora, D., Lampman, A. ” The grace of the flood: Classification and use of wild mushrooms among the highland maya of chiapas” Economic Botany. 62 (3) 2008: 437-470.
  18. Adhikari, M., Devkota, S., Tiwari, R. “Ethnomycological Knowledge on Uses of Wild Mushrooms in Western and Central Nepal” Our Nature. 3 2006: 13-19
  19. Im, Kyung, Trung Nguyen, Jaehyuk Choi, and Tae Lee. “In Vitro Antioxidant, Anti-Diabetes, Anti-Dementia, and Inflammation Inhibitory Effect of Trametes Pubescens Fruiting Body Extracts.” Molecules 21.5 (2016): 639. Web.
  20. Lee IK, Yun BS, Cho SM, et al. Betulinans A and B, two benzoquinone compounds from Lenzites betulina. J Nat Prod. 1996;59(11):1090-1092. doi:10.1021/np960253z.
  21. Liu K, Wang J, Zhao L, Wang Q. Anticancer and Antimicrobial Activities and Chemical Composition of the Birch Mazegill Mushroom Lenzites betulina ( Higher Basidiomycetes ). 2014;16(4):327-337. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v16.i4.30.
  22. Teplyakova T V., Psurtseva N V., Kosogova TA, Mazurkova NA, Khanin VA, Vlasenko VA. Antiviral Activity of Polyporoid Mushrooms (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Altai Mountains (Russia). Int J Med Mushrooms. 2012;14(1):37-45. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v14.i1.40.
  23. Oyetayo VO, Nieto-Camacho A, Rodriguez BE, Jimenez M. Assessment of Anti-inflammatory, Lipid Peroxidation and Acute Toxicity of Extracts Obtained From Wild Higher Basidiomycetes Mushrooms Collected From Akure (Southwest Nigeria). Int J Med Mushrooms. 2012;14(6):575-580. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v14.i6.50.
  24. Ren G, Liu XY, Zhu HK, Yang SZ, Fu CX. Evaluation of cytotoxic activities of some medicinal polypore fungi from China. Fitoterapia. 2006;77(5):408-410. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2006.05.004.
  25. Ríos JL. Effects of triterpenes on the immune system. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;128(1):1-14. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.12.045.
  26. Jaroszuk-s AJJ, Osin M. Extracellular polysaccharides from Ascomycota and Basidiomycota : production conditions , biochemical characteristics , and biological properties. 2015:1823-1844. doi:10.1007/s11274-015-1937-8.