Herb–drug interactions between the medicinal mushrooms Lingzhi and Yunzhi and cytotoxic anticancer drugs: a systematic review

Chun Sing Lam, Lok Pui Cheng, Limin Zhou, Yin Ting Cheung, Zhong Zuo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Lingzhi and Yunzhi are medicinal mushrooms commonly used with cytotoxic chemotherapy in cancer patients in Asian countries. The current systematic review aims to identify potential pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions from the existing literature to ensure their effective and safe combination usage in cancer patients. Methods: A systematic search was conducted on nine major Chinese and English databases, including China Journal Net, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database, and Ovid MEDLINE®, etc., to identify clinical, animal, and in-vitro studies that evaluate the effect of combined use of Lingzhi or Yunzhi with cytotoxic drugs. The Jadad scale was used to assess the quality of clinical studies. Results: This search identified 213 studies, including 77 clinical studies that reported on the combined use of cytotoxic drugs with Yunzhi (n = 56) or Lingzhi (n = 21). Majority of these clinical studies demonstrated modest methodological quality. In clinical practice, the most commonly used cytotoxic drugs with Lingzhi were cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and paclitaxel, whereas Tegafur/uracil (UFT)/Tegafur, 5-FU, and mitomycin were the ones used more often with Yunzhi. Only two clinical pharmacokinetic studies were available showing no significant interactions between Polysaccharide K (PSK) and Tegafur. From the pharmacodynamic interactions perspective, combination uses of Yunzhi/Lingzhi with cytotoxic drugs in clinical practice could lead to improvement in survival (n = 31) and quality of life (n = 17), reduction in tumor lesions (n = 22), immune modulation (n = 38), and alleviation of chemotherapy-related side effects (n = 14) with no reported adverse effects. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the clinical combination use of Lingzhi or Yunzhi with cytotoxic drugs could enhance the efficacy and ameliorate the adverse effects of cytotoxic drugs, leading to improved quality of life in cancer patients. More high quality clinical studies including pharmacokinetic herb-drug interactions studies are warranted to verify these observations and mechanisms involved. Based on the high quality clinical data, pharmacoepidemiology methods and bioinformatics or data mining could be adopt for further identification of clinical meaningful herb-drug interactions in cancer therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
Number of pages18
JournalChinese Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

User-Defined Keywords

  • Anticancer drugs
  • Cytotoxic drugs
  • Herb-drug interaction
  • Lingzhi
  • Medicinal mushrooms
  • Yunzhi


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